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Unsung heroes - Our favourite cars from films

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Unsung heroes - Our favourite cars from films

Matt Hubbard
Speedmonkey
October 21, 2012


The Dude's 1973 Ford TorinoThe Dude's 1973 Ford Torino Withnail & I's Jaguar MkII, 3.8 litreWithnail & I's Jaguar MkII, 3.8 litre Ronin's BMW M5 (535i)Ronin's BMW M5 (535i) Vanishing Point's Dodge Challenger R/T with a 6.3 litre V8Vanishing Point's Dodge Challenger R/T with a 6.3 litre V8 The Blues Brother's 1974 Dodge Monaco The Blues Brother's 1974 Dodge Monaco Bullitt's 1968 Ford Mustang fastbackBullitt's 1968 Ford Mustang fastback
We asked various people what their favourite cars from films were. The answers were overwhelmingly biased in favour of classic American fare - often with a petrolhead's slant on matters.

Number 1 by a long margin was Eleanour (the 1967 Custom Fastback Mustang), from Gone in Sixty Seconds. Also popular were the Mini's and Muira from the Italian Job, the Countach and Ferrari 308 from Cannonball Run and all of Iron Man's garage. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was mentioned as was the Ferrari 250 GTO from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Bumblebee, the Chevrolet Camaro, from Transformers was another favourite.

But what we like at Speedmonkey is the characterful car. The car as part of the story. The used and abused the thrashed, crashed and chased. The falling apart and the downright gritty. The unsung hero.

These are our favourite movie cars. In no particular order. You may disagree with our choices. If so please tell us your favourite cars from the movies below.

The Big Lebowski's Ford Torino

In which our hero - The Big Lebowski - crashes and curses. The car reflects the man - sleazy, dirty and rather bedraggled. At one point main character (The Dude) drops a joint between his legs and, in the panicked moments as his inner thighs start to feel the pain from the burning ember, he veers across the road and crashes into a large trash container. Happily the car survives.

Withnail & I's Jaguar MkII

Another quirky, cult movie. Another battered, but iconic, example of a definitive movie car. With a patina gathered through years of neglect, Withnail and I decide to take a weekend in the country. For that they need 'the Jag'. To a soundtrack of Jimi Hendrix and George Harrison they take to the empty 1960s motorways - only for the heavens to open and the Jag's windscreen wipers pack in.

Ronin's BMW M5

One of the best car chases in cinema history is carried out between Robert De Niro driving a humdrum Peugeot 406, chasing down Natasha McElhone at the wheel of a BMW M5 in Ronin. Directed by John Frankenheimer, who also directed Grand Prix, the chase is exciting, realistic and exhilarating. What is amazing is that the 406 manages to keep up with the M5 (in reality a slightly modified 535i). An Audi S8 and a Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 also feature but the M5 is the big star of the big chase.

Vanishing Point's Dodge Challenger R/T

Another cult classic in which the car is, at least, one of the major stars. The main character, Kowalski, delivers cars for a living. He has to deliver a white, 1970 Dodge Challenger from Colorado to San Francisco. Kowalski accepts a bet that he can make the delivery in 15 hours and thereafter sets off on a destructive journey across the US. The Challenger looks beautiful throughout the movie but meets an untimely demise, with Kowalski at the wheel, at the end of the film.

The Blue's Brother's Dodge Monaco Patrol Car

Jake Blues, just out of prison is picked up by his brother, Elwood in his new car. Jake doesn't like the car. Elwood's response is to jump the car over an opening drawbridge. Then he says, "It's got a cop motor, a 440 cubic inch plant, it's got cop tires, cop suspensions, cop shocks. It's a model made before catalytic converters so it'll run good on regular gas. What do you say, is it the new Bluesmobile or what?" Jake, impressed, merely says, "Fix the cigarette lighter."

Bullitt's Ford Mustang fastback

The car chase in Bullitt lasts 10 minutes 53 seconds and involves Steve McQueen, at the wheel of a 1968 Ford Mustang fastback, chasing down two heavies in a 1968 Dodge Charger through the streets of San Francisco and beyond. The Mustang, driven by McQueen, with that music has to be one of cinemas coolest combinations. But when the chase starts the cars are the stars. The Mustang, always an iconic machine, is showcased in all it's glory in Bullitt.

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