Top News

Some movie cars will never leave our memories


Chappaquiddick, a recently released Netflix movie, is a dramatic account of the tragic drowning of 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne after a 1967 Oldsmobile driven by Senator Ted Kennedy plunged off a bridge near Edgartown, Massachusetts.

A sad but engaging movie for sure and, as in many films, I was interested in the cars and trucks used in the production. In period pieces like Chappaquiddick, beyond the story line, I find myself checking to see if the producers use vehicles that are the correct model year corresponding to the date of the setting,

I paid close attention to the Rambler American police car and a white Chrysler Imperial that made cameo appearances. My real interest however was the car that overshot the bridge at Chappaquiddick landing on its roof in the water, taking the life of Ms. Kopechne.

The car in the movie was navy blue like the one that had been winched out of the river the morning of July 19, 1969. But the then two-year-old Oldsmobile Senator Kennedy drove the night before was a four-door sedan and not a four-door hard-top with no b-pillar like the one used in the film. Obviously, few people would notice this, and fewer would care.

Watching the movie made me consider cars that became stars beyond the infamous 1967 Oldsmobile that derailed the young Senator’s chance of becoming president of the United States, and sadly took the life of a promising young woman.

There are lots of car stars, vehicles that in some cases are more remembered than the leading men and women in films. There were plenty over the years including machines like the Batmobile, Herbie the Love Bug and the two or three General Lee Dodge Chargers that were rolled, jumped and smashed in each episode of the hit television series The Dukes of Hazard.

There was that iconic green 1968 Mustang GT Detective Frank Bullitt chased and was chased by bad guys in Bullitt, featuring one of the most famous car chase scenes in movie history.

Six versions of the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car were built for the 1968 production of that movie. The fully operational one was powered by a 3.0L Ford V6 with an automatic transmission and, according to actor Dick van Dyke who drove the car in the film, it was tricky to manoeuvrer and had the turning radius of a battleship.

In 1984, the 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ecto-1 ambulance that hauled the Ghostbusters and their ghost busting equipment to haunted locales all over New York entertained millions.

One of the most famous cars in movie history might be the 1964 Aston Martin DB5 that James Bond drove in the film Goldfinger. I didn’t see the blockbuster hit when it came out because, at 14, my girlfriend’s mother wouldn’t let her go to the movie because it might “warp her mind.” So I never saw the smoke screen, changing licence plates, machine ports or cannons until long after the movie came out.

Twenty-three cars were used in the making of Christine, John Carpenter’s adaption of Stephen King’s book about a killer car with a mind of its own. Although a few were Belvedere and Savoy parts cars, most were 1958 Plymouth Fury two-door hardtops.

Thelma and Louise, the 1991 Oscar-winning road-trip classic, featured a seafoam green 1966 Thunderbird with a white faux-leather interior and a 428-cubic inch V8 engine. Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon drove the car throughout the production which was Brad Pitt’s first major motion picture.

Five identical cars were used in the making of Thelma and Louise; one for exterior shots, two stunt cars, one camera car and a spare. One of the surviving cars sold at Barrett-Jackson auction for $71,500US in 2008 and is rumoured to be residing in Italy now.

One of my favourite movie cars was actually a time machine. Back to the Future star car, a gizmoed-up DeLorean DMC-12 with gull-wing doors and a backpack of add-ons enabling it to travel to the past and future was the dream car for a generation of starry-eyed time travellers.

Last month I walked out of the lobby of the Marriott hotel at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport and did a double take when I spotted the Back to the Future car parked out front. Was it the real thing or a reproduction? I took a picture and after looking it over, realized it was probably a fake.

The next morning the DeLorean was gone. Had it had zipped off to another time, somewhere in the past or to the future? With Christine perhaps? Was it chased by Detective Bullitt’s hot ’68 Mustang GT?

Or maybe the Ghostbusters hauled it away with their lumbering 1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ecto-1 ambulance. Who ya gonna call?

Recent Stories