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Posts filed under ‘Movie Stars’

Movie Stars: The McLaren P1

October 22, 2016 by Matt

Editor’s note: Content advisory (language) in the clip above.

McLaren’s P1 hypercar is featured in the music video for The Weeknd’s new single, but it’s not the only piece of high-dollar machinery name-dropped by the Canadian R&B artist.

Overlaying the insistent beat, the singer seems to simultaneously flaunt and lament his fortune and what it’s turned him into. The video mirrors this concept, showing The Weeknd at first reveling in the tokens of his fame before systematically trashing them after the first chorus. The cars escape the carnage, and it’s a good thing, too, since the singer shows excellent automotive taste. He mentions his Lamborghini Aventador SV Roadster, Bentley Mulsanne and of course, the aforementioned P1 in the song, and gives us a glimpse of the first two before a lovely nighttime montage of the McLaren driving down Mulholland Drive with The Weeknd at the wheel. The nighttime setting gives the P1 an opportunity to display its quasi-alien lines and driving light arrangement to good effect, and nicely compliments the surreal tone of the video. Billboard reports the British carmaker was unaware the singer would include the car in his video, but was pleasantly surprised at the free publicity. All-in-all, it’s a worthwhile fusion of visuals and music, with some very heavy-hitting automotive iron thrown in.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:

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Movie Stars: The Ferrari 328

January 16, 2013 by Matt

Alright, so maybe the fact that the car’s only in the clip for the first 20 seconds doesn’t really warrant its addition to the “Movie Stars” post series, but indulge me. Besides, is there a more inspired choice for a music video car than a mid-’80s Ferrari 328? Big kudos to whoever’s responsible for making the car a part of the intro sequence to Sleigh Bells’ video for their song “Infinity Guitars,” whether the band, the producer or the director, Phil Pinto. It sets up the tone of the rest of the video, and as a bonus includes a bit of engine noise, making the Ferrari more than just eye candy. Well done indeed.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:

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Movie Stars: The Maserati Biturbo 425i

December 11, 2012 by Matt

Maserati Biturbo 4-door 425i Silver Blue

So I watched Licence to Kill over the weekend. The 1989 film is the second of the two James Bond productions featuring Timothy Dalton as the iconic British superspy, and although it has a reputation as one of the less worthwhile Bond films, I enjoyed it. The movie’s tone is considerably darker than the relatively lighthearted Roger Moore outings, and although the script and Dalton’s personality mean there isn’t much “Bond” in the film in the sense of memorable interactions or one-liners, it functions rather well as a lean-and-mean “generic” spy thriller. And some of the explosions are absolutely epic.

Maserati Biturbo 4-door 425i Silver Blue

Unfortunately, one of the definite downsides of Licence to Kill is that there isn’t really a Bond car as such. No Aston DB5, no Lotus Esprit, nothing—Bond’s conveyance during the main action setpiece is an 18-wheel tanker truck, of all things. Really the only car in the film that has any semblance of appeal for the enthusiast is the one driven by the antagonist’s henchmen, the 1987-1990 Maserati Biturbo 425i.

Maserati Biturbo 4-door 425i Engine Motor

As with its already-esblished 2-door stablemate, beneath its rakish Italian skin, the Maserati is powered by a 2.5l SOHC V6 with a pair of turbochargers hanging off the cylinder heads. And as you might expect, the Italians didn’t engineer the car to a level of quality commensurate with its potential on paper. Put another way, in spite of its looks, the Biturbo was a turd of a car, catastrophically unreliable and with a power output of only 188 hp, far below what you would anticipate from the displacement figure and presence of the turbos.

Maserati Biturbo Interior Inside Cockpit Console Dash Dashboard

It is beautiful, though—in a wedge-y, boxy, ’80s sort of way, an aesthetic I’m particularly drawn to. The lines are strong and consistent inside and out, a 5-speed manual transmission option was offered and power was sent to the rear wheels. The raw elements were there, but Maserati’s quality at the time was appalling, rivaling British Leyland at its worst. The ingredients of greatness were present, and when everything worked perfectly… Jeremy Clarkson once said about Alfa Romeo, “They build a car to be as great as a car can be—briefly.” The same might be said of the unsung hero of Licence to Kill, the 4-door Biturbo.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:

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Movie Stars:
Cars of Back to the Future Part II

March 16, 2012 by Matt

Back to the Future II Part 2 Movie BMW E24 Griff Biff Car Convertible Red Black

The production team for the ’89 film Back to the Future Part II must’ve had a car buff on staff, given the number of obscure and cool cars packed into the movie.

