The Curious Case of Vincent Vega’s Stolen 1964 Malibu

"You don't fuck with another man's vehicle."

Along with Marcellus' briefcase, Jack Rabbit Slim's, and Zed's leather-clad Gimp, Vincent Vega's 1964 Chevy Malibu is one of Pulp Fiction's most iconic elements. The car's central to a few of the film's more memorable sequences (Vincent cruising along post-heroin fix, en route to a date with Mia Wallace; Vincent cruising along far more rapidly, in the wake of Mia's unexpected heroin fix), but the Malibu's best moment doesn't even feature the car on-screen: it's a conversation between Vincent (John Travolta) and Lance (Eric Stoltz) about the car.

"You still got your Malibu?", Lance asks.

"Oh, man. You know what some fucker did the other day?", Vincent responds. "Fucking keyed it...I had it in storage for three years, it was out five days and some dickless piece of shit fucked with it."

"They should be killed," Lance says, helpfully spooning heroin into a baggie for Vincent. "No trial, no jury-- straight to execution."

"What's more chickenshit than fucking with a man's automobile?", Vince wonders. "You don't fuck with another man's vehicle. It's just against the rules."

The entire exchange is one of many such moments that made Pulp Fiction feel so alive the first time we all saw it. Like Jules and Vincent's chat about French fast food or Fabienne's confession to wanting a beer belly, it's a moment that serves no real function to the plot; it's all just character building. World building, even. The characters of Pulp Fiction occupy a decidedly seedy side of Los Angeles, and most of them are, for lack of a better term, total scumbags. But they're not without their own interests, moral codes and unspoken rules. In 1994, hearing characters rattle off dialogue like this (read: the profane/poetic chit-chat we've all come to expect from Tarantino in the years since) felt nothing short of revelatory.

At any rate, Vincent's Malibu is an important piece of Pulp Fiction* lore, and as it turns out, the car's got something of an interesting history post-Pulp Fiction. Shortly after filming wrapped in 1994, the car was stolen from out in front of Quentin Tarantino's house, and (as is usually the case with these things) the crime went unsolved for many years. This became yet another piece of random, useless trivia that sprung up online in the wake of Pulp Fiction's enormous success ("Hey, y'know that Malibu Vincent Vega drives? It got stolen! Sshyeah, never found, either!"), and then time went on and everyone pretty much forgot it ever happened.

And then, nearly twenty years later, the Malibu popped back up again. On April 18th, 2013, a Deputy with California's Victorville Police Department observed what appeared to be two men stripping a Chevy Malibu in the driveway of a private residence. Suspicious, he approached the men, and ran the Malibu's VIN number to see if it the car was stolen. Word came back that the car was registered to an owner in Oakland, CA, yet one of the men stripping the Victorville Malibu insisted the car was his, and had been since the '70s. Somewhat baffled but suspecting the worst, the Deputy turned the investigation over to the California Highway Patrol, who quickly figured out what'd happened: the VIN number on the Victorville Malibu had been copied, at which point it had been illegally attributed to a second Chevy Malibu - a stolen Chevy Malibu - that was now registered to some guy up in Oakland.

The CHP notified authorities in the Bay Area, who decided to pay the owner of the "cloned" Malibu a visit. And there, sitting in the driveway of one Bill Hemenez, was Tarantino's stolen car. Hemenez had purchased the Malibu back in 2001 from a private collector, and had no idea the car had a duplicated VIN number, much less that it'd been stolen. What's more, he'd never seen Pulp Fiction (had never even heard of Quentin Tarantino!), and was crushed to learn that the car he'd spent over $40,000 restoring over the past decade was, y'know, not technically his.

And that was pretty much that. One of the guys initially questioned about the Victorville Malibu ended up arrested on suspicion of unrelated charges, while Hemenez was cleared of any wrongdoing. He was, however, out a car (two cars, if you count the car he traded for the Malibu in the first place, which Hemenez certainly did), and was unsuccessful in his attempts to get the seized Malibu covered by his insurance company ("We don't insure stolen cars," they told him). As for Vincent Vega's Malibu: police returned the car to Tarantino shortly after the director's 50th birthday, in March of 2013. As far as anyone knows, it's still in his possession, though it's apparently not the car he drives these days.

* = DID YOU KNOW??? Vincent's Malibu was keyed by Butch (Bruce Willis). There's some online debate about this - mainly as to whether or not the text supports said accusation - but Tarantino himself confirmed it years later in this Opie And Anthony interview (go to 3:20 if you want to hear it from the man himself).

Comments