17 April 2013

Famous fake cars in movies and TV

Hollywood loves to incorporate hot classic cars into movies and television shows. Producers and insurers are also notoriously risk-averse, preferring to use replicas rather than the hyper-valuable real deal whenever possible. Here are some of our favorite big- and small-screen fakes:

  1. “Nash Bridges,” 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda: The San Francisco cop show revived Don Johnson’s career, pairing him with Cheech Marin (half of the stoner comedy team of Cheech and Chong). The yellow car that appeared to be an ultra-rare Hemi ‘Cuda convertible was actually what is known as a “clone,” or a car that started out as a lesser model but was restored to appear as a top shelf ‘Cuda. The difference in price is staggering — around 50 grand for the fake, more than $1 million for the real deal.
  2. “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” 1960 Ferrari 250 GT California Spyder: The Ferris Bueller Ferrari is probably the best-known big screen fake. From a distance, it appears reasonably accurate, but Ferrari aficionados can spot the differences in their sleep, from the Triumph-sourced gauges to the MGB taillights. And don’t get them talking about the bogus Italian Borrani wire wheels. A real California Spyder is a $12 million car today.
  3. “Miami Vice,” 1972 Ferrari 365 GTS/4 Daytona: Don Johnson appears to be a bit of a magnet for fake cars. His black Daytona Spyder was actually a fake built on a Corvette chassis, and few Ferrari fans shed tears when the car was blown up in sight of Johnson’s character, Sonny Crockett, and his pet alligator, Elvis. Afterward, Crockett took to driving a white Ferrari Testarossa — a real one this time.
  4. “Top Gun,” 1958 Porsche Speedster: Kelly McGillis’ character drove this one around San Diego in the classic ’80s movie. Porsche Speedsters are among the most replicated cars ever — most are convincing fiberglass bodies slapped on top of a VW Beetle platform. The replica featured in “Top Gun” appears to have been one of the good ones, built by longtime Speedster replica-maker Intermeccanica. They’re still in business in British Columbia, Canada, turning out extremely high-quality vintage Porsche replicas.
  5. “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” 1935 Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster: Indy’s sidekick Short Round still holds the record for the best automotive chase involving a pre-teen driver. With blocks tied to the pedals, Short Round takes Jones and a lounge singer on a wild ride through pre-war Shanghai. The car was, of course, a complete fake, and not a particularly convincing one at that.

68 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Joe California April 22, 2013 at 02:28
    Indiana Jones #3 also had a fake Kubelwagen in the tank battle scene! One got stuck upside down on a the Tank's main turet-gun. The commanding Officer yelled "Nix en ze Kubelwagen" (I don't think that's the correct German, but it's close). He shoots the gun & away blasts the KDF Kubelwagen. The problem is they show the rear suspension for a second & it has IRS on the rear which didn't come out until 1968 (auto-stick bug & 1969 on all other VW's. They were all swing-axle rears before then! This was some sort of 'kit-car' or replica of some sort! Close though!
  • 2
    Glen Florida April 24, 2013 at 13:51
    What about switharoos; where the valuable car becomes something else. One of my favorites is in the LOVE BUG when Herbie in a fit a jelous rage attacks Dean Jone's Lambo. Of course the aftermath shows a very sad E type that had the snot beat out of it not the Lambo, not even a fake. Worse one was a episode of the original Las Vegas where a orange Pantera turns into a black LTD going over a cliff. Eddie Murphy's Speedster in 48hrs was a fake. Easy to tell by the way they close the trunk. I could go on, but I got to get back to work instead of remembering old TV shows and movies.
  • 3
    GH Ct. April 24, 2013 at 14:27
    Welldone,Laddie!
  • 4
    Phil Skinner S. Calif. April 24, 2013 at 14:40
    One of my all-time favorite movie fakes was the 1905 Winton driven by Steve McQueen in the Reivers. Wonder what ever happened to that car.
