Furiously Fast: Craig Lieberman.
Sarah: So,Craig, can you please introduce yourself to the readers of this article?
Craig: You probably already know me, even if we’ve never met. I appeared in The Fast and The Furious’ big Race Wars scene – I was the guy waving my hands to start the race. I’ve been in the automotive aftermarket industry since 1986. I’ve served as Marketing Director for Eibach Springs, MagnaFlow Exhaust, NGK Spark Plugs and other companies. I also served as Executive Director for “NIRA,” the National Import Racing Series, which was like the NHRA drag racing series, but exclusively for import tuner cars.
Sarah:Where did it all start for you, your interest in cars?
Craig: Like most teenagers, I realized that having car meant freedom. Always a tech geek, I was the guy that used to disassemble TVs and things to see how they work. I built many a go- kart from scratch until I got my driver’s license, at which time I switched to real cars.
Sarah: What age were you when you got the car ‘bug’?
Craig:I was three years old when I got a toy Batmobile from the TV series. I was hooked immediately.
Sarah: What was the very first you ever bought for yourself?
Craig:A 1981 Isuzu I-Mark four door sedan. I lowered it, modified the engine, painted it Porsche red and add a rear wing off a 930 Turbo Porsche. This was before neon lights, so I made my own set use the lights you’d see on big rig trucks (lorries).
Sarah: Was it expensive?
Craig: My first car was a vile pile of dung, but I paid for it myself. It was about $3,000.
Sarah: What made you get into Japanese cars?
Craig: My love for Japanese cars stemmed from my first drive in a Datsun 240Z. I had three of them over the years.
Sarah: What’s your favourite car brand?
Craig: Tough question. Datsun in the early days, but other than the Zs and the GTRs, that brand is in dire need of an infusion of passion. The Japanese way of analysis paralysis has stemmed innovation in that company. That said, I think Lexus is superb. If they’d add 50-100 more horsepower to every car they make, I’d likely have nothing in my garage but a Lexus.
Sarah: What’s you take on European cars? American cars and Japanese cars?
Craig: BMWs are superb to drive, but a nightmare to maintain. Mercedes’ regular cars are not of interest to me, but the AMG cars are superb. Just to be clear, there’s no way I’d owner cars from either of these brands once the warrantees run out, though. I’m a HUGE Audi fan and would easily take an RS-anything over a BMW or ‘Benz. Porsche of course, has been making the same car (looks-wise) for 50+ years, but each new 911 still enthralls me.
SUVs by any maker are not something I’d care for and since so many car makers have more or less switched to SUVs, there’s not much to excite me on the showroom floors of any of the Japanese or German dealerships with the exceptions I made above.
Sarah: What’s your favourite European car? American car? Japanese car?
Craig: From Europe? It is Audi and it cbe the RS6 Avant. American car? I’m still a Mustang fan. The new GT500 would look great in my garage. Japanese car? The R35 GT-R (which IS sitting in my garage).
Sarah: What did you manage to get the job working in/been a technical advisor for the fast and furious films?
Craig: In my book, I did a whole chapter on this. It was basically dumb luck insofar as I had my Supra on display at a car show and a gentleman stuck up conversation with me. He asked me to meet the Producers and Director at Universal, and they hired me.
Sarah: Why do you think the films have become action/violence orientated rather than car related?
Craig:I agree with most of your readers on this, I imagine. They have indeed become James Bondesque films. Why? Because action movies featuring big name stars and explosions sell movie tickets. Movies about racing, whether its street racing or drag racing, have yet to demonstrate that they can achieve similar box office ticket sales.
Universal is a publicly traded company and has shareholders. These investors want to see profits. When a movie costs $183 million to make but makes $1.5 BILLION at the box office, Universal deems it a success – I would, too.
Sarah: Can you ever see the fast and furious franchise making another Tokyo drift style film?
Craig: I’m afraid not. Most of today’s millennial (your readers not with standing) wouldn’t know an S15 Nissan from an F15 fighter jet (figuratively speaking). Unfortunately, people like you, me and your readers forget that most of the people walking down the street have no idea what drifting is, what kind of cars are used and why it’s so cool.
Universal make movies for the masses. Large audiences are where the money’s at.
Sarah: What is your favourite Fast and Furious film?
Craig:Tokyo Drift. JDM cars, pretty Japanese girls and drifting how can you beat that?
Sarah: Hobbs and Shaw would you regard this as a fast and furious film, or maybe just a spin off of the franchise?
Craig: I think everyone will agree it’s a spin off. Universal is hedging their bets by relying on the star power of Dwayne Johnson to lay the groundwork for another loosely related series, if I were to guess.
Sarah: What is your all time favourite car from the fast and furious franchise?
Craig: The Veilside Fortune RX7 in Tokyo Drift. Unlike the riveted body kits of other makers, grafting one of these kits onto on an RX7 requires superb craftsmanship and lots of money.
Sarah: How many of your cars were used in the films?
