37 Things to Look for the Next Time You Watch Back to the Future

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Fans of pop culture have undoubtedly watched the adventures of Marty McFly and Doc Brown countless times before. They’ve pored over each time Michael J. Fox’s quintessential 1980s teen travels back in time to 1955 in a souped-up DeLorean created by Christopher Lloyd’s bumbling mad scientist. They’ve memorized all the lines in director Robert Zemeckis and co-screenwriter Bob Gale’s indelible (and Academy Award-nominated) script. But they might not have noticed these tiny details, which you should look out for next time you watch Back to the Future. 

1. DOC BROWN’S CLOCKS ARE ALL PERFECTLY SYNCHRONIZED.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Look at the clocks in Doc Brown’s garage in the opening scene and you'll notice that they're all set 25 minutes behind. One of the clocks features a man hanging from its hands, an allusion to silent comedy star Harold Lloyd’s famous scene from the 1923 film Safety Last. It also foreshadows the later scene where Doc hangs from the Hill Valley clock tower in the same way. Unfortunately the similarities stop there: Christopher and Harold aren’t related.

2. STATLER TOYOTA IS A RUNNING GAG.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A radio ad in the opening scene mentions Statler Toyota, the car dealership with the Toyota 4x4 seen in 1985 Hill Valley's main square (in the improved 1985, Marty later owns the truck).

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

There's also a Statler dealership in every iteration of Hill Valley throughout the Back to the Future trilogy: Honest Joe Statler's Fine Horses in 1885, Statler Studebaker in 1955, and Statler Pontiac in 2015.

3. STANLEY KUBRICK GETS A NOD

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The sticker on the amp Marty plugs into in Doc’s garage says “CRM 114,” which is a nod to director Stanley Kubrick. In Kubrick's films, the CRM-114 Discriminator is a fictional radio device in Dr. Strangelove. It’s also the homophone "Serum 114," the experimental drug given to Alex (Malcolm McDowell) in A Clockwork Orange; and it’s the serial number of the Jupiter explorer in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

4. MARTY’S INTO SOVIET ART.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The black and red badge Marty wears on his denim jacket says “Art in Revolution,” which was a Soviet art and design exhibition that was held at London’s Hayward Gallery from February to April in 1971.

5. ROBERT ZEMECKIS GAVE A NOD TO ONE OF HIS OTHER MOVIES.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

As Marty skitches on the fender of a Jeep in the town square, a sign reads “Used Cars,” which is the name of a 1980 movie directed by Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Gale.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The newscaster seen on the TV in the opening sequence is actress Deborah Harmon, who appeared in Used Cars.

6. MAYOR RED THOMAS FELL ON HARD TIMES.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Marty sees the tramp on the bench in 1985 he shouts out the name “Red,” which could indicate this character is Red Thomas, the mayor of Hill Valley in 1955.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The photo of Thomas on his 1955 reelection campaign is actually Back to the Future’s set decorator, Hal Gausman.

7. THE GUY WHO THINKS MARTY IS "TOO DARN LOUD" PROBABLY LOOKS FAMILIAR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The school administrator with the megaphone who chides Marty’s band, The Pinheads, for being too loud is singer Huey Lewis in his first acting role. The scene had an added irony as Lewis made The Pinheads stop playing his own song, “Power of Love,” which appeared on the Back to the Future soundtrack.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Marty also has a poster for the Huey Lewis & the News album “Sports” in his bedroom, and when Marty wakes up after getting back to the future in the improved 1985, Lewis’s soundtrack song “Back in Time” plays on his alarm clock radio.

8. SOME CREW MEMBERS GOT BACKGROUND SHOUT-OUTS.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Marty and Jennifer walk across the town square parking lot after his failed audition, a license plate on a green car in the background reads 'FOR MARY,' which is a nod to Mary Radford, the PA to the film’s second unit director Frank Marshall.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Another reference to one of the crew can be seen on a poster on the wall of the high school in 1955, which reads 'Ron Woodward for Senior Class President.' Ronald T. Woodward was the film’s key grip, and had previously worked with Zemeckis on Romancing the Stone.

