Watching The Rock bring it on the big screen in Fast And The Furious 5: Rio Heist (or F5st 5ive, or 5ive 4 Fighting, or F&F&5, whatever it’s officially called now) the Empire team laughed, cried, hollered and screamed at the screen. In other words, we had a good time. But despite enjoying each and every punch/crash/ludicrous one-liner, we felt perhaps there weren’t quite as many actual cars in the movie as we would have liked. Reminiscing over our favourites from days gone by, here are 10 of our favourite vehicles from throughout movie history – and we've tried to avoid superhero cars where we can, but if you just love your Batmobiles, you can check their kind here...
**Driver:* Vernon Dobtcheff / Evil KGB types
Played by Michael Crawford in a feathery costume that looked like it'd been rented from Bernard Matthews' fancy dress shop, rubbish-but-loveable superhero Condorman is never going to win points for coolness. The KGB bad guys, though, have no worries on that score. They drive around in Porsches bought from the evilest car dealership in the world, wearing black tinted visors to cover eyes presumably made from flaming sulphur. This sinister look and German technological refinement makes this squadron of devil cars far too awesome for a movie in which Frank Spencer dresses up as a giant South American pigeon.
*Movie: The Blues Brothers
**Year: 1980 Driver:* Dan Aykroyd / Elwood Blues
"It's got a cop motor, a 440-cubic-inch plant. It's got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas." Well said, Elwood Blues.
Joilet Jake and Elwood’s car-based adventures prove that American car-makers could still produce high-quality, high-speed, nigh-on indestructible vehicles that could, on occasion, fly through the air, flip backwards half-way through, then land on the ground with nary a scratch on it. What. A. Car.
You see, the Bluesmobile can reach speeds of 120mph plus, rocketing over open drawbridges, careering through malls, taking out shops, storefronts, stalls, and other cars as it blasts headlong wherever it goddamn pleases. It’s on a mission from God people, and it will not rest until it gets where it needs to go – at which point it will crumple and explode into a hunk of junk, just like all good pieces of machinery do.
It just goes to show: if you’re going to be relentlessly pursued by the police, it’s best to be driving a police car. One, it’ll confuse ‘em, and two, you’ll look cool. Especially if you’re wearing suits and Wayfarers. Just a tip there.
Movie: The Love Bug
Driver:** **Dean Jones / Jim Douglas
Everyone loves a Volkswagon Beetle. Need more? Okay, how about the fact that Herbie is a loveable scamp with a heart of gold and gets amazing miles to the gallon? He may look like an affordable German run-around to the untrained eye, but look a little closer and you'll basically find Rocky with a bumper.
Sure, Herbie's a little more neurotic than your average garage dweller – for starters, it's the only car on this list to actively attempt suicide – and, yes, its habit of splitting in half in obscure parts of Europe makes it look like an early model Transformer, but with a little love and a dollop of Castrol it can achieve great things. On behalf of all our childhoods, we're not ashamed to say we love you Herbie and we're sorry about that whole Fully Loaded thing.
Driver:** **Steve McQueen / Bullitt
There’s no two ways about it: when you think of Bullitt, you think of the car chase. The 10-minute long car chase, no less, featuring Detective Bullitt’s souped up Ford Mustang, all racing green, burning rubber and engine so loud it could wake the dead. Though it has serious competition given what subsequent generations of filmmakers have done with the car chase on film, director Peter Yates and Oscar-winning editor Frank P. Keller really shook things up in Hollywood in 1968 with their San Francisco cat-and-mouse heartstopper, and in so doing entered the 390 CID V8 Ford Mustang into the cinematic history books.
All strong silent type, leather jacket and weatherworn chops, McQueen drives the car like a madman, swinging the wheel around like it’s a wild bull bucking beneath him, slamming the Mustang around the streets of San Fran, into cars, walls, roadside barriers in his dogged pursuit of two wanted hitmen. What’s more, over the course of the 10-minute driving extravaganza, the Mustang loses five hubcaps. Count ‘em – five. And with a car that’s already intensely manly, mad and as fast as a runaway train, the fact that it can regrow hubcabs makes it one of the best cars Hollywood has ever delivered. We’ll have four, please.
Movie: Mad Max
Driver: Mel Gibson / Mad Max Rockatansky
This classic movie hot rod is as Aussie as a Vegemite sandwich, a no-bloody-nonsense vehicle that'd punch KITT square in the windscreen given half a chance. Technically it's a Pursuit Special, a police car normally used for pulling over errant drivers, but post-apocalyptic law enforcement doesn't leave a lot of room for issuing tickets.
Instead, Mad Max just uses it to destroy the hell out of perps. Just check out that front supercharger and side pipes. We're not sure what they do, but they look frackin' cool. Thanks to this fantastic Ford, Byron Kennedy and George Miller's creation launches a thousand teenage car crushes.
