The star cars that make some movies memorable often start life as completely standard vehicles. They rarely stay that way and they always attract a following. So let us follow in the tyre tracks of some Hollywood luminaries.
Our first diva was in fact six cars, of which four still exist. In many respects it was ahead of its time; by the end of the first movie in which it appeared, it was running on rubbish. This early green machine, Doc Emmet Brown’s time-travelling car was a DeLorean DMC12 and it first burst on to our movie screens in 1985. A trilogy of movies and many years later, Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown) is 71, and Michael J. Fox (Marty McFly) is 49, has Parkinson’s disease and an honorary doctorate from the Karolinska Instituet. Of the four DeLoreans remaining, two are studio tour stars at Universal, one lives on the ceiling of Planet Hollywood in Honolulu – and the last one is being restored. Some of the cars that John Z. Delorean made still set tyres to tarmac, and some among their number have attained a degree of immortality.
‘So cool it hurt’ is an epithet that applied to the late Steve McQueen, and his handling of the 1968 Ford Mustang GT390 Fastback he used in ‘Bullitt’ did his reputation no harm at all.
During the seven-minute, tyre-burning chase sequence with the baddies’ Dodge Charger R/T440, McQueen did most of the driving and there was no camera trickery. Both the Mustangs used were given tuning tweaks so they could keep up with the more powerful Magnum Chargers, and one of each was given beefed-up suspension and a full roll cage.
All that drifting car tyre smoke was real, as was much of the San Francisco traffic. One thing, however, was a later addition. The full-blast V8 engine sounds came from an example of the GT40, Ford’s four-times Le Mans winning racing car.
Now for a quirky one. What has massive tyres, ten carburettors with gold plated intake pipes, and a huge, Ford Cobra motor? Need more clues? How about Jahns high-domed pistons and an Iskendarian camshaft? Still too techy? Ok then.
Customizer George Barris built the idiosyncratic vehicle in question. It was based on a lengthened 1923 Model T ford chassis and had a custom body. Still struggling? Alright, here are some names. The car was featured in a 1960s TV comedy starring Fred Gwynne, Yvonne De Carlo; Al Lewis played Grandpa. Those who are thinking of Clive Dunn at this stage can go to dunce’s corner right now. However, the names Herman and Lily might ring some bells. Yes, it’s the Munster’s Koach.
This unique car toured the ‘States extensively in the 1970s, and pre-tour, George ‘Batmobile’ Barris gave it a new paint job. The car now rests in peace, in the ‘Cars of the Stars’ museum, in Keswick, Cumbria.
Finally, a vehicle with just 114 horsepower from its 4.9-litre, six-cylinder engine is hardly likely to set tyres or tarmac alight, especially with its three-speed automatic transmission. However, the very same vehicle had its charm and made us laugh, even if it was slow. The film ‘Dumb and Dumber’ featured this 1984 Ford Econoline van, complete with floppy, furry ears, a lolling tongue and a full fur coat. Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels’ ‘Mutt Cuts’ van didn’t stay long but the movie wouldn’t have been the same without it!