Friday, July 28, 2006

Cars on film

Just finished watching The Birds for the first time (I'll wait for the laughter to subside . . . no, I can wait), and what's still stuck in my craw (not gonna say beak) isn't the gorgeous birds-eye matte painting shot of the town after the explosion or even the perfect ending, it's . . . Tippi Hedren's car. It vaulted to the top of my list of favorite movie cars, which I've been meaning to share for some time.

TVR Tuscan (Swordfish)
One of many reasons to enjoy Swordfish, John Travolta's car fit in perfectly with the odd heist tale. TVR has long made cars that come under the 'no fucking way' category of the U.S. automobile safety regulations. Save for spending thousands on bumper retrofitting, you'll never see one in America. It's a shame, because TVRs always come in erotic shapes of high tech goodness (some of their cars have famously featured no keys, rather a fob that activates the electronics for push-button entry and ignition) that also have a viciously overpowered engine thrown in for good measure. The current Tuscan is even more outrageous than the one you see and will hopefully find its way to Hollywood soon.

Peugeot 406 and Mercedes-Benz 450SEL (Ronin)

Ronin is unabashadly a car movie, with director John Frankenheimer resurrecting the pioneering techniques he used in Grand Prix to create two of the most memorable car chases ever seen. Frankenheimer wisely stayed away from using well-known, pricey cars, instead choosing cars with more personality. The Peugeot 406 is one of these, made by a company wrongly vilified by any American who remembers their unsuccessful run across the Atlantic. The French automaker with the cool logo is known to the rest of the world as a maker of stylish and sporty cars. The 406 is their fast and maneuverable sedan, though if I had the chance my money would gravitate toward the wildly popular 306 GTi-6, its sheep-in-wolf's clothing hatchback complete with a six-speed shifter. Long before Vin Diesel, Frankenheimer's stunt driver threw a 406 into perhaps the most impossible power slide in cinema history. The Mercedes is on the other end of the spectrum, when MB would churn out luxurious muscle cars with hoods of alligator proportions. While DeNiro is busy aiming his rocket launcher at an unsuspecting Citroen, a grandma's trunk-sized 6.9-liter V8 is pumping out over 400 lb.-ft. of torque.

Lamborghini Espada (Auto Focus)
This car is only on-screen for about five seconds, but the fact that Willem Dafoe's character drives one seems so right. The Espada was a very curious and unsuccesful car produced by Lamborghini, some quirky combination between a sports car and a station wagon. You'll never (ever) see one on the road, and they're even rarer to see at a car show, but it was the perfect choice for a smarmy guy like Dafoe's character. The Espada is a favorite of mine, but as far as I can tell, its cousin the Miura has never been featured on film. The Miura was the best car Lamborghini ever made and is No. 1 on my list of sexy autos.

1968 Dodge Charger R/T (Bullitt)
All the attention of Bullitt's famous chase scene seems to fall on McQueen's Mustang GT, but the star of the movie for me (outside of McQueen) is the Charger. In my opinion, the '68 edition is one of the best-looking American cars ever made, and certainly tops among muscle cars. There's something menacing about that front grille, and the rear seems like an American take on Ferrari's look. Most of all, it still has a humbly dignified look about it, which makes it all the more fun when the Charger starts carving up the San Francisco hills while chasing McQueen's Mustang.

Aston Martin DB2 (The Birds)
Luckily I was alone when I saw this car's entrance, because I nearly lost it. You just don't see Aston DB2s, much less someone driving one as Tippie Hedren does in 'The Birds.' At the time of the 'The Birds' release in 1963, Astons were steadily becoming popular in America, probably peaking in 1964 when James Bond introduced the world to the marvelous DB5. But the DB2 was first produced in 1950, and I'm confident hardly any made their way across the Atlantic. According to Wikipedia, only 411 total DB2s were produced from 1950-53 and of those, only about 102 were convertibles like the one in The Birds. But the most amazing part about the one in The Birds is that it's left-hand drive. For a small-time automaker like Aston Martin, making a batch of left-handers for Western Europe and (maybe) North America was a costly luxury, and I would guess that fewer than half the 102 convertibles produced were left-hand drive, and who knows how many of those scant few survive today. An immaculate DB2 like the one portrayed in 'The Birds' would literally be priceless today, in the right market it could command seven figures.

19 comments:

Sheldon said...

Very nice selections. However, I would add the Audi A8 W12 from The Transporter 2 (lame movie, but the car freakin rocked), or the Audi S8 from Ronin...it totally deserved more screen time, as evidenced by the four wheel power slides in the gravel as it parked.

Mike Sheffler said...

What I liked about Ronin was how it made the cars seem simultaneously real and extraordinary. You get the impression that the cars are impressive, but that the chases are badass because the drivers are so talented (incidentally, the long shot of the one car flipping over while on fire after being hit with the rocket is amazing). The Bourne movies have a similar ethos, although the cars (by design) suck shit.

Another favorite is the scene where the Ferrari 335 driven by Xenia Onatopp at the beginning of Goldeneye does a full speeed 360 through a gravel pit and goes right back on the road. Pretty badass.

Finally, I've always had a soft spot for the scene in Dumb and Dumber where there is a quick cut from Harry realizing that he is running late to the dog van flying over a hill on a street. Seems ... improbable, but funny nonetheless.

Bo said...

The Miura was featured in the original "Italian Job". But it has a sad ending for the car so some have perhaps blocked the scene from their memories

kville said...

After seeing Tippi Hedren's car in The Birds many, many years ago, it became my fav car of all time; however, it was not an Aston Martin but a 1956 Ford T-bird convertible....

Adam Ross said...

Sorry kville, my mom's grave says that car's an Aston -- it doesn't even look like a Ford, much less an iconic one like the '56 T-Bird. Wikipedia says it was a DB2/4 that Tippi drove.

Anonymous said...

Kville: Better have a look at The Birds again. Having a ThunderBIRD in The Birds would have been amusing, but it's an Aston Martin that Tippi's driving. Her character, Melanie Daniels, is too classy for an American Thunderbird.

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Peter said...

Is not only a good car selection is great car selection just take a look on the classic, specially the Audi S8... without words to express my happiness when I saw it was the same feeling that sense when I see viagra online for first time.

Anonymous said...

Actually, it was a DB 2/4. Not quite as rare here as a DB2, but would still command six figures.

kamagra said...

From that list Tuscan is the best looking car. I really like the stylish design with some great lights

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TVR Tuscan is such a cool car, the design is so unique.
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