Casting directors, wardrobe designers and set designers are all recognized for their work in feature films. Car casting people are often the real unsung casting heroes, however. What would “Bullitt” have been without the Highland Green 1968 Mustang 390 fastback? Just as important are the bit-players, the oddball character actors of the movie car world. These are the Jack Elams, Crispin Glovers and the Peter Lorres of movie cars:
- 1967 Citroen 2CV — “American Graffiti” The Citroen 2CV is a truly strange car. Perhaps the most intentionally minimalist automobile ever to see production, even third-world motorists today would balk at its hammock-like seats and tin can-like appearance. Future writer and pacifist Curt Henderson (played by Richard Dreyfuss), drove this two-cylinder French peasant’s car throughout the film. Strangely, the producers used a 1967 model in spite of the fact that the film was famously set in 1962. A forgivable oversight given the overall excellence of the film and the fact that one 2CV (produced from 1948-90) looks pretty much like the next.
- 1953 Messerschmitt KR175 — “The Addams Family” The Messerschmitt KR175 was the product of a company that less than 10 years previous, had been building fighter planes for the Third Reich, including the first jet-powered interceptor. From jet fighters to amusing microcars—losing a war will do that to you. This bubble-topped three-wheeler was the ride of the chattering, sentient hairball named Cousin It in the great 1991 re-boot of the Addams Family.
- 1987 Yugo GV — “Dragnet” After Tom Hanks and Dan Aykroyd lose two previous police-issued vehicles, this was the only car the department would let them have. According to Aykroyd (who did a wicked Jack Webb impersonation) it had been donated to the LAPD by the government of Yugoslavia as a test vehicle “and reflected the cutting edge of Serbo-Croatian technology.” As an aside, the U.S. bombing campaign during the Balkan Wars finally put an end to the Yugo when the factory was leveled. Opinions differ as to the magnitude of this loss to the automotive world.
- 1974 AMC Matador Coupe — “Man with the Golden Gun” It’s difficult to say what’s stranger, the car or the context. The notion that a James Bond villain with unlimited resources would build a flying car out of an AMC Matador is simply unfathomable in any world other than that of product placement. We like the Matador coupe for its sheer oddness, but the fish-out-of-water aspect of it in a big-budget Bond film is what puts it over the top.
- 1973 Corvorado — “Live and Let Die” Driven by a Mr. Big henchman (aptly named “Whispers,”) this was a C3 Corvette that was for no apparent reason, customized with Cadillac Eldorado body panels (hence the name Corvorado) by one Les Dunham of Boonton, New Jersey. It pre-dated the Cadillac XLR by some 30 years. The car also made an appearance in the movie “Superfly.”