The Fast and the Furious roared into theaters 17 years ago today

Seventeen years ago today (June 22, 2001), few would have predicted that an automotive version of Point Break would turn into a summer blockbuster, much less what the Fast and Furious franchise is today. Not only would the summer action flick highlight the budding excitement around tuner cars, it would launch a never-ending series of movies, video games, and street-race-inspired personality that helped shape the next decade of car culture. So prepare that right hand for a positively irrational number of gearshifts, because we’re talking, of course, about the movie that started it all: The Fast and the Furious.

Looking at today’s bonkers prices and general admiration for the Mk. IV Toyota Supra Turbo, you can’t really fathom how its legacy might be different if it weren’t for The Fast and the Furious. Paul Walker’s career-defining performance as dashing-but-conflicted-inside undercover operative Brian O’Connor is irrevocably linked to the rags-to-ricer tale of the junker Supra turned hero car.

And while the movie might strike early with a flashy head-to-head between O’Connor’s Mitsubishi Eclipse and Dominic Toretto’s FD Mazda RX-7, you can’t think about Vin Diesel without recalling his character’s villainous vintage Dodge Charger. It’s the perfect foil for pretty-boy O’Connor, with Diesel’s muscled mass and knowing scowl lurking behind the wheel.

From the seed of this simple car-themed summer action movie has come seven sequels (each more delightfully absurd and over-the-top than the last), with two more already lined up to come. Although the franchise’s fans and cast dearly miss Walker’s presence following his tragic death in 2013, Fast’s clear impact on the collectible consciousness of car enthusiasts and pop culture in general is a fitting ode to the late dyed-in-the-wool gearhead.

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