9. HILL VALLEY’S DIRTY MOVIES STARRED A REAL LIFE BACK TO THE FUTURE ACTOR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Hill Valley’s Essex movie theater is playing the movie, Orgy American Style in 1985, and that isn’t just some set decoration. It’s a real 1973 pornographic film starring George 'Buck' Flower, the actor who plays Red in Back to the Future.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The Town Theatre, Hill Valley’s other cinema (which is turned into a church in 1985) is showing a 1954 Mickey Rooney film called The Atomic Kid in 1955—just before Marty goes back to the future.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

10. UNCLE ‘JAILBIRD’ JOEY IS USED TO BEING BEHIND BARS.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Lorraine serves the family a cake for Marty’s unseen uncle Joey in 1985, which was supposed to celebrate his freedom from prison before he didn’t make parole.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Joey’s penchant for the slammer is brought up again when Marty sees baby Joey in 1955 when his mother says, “Joey just loves being in his playpen. He cries whenever we take him out so we just leave him in there all the time.”

11. THE MCFLYS LOVE MEATLOAF.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Marty’s dinner when he arrives home in 1985 is the same dish Lorraine and her family eat when he meets them in 1955. Marty technically eats the same dinner two nights in a row in two different years. In early drafts of the script, Marty hated meatloaf.

12. LORRAINE LAYS OUT THE PLOT.

During the 1985 dinner, Lorraine essentially lays out the plot of the entire movie. Linda asks, “How am I supposed to ever meet anybody?” and Lorraine responds, “Well, it will just happen. Like the way I met your father.” Then Linda responds, “That was so stupid, Grandpa hit him with the car,” to which Lorraine says, “It was meant to be. Anyway, if Grandpa hadn't hit him, then none of you would have been born.”

Based on Marty’s time traveling, with his brother and sister disappearing from a photo he keeps in his pocket, this is exactly what he’s trying to fix.

13. THE MCFLYS ARE BIG FANS OF THE HONEYMOONERS.

The 1985 McFlys watch the same episode of The Honeymooners as the 1955 McFlys. The episode, entitled “The Man From Space,” foreshadows the moment when Marty dresses up to scare George into taking Lorraine out on a date. The episode actually aired on December 31, 1955, which is over a month after Marty travels to the past on November 5, 1955. Oops!

14. MARTY LOVES PEPSI FREE.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The caffeine-free soft drink, which was phased out in real life in 1987, can be seen on Marty’s headboard when he wakes up late for Doc’s experiment, and he then tries to order one from the bewildered owner of Lou’s Cafe in 1955.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

He also has trouble opening an old-fashioned capped bottle of Pepsi at the Hill Valley gas station, but George helps him. It was likely that Marty would even have trouble opening a bottle in 1985—twist-off caps weren’t invented until 1988.

15. WHAT’S THE NAME OF THE MALL?

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Marty shows up to witness Doc’s science experiment at the Twin Pines Mall, but when he returns later after going back to the future, it’s the Lone Pine Mall. That’s because Marty destroyed one of Old Man Peabody’s dual pine trees on the 1955 farmland where the mall is located in 1985. In real life it’s actually Puente Hills Mall in City of Industry, California.

16. ZEMECKIS AND GALE MUST LOVE THE NUMBERS ONE AND 21.

When Einstein the dog is sent a minute into the future, his stopwatch indicates that one minute and 20 seconds has elapsed. Einstein also reappears at 1:21a.m. using the 1.21 gigawatts of energy from the Flux Capacitor.

17. DOC’S BUMPER STICKER IS PROPHETIC.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

It reads: "One Nuclear Bomb Can Ruin Your Whole Day," which is appropriate since the plot of the movie hinges on stolen plutonium that results in Doc's death. The nuclear reaction needed to generate 1.21 gigawatts really did ruin his day.

18. DOC DROPS A HINT FOR BACK TO THE FUTURE PART II.

During the experiment, Doc tells Marty, "I've always dreamed of seeing the future, looking beyond my years, seeing the progress of mankind. I'll also be able to see who wins the next 25 World Series.”

This ends up being a plot point in the sequel when 1955 Biff strikes it rich with knowledge gained from the Grays Sports Almanac stolen from 2015.

19. DOC’S GUN LOOKS FAMILIAR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The pearl-handled handgun Doc uses to try to shoot the Libyans in the mall parking lot is the same pistol he uses at the drive-in theater to time Marty’s trip to the old west in Back to the Future Part III. Maybe it jams because it’s a 30-year-old gun?

20. THERE'S A ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE HOMAGE.

His name isn’t said out loud, but Old Man Peabody’s son is credited as “Sherman,” a direct reference to Mr. Peabody and Sherman, the time-traveling cartoon duo from The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle, which first aired in 1959.

