Illinois man's car catches eye of movie makers

GALESBURG, Ill. Little did he know, a few thousand miles away, movie executives at Universal Studios were also eyeing that same rare car. And, on top of that, one of the biggest names in Hollywood, Johnny Depp, had already been shown pictures and fell in love with it.

Patton, who has a dozen or so cars from different eras, decided to pay the price asked by the Bay City Motor Company in Bay City, Mich., knowing this was a chance he could not easily ignore.

"It was really a neat-looking car," Patton said of the beige-colored vehicle. "It's the only Hudson Terraplane that I had found anywhere on the Web, much less for sale."

So, he wired the company the money on a Monday in December. Late in March, he received a phone call from David Cotten, founder and partner in the Bay City Motor Company.

"They really want the car," Patton recalls Cotten saying of the Universal representatives who contacted him. "They want to work something out and said they had to have that car or there wasn't going to be any shooting, and indicated that they had deep pockets. I didn't really want to just do a one-shot sell the car and double my money.

"I wanted to kind of work with them and see what kind of arrangements we could come to."

The Universal representatives wanted the Terraplane for a new movie starring Depp as 1930s gangster John Dillinger which was about to commence shooting. Set to release sometime in 2009, the movie also stars Christian Bale as Melvin Purvis, the FBI agent who led the manhunt for Dillinger; Channing Tatum as Pretty Boy Floyd; Stephen Graham as Baby Face Nelson; and Academy Award-winner Marion Cotillard as Dillinger's paramour, Billie Frechette.

The crew has spent the spring filming in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Chicago, where Dillinger was shot to death outside the Biograph Theater on Lincoln Avenue.

The film is based on Bryan Burrough's 2004 book, "Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI, 1933-34."

So why was it so essential that this new film have that exact car?

"Apparently Dillinger had quite a few cars, but his favorite car was the Hudson Terraplane," Patton said. So, when Universal executives found the Terraplane online, they took photos of it to Mann and Depp. Both men agreed that they had to have that car.

Patton agreed to sell the car to the studio -- they didn't want to just rent it -- but he would have the right to buy it back for the exact same price once shooting was finished.

It will probably come back with a shiny new black paint job and an automatic transmission, since studio officials didn't believe Depp can drive a manual shift.

Patton and his financial adviser, Ed Dahl, were given the opportunity to visit the Chicago set to watch some of the filming. They had another car to visit while there.

"While we were talking, I told (the movie official) about this other '30s car," Patton said, referring to his original-condition 1930 Pierce Arrow Roadster. He told the man, "I've got another '30s car that's a really neat car that you might want to think about having in that movie."

After seeing the pictures of the Arrow, complete with original Pierce Arrow beige paint job, tan interior and canvas cover, the studio decided it had to have that one, too.

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