Craig: Three in starring roles – my orange Supra, my blue Nissan Maxima and my silver R34 GT-R. A fourth car (a white Lexus GS400) made a brief appearance at Race Wars.
Sarah: Was it a hard job, been a technical advisor for these films?
Craig:As and “advisor,” I gave advice. They didn’t always take it and they never pressured me to change my advice – the either accepted it or they went another way. It’s akin to being a psychiatrist.
Sarah:What has/is your favourite sound track/song from the franchise or do you listen to them?
Craig: Dope’s “Debonnaire” in the first film always gets the blood pumping. Certainly has to be at the top of my list, I think.
Sarah: What was the most expensive car you have worked for the films?
Craig: The silver GT-R.
Sarah: How much did it cost?
Craig: I paid $78,000 USD for the car and the mods to the car totaled another $60,000 USD, if not more.
Sarah: .What was the most expensive item/modification you have bought for your own cars apart from the car itself?
Craig: Stereo installs were usually up around $10-15K for some of my cars but beyond that, big brake kits. The Stop Tech 15 inch brakes on my GT-R were almost $10,000 USD
Sarah: If you could change one thing about any of the films what would it be?
Craig: Only one thing? “Danger to Manifold.” I argued about that most vociferously. In the end, I was told “no one is going to know that this wording isn’t correct.” Ha!!! And here we are.
Sarah: As with the cars if there was any car you could change in one of the films for another one which car would it be and what would be the car you would replace it with? Why did you pick this car?
Craig: The purple Eclipse in 2 Fast 2 Furious. I would replace it with a 3000GT VR4 or an Acura NSX. I didn’t pick this car, Tyrese Gibson did.
Sarah: Which do you prefer in a car, looks or power? Why?
Craig: Power. It’s just like picking your mate – if you’re going to have to live with it for awhile, you want something that performs and looks are highly subjective. As evidence of this last statement, I’d submit that there are people who actually went down to a car dealer and purchased a Chrysler PT Cruiser.
Sarah: Did you ever expect the fast and furious franchise to be as popular as it is?
Craig: Not in my wildest dreams. I actually thought the movie would go straight to DVD!
Sarah: How many more films do you think they will release?
Craig: They are scheduled to go to Fast 10. After that, I assume there will be a pause as they work on adjunct projects like TV shows, streaming videos, video game integration and so forth. But like every other successful series, just when we think it’s dead, someone will do a reboot.
Sarah: Who out of all the cast members was the best to work with?
Craig: Paul was a champ to work with. Cool, laid back, down to Earth and every other nice-guy adjective you can think of. More importantly, he was a true car guy.
Sarah: Vin Diesel in real life what is he like?
Craig: My interactions with him were brief. My impression was that he was self-confident, although some might interpret that as having a big ego. He was certainly dedicated to his craft and most of all, he was motivated to succeed. He wasn’t very knowledgeable about cars, but he didn’t need to be.
Sarah: Are you still in contact with any of the cast other producers etc?
Craig: I’m in touch with many members of the crew and some top people like Picture Car Captains, Stunt Directors and so forth. Directors and Producers don’t consort with lowly Technical Advisers, I surmise. But I will say this: Neil Mortiz, Doug Claybourne and Rob Cohen were some of the nicest people I’ve met. They treated me like gold and I was a nobody just an adviser.
Sarah: What cars are in your garage at the moment?
Craig: 2015 Nissan GT-R. Full boltons, aero, E85, Volk TE37s and making 655hp at the wheels. Second car is an unmolested )for the moment) 2018 Audi S3.
Sarah: Is there any car you have not had and wish to have?
Craig: I could use a McLaren 720s
Sarah: What is your current car build? Can you tell us about it?
Craig: My GT-R is basically a street and track dual purpose car.
Sarah: What was the best sounding car from the films you worked on?
Craig: I’m a sucker for a 2JZ with a big single, but a cammed RB26/RB30 with a big single work for me. Since most of the sounds for each car were HEAVILY edited in post-production, you have to remember that almost NONE of the cars sounded like that in real life. My Supra and Maxima were exceptions.
Sarah: What was the best modified/powerful car from these films?
Craig: Are we talking about from any of the eight movies, or just the first three? The Supra, the GT-R and the gold Supra in 2F2F had the most power in real life, but a lot of people think the Chargers actually had 900bhp blown motors – that was NOT the case. Many of the motor mods are faked on camera.
Sarah: Can you tell us a fun random fact from your time working on the fast and furious films?
Craig: Sure. The GT-R you saw in 2 Fast 2 Furious was supposed to be a Dodge Neon SRT-4 – until I talked John Singleton (the Director) out of it.
Sarah: Anything else you wish to tell us?
Craig: Yes. If you don’t mind, I’d like to invite your readers to my YouTube channel. I have dozens of videos there detailing the behind the scenes work on these movies. The channel is simply under my name “Craig Lieberman.”
If you would like to follow Craig on any of his social media I have listed the links below.
Thanks to Craig for doing this interview, a top guy who you should follow!