Movie cars they got wrong (and what they should've used instead...)
Movie cars can often achieve cult status, but do they always deserve to? Would a different car have been more deserving of a starring role?
When a car features in a movie, something magical can happen. If the movie is successful, and the car strikes just the right chord with the audience, that car can become more of a star than any leading man or lady.
Get things really right, and the car’s iconic status within popular culture can even transcend the movie’s, giving the car an appeal that’s way more than the sum of its parts. Think about the Mustang from Bullitt. Or the Trans Am from Smokey and the Bandit. Or the DeLorean from Back to the Future.
But regardless of their status, are these iconic cars always deserving of their position? Were they necessarily the right car to be cast in that role to begin with, or would another model have been better? In case you missed it, I wrote an article previously that questions the DeLorean’s use in the Back to the Future movies – on account of the fact it was crap and slow – and that got me to thinking: which other movie cars did they get wrong? Well, wonder no more. Here they are, along with what they should’ve used instead.
Goldfinger – 1964 Aston Martin DB5
Come on then, let’s kick off with a controversial one.
Along with the DeLorean, this is about as iconic as movie cars get. The DB5 – with its guns and its ejector seat and its revolving licence plates – is one of the most recognisable cars on the planet thanks to its inclusion in the sixties Bond classic. And it’s probably fair to say that Aston Martin’s resulting association with the Bond franchise over the years has given the brand an appeal it probably wouldn’t have otherwise had, an appeal which, financially, has probably saved the company a number of times over.
Now, I know what you’re expecting me to say. “Bond drove a Bentley in the books, so it should’ve been one of those”. Nope. It’s a point I’ve heard made before, but not one I agree with. But my point does relate to what happens in the books.
While Goldfinger is the second in the series of films, it’s seventh in the series of books. In the latter, Bond does indeed drive an Aston Martin to his pivotal golf game – at Royal St Marks, Sandwich – against his aurum-appendaged adversary.
However, it wasn’t a DB5, it was a DB III. In fact, the chapter of the book in which the action unfolds is even called ‘Thoughts in a DB III’, which makes it even more pivotal. For the 1964 film, however, the car was upgraded to the latest DB5 model, but in fairness, the DB III was still only a few years old by then, being in production between ‘57 and ‘59. And for the sake of staying true to Ian Fleming’s original work, they should’ve stuck with the older car.
Cars – Sally Carrera – Porsche 911 (996)
Overall, the car casting in Pixar’s 2006 kid’s animation is really, really good. For example, having the hippy character of Fillmore played by a Volkswagen Type 2 Bus? Spot on. The old-school military character of Sarge played by a Willy’s Jeep? Bingo. The retiring Piston Cup champion, Strip ‘The King’ Weathers, played by a fully liveried Plymouth Superbird (and voiced by none other than Richard Petty)? Inspired.
Miss Sally, however, was the weak link, and there were two problems. While all the other inhabitants of Radiator Springs were based on models old enough to have had an appropriate amount of history for a back story, Miss Sally looked to be based on a 996-generation Porsche 911. The thing is, the 996 was released in 1998, meaning at the time the film was released, she couldn’t have been more than eight years old. Surely even in a fictional universe inhabited by cars, that’s a bit young to be playing a love interest, not unless Lightning McQueen has a veeeery dark side none of us knew about.
Secondly, the character of Miss Sally was plainly as American as a twinkie wearing a stetson, so to have her portrayed by a German car seems all wrong. Surely there’s an American sports car that could’ve provided the necessary character (glamorous, attractive former hot-shot lawyer with a slightly shady past), while still being shapely enough and pretty enough to be feminine and desirable?
Our pick would be a 1988 Pontiac Fiero. Old enough to make the character at least 18 years of age, hails from the good ol’ USA, and is small enough, athletic enough and elegant enough to stay ladylike. You’re welcome, Pixar...
Gone in 60 Seconds – 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500
Gotta be honest, I didn’t know when I first saw this 2000 movie that it was a reboot of another. The Original Gone in 60 Seconds was released in 1967, and followed a pretty similar basic plot to the Nicholas Cage cheesefest with which we’re all more familiar. As such, I initially had no quarrel with the use of a 1967 Shelby GT500 as the fabled Eleanor, Randall Raines’ elusive ‘unicorn’ car. However, the news that the movie was a reboot then posed problems.
The thing is, when the way has been paved by another, you don’t screw about with things. For example, when they made a Starsky and Hutch movie in 2004, Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson simply had to be rolling around in a red and white Ford Gran Torino. And when they made a movie version of the Dukes of Hazzard in 2005, there would’ve been uproar if the General Lee had been portrayed by anything else other than an orange 1969 Dodge Charger with dysfunctional doors, an overly elaborate horn (ooer!) and a roof design that really hasn't aged well.
However, in the original movie, Eleanor was not a Shelby GT500. It was, in fact, a modified 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof Mach 1. In pale yellow. With a black stripe over the bonnet.
Now, I know the original car isn’t as glamorous as the Shelby. I know it’s not as exciting. And I admit, it probably would’ve looked a bit crap to build up an entire movie toward the point where the main protagonist drives a particular car, only for that car to be, let’s be honest, a bit of a snotter. But even so, tradition is tradition.
Ironman – 2008 Audi R8
Nobody is disputing the fact that the Audi R8 is a fabulous sports car. It’s terrifically enjoyable to drive, it’s big on style and and glamour, yet it’s also comfortable and civilised enough to be a usable daily driver. However, is it really good enough in any of these respects to satisfy a bloke like Tony Stark?
Stark is supposedly one of the richest men on the planet. The ultimate perennial playboy, he’s a guy that – despite his desire to do good and to save the world – has an insatiable appetite for showing off. He’s also a bloke who craves technology. Anyone who can invent a super-weapon using a handful of odds and ends while imprisoned in a cave by terrorists, obviously has an appreciation of the cutting edge. Yet we’re supposed to believe that he spends his days rolling around in an Audi? Come off it. A chap like Stark would always want the very best of the time, the pinnacle. And the R8 ain’t it.
In 2008, when the film was made, you’d have to say that the pinnacle would’ve been the Bugatti Veyron. A thousand-odd horsepower, 253mph, money-no-object. That’s much more like it.
Ghostbusters – Ectomobile (1959 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Futura Ambulance)
Not so much a failing of the film-makers perhaps, more a failing of the marketing and product-placement people. You see, the Ghostbusters car is another one that’s etched indelibly on the brain of anyone who’s ever seen the movie. Its quirky looks, screeching tyres and whining siren have given it cult status on a par with the DeLorean’s and DB5s of the world, and inevitably, that means people would want a slice of the action by owning one.
However, the Cadillac Miller-Meteor etcetera etcetera is such a random, obscure and rare car that hardly anyone could. However, if, say, Ford had flashed a whole bunch of cash at the film’s producers and persuaded them to fashion Ecto 1 out of an old 1958 Country Squire (which actually looks just as quirky) instead, then examples would’ve been much more widely available.
More critically for Ford, though, the Country Squire was still available as a new car when the film was made in 1984, and any association with the film - even a tenuous one - could’ve given sales a real shot in the arm.