In a country with more cars than registered drivers, it’s no surprise that America is an automobile culture. For 100 years and continuing today, Ford Motor Company has been an important part of popular culture, with vehicles as important co-stars with some of America’s most-loved heroes.
To help celebrate the long history Ford has had in casting cars as stars in film and TV, the company has pulled together a collection of some of its most-loved film and TV cars – old and new – which will be on display at Ford’s Centennial celebration in Dearborn on Sunday, June 15 and at the respective brand tents:
The Batmobile, driven by Adam West in the original Batman TV series – a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car
Greased Lightning, driven by John Travolta in the movie Grease – a 1946 Fat Fender Ford Coupe
James Bond’s car, the Aston Martin Vanquish V12 – driven by Pierce Brosnan in Die Another Day ·
The Bond Girl car, driven by Halle Berry in Die Another Day – the 007 Edition Ford Thunderbird ·
The Ford Saleen S281 Supercharged Mustang – driven by Josh Hartnett and Harrison Ford in the new release Hollywood Homicide ·
The Mazda RX8 – driven by Hugh Jackman in the new release X2: X-Men United
For a larger look at the history of Ford’s vehicle placements, please see the list of “Notable Ford Performances in Film and Television” at: www.media.ford.com.
“Hollywood and Ford are both casting agents par excellence, looking for the perfect marriage between car and star,” said Jan Valentic, vice president, Global Marketing, Ford Motor Company. “Whether they travel on four wheels or two high heels, our goals are the same – to create heroes that save the day, set trends by defining cultural icons, and create memorable moments that become threads in the fabric of our culture.”
About the Cars
Hollywood Homicide, which opens this Friday, is the latest film to star an icon Ford vehicle: the 2003 Ford Saleen S281 Supercharged Mustang. Ford and Saleen are making a special Hollywood Homicide edition of this vehicle, starting at about $33,000. The film also stars Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett as two LAPD detectives, who would make Steve McQueen proud in their handling of the film’s high-action chase scenes. The Hollywood Homicideedition Mustang is equipped with a 4.6L 2V 375 horsepower engine, “powerflash” performance calibration and all the special touches of Saleen “air management” design – including louvered side scoops, a rear wing and blacked-out front grille treatment. Movie fans will enjoy the special Hollywood Homicide graphics and identification.
The Saleen Mustangs are making other Hollywood appearances this summer, including a silver Saleen S7 Mustang in Bruce Almighty, which opened May 30th, and a Saleen S281 Mustang Coupe in lipstick red in the Fast & Furious 2, which opened June 6th.
Audiences caught their first glimpse of the new Mazda RX-8, when X2: X-Men United – the eagerly anticipated sequel to the box-office smash X-Men – hit the theaters May 2, 2003. In true superhero fashion, the aggressively styled Mazda RX-8 X-Men car, based on the production model 2004 Mazda RX-8, possesses its own unique super power – in this case, a RENESIS 13B water-cooled engine. In addition, its dominant presence is accentuated by an impenetrable Mutant Blue exterior which includes an X-shaped grille, a fierce rear spoiler and an enlarged trademark “X” on the vehicle’s nameplate. The RX-8 is available in a six-speed manual transmission, 250-hp version priced from $26,680, or a four-speed automatic, 210-hp version priced from $25,180.
But who could forget the most famous pairing of character: the 40-year relationship between James Bond, the legendary British secret agent, and Aston Martin, the legendary British sportscar. Bond has driven the Aston Martin nameplate more than any other in the 40-year history of Bond films. The association between Bond and Aston Martin began in 1964 with the film Goldfinger, when a 1964 Aston Martin DB5 was fitted with “optional extras” such as ejector seats and rockets. The 20th installment of the longest running and most successful franchise in cinema history – Die Another Day – reunites Bond with Aston Martin, in the form of the V12 Vanquish. The V12 Vanquish is available for purchase, without the rocket-launchers, starting at about $234,000.
