We’re a sucker for motorsports-themed movies; whether its NASCAR, Formula 1, a cross-country rally, drama, or a slapstick comedy with overtones of adversity, sexual innuendo, and a hint of truth – which is what we have with this movie, Stroker Ace. You may be thinking, “hmmm … this film didn’t have any Mustangs racing,” But indeed, the film features three (more than any other Ford model in the movie).
And, even though these cars might be overlooked as significant, the fact that there is such dominant product placement by Ford Motor Company to showcase the ’82 and ’83 model years, earns it a spot on our Top Five list.
No. 3 – “Stroker Ace”
Starring Burt Reynolds as “Stroker Ace,” this flick was released in 1983, and was lost on critics and movie-goers alike who saw it as a pseudo “Smokey and the Bandit,” Part Three, as it reflected a similar vibe. Reynolds even sported the same familiar red shirt, jeans and cowboy boots as was his attire in Smokey.
Filmed at several of the fastest tracks in the country during NASCAR’s 1981-’82 racing season (Talladega Superspeedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway), it is a roll in the hay for fans of NASCAR who get the humor, and perhaps some of the marketing reality of the sport. Think of it as a forerunner to “Talladega Nights” starring Will Ferrell.
Stroker, who is at the top of his game in stock car racing with three championships under his belt, has his three-peat streak in jeopardy due to the loss of his oil company sponsor. With no sponsor, there is no racing – until Clyde Torkel, a fried chicken mogul played by Ned Beatty, offers to back him. Three are a few hitches of course, including dressing up as feathered foul while racing, and stickers on the race car proclaiming Stroker is “the fastest chicken in the south.”
Along for the ride are Loni Anderson as Torkel’s public relations assistant Pembrook Feeney, and funnyman Jim Nabors as chief mechanic Lugs. Rival Aubry James, played by Parker Stevenson, antagonizes Stroker on and off the track – namely clucking to him like a chicken due to his new Chicken Pit sponsor.
Show Me The Mustang!
Even though Stroker pilots a new model-year 1983 Ford Thunderbird on the racetrack – rubbing, crashing, and flying in spectacular fashion – a few Mustangs that are well-placed make appearances as co-stars throughout much of the movie as well. All three are 5.0-liter variations, and include; a silver 1982 GT as the official NASCAR pace car, 1983 silver GT, and a red 1983 convertible driven by Anderson to chauffeur her boss, Torkel, to and from grand openings and other appearances. Considering the majority of real life NASCAR pace cars were from the General Motors stable (ie: Pontiac Grand Prix and Corvettte), product placement on the silver screen was obvious, and an optimal opportunity for Ford to promote its new Mustang.
Making the movie even better and adding to the slapstick comedy, are cameo appearances by Elvira Mistress of the Night, Linda Vaughn, and many others. In addition, prominent NASCAR legends of the day demonstrate their acting chops (or lack thereof) – many in their movie debut. How does Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Terry Labonte, Benny Parsons, Ricky Rudd, Cale Yarborough, Kyle Petty, and The Intimidator Dale Earnhardt sound? That’s what we’re talking about!