A thirty-seven year old mystery has finally been solved, at least partially. After production wrapped on the original Phantasm, its 1971 Cuda vanished in a transaction to an unknown buyer. Although reportedly not the most reliable vehicle, this muscle car was said to still run okay and, of course, looked terrific. No one involved in the first film ever heard of it again and a new 'Cuda had to be acquired for Phantasm II a decade later. See the following text from the official Phantasm website verifying that Jody's original ride indeed disappeared.
I tried multiple times while researching Phantasm Exhumed to locate this original car or at least learn of its fate, all to no avail. I spoke to more than a dozen production folks and no one had so much as a lead on it. Thanks a social media post that landed on my radar a short while ago, we now know what happened to the 'Cuda.... it was sold to real estate broker and car enthusiast James Baker by the film's art director, David Gavin Brown.
Earlier in a public post on his Facebook page, James wrote: "I could probably write a book about that car! I had more than my share of fun in it, too! And I never got a ticket or in an accident the whole time I had her. In 1980, I bought it from the Art Director of the movie for $2500. It said "440 6-Pack" on the hood, but it was really a 340 custom-built by Ed Pink in the SFV! It had a Carter 1000 cfm Thermoquad Carb, Pistol-grip 4-Speed Stick, Rally Dash and Bucket Seats. Also, it was customized with leaded and flared rear fender wells and an over-sized custom sunroof with dark tinting. There were even the original marks on the one fender where the floor jack handle hit it in the movie, as well as the mark on the sunroof when they kicked it out with the shotgun butt!"
Regarding the car's custom sunroof, James had this to say: "One day I was on my work at about 6 am, and I had just banged it into 3rd Gear at 90 mph when there was a big WHOOSH! I had failed to latch the sunroof down all the way the night before, and I looked up and saw it about 30 feet in the air! I pulled over and started running back for it - got there just in time to watch a 16-wheeler run over it, breaking it into little pieces...all that was left were the latches. So I called the art director and asked if they made extra sunroofs for the shotgun scene...he was not sure. So I offered a small fortune of $300 if he happened to find one...and he did."
So where is it now??? Does he still own it?? He addressed that too: "I ended up trading it to a guy who saw it on the road and said "I want your car!" I said "It's not for sale." He was like check it out, and showed me all the magazine covers his custom van had been in, the hooker headers, custom hood scoop, teardrop windows, captain's package, quad stereo, bar, TV, bed, etc...I said I would have to keep my rims and tires, and he said deal! We shook hands, went to the Shell station on the corner of Devonshire and Reseda, and swapped out the rims and tires, signed the pinks - it took about 20 minutes! I saw the guy about 6 months later as I was leaving a bar...we recognized each other at about 30 feet, and we never broke stride...I said "Still like the car?" and he said "Yup" and He said "Still like the van?" and I said "Yep!" and I never saw him again. Some might say it was a stupid trade, in retrospect, because that car is probably worth over $100,000 today. But I spent a lot of time at the beach, and there were drive-ins back then...some things are worth more than money."
So that solves the great mystery of where the first Phantasm Cuda went to. I guess this means we have a new mystery to solve in where it went after James sold it? New mystery challenge accepted.