There are a great many movie star cars but some are rather less well known than others. All have put tyres to tarmac on screen and many still do off screen. Here are three star cars that perhaps aren’t quite as familiar as some of their competitors.
Our first contender is the car that never was, in production terms at least. The Toyota 2000GT attracted a lot of attention when it first appeared in 1967. At the time, Japanese motor manufacturers were known for producing practical (i.e. boring) and derivative models. When ‘Road and Track’ magazine tested the 2000GT, it was described as, “One of the most exciting and enjoyable cars we’ve driven.” It was also favourably compared with Porsche’s 911. So, where have you seen a Toyota 2000GT on screen, spinning its tyres as competently as all the rest? You saw one in ‘You Only Live Twice’. This white convertible was driven by James Bond’s girlfriend Aki (Akiko Wakabayashi), with Sean Connery in the passenger seat. Why was it the car that never was? The Toyota 2000GT was a coupe that was too low for the 6ft 2 in tall Connery to fit into comfortably. Yamaha – who built the car – tried making a targa-top version but Bond’s head still protruded far above the windscreen, giving a rather ridiculous look. So, just two ‘convertibles’ were built especially for the film. Look very closely and you’ll see that the car’s folded ‘hood’ is nothing more than an upholstered hump.
Sticking with Bond film trickery, can a car really become a submarine? In 1977, ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ would have had us believe one could. The Lotus Esprit S1 concerned tucked its tyres into its wheel arches (which magically filled themselves in), sprouted hydroplanes and apparently went diving. In reality, there was a real roadgoing Lotus Esprit S1, and a heavily modified body shell for underwater use. This shell was fired off a jetty using a compressed air cannon. The underwater mock-up was able to drop ‘depth charges’ but it had no real submarine abilities and no engine. Perhaps appropriate in a movie in which the villain was named ‘Stromberg’ – also the name of a kind of carburettor!
In the same year, ‘The Car’ was burning tyres and rendering audiences awestruck. The possessed star car in this average schlock-horror shocker (also known as DeathMobile) was based on a 1970-ish Lincoln Continental Mk III. In fact, four cars were built, two being destroyed during filming. The main stunt car featured a 460 cubic inch V8 engine, a roll over bar, heavy-duty suspension and amber-tinted glass. A locked 4.11 to 1 differential allowed for easier tyre spinning. The fourth and last car was based on a late 1970s Ford Thunderbird. It was loosely assembled, to be shot over a cliff for the final scene. The shop behind all this heavy metal was Barris Kustoms in North Hollywood. Barris was also responsible for building the original Batmobile, The Munster’s Koach and the Green Hornet car, ‘Black Beauty’. The 1977 invoice for ‘The Car’ shows it cost ‘$84,000.’