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Iconic Movie Cars: The Good, the Evil and the Post-Apocalyptic

Back in the day before CGI could be used to render even the most improbable action scenes, moviemaking was a slightly more challenging process. In addition to securing funding for a project, movie producers were also tasked with finding the right vehicles for it.
Ecto-1 from the Ghostbusters movie franchise 13 photos
One of the original 3 Ectomobiles from the Ghostbusters franchiseOne of the original 3 Ectomobiles from the Ghostbusters franchiseOne of the original 3 Ectomobiles from the Ghostbusters franchiseEcto-1 filming in Canada for the 2020 Ghostbusters movieThe original Christine from the 1983 horror movie, put together from partsThe original Christine from the 1983 horror movie, put together from partsThe original Christine from the 1983 horror movie, put together from partsThe original Christine from the 1983 horror movie, put together from partsThe Pursuit Special from the first Mad Max filmThe Pursuit Special from the first Mad Max filmThe Pursuit Special from the first Mad Max filmThe Pursuit Special from the first Mad Max film
Back then, carmakers weren’t as quick as they are today to lend vehicles to be used in films for promotional purposes. So, it fell to the producers to beg and plead, or buy with their own money several similar cars to use on camera. Some of them, those that were no longer functional, would be used as props to be crashed and smashed.

Those in full working order were used for close-ups and safer scenes, “beauty” shots and promotional images. Those that survived a production would be included in the film’s promotional tour or were sold for cheap to fans or handed over to crewmembers as parting gifts. Years later, they would become collectibles and, today, their value is in the order of millions.

The Ectomobile

When the first Ghostbusters movie came out in 1984, the car used by the team of ghostbusters, called Ecto-1, was used as a character. In this film and the 2 following releases (Ghostbusters II in 1989 and the Ghostbusters remake in 2016), a total of 3 Ectomobiles were used. One of them is, sadly, no longer among us.

The Ecto-1 was actually a 1959 Cadillac professional chassis, built by Miller-Meteor, an end-loader ambulance / hearse combination. The pre-Ecto-1 car in the first film was an actual Cadillac, rented out to Sony Pictures: the studio ended up buying it and turning it into an Ecto-1 replica that would be later used for promotional purposes.

After the first 2 films, which used a total of 3 Ectomobiles, they were left outside on the Sony lot for 2 decades. After so much time exposed to the elements, when the studio finally decided to refurbish them, one had to be scrapped. One was fully restored and is on display outside Sony Studios, while another continued in disrepair on a prop lot in Culver City, California until it was salvaged, restored and used in the 2016 remake.

As of the time of writing, a 2020 Ghostbusters film is in the works, under the direction of Jason Reitman, son of Ivan Reitman, who directed the original movies. An Ecto-1 was spotted on the set in Canada, and reports say that it’s the “classic” car but whether it’s a replica or one of the 2 remaining Ectomobiles is yet to be determined.

Christine

The most evil car of all times, “fear on four wheels,” as the movie trailer advertised her. Christine, from the horror movie by the same name (1983, director John Carpenter), was actually a 1958 Plymouth Fury. She was a beauty but she was also a beast, able to bring herself back to life regardless if you burned, smashed or crashed her.

Reports vary on the number of actual Furies used in the movie, from 20 to 24: some of them were used for parts, others to destroy. At the end of filming, only 4 Furies were still standing and Carpenter decided that 3 would go on the road and be used as promotional props. They were eventually sold to collectors.

The 4th was sent to the junkyard with whatever was left of the other Furies destroyed in the making of the horror. Martin Sanchez went to the scrapyard and bought it for $900, and harvested parts from the other, wrecked vehicles. He was able to put Christine back together, but as a mutant: she is now still in full working order and belongs to Bill Gibson of Pensacola, Florida. Or, as he puts it, he doesn’t own Christine, Christine owns him.

Another Christine is on display at the Volo Museum in Volo, Illinois, and another was shipped to the U.K. at some point and all traces of her disappeared.

The Pursuit Special, the “last of the V8”

No respectable post-apocalyptic movie, let alone an entire franchise, is complete without an iconic car. For Mad Max, that was the black Pursuit Special, also referred to as “the last of the V8 Interceptors,” or the Interceptor, a car used by Maxwell “Mad Max” Rockatansky to chase bad guys.

The Pursuit Special was first introduced to audiences in 1979 in the first Mad Max film. George Miller had acquired it 3 years prior during pre-production, as a 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Hardtop, and had turned it into an Interceptor with help from art director Jon Dowding and car customizer Graf-X International from Melbourne. It would be heavily used in the first film, with Miller opting to have a replica built for a crash scene that totals it.

At the end of the movie, Miller put the Interceptor up for sale because producers couldn’t afford to cover all expenses. When it failed to sell, he gifted it to Murray Smith, who had worked as head mechanic on the film, as payment for his services. Miller would buy it back for the 1981 Mad Max 2, alter it to fit the post-apocalyptic scenario, only to sell it to a junkyard once production was completed. So much for gratitude.

The Interceptor wouldn’t make an appearance in Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome in 1985, but it did pop on screen briefly in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. However, it was not the original car.

That one was rescued from the junkyard by one Bob Fursenko, who restored it to its former glory, with slight modifications to the body. He sold it to the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in England, where it stayed until 2011, when it was moved to the Dezer Car Museum in Miami, Florida.

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