  • 5
    John New Jersey April 24, 2013 at 14:46
    The Volkswagen Type 181 was a two-wheel drive, four-door, convertible, off-road, military vehicle manufactured by Volkswagen from 1968 to 1983. Originally developed for the German Army, the Type 181 was also sold to the public, as the Kurierwagen in Germany, the Trekker in the United Kingdom, the Thing in the United States (1973-1974), and the Safari in Mexico. Civilian sales ended after model year 1980. Manufactured in Wolfsburg, Germany (1968–1974), Hannover, Germany (1974–1983), Puebla, Mexico (1970–1980), and Jakarta, Indonesia (1973–1980), the Type 181 shared its mechanicals with Volkswagen's Type 1 (Beetle); its platform with the pre-1968 Volkswagen Microbus [2]; and its concept with the company's Kübelwagen, which had been used by the German military during World War II.
  • 6
    Jim Oklahoma April 24, 2013 at 14:58
    All the stunt work done with the white Testarossa in Miami Vice was actually a Pantera with massaged body work.
  • 7
    Tom Greenfield WI April 24, 2013 at 14:59
    How about the Gone in 60 Sec with the Bullite 68 mustang
  • 8
    Michael Savannah, GA April 24, 2013 at 15:01
    IN the later years of Miami Vice, the White Ferrari TR had a stunt double for the high speed driving and chase scenes, a Detomaso Pantera...the TR was a pig. They were going to switch to Porsches Turbos free from Porsche until Ferrari offered up 5 TR's for free, one for Michael Mann, one for Don Johnson and one for Tubbs, plus two hero cars for the show.
  • 9
    Linn1934 95949 April 24, 2013 at 15:11
    Well, what about the Tim Allen nomad?
  • 10
    Rick Neves United States April 24, 2013 at 15:42
    That was no Lounge Singer in Temple Of Doom, The was Steven Spielberg's wife.
  • 11
    Bill Oswego, IL April 24, 2013 at 15:49
    Can't forget John Milners 32 Ford coupe from American Garafitti!!
  • 12
    Chris Toronto, ON April 24, 2013 at 16:00
    Here's hoping the Aston Martin destroyed in Die another Day was a fake.
  • 13
    Tony Virginia April 24, 2013 at 16:08
    Greatest chase seen movie of the early 70's, Vanishing Point. Final scene where the Challenger is supposedly driven into the two bulldozers. The car that hits the two dozers is a stripped out 68 Camaro, with explosives. Side note, they used the Challenger to actually pull the Camaro up to speed using a long chain.
  • 14
    Ed Sallia Dundee, OR April 24, 2013 at 16:09
    So, were all the Studebaker Avantis in the movie Gattica real or fake?
  • 15
    Dean Koehler Beaverton, Oregon April 24, 2013 at 16:31
    Tower Heist - Alan Alda's Ferrari Lusso was actually 2 different heavily modified Volvo 1800s.
  • 16
    Stan Arizona April 24, 2013 at 16:47
    The '55 Chevy in American Graffiti driven by Bob Falfa (Harrison Ford) that got switched for a lesser model for the crash scene.
  • 17
    Lou Renzo New Jersey April 24, 2013 at 16:56
    The original "Vanishing Point" was another switched car. At the end Kowalski runs the Dodge Challenger into the bulldozers. A sharp eye will notice that the Challenger has been switched for an old Camaro.
  • 18
    Joe Richmond, VA April 24, 2013 at 17:25
    At least they are wrecking classics. I cannot even bring myself to see Tarantino's "Death Proof" for this reason.
  • 19
    bob toledo ohio April 24, 2013 at 17:28
    What about that '71 Judge that they flipped over in the first episode of the Walking Dead?
  • 20
    HOWARD GIRE San Diego April 24, 2013 at 17:37
    Remember "GUMBALL RALLY"? Yes, the car was real(the Cobra). Look closely near the end of the movie and you will see that the car had made contact with something..........the front radiator cowl is wrinkled(Yes, it is an aluminum car and not fiberglass as many have thought.
  • 21
    bob toledo ohio April 24, 2013 at 17:47
    Hard to fake that Nomad.
  • 22
    Rock Ohio April 24, 2013 at 17:55
    Hows about the 1969 GTO Judge in the movie (The Last Ride) with Dennis Hopper?? Real or Fake? $$$$$ Also Tim Allen once stated on his show Home Improvement that the 1969 GTO Judge was one of the most rare & collectible American muscle cars ever.
