1 FORD FALCON HARDTOP
Mad Max Ford had stopped production of its low-selling, two-door Falcon variant by the time Mad Max hit local screens in 1979, which helped emphasise the movie's theme of society in collapse. What self-respecting society could turn its back on these delightful V8-engined monsters?
Another advantage for Mad Max was the fi lm's low budget, which forced its makers to shoot extremely realistic chase and collision scenes. No money for fancy special effects here. One image, of a car's skittering, bouncing wheels as it slides out of control towards the camera, was unplanned and added a brilliant touch of realist mayhem.
Fans have since built many replicas of Max's black coupe, especially in the US, where demand for old Australian Falcons led to the creation of a small cottage industry. Trivia note: The Falcon's wedge nose and other fi breglass adornments were designed by Australian Peter Arcadipane, who went on to work for Mercedes.
2 FERRARI 275GTB (or is it?)
Rendezvous Shot during a Paris dawn in the mid-' 70s, Rendezvous supposedly shows a high-speed drive in a Ferrari through the French capital. In fact, the fi lm is a masterpiece of illusion. Director Claude Lelouch used a big Mercedes sedan for the fi lm, then dubbed in the Ferrari engine noises and other sound effects.
This might explain why a Ferrari 275GTB hitting high revs in fi fth gear takes so long to overtake mundane French hatchbacks.
There are a few other clues in the film that all is not as it seems. The sound of tortured tyres continues even after one corner has been completed, for example, and modern Formula One cars would kill for this old car's threshold braking ability.
To demonstrate the vital role of sound in automotive movie scenes, watch Rendezvous online with the sound off. Suddenly the car is moving only moderately quickly along uncrowded streets. No big deal.
With sound, however, it's just sensational. Trivia note: French F1 driver Jacques Laffite was rumoured to have been the driver in this mini-epic, but in recent years Lelouch has admitted he did the driving himself.
3 FORD THUNDERBIRD
Thelma & Louise The 1966 Ford Thunderbird isn't a particularly stunning vehicle, nor is it featured to great advantage in this 1991 chick-bonding road movie. But it does kill Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, so serious respect is due. Trivia note: Lady Gaga and Beyonce duplicate some of the fi nal scenes from Thelma & Louise in a recent video clip, but they manage to avoid any nasty canyons.
4 VW BEETLE
The Cars That Ate Paris Peter Weir's fi rst major fi lm starred a VW Beetle decorated with steel spikes, the better to maim and murder those visiting Paris, his fictional Australian town.
This Wolfsburg porcupine kills at least one person during the town's successful “ kill tourists and sell their cars” economic initiative.
Many who lived through the '70s remember the VW featured on promotional posters but the fi lm itself tanked. A recent online reviewer provided a list of things learned from the fi lm. They include “mentally retarded people will try to eat hood ornaments” and “ fighting cars with a chair is a losing proposition”. Trivia note: Peter Weir later directed Dead Poets Society. Seize the Daewoo!
5 PEUGEOT 405
Climb Dance Peugeot commissioned director Jean Louis Mourey to fi lm Finnish rally driver Ari Vatanen's ascent of Pikes Peak in Colorado in 1988. The resulting five-minute documentary is terrifying.
TWO scenes stick in the mind. At one point, Vatanen sticks a rear wheel over the Peak's edge. There is nothing below it except 4000m of nothing.
Later, The Finn takes one hand from the steering wheel to shield his eyes from blinding sunlight. He doesn't take his foot off the accelerator, however, which is impressive in something with 600hp.
There is no dialogue, no actors and no special effects. This is how all movies should be made. Trivia note: Vatanen subsequently became a politician in the European Parliament.
6 LOTUS ESPIRIT
The Spy Who Loved Me One flaw in the logic of James Bond fi lms is his cars are always British. Yet they are reliable, strong, never break down or get nationalised, and don't get him shot by villains while waiting at the roadside for a tow truck.
Even the Lotus Espirit in 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me is utterly dependable. By rights Roger Moore should have drowned when he deployed the Lotus's underwater capability, but no. He just drove out of the ocean and up that beach as if he was in something Japanese. Trivia note: Bond author Ian Fleming also wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.