Movie: Ferris Bueller's Day Off
**Driver:* Matthew Broderick / Ferris Bueller
There’s no way we’d want a 1961 Ferrari GT California in real life. Not because it isn’t a beautiful, desirable, wonderful car – not at all. It’s because they’re so rare, so precious, and so highly regarded that one recently was sold for over $10 million, meaning that even the tiniest scratch would probably clock in at the same price as a semi-detached family home in Wigan. In the film itself, of course, the car we see isn’t actually a 1961 Ferrari GT California – it’s a kit car version. Three “replicar” models were used, in fact, and they notoriously refused to work properly during the film’s shooting, resulting in the scene where Ferris leaves the car with the garage attendant being shot over ten times, because the ‘car’ wouldn’t start.
Needless to say, the crew had a huge amount of fun destroying the blasted thing when it did eventually tip over into one Mr. Cameron Frye’s back garden, though that said, it was a one-shot, no-fuck-ups-please affair. If there’s a set visit we wish we could have been on – although it took place before Empire Magazine was ever published – it would have been Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Anyway, continuing our adventure into fantasyland, hypothetically we’d probably kill kittens to even have a drive around the local Tesco’s car park in a Ferrari GT California. The whole affair would end with the classic car crushed under a passing milk float or impaled on a bollard and ourselves mortgaging our first-born to pay off the debt, but still, it would be fun while it lasted.
*Driver: *Sylvester Stallone / Lieutenant Marion 'Cobra' Cobretti
Marion Cobretti is the kind of cop who'd drive to work in a tank if he could. He can't – it's illegal in LA – so he settles for the next best thing, a 1950 Mercury, which is by any standards a muscle car for the discerning match-chewing badass. It looks like the kind of vehicle ZZ Top would have driven if they'd gone into crime-fighting, but Stallone's mere presence at the height of his '80s action heyday upholsters his vehicle in OTT awesomeness.
Check the features list: it's got a nitrous-aided Holley carburettor, 400-turbo hydraulic transmission with four-wheel brake and one of those nice cup holder things. This car rocks. Sadly, it rolls too, as witnessed by its explosive collision with a drydocked speedboat.
Movie:** Wayne's World
*Driver:* **Dana Carvey / Garth Algar
First off, let’s get all the pop culture catchphrases out in the open now, so you don’t have to dread them coming up in the rest of the piece. All together now: "Schwing! Party on!”, “That's what she said", and "...Not!"
Phew. Glad that’s over.
Anyway, the car. Sure, it looks like a blue upside-down fishbowl with go-faster flames on the side, but that’s what makes it so magnificent: It’s ludicrous. It’s appalling. It’s the goddamn Mirth Mobile, and everybody wants one, if only to play Bohemian Rhapsody ludicrously loudly and shake their heads till their necks get whiplash. Obviously.
Then there are in the in-built perks inherent in Wayne and Garth’s specially customised vehicle – you’ve got your red liquorice dispenser mounted on the head liner, a bar tap in the glove box… this is no ordinary vehicle. Okay, it’s a very ordinary vehicle – but it’s a very ordinary vehicle with flame decals and weird in-built gadgets to boot, and that’s enough for us. Plus, we also have the Mirth Mobile to thank for making mismatched wheels cool. Mismatched wheels are cool, right? Right?
Movie: The Italian Job
Driver: Michael Caine / An assortment of others
Much like Bullitt and the Ford Mustang, the Mini Cooper S is synonymous with the 1969 British crime classic, resonating with plucky British charm – in no small part helped by the fact the three motors were painted the colours of the Union Jack, red, white and blue.
Thinking about it, it’s practically compulsory for every red-blooded Brit to love a Mini Cooper. Seeing an old school ‘60s model pootling down the road forces all men to stare and admire it longingly, even if the exhaust might be dragging on the ground and the headlights have long given up the ghost.
It’s neat, it’s nimble, and it’s damn good at negotiating Italian sewer systems. Sure, when The British Motor Corporation were first designing and building a modern, reliable, nippy little four-seater they didn’t necessarily have Italian sewer systems in mind, but it doesn’t much matter – they created a classic car, and a classic car helped create a classic film.
Golly, just thinking about it makes you want to salute the flag, sip some tea and eat a cucumber sandwich. Long live the Caine. Wait, the Queen! Yes, the Queen. Long live her.
Movie: The Back to the Future Trilogy
Year: 1985 – 1990
*Driver: *Christopher Lloyd / Dr. Emmett Brown
How could we not include the De Lorean DMC-12? It’s the De Lorean DMC-12. It’s goes back to the future. And forward to the future. And back again. How many cars do you know that can do that? That’s right: one. The De Lorean DMC-12 – like we said.
But let’s be honest, without Marty McFly and Doc. Brown’s adventures through time, the De Lorean DMC-12 would have gone down in history as a weird one-off from a failed vanity motor company out of a Belfast. And no, annoyingly, the real deals don’t take you back to the future – not without a flux capacitor and/or a “Mr. Fusion” nuclear reactor, anyway – but they do look pretty sweet, and will have legions of nerdy guys and girls cooing all over it as you blast it down your local high street.
In a way that other movie cars just can’t match – not even The Italian Job’s beloved Mini Coopers – the Back To The Future series is defined by the De Lorean DMC-12 and vice versa. The flaming tyre tracks, the open gull wings, the Drew Struzan posters, the California OUTATIME number plate... It’s one hell of a vehicle and quite possibly the most iconic car cinema has to offer. There, we said it.