Dennis Weaver got top billing, but it was a ruddy, snout-nosed Peterbilt tanker that was the menacing star of the 1971 thriller “Duel.”
Weaver played a salesman pursued through the California desert mountains by a villainous trucker bent on destroying him and his car. It took three trucks to do all the shots, and the only survivor will be on display Saturday at the annual Southern Classic Truck Show outside Lincolnton along with other Hollywood big rigs.
Brad Wike, who collects and restores classic trucks, bought the 1960 Peterbilt seven years ago. Unlike the other sparkling gems of his collection, the “Duel” rig remains weathered, dusty and rumble-ready.
“Duel” occupies a unique niche in Hollywood history. It was filmed in two weeks as an ABC Movie of the Week by an unknown director named Steven Spielberg.
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It was so popular that Universal Studios asked Spielberg to film additional scenes and released the movie theatrically. One of the “Duel” trucks was crashed over a cliff during filming, another has been junked and Wike owns the third.
“It’s a total blast to drive,” says Wike, who owns a Hickory transport company. “No power steering. A bare-bones 1960 Peterbilt.”
He won’t say what he bought it for, but he won’t sell it either, despite many offers through the years.
“There are so many ‘Duel’ fanatics around the world,” says Wike. People have called and offered him up to $100 for a ride in the cab, which is as Spartan today as it was the day it was built.
Other movie-star trucks at Saturday’s show include the tractor-trailer from the NBC “B.J. and the Bear” series, the truck from the NBC series “Movin’ On” with Claude Akins and the Rubber Duck truck from the movie “Convoy.”
About 400 trucks are usually on display at the show, and owners are invited to bring any rigs people would be interested in viewing.
Toppman’s truck list
We asked Observer movie critic Lawrence Toppman for his top five truck movies. He listed:
▪ “Wages of Fear”: A 1953 French melodrama in which desperate men must drive nitroglycerin on a dangerous route to extinguish an oil fire. Roy Scheider starred in the 1977 U.S. remake “Sorcerer.”
▪ “Duel”: Steven Spielberg’s 1971 made-for-TV and later full-length theatrical release with Dennis Weaver.
▪ “They Drive By Night”: George Raft and Humphrey Bogart are truck-driving brothers who must navigate through business, romance and murder in the 1940 noir film.
▪ “Joy Ride”: A 2001 thriller that screenwriter J.J. Abrams said was influenced by “Duel.” College students enrage a murderous truck driver with a prank.
▪ “Maximum Overdrive”: Marauding big rigs attack humanity after the Earth passes through the tail of a comet. Filmed in Wilmington, the 1986 movie was based on a short story by Stephen King and is the only film the author ever directed. Fine art? No, but a guilty pleasure.
When: 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.
Where: 2763 Blackburn Bridge Road; off U.S. 321 exit for Startown Road near Lincolnton.
Admission: $5 for adults; free for anyone with a vehicle to display.