“The notion that a James Bond villain with unlimited resources would build a flying car out of an AMC Matador is simply unfathomable.”
Casting directors, wardrobe designers and set designers are always recognized for their work in feature films.
However, car-casting people are often the real unsung casting heroes. What would “Bullitt” have been without the Highland Green 1968 Mustang 390 fastback? Just as important are the bit-players, the oddball character actors of the movie car world. These are the Jack Elams, Crispin Glovers and the Peter Lorres of movie cars:
1967 Citroen 2CV — “American Graffiti” The Citroen 2CV is a truly strange car. Perhaps the most intentionally minimalist automobile ever to see production, even third-world motorists today would balk at its hammock-like seats and tin can-like appearance. Future writer and pacifist Curt Henderson (played by Richard Dreyfuss), drove this two-cylinder French peasant’s car throughout the film. Strangely, the producers used a 1967 model in spite of the fact that the film was famously set in 1962. A forgivable oversight given the overall excellence of the film and the fact that one 2CV (produced from 1948-90) looks pretty much like the next.
1953 Messerschmitt KR175 — “The Addams Family” The Messerschmitt KR175 was the product of a company that less than 10 years previous, had been building fighter planes for the Third Reich, including the first jet-powered interceptor. From jet fighters to amusing microcars! This bubble-topped three-wheeler was the ride of the chattering, sentient hairball named Cousin It in the great 1991 re-boot of the Addams Family.
1987 Yugo GV — “Dragnet” After Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd lose two previous police-issued vehicles, this was the only car the department would let them have. According to Aykroyd (who did a wicked Jack Webb impersonation), it had been donated to the LAPD by the government of Yugoslavia as a test vehicle “and reflected the cutting edge of Serbo-Croatian technology.” As an aside, the U.S. bombing campaign during the Balkan Wars finally put an end to the Yugo when the factory was levelled. Opinions differ as to the magnitude of this loss to the automotive world.
1974 AMC Matador Coupe — “Man with the Golden Gun” It’s difficult to say what’s stranger, the car or the context. The notion that a James Bond villain with unlimited resources would build a flying car out of an AMC Matador is simply unfathomable in any world other than that of product placement. We like the Matador coupe for its sheer oddness, but the fish-out-of-water aspect of it in a big-budget Bond film is what puts it over the top.
1973 Corvorado — “Live and Let Die” Driven by a Mr. Big henchman (aptly named “Whispers,”) this was a C3 Corvette that was for no apparent reason, customized with Cadillac Eldorado body panels (hence the name Corvorado) by one Les Dunham of Boonton, New Jersey. It pre-dated the Cadillac XLR by some 30 years. The car also made an appearance in the movie “Superfly.”
Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca.
Some people will come to blows over the merits of the 1980-85 Seville…
The old saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” wasn’t coined in reference to cars, but it might as well have been.
Some cars, such as the 1963-67 Corvette Sting Ray and Jaguar E-Type, are almost universally admired, while others are passionately loved by some and loathed by others. Here are five of the most polarizing:
1. 1963-64 Studebaker Avanti
The Avanti was a Hail Mary play to save the ailing Studebaker Corporation with a stunning European-style GT car. Ardent Avanti fans point to its timeless styling, which was supervised by the great Raymond Loewy, and the fact that the car remained in production in one form or another for five decades. Non-fans find the grille-less front end and porthole-like headlights to be a non-starter. A recent uptick in prices may indicate that Avanti lovers will have the last laugh on this one.
2. 1971-73 Buick Riviera
The Boattail Riviera was one of the last truly audacious GM creations, and William Mitchell pulled out all of the stops with a huge, dramatic design including a pointed boattail reminiscent of some great 1930s cars. Haters just find it huge and over-the-top.
3. 1980-85 Cadillac Seville
The slant back or bustle trunk Seville was —like the Boattail Riviera — in some ways a throwback to the 1930s-1950s, cribbing a trunk from Bentleys and Daimlers of the era. Some people will come to blows over the merits of this version of the 1980-85 Seville, while some find it to be a caricature; it’s best if these two groups aren’t sharing the same air space. Regardless, nobody sits on the fence about this car.
4. 1965-69 Chevrolet Corvair
The first-generation Corvair, introduced in 1959, was a pleasing and clean design. But the second-generation was drop-dead gorgeous. No less an authority than David E. Davis, Jr., writing for Car and Driver, called it one of the most beautiful cars America had produced during the post-war era. But many bow-tie fans — used to fins and lots of chrome or the long hood, short rear deck look of the Camaro and Chevelle — found nothing to like about the Corvair. I tend to agree with the fans here. It’s a beautiful little car.
5. 1955-75 Citroën DS
In its native France, the DS can do no wrong. The letters “D-S” in French sound remarkably like the French word for “goddess.” Then the French also think that Jerry Lewis is a god. To most Americans, the sci-fi style of the DS just comes off as whale-like and weird.
Rob Sass is the vice-president of content for Hagerty Insurance. Hagerty is the world’s leading specialist provider of classic car and boat insurance. Learn more at hagerty.ca and you can email rsass [at] hagerty [dot] com
While there is a greater acceptance of smaller vehicles in our cities, people outside urban areas have more ground to cover and so are tempted by larger vehicles… (more…)