  • 23
    Will Savannah, Ga April 24, 2013 at 18:02
    Don't for get the Datsun Z based Ferarri GTO replicas in Vanilla sky and in Delerious both were a later product of what started as a pretty faithful kit Joe Alphabet formed from molds he pulled from a real Ferrari 250GTO .
  • 24
    Richard Hall Gladstone MO April 24, 2013 at 18:26
    What about the Camero hanging on the CAT with chrome reverse wheel in the movie Vanishing Point?
  • 25
    Jerry Kubitsky United States April 24, 2013 at 18:46
    Summit Transmissions located in La Mesa did the transmission rebuild on these vehicles. They were produced by a company called Modena located in El Cajon, Ca. The original vehicle had 289 engine,and C4 transmission. When they first started coming to us, the cross-member was welded, so we asked them to make it removable to allow access to the transmission. When we saw our first car I recognized that the back trunk was all MGB, having owned several MG's over the years. Several other famous cars we've worked on over the years was the original Batmobile from the TV series; James Gardner's Firebird from the Rockfords files and the campaign car, a 65 Mustang Convertible, that Ronald Reagan used when running for Governor. The last vehicle we worked on was the copy of the Ghostbusters Caddy.
  • 26
    Jim So Cal April 24, 2013 at 18:46
    The Pinto based Stutz Bearcat from the short lived TV show "Bearcats" is in a collectors hand and well cared for. Dont know what ever happened to the original 1928 Porter from "My Mother The Car" (a fake car made to simulate a fake car) Be glad they use fakes, the movie industry is NOT kind to originals. Beware if the ever want to use your car . . .
  • 27
    SkyKing56 NJ April 24, 2013 at 19:35
    One of my favorite Switcheroos is in American Graffitti. Its the transformation of Harrison Ford's 55 Chevy after he crashes during the drag race with Paul LeMat in the 32 Deuce Coupe. As the car rolls you can see rattle-can painted wheels where the chrome wheels once were, a vague attempt at dual exhaust, and the look of a junk-yard body painted black. Not too convincing. Another one was in the movie Then Came Bronson. He attempts a hill-climb race on a stock Harley Sportster. street tires and all. At the end of the sequence, the bike suddenly becomes a Kawasaki two-stroke triple, but with a Sportster tank. Nice try!
  • 28
    Jim Benjaminson North Dakota April 24, 2013 at 19:47
    Next time you watch "High Sierra" with Humphrey Bogart - he leaves the prison in Indiana in a '37 Plymouth coupe - half way to California its a 38 Plymouth - then back to the 37, then back to the 38, etc.
  • 29
    pat mi. April 24, 2013 at 20:31
    what ever happened to Jerry Van Dykes mother, the 1928 Porter, and was it a real one, I still remember the whole theam song...loved that show..
  • 30
    Al Fremont, CA April 24, 2013 at 20:35
    The 1965 Corvette Stingray convertible used in the Austin Powers movie "The Spy Who Shagged Me" was mine. I sold it to a body shop in Ventura county who was commissioned by the moive studio to aquire the car. The car was Nassau Blue with a white interior, 327 CI engine. Very basic. I purchased the card for $9K from a person in San Jose who was moving to Hawaii and didn't want to take it with him. As I started the restoration effort, I spent $4K in 30 days just getting an original carb, the dash cluster redone and a few brake items. After forecasting the remaining costs to restore, I realized the cost was going to be far more than the car would be worth, even if I did most of the work myself. So I made the decsion to abandon the project and salvage my investment. The car was posted on the website Autos2000 (or something like that - it was 1998 and I can't remember these details). The body shop contacted me and paid me to send detailed photos overnight. They purchased the car without seeing it in person, wired $17K to my checking account, and still had the car, title and the keys! Then they sent a flat bed tow truck from Ventura (about 350 miles) to pick up the car. That's the last I heard about it until... One day a friend had made me aware of and AOL auction that showed my car with a paint job of an american flag. The car sold for $121K, and it was in the same condition I sold it to the body shop, just with the new paint job. These movie companies know how to make money! Whoever bought it got a car that still needed a full resto.
