Every couple of decades, Hollywood runs out of ideas and decides that it’s time to reinvent, reimagine (and as some movie buffs describe it, butcher) a time-honored classic movie for a modern audience. It’s fascinating when you look at what cars show up in movies, especially in remakes, as it can give you an insight into how faithfully the remake is to the original as well as how times have changed between the classic cars and their modern counterparts.
The Italian Job
Original: 1969 – Remake: 2003
The iconic 1969 Austin Mini Cooper S that was used in the original Michael Caine movie became a symbol of British culture in the swinging sixties. The idea behind the creation of the Cooper S was to create a swift and nimble car, and when you see them dodging through traffic and around the corners of the Italian piazzas, they definitely prove their worth. Nimble as they are, these classic cars are much loved for their distinctive box shape.
The 2003 remake saw Mark Wahlberg stepping into Michael Caine’s shoes as Charlie Croker. Although a lot of the story was changed for this modern update, the iconic cars stayed the same, just with an updated look. The 2003 MINI Cooper S was made with a nod of the head to the original model and had a distinctive retro charm. The MINI Coopers still proved themselves to be nimble rides in a chase scene through a narrow storm drain. Still swift, and still classic.
Gone in Sixty Seconds
Original: 1974 – Remake: 2000
One of the ultimate combinations of car and heist movies, both the original and the remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds feature several dozen different models, but the star of the movie is Eleanor. In the original movie, Eleanor is a 1971 Ford Mustang that is the object of the lead character’s obsession (he tries several times to steal the car). Eleanor took part in the longest car chase in movie history at a total 34 minutes, damaging 93 other cars in the process.
The Nicholas Cage remake didn’t bother modernising Eleanor, and in fact went further back in time to use a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500. Cage’s character has a soft spot for the Mustang and goes to great lengths to keep it from the police. Eleanor is one of the most popular cars that entice drivers to start modifying classic cars, and this remake has only fuelled that desire.
The Love Bug
Original: 1968 – Remake: 1997
Possibly one of the most famous cars in the world is Herbie. The 1963 VW Beetle was the first car that had a life of its own; able to drive itself, open and close its own doors and (in the final race) split itself in two. The VW Beetle used in the 1968 movie had two versions – a standard Beetle and a specialised racing model that was fitted with a Porsche engine and specially widened racing wheels.
The remake in 1997 starring Bruce Campbell uses the same model as the original, which is a testament to how firmly Herbie is embedded in classic car culture. Whereas many of the Herbie sequels of the 70s and 80s made changes to Herbie’s look to make it more like a racer, the Herbie of the 1997 remake went back to the style of the original 1968 movie.
Death Race 2000 / Death Race
Original: 1975 – Remake: 2008
The famous “Frankenstein’s Monster” driven by David Carradine’s character in the original Death Race 2000 was a custom built kit car (just in case the fangs in the front grill and the snake-eyed headlights weren’t enough of a giveaway). This monster was created by Dick Dean, who was also responsible for the ECTO-1 in Ghostbusters and the Flintstone’s car.
The original Frankenstein’s Monster was a little too dated for the 2008 remake, so an entirely new car was needed. Frankenstein’s Monster was based on a 2006 Ford Mustang GT, heavily modified to include a smoke screen, front mounted machine guns and an ejector seat. Not what you would call ‘street legal’ but that’s science fiction for you.
Jamie Gibbs is resident blogger and movie buff for classic car insurance comparison site, Confused.com. He frequently points out trivial facts about movies, even when no one is listening.