Actually, the obscurity of the cars was probably borne of necessity: It was surely much easier and cheaper to find cars most Americans had never heard of and festoon them with futuristic-looking props rather than build vehicles from scratch. That approach would explain the presence of cars like the heavily-modified pre-’82 BMW 635 shown above. It’s a gray-market imported European version, as evidenced by the slim bumpers, and the roof’s been removed, when the car was never offered as a convertible from the factory. The hood scoop, well… We’ll just leave that alone. Neat car, and it actually pops up for sale on eBay and the like from time to time.

Back to the Future II Part 2 Movie Cab Taxi Yellow Red Citroen DS Griff

The taxicab is a disguised Citroen DS, a car futuristic in its own day, between its looks and its exotic engineering. Citroen valiantly attempted to set trends in both areas, but no other automakers really took to the quirky French manufacturer’s flights of fancy. But a few geegaws duct-taped to the exterior and some extroverted paint and it’s a perfect taxi for the year 2015 (when the film is set).

Back to the Future II Part 2 Movie Ford Probe Car Grey Gray

Several “futurized” first-generation Ford Probes circle the town square in the film. For the record, they do represent a more standard vision than the other two cars in this post of what most folks in the ’80s thought future cars would look like: Sleek, featureless lozenges with faired-in wheels and huge expanses of glass. I think I speak for most car buffs when I say I’m glad their prognostications were off. Sharp-eyed readers will also notice in the background the car from the ’80s cult sci-fi movie The Last Starfighter.

So there’s more to Back to the Future Part II, car-wise, than just my beloved flying DeLorean. The filmmakers’ approach of taking little known vehicles and tarting them up was smart and cheap, if a bit lazy, and didn’t really offer a fully thought-out vision of the year 2015 (three short years away!), instead giving us a kind of veneer of pop futurism. But seeing as most of the movie existed on a brisk surface level and wasn’t attempting to convey any profound themes beyond pure entertainment, the cars do fit.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:

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Movie Stars: The Aston Martin DB5

December 23, 2011 by Matt

Aston Martin DB5 DB-5 Silver James Bond Goldfinger Car

The Aston Martin DB5 would be nothing more than a footnote in its automaker’s history had it not become arguably the greatest movie car of all time. Unlike other movie cars (DeLorean, Volvo P1800, etc) which were catapulted from obscurity to screen stardom but still had something intrinsically unique and memorable about them, the DB5 was nothing more than a 3-year (’63-’65) transitional model between the more significant DB4 and DB6. The former was the first “modern” car from the British prestige automaker, featuring proportions and mature design details passed down to every subsequent Aston. The DB5 only differed substantially from the ‘4 in that it had a 5-speed transmission and a third SU carb providing fuel to its 0.3l-larger 4.0l, 282-hp inline six. And the later DB6 was an important stepping stone to the V8 Vantage that carried the company through the turbulent ’70s. The ‘6 was larger than the ‘5 in many key dimensions, had a host of styling alterations and upgraded equipment and featured more conventional body-on-frame construction in place of the DB5’s tube-frame structure.

For as few changes as it incorporated over the DB4, and for as many differences as the DB6 featured, it’s safe to say the DB5 was just a stopgap—until it rocketed to worldwide fame as the Bond car in the iconic ’64 feature Goldfinger.