  • 31
    bob winegard United States April 24, 2013 at 20:55
    Rob, i own the real moviecar from Ferris Bueller's Day Off. It is insured with you guys. I bought it at the Bonhams auction over 2 years ago and had it restored completely.
  • 32
    Kevin California April 24, 2013 at 21:34
    I am a Camaro person and a Challenger friend of mine pointed out this movie 'fake' to me. If you watch the final scene of the movie 'Vanishing Point' in slow motion, you will notice that the car that they destroy is not a Challenger. It is a white '67 or '68 Camaro! Oh the pain!
  • 33
    Cameron Mississippi April 24, 2013 at 21:40
    Don't forget about Michael J Fox's fake Speedster from "Doc Hollywood." They showed the fake Porsche front hood badge at the very beginning of the movie, a dead give away.
  • 34
    John M. Sugar Hill, GA April 24, 2013 at 22:37
    In "Skyfall" when they shot up Bond's Aston Martin DB6 with a chain gun, I'm told it was actually a scaled-down (1/4 I think) model produced on an Objet 3D printer (plus a huge amount of painting and finishing). I'm sure those detail shots were the real thing, though.
  • 35
    Steve MD April 24, 2013 at 23:28
    Weren't some of the Tuckers in "Tucker" actually Plymouth Furys with fiberglass bodies?
  • 36
    John United States April 25, 2013 at 01:00
    In the Long, Long Trailer, the car Luci and Desi bought to tow their huge trailer was a 1953 Mercury convertible with a stock flathead 125 HP engine. (I actually one of those.) All towing scenes used the Merc except for a few uphill long shots where they snuck in a '53 Lincoln convertible - probably for the extra horse power (around 200) the Lincoln had. In the James Bond movie Goldfinger - when the giant electromagnet picks up the suiside door Lincoln Continental to put into the crusher, if you look closely you'll see that the engine had been removed.
  • 37
    Gene Brown Los Angeles April 25, 2013 at 13:08
    The 1905 Winton driven by Steve McQueen in The Reivers is at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles along with John Travolta' car from Grease and one of the Batmobiles from Batman and Batman Returns.
  • 38
    Pormike South Texas April 25, 2013 at 01:35
    Ironic about Pantera's being used to sub for the TR's. Now a nice Pantera can be worth more than a TR.
  • 39
    Joe Roberts Fayetteville, NC April 25, 2013 at 15:16
    What about the cars in "Gone in 60 Seconds"? I know "Elenore" was not stock, but what about the other 49 cars?
  • 40
    John Washington state April 25, 2013 at 17:32
    "The Pinto based Stutz Bearcat from the short lived TV show "Bearcats" is in a collectors hand and well cared for. WRONG! It's on MY hands (and I know the owners of the other TV car and Barris' show car) and it's NOT Pinto-based. It has a Ford straight-six, a custom frame and a hand made metal body.
  • 41
    bob ohio April 25, 2013 at 18:07
    What about that '71 Judge that was flipped over in the first episode of the Walking Dead? No comments about the Nomad in the sitcom Home Improvement?????
  • 42
    Rodney MO. April 25, 2013 at 19:02
    Most of the Tuckers in "Tucker" were assorted vehicles with fiberglass bodies. I used to know the gentleman who made those bodies, after the movie was completed he tried to buy one of the cars back and the studio refused to sell him one. I wonder if he ever got one?
  • 43
    Wayne G Wisconsin April 25, 2013 at 09:10
    Does anyone know if the Jag, etc. that were bulldozed off the mountain in the original movie 'The Italian Job' were fakes or not? Criminal if they weren't.
  • 44
    Dan NJ April 25, 2013 at 09:51
    Also, one of the best switches ever, the 1970 Challenger RT in the movie Vanishing Point never crashes into the bull dozers, it is replaced by plain 69 Camaro.
