You probably remember exactly when you first saw Brian O’Conner’s 1995 Eclipse flash across the screen in front of Dodger Stadium. The Lime Green “import tuner” was the poster child of a growing counter-culture at the flip of the century and, along with its massive cast of cars and characters, made the cult classic one of the most influential films in automotive history.
If you didn’t catch it at a theater, you probably watched it on a tube television, because The Fast and The Furious debuted nearly two decades ago today. The campy take on illegal street racing and organized crime has charmed our mechanical hearts for 19 years, chock-full of cheese-ball one-liners and a cadre of the era’s most extreme imports—many of which were plucked from magazine pages and the contemporary Los Angeles street scene.
Initially, reception was mixed, with film critics and car fans split on the film and its machines; but, like most cult classics, the slow burn of inside jokes and glowing nostalgia eventually cemented the original flick in our hearts. There have been countless spin-offs and sequels since, but nothing will quite match the impact of 2001’s opening act. We’ve seen ripples of its influence everywhere, from the wild interest in the personal collections of the late Fast and Furious star Paul Walker to the collector values of the film’s automotive cast. And who could forget the allure of the Supra, the mythical turbo Toyota capable of 1000 hp on stock parts? Parts that had to be overnighted from Japan? Count us in!
The mass-market exposure to import car culture also spurred the acceptance of—hell, the craving for—video games like Need for Speed Underground, Juiced, and Midnight Club (named for a street racing club in Japan) along with several wanna-be movie franchises looking to ride The Fast and the Furious’
aluminum wings coat tails.
Nearly twenty years later, there’s no competition.