HomeCar CultureCheech and Chong's Love Machine, back and better than ever

Cheech and Chong’s Love Machine, back and better than ever


Little did Steve Kimmel know that accepting a job as a production designer for a Hollywood documentary on the comedy duo of “Cheech and Chong” would result in building a memorable keepsake – The Love Machine.

Let’s get things settled from the start. When somebody sees Kimmel’s 1964 Impala Super Sport for the first time, one of two reactions will occur. The first will be “what the …” and visioning what could be done to customize the Chevy. Others will grin and say “right on” and acknowledge that Kimmel nailed the recreation of the iconic car from Cheech and Chong’s first comedy movie, “Up in Smoke

cheech & chong’s love machine, back and better than ever, fuel curve

Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong were a counter culture comedy duo that made several comedy albums (remember those?) and then starred in a movie “Up in Smoke”. The movie focused on smuggling some marijuana into the US and featured Marin driving the Love Machine. Kimmel figures the Love Machine was featured in about 20% of the movie.

While working on the documentary, Kimmel wondered what happened to the original car. He never was able to discover how it was disposed of, but guesses that after the movie finished production, it was sold off. For all we know it might still be cruising the Los Angeles streets under some other colors.

cheech & chong’s love machine, back and better than ever, fuel curve

cheech & chong’s love machine, back and better than ever, fuel curve

Kimmel had access to the archives of Lou Adler who directed the film, discovered the comedians and also was a famed music producer for groups ranging from the Mamas and the Papas, to Jan and Dean. It turns out that no still photographs or design notes on the Impala could be located. So Kimmel had to rely on notes he took while watching the movie to help him keep the car authentic.

cheech & chong’s love machine, back and better than ever, fuel curve

cheech & chong’s love machine, back and better than ever, fuel curve

Kimmel found the 1964 Impala on the Internet and it was in decent shape but had its own patina. He opted to install the legendary 327c.i. V8 in the car, although in the movie the hood was never up to verify what was powering the car. Kimmel added there are four or five different primers on the car as the coloring changed during scenes in the movie. Cragar’s were a natural look for the car.

Kimmel used his 25 years of art experience to help shape his vision of how the car should look. He was surprised how many of the parts he needed could be found on the web. A good “car guy” friend was constantly calling him with another “find” that made it easy to recreate the car. The vinyl graphic is available on-line as well as that unique California license plate. Kimmel talked a Hollywood friend into doing the interior.

All in, it took Kimmel about six months to recreate his Love Machine. He did it because it took him back to things that impacted his life. He says the car is instantly recognizable and gets attention wherever he goes, noting “it gets a lot of attention and love.” Unfortunately the documentary stalled out and never was finished, but Kimmel ended up with a great lasting memory from his work.

cheech & chong’s love machine, back and better than ever, fuel curve

Photos Courtesy Of CS Coffey

This article, written by Mark Bach and was originally published on Fuel Curve.


  1. I love that movie , the recreation of the impala is perfect! Now I have to watch the movie again for the umteanth time, always makes me laugh.
    Great job on the love machine!

  2. What is the band of cherries, or red balls in the interior of the car called. I can’t find any info on what the technical name for it is. Thanks!

  3. This movie is such a big part of my childhood! Born in 74, it’s been a big part of my life. Thank you Cheech. Thank you Tommy. & God bless CHEECH & CHONG !!!!! Yes my name is Alex.aka King Salami!

  4. Anyone is free to take this with a massive grain of salt and I would not blame you if you outright called me out or called me a liar but I am only passing on info I was told since I was a kid (I am 29 now) and some experiences I have had that backs this up (for me). Up front: i have NEVER seen the car myself in person, only in personal pictures framed at a family member’s vacation home. The original car belongs to my half brother and half sister’s uncle. Their side of the family has long since been in the southern california mexican motorcycle and modded car scene since the early 70s and potentially before that. The car was borrowed to a friend who was involved with the motion picture “Up In Smoke”. Before it was used in the movie it was only a flashy project of his. That is all. Last I heard he still has the Impala but has no interest in advertising it. I dont know why but that’s his choice. To this day my brother and sister’s father (whom I am more familiar with, the owner’s brother) who was also there during those times, and has continued modding cars and building choppers and motorcycles and attending shows and events regularly. I myself have met popular mechanics at those events who have been on tv or were very renowned, the only reason I met them was because my bro and sister’s dad has known them throughout the years and decades but i am not a car or motorcycle enthusiast myself, so I didnt know at the time that they were somewhat “famous”. At the Owner’s brother’s vacation house I have seen a few different pictures of the impala. One picture of the owner with his brother and presumably family members and friends, including my mother (who was dating his brother at the time before my brother and sister were born), who were all standing around it. Another picture of the car riding with a crew of other modded cars down route 66 in Fontana, California. And another that was just a simple picture of it from the side. All of these pictures are from the 70s and are framed on the wall of his vacation home’s dining room. Again, if you dont believe me i understand and also dont care. In short: THE CAR IS STILL INTACT AND EXISTS – BUT THE OWNER HAS NO DESIRE TO ADVERTISE IT AS IS HIS RIGHT. Have a nice day.

    P.S. Run-on sentences 😉

    • I believe you, man. With the budget that film had, it’s way more likely that they rented the Impala as-is, as opposed to customizing one:)
      I’d love to see it now, it’s an icon.

  5. I designed the license plate he chose to use. In researching it, I found an actual period California MUF DVR plate set and was surprised to discover the fonts on real world plates looked very different from prop plates. I ended up having to build it up from other period prop movie and TV plates to get it 100%. There were still a couple letters I didn’t have and had to make them from scratch.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Recent Posts