  • 45
    Neil NY April 25, 2013 at 09:53
    What about Tom Cruise's debut movie Risky Business? There's the scene where Tom's high school character and his girlfriend park his dad's Porsche 928 in front of a pier leading to a lake. They are standing behind the car when it suddenly starts to roll forward and before you know it, it's in the lake. The following scene is in an auto repair shop waiting room where the service manager enters and asks 'who's the U-boat commander?'. I was the owner of the 928 used in that scene. It wasn't a fake; rather, it was my car that had gotten submerged in ocean water due to a hurricane in 1980. When they filmed that scene, they substituted my no longer running 928 to roll into the water.
  • 46
    Danny White Nashville April 25, 2013 at 10:06
    What about the '58-'60 modified Corvette from American Graffiti? The white one with blue stripes/coves that sat at Mel's Diner...in the same place for the entire movie. Non running car/prop? If you slow the film down by frame it appears that the car is missing most if not all of its instrument cluster. Very recognizable car with little to no information whatsoever available in regard to who owned it/history. RE: Italian Job, pretty sure the Jag was real at least that is what I've always read about it. The Miura they destroyed was a shell they picked up at the Lambo factory...check out it when the baddies push it over the hill with the dozer...no motor/tranny etc. The '68 Miura they used...for the Alps scene through St. Bernard Pass (my favorite movie intro of all time with the perfect opening song, "On Days Like These" by Matt Monroe) has never been located. Would love to know if anyone knows about that one. Probably sent to Lambo, repainted etc. and sold off. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQIRbV_noi8
  • 47
    Dale D. Beautiful Downtown Reserve, NM April 25, 2013 at 10:20
    My observations on the "Old Switcheroo:" 1) "American Graffiti:" The '55 Chevy wrecked in the end is a real strippy substitute 2) "Then Came Bronson:" When it came time for a scramble, his Sportster magically turned into a Hodaka. 3) "North by Northwest:" (you've got to be a real delivery guy to notice this one) Cary Grant is placed in a '56 Windowed Sedan Delivery but emerges from a station wagon.
  • 48
    Stan Atlanta, GA April 25, 2013 at 23:14
    Switcharoo/Blooper. On an episode of the The 'A' Team the bad guy is running away in a new late 70's or early 80's Porsche 911 with the black window trim. When the 911 hits a ramp and overturns it has chrome window trim which was on the 1975 and earlier models.
  • 49
    Mark Muncaster April 25, 2013 at 23:34
    The Aston Martin that was pushed over the cliff in the original 1969 Italian Job movie was a real car, and someone actually restored it. I saw an article on it some years back.
  • 50
    Dean Beaverton, Oregon April 25, 2013 at 00:35
    Tower Heist - Alan Alda's Ferrari Lusso was actually 2 different heavily modified Volvo 1800s.
  • 51
    John Washington state April 26, 2013 at 17:21
    The crash test Tuckers from the film were 50-51 Studebaker "bullet nose" cars with fiberglass add ons.The remains of one is in a Studebaker collection.
  • 52
    Keith Willnauer long island April 26, 2013 at 18:23
    The 55 chevy used in american graffiti was the same one used in two lane black top.The car that crashed in american graffiti was a different car but it did have a LS6 in it.Listen closiy as the driver had to punch it to get it to roll.
  • 53
    Nick Fettis Carmel, California April 26, 2013 at 00:59
    How about all those Tuckers in Francis Coppola's 1988 movie? There were a few original Tuckers used, all the others were fakes with fiberglass bodies. Tucker only produced 50 cars before he got shut down because his car was too good. It is quite a sight that shows the factory in the movie with the assembly line. My two uncles, Dean and Alex Tavoularis, were the designers of the movie and had a great time with it. They told me the infamous phrase from 1948.... Surprise her with a Kaiser, amaze her with a Frazier, **** her in a Tucker!
  • 54
    Jim Scottsdale April 29, 2013 at 15:07
    the 32 Ford in American Graffiti is a real 32 Ford, so were all the other cars in that movie. The crash scene 55 Chevy was still a 55 Chevy ... just a different one. The main one was the 55 from the move 2 lane blacktop.
