Film's top 10 sexiest super cars
The cars that outshone the stars with their beautiful body work.
Jean-Luc Godard was very nearly correct when he observed that all you need to make a movie is a 'gun and a girl'.
What the art-house nabob neglected to mention was the third essential: a really cool car. Forget violence or flagrant nudity – populate your film with curvaceous autos and you may well have a piece of cinema that will endure for the ages.
Nothing better illustrates the point than Bullitt, a 1968 romp starring Steve McQueen and a Ford Mustang GT so slinky it is only slightly hyperbolic to describe it as sex on four wheels. Indeed, decades later we may agree it's the car, not McQueen, which deserves top billing – it is bound up in Bullit's iconography and in McQueen's too (in the picture we carry of McQueen in our heads he's either zipping about in the Mustang or biking his way to freedom in The Great Escape).
Of course it's no surprise cars and cinema (and later TV) should be entwined. Both, in their most populist form, are quintessentially American means of self expression. Really, they were made for each other. Here, then, is our definitive list of the best screen autos of all time.
Ford Falcon XB Interceptor
Shot on something less than a shoe-string – $350,000 in today's money – the original Mad Max (1979) skimped on pretty much everything: the script, the acting, the soundtrack. But director George Miller knew there was one element he had to get absolutely right, avenging Oz cop Max's wheels. To that end, he had his crew outfit a Ford Falcon Coupe (a model only available in Australia ) with a bonnet 'supercharger' (for show only), side pipes and a modified front end. Low of profile and menacing of aura, Max's Interceptor perfectly chimed with the movie's post-apocalyptic setting. While the car's current whereabouts are unknown we may safely assume it has aged better than Mel Gibson.
With its swooping lines and elaborate tail-fin, the 1958 Plymouth Fury represents the evolutionary summit of the Golden Age of American automobiles. Some twenty Furies, most belonging to collectors, were used for the 1983 movie, about a possessed car that develops a murderous obsession with 'her' owner (it was adapted from Stephen King's novel). To emphasise Christine's 'wickedness' the windscreens were painted black, with only a tiny patch of tint for stunt-drivers to look through.
Ferrari Testarossa (Miami Vice)
A celebration of surface shimmer and '80s ostentation, Miami Vice embodied the go-go decade better than almost any other TV show. More than the suits, mirror-shades and general Duran Duran-ness of the whole thing, it was the blinged-out autos that really drove the point home. In fact, there was some early controversy in this regard, the unofficially tricked out Ferrari driven by Don Johnson's agent Crockett raising objections from the manufacturer. By way of compromise Ferrari furnished Miami Vice with two gleaming white 1986 Testarossas. The car was introduced at the start of season three with undercover Crockett telling his superiors he needed hotter wheels if he was going to pass as a drug dealer. The car was later purchased by a collector for $750,000.
"The Lone Ranger with a car," was producer Glen A Larson's original pitch for Knight Rider (1982-1986). The series paired a pre-parody David Hasselhoff and KITT, an acronym for "Knight Industries Two Thousand". Far from the self-aware wonder-chariot we saw on screen, KITT was a modified Pontiac Firebird, a popular American 'muscle' car. Rumours abound as to the whereabouts of the original KITT today – Hasselhoff once joked he'd had it stuffed and mounted in his living room. In fact, the last known whereabouts were at a museum in the UK. It shuttered in 2011 and KITT has been MIA since. After Knight Rider, Hasselhoff's wife bought him two Pontiacs which he converted into KITT lookalikes. He would take them on the road as a prop for his singing tours of Germany.
Check out when Bob Flavin got to meet K.I.T.T. http://www.independent.ie/life/motoring/car-talk/the-hoffs-kitt-hits-the-road-in-newbridge-30177869.html
(Dukes of Hazzard)
Loveable rednecks drive the bejaysus out of a Dodge Charger stock car around rural Georgia, pursued by a corrupt sheriff. Such was the premise of Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979 to 1986 (and, shunned by RTé, was controversially only available in multichannel land). The real star was the Dodge, christened 'General Lee'. A modified racer, General Lee's doors were famously welded shut – requiring the driver to slip in through the window. Because the series was stunt heavy a boggling number of Charger's were needed – one estimate is that up to 321 saw active duty across Hazzards' seven years, of which an estimated 17 are still in existence.
General Motors G-15 Van
For those of a certain vintage, even today a black van with red stripes inevitably sets the A-Team theme tune parping in our heads. Almost as iconic as Hannibal's cigar and BA's milk-moustache, the doughty G-15's wide-swing rear doors were ideal for surprise machine gun attacks on bad guys (so long as you made sure to never actually hit anyone). Six vans were utilised during the A-Team's lifespan, from 1983 to 1987. Attentive viewers may have noticed the reg plates differed from episode to episode.
Kooky and kitsch, the original on-screen Batmobile from the '60s was nevertheless a real vehicle – the Lincoln Futura concept car, unveiled at the 1955 New York Auto Show. Meanwhile, the more menacing runabout from Tim Burton's 1989 movie was based on a functioning car too, a customised Chevy Impala. Fans may be interested to learn that, as originally described in the comics, the Batmobile was a bright red sedan, albeit with swanky curves. Years would elapse before the Dark Knight cultivated a taste for gothic tail-fins and turbo boosters.
(Back To The Future)
Assembled outside Belfast, the DeLorean DMC-12 was a futuristic sports car with famous gull-wing doors. Some 9,000 had been produced when the assembly line shuddered to a halt in 1983 (the auto recession in the US blamed for the demise of the business). Some 6,500 are believed to still exist (there is an active DeLorean fan club in Ireland). In the movie it's Doc Brown's tricked out DeLorean that accidentally whooshes Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) back to 1955. Originally the time machine was to have been a converted fridge. However, director Robert Zemeckis fretted kids might take this as a hint to climb into their parents' iceboxes and opted for a car instead.
Cadillac Miller-Meteor Hearse
A low-slung ambulance/hearse hybrid, the 1959 Miller-Meteor Cadillac won a place in the hearts of film-goers after it featured as Ghostbusters' Ecto 1. In the first draft of the script the Ghostbusters were supposed to drive a 1975 Cadillac ambulance. However the 1959 model better fitted the movie's cheerfully shambolic sensibilities. A lost scene suggests Ecto 1 has supernatural powers (the sequence was removed over fears it would slow the narrative). As a promotional stunt, the battered hearse was driven around New York shortly after Ghostbusters' release – causing several accidents as drivers scrambled and swerved for a clear glimpse.
Aston Martin DB5
Soon to become one the most recognisable screen cars in history, the Aston Martin DB5 featured in Goldfinger (1964) was a manufacturer prototype. 'DB' stands for David Brown, head of Aston Martin from 1947 to 1972. The model was tricked out with ejector seat, rotating license plates and machine guns. In 2010 it fetched $4.1 million at auction. The choice of an Aston Martin was a departure from Ian Fleming's novels, in which Bond drives a more sensible Bentley.
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday’s Irish Independent
First published in INSIDER Magazine, exclusive to Thursday's Irish Independent