I watched the hit movie Fast and Furious 6 last night, keen to get an insight in to how the American economy is affecting the motor industry over there and, given the change of setting to London, how the street racing scene in the UK can help build mutually beneficial commercial bridges between the two nations.
Sorry, of course I didn’t do that. Instead I went to see which absurdly tuned cars were doing what far-fetched stunts in ever more doubtful scenarios.
Yes, there was a storyline thrown in there somewhere – I seem to recall an ex-wrestler cop recruiting some bad guys in order to go after another bad guy, and then a dead girl turned up with amnesia – but the film is really only about the cars, and it always has been.
For the petrol head car spotter, there is a plethora or rare and exotic motors to drool over, from a brace of Nissan Skyline’s to a lingering shot of a rare road going Ferrari FXX. Sadly, it isn’t actually a real FFX, instead being a BMW powered replica built around a tubular chassis. Seems that not everything you see in the movies is true.
What are very real though are the ‘hero’ cars. Meticulously maintained, and only ever used for close up shots or ordinary driving shots, these cars are usually classics in their own right long before the Fast and Furious team got hold of them.
“It’s always a big process picking the cars and the casting of the car normally reflects the state of mind of our characters,” Vin Diesel told Top Gear. This time round the director, Justin Lin, has picked wisely.
Diesel rocks up in a classic 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, complete with its monstrous rear wing and 7.2 litre V8 engine, while Paul Walker makes do with the more subtle Ford Escort RS1600. Elsewhere, the main characters drive cars as diverse as a heavily modified Jensen Interceptor, a 1970 Ford Mustang and a Plymouth Barracuda.
The rare Lucra LC470 also makes a cameo appearance, the Chevrolet V8 powered barely street legal sports car designed to echo the lines of the Jaguar D-Type – but go much faster!
For man-mountain Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, there is the Navistar MXT, a military vehicle that makes the Hummer look as flimsy as a 1980’s Alfa Romeo, but that is wide enough to slide his guns easily in to.
This incredible collection of motoring history is put through two hours of pure, unadulterated abuse, with old Mustangs, the Ford Escort, and even the stars Dodge ending up either much shorter or much flatter than when the film started.
For car fans, that is a terrifying prospect. Seeing one priceless piece of motoring metal being slammed against concrete barriers while a tank crushes another moments before a bridge falls on yet more vintage models means there’s less of these cars to experience in the wild.
But fear not. These action cars are really just old models you’ve skipped well past on eBay, or even just a ladder chassis with an engine and gearbox bolted on. The classic lines of the body covering the inner workings are nothing more than a rough fibreglass mould.
They really are rough, too. Get close to one of these and run your hand across it and any evidence that you may have eczema there will soon be rubbed off. Panel gaps are uneven and sharp edged, the paintwork is dreadful and you’ll notice the finer details are simply missing.
For Fast and Furious 6, the filmmakers produced six of the rare Ford Escorts, destroying each one. The hero car, used for the close up shots, still exists now, maintained to within an inch of its life and looking shinier than C-3PO.
Despite the apparent devastation then, the real cars are well looked after. That is no surprise, as car wranglers are as enthusiastic about cars as the rest of us, wanting to show off their motors to the highest possible standards.
They’ll even build them from scratch if required. The Flip Car that features heavily in the film and trailer was one such invention. Road worthy, if not road legal, the Corvette-engined low slung mobile Meccano set seems unstoppable, and looks a hoot to drive.
When you’ve got a budget of some 160 million dollars, it makes it somewhat easier to look after all of those glorious cars, but there is still a true petrol head behind it all, worrying over some tiny detail that the high definition cameras might pick up on.
Fortunately, for the Fast and Furious series those details are masked by the sheer lunacy of the action. In this outing we find that it is possible to drive a car out of the front of an aircraft whilst it’s crashing in to the runway, race through Piccadilly Circus with barely an eyebrow being raised, and be unable to outrun a tank on a motorway in any car. Even the Toyota Corolla that appears four or five times finally succumbs to the tanks tracks.
But, as a business car buyer, what you should really take from this film is that the humble Vauxhall Astra 1.7 turbo diesel is the most complete car on sale, able to keep up with a 600 bhp Jensen Interceptor and Dodge Charger Daytona along both the straight bits and twisty bits of London.
Not bad for less than £13,000.