x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Top five: Ron Howard's car connections

The actor and film director Ron Howard calims to know little about cars, but that hasn't stopped the Fonz's sidekick from starring alongside some cool machinery over the years.

Ron Howard in Eat My Dust (1976).
Ron Howard in Eat My Dust (1976).

Happy Days

Running from 1974 to 1984, Happy Days was a worldwide smash hit, centred on the daily lives of the Cunningham family and friends, including, of course, Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli. Howard starred in 171 episodes as Richie Cunningham and, as it was set in the 1950s, cars and motorcycles were a big part of the show's appeal. Chevy pick-ups, Harleys, Lincolns, Pontiacs, Volkswagens, customised hot-rods and even the occasional Lambretta scooter turned up at Arnold's diner where the kids hung out before adult life beckoned.

Route 66

Twelve years before becoming a household name in Happy Days, Howard appeared in just one episode of this fictional series, which told the stories of two young adventurers who explored North America in the early 1960s in nothing less than a Corvette that one of the duo had inherited. The shows were filmed in 40 states and the US was a vastly different place then, before international franchises took up residence on every highway. It's said Corvette sales doubled during Route 66's first season.

Eat My Dust

If you like deep, meaningful plots in your films, 1976's Eat My Dust probably isn't for you. It's dumb fun and just one of many car chase films directed by Roger Corman. Howard plays the lead, Hoover Niebold, the son of the local sheriff. A rebel, he steals the fastest car in town and you can probably guess the rest. Eat My Dust, so named after the crew got covered with sand and dirt while filming, was a box office success and the studio wanted a sequel. Guess who wanted a stab at directing it.

Grand Theft Auto

Howard's directorial debut, this film was also written by him a year after Eat My Dust. "See the greatest cars in the world destroyed!" screamed the posters, and the film delivered on that promise with 200 cars wrecked, despite filming that lasted only 15 days. The premise was simple: daughter rejects the matchmaking of her meddling, wealthy parents and takes off for Vegas to marry the man she loves. Cue high-speed pursuits by a bunch of goons desperate for the $25,000 reward and lots of bent metal.

American Graffiti

A year before Happy Days, Ron "Ronny" Howard starred in this classic coming-of-age film, directed by none other than George Lucas. It's set during the last night of summer, 1962, and showcases a group of friends as they enjoy one final blast at Burger City before everyone heads for college. The film is worth watching for anyone with even a passing interest in American motors. Drag racing, cruising along the Strip, ferrying girls around town - there's a classic car in practically every frame.