21. SHERMAN IS A FAN OF SOME CLASSIC COMIC BOOKS.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The fictional Tales from Space comic book Sherman uses to explain the time machine to his father sports the logo of legendary Tales from the Crypt publisher EC Comics.

22. ROY’S RECORDS DID SOME TIME TRAVELING, TOO.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

When Marty drops in on 1955 Hill Valley he first sees Cattle Queen of Montana on the Essex theater marquee, a 1954 film starring Barbara Stanwyck and Ronald Reagan—a great set-up to Doc’s befuddled reaction to the future president a few scenes later. Marty also spots Roy’s Records with four album advertisements in the window.

One is the 1954 reissue of Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” but the other three are anachronisms: The Chordettes’s self-titled compilation wasn’t released until 1959, “Eydie in Dixieland” by Eydie Gorme wasn’t released until 1959, and “In the Land of Hi-Fi” by Patti Page wasn’t released until 1956.

23. HILL VALLEY’S PHONE BOOK NEEDS A COPY EDITOR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The 1955 phone book spells Doc’s name wrong—it should be Emmett, not “Emmet.” At least they get his occupation right!

24. DOC BROWN LIVES IN AN ARTS AND CRAFTS MASTERPIECE.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Doc’s original house at 1640 Riverside Drive (or John F. Kennedy Drive if it’s 1985) is actually a historic landmark in Pasadena, California called the Gamble House. Designed by architects Charles and Henry Greene for James Gamble of Procter and Gamble fame, it’s a prime example of the Arts and Crafts architectural movement made famous in the late 19th century.

25. DOC'S GARAGE IS OF HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

A newspaper clipping in the opening scene says Doc’s mansion somehow mysteriously burned down and the surrounding land was sold off, which is why he’s resorted to living in the property’s old garage at 1646 John F. Kennedy Drive in 1985.

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Later, Doc tells Marty, “It's taken me almost 30 years and my entire family fortune to realize the [time machine],” so we can infer that Doc, along with the proceeds from selling off the surrounding land, burned down his mansion to collect the insurance money to fund the creation of time machine.

26. DOC KEEPS HIS MENTORS CLOSE.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The same framed photos of Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Edison above Doc Brown’s mantel in 1955 can be seen above his bed in the retrofitted garage bungalow in 1985.

27. THAT FANTASTIC STORY IS REAL.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The issue of Fantastic Story Magazine we see next to a sleeping George when Marty wakes him up as Darth Vader from the Planet Vulcan is genuine: It’s the Fall 1954 issue. It cost 25 cents. Marty’s yellow alien getup will eventually inspire the cover art character for George’s 1985 book, “A Match Made in Space.”

28. (EDWARD) VAN HALEN IS ACTUALLY PLAYING THE GUITAR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The tape Marty uses to scare George is an actual uncredited solo by guitarist Eddie Van Halen. The band Van Halen wouldn’t allow their name or music to be used in the film (thus the added “Edward” on the label), but the guitarist allegedly gave Zemeckis an outtake to use from a song called “Donut City” he created for the score for the 1984 film The Wild Life.

29. BIFF AND HIS ANCESTORS ARE USED TO MANURE THROUGH THE AGES.

The Statlers aren’t the only multi-generational small  business owners in Hill Valley. Biff has run-ins with D. Jones Manure Hauling trucks in 1955 in the original movie and Part II, while Mad Dog Tannen falls into an A. Jones Manure Hauling truck in 1885 in Part III.

30. DOC NEVER BUILDS HIS MODELS TO SCALE.

When Doc runs Marty through his time machine plan with models in the garage in his 1955 garage laboratory, he says, “I didn't have time to build it to scale.” When Doc says the same line in Part III (with the same car toy model), Marty finishes his sentence by saying, “Yeah, I know, Doc. It’s not to scale.”

31. DOC’S INJURIES ARE IMPORTANT TO TIME TRAVEL.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The bandage on Doc’s forehead when Marty shows up to his house in 1955 is from his eureka moment of his idea of the Flux Capacitor when he fell and hit his head in the bathroom while hanging a clock. The toilet is later seen in Part II when Marty returns to 1955 for the second time.

32. DOC SPENT A LOT OF TIME ON HIS OTHER INVENTION THAT DIDN’T WORK.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The time machine wasn’t Doc’s only invention. Schematics for Doc’s faulty brainwave machine can be seen strewn across his house and garage. Marty later wears Doc’s brainwave machine in Part III.

