Drag Racing Week: Heart Like A Wheel (1983)

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Shirley Muldowney is the First Lady of Drag Racing and the first woman to receive a license from the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) to drive a Top Fuel dragster. After getting over that obstacle, she won the NHRA Top Fuel championship in 1977, 1980 and 1982, becoming the first person to win two and three Top Fuel titles. She’s ranked 21st on ESPN’s list of the Top 25 Drivers of All Time and fifth on the National Hot Rod Association’s 50th-Anniversary list of its Top 50 Drivers. A member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame and Automotive Hall of Fame, she also had a song written about her by L7 and is one of the many women brought up by Le Tigre in the song “Hot Topic.”

Back in 1956, Shirley Roque (Bedelia) married auto mechanic Jack Muldowney (Leo Rossi), despite her father Tex (Hoyt Axton) wanting her to rely on herself. By the time she’s ready to race a decade later, with her husband as her mechanic, she has to get three signatures from other racers to even be considered.

She does, starting with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits (Bill McKinney) and Connie Kalitta (Beau Bridges), who has already fallen for her. The film is just about their relationship as it is the races, but it’s still worth a watch.

Director Johnathan Kaplan mainly works in TV these days, but he had success with this film and The Accused. He also directed the Reform School Girl remake and Bad Girls, a female centric western. Before those films, he made some greats for Roger Corman, like Night Call Nurses and The Student Teachers before directing Truck TurnerWhite Line Fever and Mr. Billion, a bomb that tried to introduced Terrence Hill to American audiences.

Image courtesy of Vectezzy.

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