"The Italian Job"

Mini Coopers starred in 2003's "The Italian Job," as well as the original 1969 heist film. (May 30, 2003)

No man forgets his first love.

My first love was considerably older, and cost me $25. My father paid the bill in an effort to make a man of me.

It was a 1949 Olds coupe. What did you think I was talking about? Get your mind out of the gutter.

I loved that car, even though the floorboard beneath the passenger seat was rusted through and you could see the road passing by. It was sort of a reverse convertible.

The love affair didn't last that long. My parents took the car away from me when a friend of theirs witnessed 13 of my high school friends climbing out of the Olds at a red light. But the memories have lasted a lifetime.

I was thinking about my first car while I was watching the animated film "Cars 2," a sequel to the 2006 hit "Cars." While the first film was set locally in Radiator Springs, the sequel takes Mater the tow truck and race car driver Lightning McQueen around the world as the best friends get involved in an international spy caper. Michael Caine voices a British agent named Finn McMissile. Once again, Larry the Cable Guy is Mater, and Owen Wilson is McQueen.

The first film made about $462 million at the worldwide box office (and probably an equal amount in merchandising revenue), and the new one, which opened Friday, is expected to make considerably more than the original.

Both movies were inspired by John Lasseter's love affair with cars. Lasseter, the head genius at Pixar Animation and the director of both films, was the son of a parts manager at a Chevrolet dealership. He has confessed that he has loved cars his whole life.

So, he had an idea about a car movie that likely will generate a couple of billion dollars in revenue. My ideas rarely generate a couple of dollars in revenue.

But his idea is about to generate a column on car movies.

Hollywood and the automobile have been a hot couple since the silent era, and the love affair obviously is only getting stronger with age. Released a few months back, "Fast Five," the fourth sequel in the "Fast and Furious" film franchise, grossed more than $200 million in this country alone.

Let's take a look at some of the coolest car movies ever made. If I missed your favorite, let me know. Some of the choices are based on great car chases, while others have been included for no better reason than the movie had a cool car in it.

One disclaimer: I had a bad experience with a Beetle once, so there are no love bugs on this list.

1. "American Graffiti": The whole town is cruising, and a showdown is brewing between John Milner in his '32 Ford, and Bob Falfa and his '55 Chevy. And let us not forget that beautiful white T-Bird driven by the mysterious blonde (Suzanne Somers), and Steve's (Ron Howard) '58 Chevy.

2. "Bullitt": Steve McQueen flew through the streets of San Francisco in his '68 Mustang GT.

3. "The French Connection": Do you pick your toes in Poughkeepsie? Gene Hackman commandeers a Pontiac LeMans and chases a train through Brooklyn. Arguably the greatest car chase ever filmed.

4. "The Italian Job" (1969 and 2003): Mini Coopers rule!

5. "Gone in 60 Seconds" (1974 and 2000): Steal a car. Steal another car. Steal another car. Steal another car.

6. "Smokey and the Bandit": The ultimate love triangle — Sally Field comes between Burt Reynolds and his car.