33. THAT MAN ON THE BIKE MIGHT LOOK FAMILIAR.

'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

The guy riding by Doc and Marty in 1955 as the former tells him not to tell him what happens in the future just before the lightning storm looks kind of like Doc...because he is Doc. This is 1985 Doc Brown who meets his younger self in Part II.

34. MARTY MIMICS MORE THAN JUST CHUCK BERRY AT THE ENCHANTMENT UNDER THE SEA DANCE.

Marty essentially invents rock ‘n roll music by mimicking Chuck Berry to his fictional cousin, Marvin Berry. But he also shocks the teeny boppers of 1955 Hill Valley by kicking over the speakers as a homage to The Who’s Pete Townshend, and he also plays his guitar lying down like Angus Young of AC/DC.

35. SOMEONE REALLY NEEDS TO FIX THE DELOREAN’S STARTER.

When he gets to 1955, Marty has to get rid of the DeLorean because, as he tells Doc, “Something [was] wrong with the starter, so I hid it.” This explains why the DeLorean suddenly stops working just as he’s about to go back to the future in the climax of the movie.

36. MARTY REMEMBERS DOC’S BULLETPROOF VEST TRICK.

Doc reads Marty’s ripped-up note in 1955, knowing he’ll die in 1985 unless he wears a bulletproof vest against the Libyans. Doc’s life-saving vest maneuver foreshadows Marty’s own makeshift bulletproof vest (made out of an iron stove cover) in Part III.

37. THE CLOCKTOWER LEDGE IS A LITTLE WORSE FOR WEAR.

A screen shot from 'Back to the Future' (1985)
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Doc does permanent damage to the clocktower ledge during the lightning storm in 1955, which wasn’t there in the initial 1985 timeline, but can be seen still damaged in the improved 1985 at the end of the movie.

Save Up to 80 Percent on Furniture, Home Decor, and Appliances During Wayfair's Way Day 2020 Sale

Wayfair
Wayfair

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14 Burning Facts About Lucifer

Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer.
Tom Ellis stars as Lucifer Morningstar in Lucifer.
JOHN P. FLEENOR/NETFLIX © 2020

He's in the details, he makes deals, and he lost an epic fiddle contest in Georgia. Lucifer Morningstar (not a stage name) has played a lot of roles in popular culture, but he had never been a nightclub-owning amateur detective in Los Angeles until he got his own TV show on Fox in 2016.

In Lucifer, Tom Ellis plays the titular demon, who has left hell and the punishment business in order to get a little Earthside R&R in the City of Angels. Just as Dracula went from rotten-skinned monster to debonair seducer in literature, Lucifer’s version of the devil (who comes to us courtesy of Californication creator Tom Kapinos) is all tailored suits, wry smiles, and addictive flirtation. He’s also very, very persuasive and people just have a tendency to tell him their deepest, darkest secrets—which is the next best thing to having a superpower when you're trying to solve mysteries alongside a cynical cop (played by Lauren German) … even if she is immune to those charms.

As you catch up with the hit series on Netflix (season 5 dropped in late August) and prepare for its upcoming sixth and final season, here are some facts to know about Lucifer.

1. Supernatural predicted Lucifer’s arrival.

The long-running, beloved genre show Supernatural welcomed Lucifer into the world with a joke. In "The Devil in the Details," episode 10 of Supernatural's 11th season, their show's Lucifer (played by Mark Pellegrino) joked that if he ever got out of his cage in hell, he'd move to Los Angeles to solve crimes. Fans of Eric Kripke’s series might have been surprised five days later when Lucifer's first episode landed on Fox and showed the titular demon (played here by Tom Ellis) doing exactly that.

2. Though Lucifer isn’t a Supernatural spinoff, both shows exist in a similar universe.

Though Supernatural and Lucifer aren’t officially related, both shows occupy somewhat of a shared universe and feature some of the same mythical characters. They also clearly have a shared affinity, as both shows have made sly nods to each other over the years.

3. Lucifer is a loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman comic book character.

Tom Ellis and Aimee Garcia in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

The main character of Lucifer is less an adaptation of the embodiment of evil from religious texts and more an official riff on the Lucifer that Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg created for The Sandman comic book series for DC Comics. Lucifer eventually got his own spin-off comic book series.

