Fact: Supercars can leap from skyscaper to skyscraper without so much as nicking a front lip spoiler. Fact: Some tuner cars have 29-speed manual gearboxes that offer a never-ending supply of speed bursts to escape tricky car chase situations. Fact: The Fast and Furious movie franchise has grossed nearly $4-billion (R55.6-billion) over 16 years and seven individual films.
Okay, only one of those statements is actually true. Universal’s series of Fast flicks ranks as number nine on the all time list of highest earning movie franchises, so whether you’re a fan of absurd special effects, physics-defying car flips and weak plots or not, fact is, these films spin some serious dough and as long as that’s the case, studios will keep ‘em coming.
This Thursday marks the South African big screen debut of eighth Fast and Furious instalment – aka “The Fate of the Furious” – and you can bet fans will flock to cinemas for another CGI-rich dose of far-fetched automotive entertainment.
No, we’re not offering a movie review here. If we were we’d have to comment on the frankly preposterous concept of a nuclear submarine chasing cars across a Barents Sea ice plain (spoiler alert). Instead, let’s take a look at the star cars in this latest edition.
In this film there’s literally a warehouse full of precious metal for the star-studded cast to choose from, with vehicles ranging from classic American muscle cars, to Italian exotics, to tank-treaded Ripsaw military machines. But the leading role here is without a doubt the Dodge Charger driven by Vin Diesel’s character Dominic Toretto.
In reality there’s very little actual Charger built into this Mad Max Interceptor meets Ken Block Hoonicorn, with only the steel roof panel and A-pillars transferred from a donor car. This wildly flared primer grey creation is designed as an all-wheel drive apocalyptic drift machine, and is powered by a 410kW Chevy LS3 crate motor (there’s no brand loyalty in Hollywood) which is positioned so far back in the chassis its rearmost cylinders are well inside the cabin.
The Los Angeles-based workshop responsible for assembling the movie cars (all 300 of them!) also put together a stunt-double version of a red 1966 Corvette Stingray driven by Michelle Rodriguez’ character Letty Ortiz in the movie. In real life this is a very rough around the edges version of a pristine Pro Touring ‘Vette (used in beauty shots), that was secured as a genuine, engine-less barnfind ahead of production.
In typical Fast and Furious fashion the storyline jumps around from various global locations, and in another scene Dom is forced into a race around the streets of Havana, Cuba in a ratty ‘51 Chevy. Tapping his character’s mechanical skills, Vin Diesel then modifies the wreck beyond all recognition, removing nearly all panels and interior, and adding a vintage nitrous bottle handily sourced from a nearby dentist. A total of ten of these cars were built for filming (Hollywood is hard on movie cars).
Four identical Subaru BR-Zs were also built, and three survived filming – reportedly a remarkably high survival rate for the movie industry. This custom job was mostly cosmetic with an angry ducktail body kit, super-wide wheels and white Toyo lettering on the tyres (so hot right now in the “scene”).
Here’s a handy tip for those forced to sit through Fast 8’s 136 minutes by an enthusiastic 10-year old or Vin Diesel-enamoured significant other. Try to count and name the different cars in the film. With literally hundreds to spot, it’s bound to keep you occupied, or distracted from all the hard-to-stomach fiery backflips.
Check out the Tonight supplement in our national newspapers on Thursday for a chance to win The Fate of the Furious tickets at Ster Kinekor Imax theatres across the country.
Follow Jesse Adams on Twitter @PoorBoyLtd