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In Furious 7, more than 200 actual vehicles were filmed flying through windows, crashing into walls and, in the blockbuster’s most talked-about sequence, pushed out of a military transport flying at 10,000 feet. Warner Bros.’ $150 million-plus Mad Max: Fury Road, which bows May?15, seeks to up the authenticity factor with a host of misbegotten jalopies cobbled together from castoffs and wrecks meant to convey the unsparing challenges of the film’s dystopian setting.
“There’s no CG answer here, no easy way out,” says Mad Max production designer Colin Gibson, who supervised the hand-building of more than 150 cars such as the Peacemaker, which mates the body of a 1970s vintage Plymouth Valiant to tank treads, and, most spectacularly, the Gigahorse, two 1959 Cadillac Coupe de Villes welded together in an unholy matrimony of horsepower and lethal ordnance.
Two classic Caddies were fished from scrap yards — “salvage, by its very nature, is cheap, and many of the wrecks cost little more than the price of a tow truck,” points out Gibson — and wedded to a pair of big block Chevrolet V-8 engines, a hand-built gearbox and 6-foot-tall rear tractor wheels. The two completed cars, driven by stunt drivers in the film, might be the most outrageous vehicles ever built for a movie, badder than the Batmobile with the DNA of hot rod-designer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth’s most baroque creations.
Gibson says the Gigahorse evokes the glorious past of “a world bereft, where most have nothing. And so: two Cadillacs, cut, shunted and mounted atop the other in flagrante delicto. The apocalypse may have left civilization in free fall, but there is always a nagging memory of greatness, of treasure given up, and few things carry that echo of once-we-were-kings than a ’59 Cadillac’s tail-fin chrome and rocket red brake lights.”
Gibson concedes that digital replicas of many of the vehicles seen in the movie were used to flesh out wide shots and serve as backups in case the real cars were unintentionally damaged or destroyed. But, he insists, “It’s more exciting when you actually achieve the impossible rather than Photoshopping it.”
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