4. Lucifer star Tom Ellis had no idea the show was a loose adaptation of a Neil Gaiman comic book character.

When asked if he used the Gaiman comics as research for his character in Lucifer, Ellis admitted that he wasn’t even aware the show was adapted from a comic book series. "It is a loose adaptation," he told Digital Spy in 2016. “I hadn't used anything from the comic to start with. But since then Neil Gaiman, who was behind the original incarnation, has got in touch with me. He told me he really enjoyed the pilot, so that was nice—it was almost like one of the parents giving us their blessing.”

5. Watch Lucifer carefully and you’ll spot some Neil Gaiman Easter eggs.

To honor its original creator, Lucifer has featured nods to some of Gaiman’s other work. Most notably, Chloe (Lauren German) reads Gaiman's Coraline to her daughter Trixie (Scarlett Estevez), and references Trixie conning her father into reading her "the book about the sneezing panda," which is a reference to Gaiman's book Chu's Day.

6. There was a petition to stop Lucifer from airing before it ever even premiered.

Tom Ellis stars in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix

Before a single episode of Lucifer had ever even aired, the conservative group One Million Moms rallied to get the show canceled. They garnered 11,000 signatures on a petition that objected to the series because they felt it would glamorize the devil. The incident was a bit of déjà vu for Gaiman, since Sandman faced similar calls for cancellation when it was published.

7. There was also a petition to save Lucifer from cancellation.

When Lucifer was canceled after three seasons (due to low ratings), fans fought back and kept the series alive with the social media hashtag #SaveLucifer. Fox sold the series to Netflix, which produced a fourth season with a penultimate episode titled "Save Lucifer." Netflix then renewed the series for a fifth season, which premiered on August 21, 2020 and was initially scheduled to be its last. However, in June—just two months ahead of the season 5 premiere—Netflix surprised and delighted the show’s massive fan base by announcing that they had greenlit a sixth and (this time definitely) final season.

8. Lucifer's Tom Ellis comes from a family of pastors.

Irony works in mysterious ways. While appearing on The Rich Eisen Show, Ellis explained that while he's playing the Lord of Hell, his father, sister, and uncle are all pastors. They're all also big fans of his acting work.

9. There are no Christmas episodes of Lucifer.

That may not be surprising given the main character's predilections, but it's surprising considering that Christmas-themed shows are a staple of the TV industry in search of extra nudges to entice their viewership. Refusing to make Christmas-themed episodes is a big diversion from the norm. It's a bold choice, but it falls in line with the show never mentioning Jesus Christ (not even when someone stubs a toe).

10. Lucifer never smokes on the show.

Tom Ellis as Lucifer Morningstar, D.B. Woodside as Amenadiel, and Lauren German as Chloe Decker in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

Beginning with the very first episode, there are several times where Lucifer can be seen just as he's about to light a cigarette, stubbing one out, or tapping ash into an ashtray, but you'll never see him actually take a drag and inhale. Still, even the fact that he's got them raises the important question: Why does the devil need to smoke?

11. Lauren German describes Chloe and Lucifer's relationship as "sad fireworks."

There's no better way to say it. Since the beginning, their reluctant partnership and blooming intimacy has been an exploration of conflicting emotions. That includes the looming revelation of something Lucifer has been telling Chloe since the beginning: That he's the devil. While describing their relationship as "sad fireworks," German also told TV Guide, “There's a lot of love and respect there, and her vulnerability is more present than ever before—but that can often be the most intoxicating element in a relationship. Someone that keeps you on your toes can be thrilling.”

12. Lucifer's nightclub has a fitting name.

Lucifer means "light bringer" in Latin so it's perfect that his club, Lux, is also the SI standard unit for measuring luminescence. Plus, Club Hell was already taken.

13. Lucifer star Tom Ellis has got some serious air piano chops.

D.B. Woodside and Tom Ellis in Lucifer.John P. Fleenor/Netflix © 2020

One of the perks of owning your own nightclub is that you can play piano whenever you want. And if you're immortal, you've got all the time in the universe to take lessons. (Just ask Groundhog Day’s Phil Connors.) Lucifer plays and sings a lot on the show, and while it's Ellis doing the singing, it's not him at the keys. “I’m very good at air piano, let me put it that way!" Ellis told TV Insider about his talent for faking it.

14. Lucifer drives a 1962 Chevrolet Corvette C1.

If you're wondering the make and model of Lucifer's automotive object of desire, now you know. The classic is sleek, a little dangerous, and has a mix of sharp angles and softer edges, matching the main character nicely. Plus, it's the last of its kind: 1962 was the final year the C1 chassis was available on the Corvette.