The Story of Alan Hilzer and his Black Trans Am Helen
aka Black Magic


Hotrods are as American as you can get. They exude an attitude that is synonymous with American Freedom. It is a culture that is birthed from the United States and signifies power, technology, and design. Nostalgia is also a quintessential American concept. History is perceived how the viewer sees it. Events could or could not have happened depending on the filters you view the past with. There is always a reverence for the past, generations before, and the trials and tribulations of your elders. This project utilizes American Car culture to explore the mythologies we create about the past. How a simple event can become significant, how the norm can transform into something spectacular. 



The story of Black Magic began when Alan purchased his car brand new on November, 10 1976 at the age of 19  for a price of $5,456.00Hilzer's 1977 Trans Am is a stock-appearing, four-speed-equipped car. Like many teens in the late 1970s, Alan was a big fan of Smokey and the Bandit. Shortly after being released from 2 years in the navy at while living in Ritzville, WA, his car was dubbed the Black Magic. People used to joke he went to voodoo doctor when he was stationed in Naval Air Station in Belle Chase, Louisiana where he made a deal in exchange for the fastest car in the NW. From the smoke of his offering rose Helen, his Trans Am.

Up until the 1979 models, the performance of 400-equipped Firebirds could still be brought up to near pre-1970 levels by removing the catalytic converter and opening up the block off plate to make the hood scoop functional. Static compression ratios dropped in the early 70s which crippled horsepower and torque output. This was the only modifications he made to the car. Alan was a factory believer, and kept his car in tip top shape.

He started racing the car locally at the Spokane County Race Track. He gathered several sponsors immediately, since his car, Helen, seemed unbeatable. Black Magic earned the NHRA stock record at SCRT for running 10.92 @ 118 mph 1/4 mile as well as 16 other local track records. He was the only factory car in the circuit. He never lost, He won title after title and met Susie Lovitz, his soon to be wife. As the years went on, Alan became a target at the track, everyone wanted to beat him. Folks got more and more aggressive on the track, doing whatever they could to win. His biggest rival was another local racer, Don Pendleton, he raced a 72 Plymouth Duster. Who also had a thing for Susie. In March of 1980 Don wavered over the line and forced Alan into the rail, thus the damage to the right side of the car. After that race Alan was afraid to race Don, for fear he would push him into to his death. Alan planned to fake mechanical issues in order to omit the next race. The date was May 17th 1985…

On May 18th, 1980 Hilzer broke his deal by refusing to race against an opponent. At 8:30 AM, the ground began to stir, those present that day say that as soon as he refused to race, Mt. St. Helens erupted in ash and fire. Feeling this disaster was his fault, Alan jumped in the car and started rescuing stranded people from the blanket of destruction.

It was too late, even though he braved the disaster and saved many, the car's fate was sealed. Helen sucked up so much ash from the air it ultimately blew the motor. His good deeds could not save the car. After that day, Alan pulled Black Magic into his barn & thats where it stayed for over 30 years until it was uncovered by Seattle artist, Duffyleg. 
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Hot Rodding is American as apple pie, stars and stripes, and baseball. Many have offered their lives to Hot Rodding, devoting everything to speed, the eternal hunt for a few miles faster. Only a handful of names are recognized to the general public from the Hot Rod Culture. This project isn’t for them. Instead, it embodies the countless others who gave everything they had to go as fast as possible, and despite all their efforts, it was never fast enough. It is about the tenacity and unwavering spirit that spawned ingenuity and fueled an entire culture. This project is about finally acknowledging and honoring the trials and tribulations of those unknown burnouts.



 WISEKNAVE documentation for fine artist Duffyleg at Pirahna Shop for Fueled Spirit with Shep Films. Seattle, WA 2016. Duffyleg | WISEKNAVE.ARTDOC©

'Black Magic' is an installation comprised of a custom painted 1977 Pontiac Trans Am that has been dismantled and reassembled onto a metal frame and bracket system that is hung on the wall. This installation is inspired by the plastic grid that model cars would come attached to in the packaging. This is a 1:1 Scale model Trans Am.

Thank you to all of the contributors of 'Black Magic' including Alan Hilzer, Duffyleg, SHEP Films & WISEKNAVE

 WISEKNAVE documentation for fine artist, Duffyleg at Treason Gallery for HOLLYWOODNT. Seattle, WA 2016. Duffyleg | WISEKNAVE.ARTDOC©

DUFFYLEG | Seattle, WA

Duffyleg’s work is steeped in the influences of American classic car culture, motorcycles, hot rods, and mid-20th century advertising design. Anchored by timeless design principles, Duffyleg makes mixed-media collages which layer fragments of the old, rare, occult, off color, monsters, ghouls, advertisements, underground, lowbrow, custom culture, tattoos, and general weirdness on top of one another in the pursuit of building a contemporary understanding of niche cultures and time periods. 


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