It never ceases to amaze how much effort movie-makers put into the cars that star in a modern blockbuster. For the latest big movie — The Green Hornet — Hollywood scoured the States for 29 examples of the Chrysler Imperial sedan that co-stars in the movie.
All had to be dated to between 1964 and 1966 and were in various states of repair, some being acquired for as little as $1500, the Sony rep told me at the recent Detroit motor show.
Cars acquired for that little cash won’t see the light of day again — they were cut-up for scenes that show bullet holes raking the cars. But running cars like the one at the Cobo, complete with bonnet-mounted machine guns and revamped interior for camera shots will be sold off.
There was a suggestion that this movie car might fetch as much as $250k, possibly to be paid by a major US motor museum like the Petersen Automotive Museum in LA. The Green Hornet car wasn’t in the main show hall, of course, but had a prominent spot in the main concourse outside the hall.
There was a rare chance to sit in and look over a movie stunt car. First impression was of a workable car, that in classic terms would be rated “usable, but could do with some attention”. I guess for the movies the camera covers-up plenty of cosmetic glitches.
It also revealed how stunt drivers get cars to oversteer at will. Even though this particular Imperial had plenty of power on tap courtesy of a replacement 500bhp GM V8 ‘crate’ motor, the real secret of the stunt man’s art is sited on the rear axle where an brake calipers are bolted on.
Connected to a second brake pedal sited on the left-side of the footwell, this allows the stunt driver to instantly lock-up the rear end for a dramatic oversteer slide. That’s why the footwell has three-pedals — the other two are a conventional throttle and brake.
The gear-shifter is modified, too. Although the Hornet car is shown with a hot-rodders modde’ed Hurst-style shifter, that’s just for the cameras. A lever that looks more like an aircraft’s flap-control is the real gear-shifter and positioned low down on the side of the transmission tunnel to keep it out of camera view.
All these mods were carried out by the west coast ‘shop run by Dennis McCarthy, also responsible for the 250-or–so cars reputed to have been used in the Vin Diesel movie Fast and Furious. McCarthy is also the car co-cordinator for a new Vin Diesel movie Fast Five.
McCarthy also arranged the picture cars for Meet the Fockers. And apparently in Hollywood, he’s known as “Spielberg’s car guy”.
Incidentally thanks to the Sony rep I now know why the Green Hornet wears a mask – the 1930s radio show was a spin-off of the Lone Ranger. The Hornet being the Ranger’s nephew.
And there’s a Detroit link, the radio show first played in 1936 on WXYZ, a Detroit radio station. Better known is that 1966 TV Series gave Bruce Lee his first break as the Hornet’s sidekick Kato.