Aston Martin DB5 DB-5 James Bond Goldfinger Car Interior Inside Cockpit Dashboard

Curiously, to me, the story of the DB5’s somewhat improbable celebrity has certain parallels with that of another notable Briton—and another “5”—Henry V. Reigning for 9 short years (1413-1422), sandwiched between more long-lived and significant monarchs, achiever of a handful of notable military successes (Agincourt, among others) in the same way the DB5 was inherently a good car, Henry V’s tenure on the throne would likely be much more obscure were he not immortalized in William Shakespeare’s play. As with the Aston, it’s amazing what a little publicity can do for one’s historical perception. Like king, like car.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:<

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Movie Stars: The Sunbeam Alpine Mark I

December 3, 2011 by Matt

Sunbeam Alpine Sports Mark I Blue To Catch a Thief Grace Kelly Cary Grant

I have a couple of confessions to make regarding this week’s movie star, the ’53-’55 Sunbeam Alpine Mark I.

The first is that I have a profound weakness for “its” film: The 1955 Hitchcock thriller To Catch a Thief, starring the peerless Grace Kelly and that big oaf Cary Grant. Kelly plays an American debutante on holiday in the French Riviera, an area in which I’ve spent a good deal of time, so much of the film scenery is a trip down memory lane, so to speak. Kelly’s character drives her powder blue Alpine at breakneck speed around one of the region’s serpentine corniches, establishing her seemingly prim disposition as something of a closet daredevil, and “showcasing” the car’s handling prowess—at least, as much as it can be when filmed on a static set, employed for the close-ups.

Sunbeam Alpine Sports Mark I Blue To Catch a Thief Grace Kelly Cary Grant

My second admission is that I had mistakenly remembered the movie car as a example of the later, even lovelier ’59-’68 Sunbeam Alpines, when in fact it was one of the earlier, much more obscure cars. That said, judging by the opening paragraph of this fan page, it’s probably fair to assume that’s a common mistake.

Powered by an indifferent 2.4l inline-four, the Mark I Alpine wasn’t really about performance. Much like its later spiritual brethren the Mercedes 190SL and Karmann Ghia, it was more of a style accessory than anything else. Also like its German descendants, that focus doesn’t blunt its appeal in the least—for what it needed to be in the film, it was almost perfectly cast. Judging by the way it blends so effortlessly into its starring role, emphasizing all the requisite qualities of Kelly’s character, it deserves recognition.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:

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Movie Stars: The Adams Probe 16

November 19, 2011 by Matt

M-505 Adams Brothers Probe 16 Clockwork Orange Car Stanley Kubrick

I’m certainly not breaking any new ground by beginning a series spotlighting famous movie cars. I do hope at least to give the upcoming posts the “Spannerhead take” on cars in cinema. By way of background, it’s interesting that in many movies and TV shows the cars are almost better known than the actors that drove them, certainly in many cases more familiar than the supporting cast. In fact, you could argue that cars occupy the same level as animals when it comes to non-human movie elements we recognize and care about. There’s something about the best ones that makes them feel alive, almost sentient, qualities that have an echo in our everyday transportation, no matter how seemingly mundane.

In any case, today’s featured car is one of the least tall ever made, its roof rising just 34 inches off the ground (beating the Ford GT40, so-named for its 40″ height, by a full 6 inches). It’s the Adams Probe 16, and it starred in Stanley Kubrick’s 1971 dystopian vision A Clockwork Orange. The car, called the “Durango 95” in the film, didn’t have a large part, featured only on sound stages transporting the lead character and his sidekicks to and from their various escapades. It’s known, then, as much for its role in the movie as for its futuristic look, and probably more of the latter.

M-505 Adams Brothers Probe 16 Clockwork Orange Car Stanley Kubrick Interior Inside Cockpit

The Adams Brothers concern only built 3 examples, all of which have been floating from owner to owner, in various states of decay and restoration, in the years following their employ in the film. Fiberglass-bodied and front-wheel-drive, powered by a 1.9l 4-cylinder mounted fully behind the front axle line, access to the cockpit was provided by the sliding glass roof. The low height of the car meant one literally stepped down into the car through the roof, and adopted a fully recumbent position while driving. Performance was never a high priority; the purpose of the car was a futuristic styling exercise, in which respect it excelled—the car is still forward- and exotic-looking today, even if the day-glo orange color is a bit ’70s.

Editor’s note: This post is part of an ongoing series discussing cars which featured prominently on film or television. Read the other installments here:

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