  • 55
    Scott Swinamer Binghamton, NY April 29, 2013 at 16:42
    The '55 Nomad in "Home Improvement" was not destroyed. If you watch the scene where the I-beam smashes the car, (and the later scenes where she sees it in the body shop) it is replaced by a '55, but it's a regular pillared 2-door station wagon. Still a shame, but likely a car that was in poor condition and made up to look legit.
  • 56
    justin atlanta April 29, 2013 at 09:46
    The cars in the Italian Job were real,the cars that are expensive today were not always expensive, At one time they were all just worn out old cars that no body wanted. In 1983 I look at and test drove but didnt buy a 69 GTO Judge with a 455/4 speed because I thought $1600 was too much for it. As did everyone else at the auction.
  • 57
    Capn Dan US April 30, 2013 at 16:51
    Go to bikes - in the street scenes for Clint Eastwood's "Magnum Force" the bad-guy traffic police are shown riding correct Moto Guzzi police 850 Eldorados. For the final chase scenes on the aircraft carrier, these are switched for what appear to be Japanese twins with police tanks, windshields and saddle bags - cheaper and much more maneuverable than the heavy Guzzis.
  • 58
    stevel n.c. April 30, 2013 at 08:36
    The Great Escape,jump scene, Steve Mcqueen's BMW turns into a Triumph 250 Tiger midair.
  • 59
    David Mortenson Chico, Ca May 1, 2013 at 02:05
    Tim Alan's 55 Nomad that was crushed was actually a 55 4 door wagon, modified to look like a Nomad. If I remember right, if you paused the episode, you would see that they molded-off the rear doors. The real Nomad is or was owned by a guy in Oregon that has a large private collection of cars.
  • 60
    peter monkton,Maryland May 1, 2013 at 20:35
    I had a Triumph TR4-A in high school 30 years ago, so this sticks in my mind. It was an Elvis movie, and a pretty lady takes off in a beautiful Ferrari driving too fast. She ends up going off a bridge and heading for the water when they broke for commercial. After the commercial, the tailend of a tr4 is dissapearing into the water. Sorry, don't know movie name or Ferrari make.
  • 61
    Nick Z Queens,NY May 2, 2013 at 08:36
    The Lincoln Continental Mark 3, which appeared in the French Connection, and again in American Gangster. My 44k mile honey.
  • 62
    Ricky Hall Arkansas May 3, 2013 at 06:01
    Remember Get Smart? Max's car in early episodes was a Sunbeam Alpine made to look like a Tiger.
  • 63
    Larry Fite Arkansas May 8, 2013 at 13:27
    The guy that painted my "57 Nomad painted all (or was part of the team that did) the Eleanor Mustangs. He told me that there were about 11 different cars with different configs depending on how they were being used for a particular scene. The funny part is the one Nicholas Cage drove was an automatic because he didn't know how to drive a stick shift with a clutch.
  • 64
    Hal Maddox Gulf Breeze, FL May 8, 2013 at 14:31
    One of the movie "Tuckers" built from a 1951 Studebaker and a REAL one are located in the Tallahasse Automobile and Collectibles Museum just east of Tallahassee, FL immediately off I-10. They have many more very rare cars and worth the trip.
  • 65
    John J NJ May 14, 2013 at 19:54
    What about the 60's vette that is pulled in the air behind a plane in the movie ConAir.....fake I hope?
  • 66
    Martin S Glendale, Cali. June 12, 2013 at 14:15
    In one of the older Fast and Furious flicks, the movie with the exploding nitrous tank in the passenger door, there was a scene with a blue '69 Camaro up on a service lift. It was supposed to be an all original muscle car. But the camera caught the inside lip of the front spoiler...which had a barcode sku sticker. As we know barcodes arrived in the computer age, way after 1969.
  • 67
    Renee Renato kenya June 23, 2013 at 05:42
    How can I find a fake car for my film?
  • 68
    Scott Fisher Tualatin, OR September 4, 2013 at 20:00
    The one that made me cringe for YEARS was the Porsche 917 that Steve McQueen crashes heavily at the end of "Le Mans." The car they crashed was a Lola; the actual 917 that McQueen drove has been restored and is present at vintage & historic events around the world, as in this photo I took at the old Monterey Historics in the late 1980s: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sfisher71/3551725079/

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