“Bond’s image doesn’t turn on what kind of socks he wears, but what kind of car he drives,” said Valentic. “He has a symbiotic relationship with his car. It’s a key element in his arsenal of gadgetry, and as such he must have the highest tech ride around – captured by Aston Martin’s V12 Vanquish.”
Ford Motor Company this spring launched the 700 Limited Edition “007” Ford Thunderbirds to commemorate the first appearance of a Thunderbird in the 40-year history of the James Bond film franchise.
The “007” edition has unique white leather interior and a distinctive Coral paint scheme to match the Thunderbird driven in Die Another Day by Academy Award-winning actress Halle Berry. The Coral paint – similar to the Sunset Coral hue offered on the 1956 Thunderbird – also matches the bikini Berry wears in her role as Jinx. The “007” Thunderbird starts at about $43,000.
“We all aspire to be like our heroes,” said Valentic. “There's something inherent in human nature that makes us want to be part of that which is legendary. Providing cars for our culture's greatest heroes, and by making these cars available to the public for purchase, allows people to come one step closer to their favorite heroes and to actually live their fantasy.”
Ford vehicles have been placed with many other of American culture’s most-loved heroes of yesteryear as well.
In 1966, Batman drove a 1955 Lincoln Futura concept car, powered by a 429 Ford Full Race engine, off the lot at 20th Century Fox and straight into America’s living rooms. The Batmobile, the world’s most popular TV film car, was created by Hollywood’s George Barris, the “King of Kustomizers.”
“The front-end and tailfins were designed to resemble a bat with the hood scoop extending down into the frontal area accentuating the nose,” said Barris. “The car came fully equipped with everything the caped crusader needed, including: dual 450 watt laser beams, hydraulically operated steel chain and cable cutter blade, internally mounted rockets and 360 degree emergency ‘bat turn’ lever.” Barris, 75, still lives and works in Hollywood, and has created thousands of unique custom vehicles that have appeared in countless magazines, books, television programs and movies.
In the movie Bullitt, Steve McQueen raced through the streets of San Francisco in a 1968 Mustang GT 390, creating one of the greatest chase scenes ever. McQueen’s 1968 Fastback Mustang created an indelible image in the minds of millions of people that helped define the image of cool for the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. In 2001, Ford introduced a special edition Mustang Bullitt GT inspired by the classic Warner Bros. Pictures film.
“When Steve McQueen raced the Mustang in the chase scene, he probably had no idea that it was the making of a legend,” said Valentic. “The Ford Mustang has appeared in more movies than most of Hollywood’s brightest stars.”
Hot-rod culture reached its peak in the 1970s with a pair of movies that celebrated cars, cruising and rock-n-roll: American Graffiti and Grease. One of Hollywood’s quintessential moments is the scene in American Graffiti, where Suzanne Somers pulls up at the stoplight in a white 1956 Ford Thunderbird and thereafter captivates the dreams of the character played by Richard Dreyfuss. And there’s probably not a single person who was a teenager in the 1970s who didn’t use the family couch to imitate the dance moves of John Travolta as he praised his ride, “Greased Lightning” – a 1946 Fat Fender Ford Coupe.
“Customizing the Fat Fender Coupe included adding big lid—styled, swooping-finned rear fenders, paired with multiple tail- and back-up lights,” said Barris. “‘Greased Lightning’ rolled on chrome wire wheels with special raised lettering Firestone tires. The car featured metal sculpturing, including cutaway front fenders and vertical bar grille.”
On TV, detectives Dave Starsky and Ken “Hutch” Hutchinson tackled the roughest neighborhoods of Los Angeles in a bright red 1975 Ford Gran Torino with a long white stripe down both sides. Racing around the city streets with tires squealing, the Ford Torino became one of the most recognizable vehicles on television. In response to the popularity of Starsky’s Torino on the TV show, Ford built approximately 1,000 “Starsky & Hutch” Gran Torinos in the Spring of 1976. Premier Studio Rentals is currently building several new red and white Gran Torinos for the new Starsky and Hutch movie planned for release next year by Warner Bros. Pictures staring Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson.
“One reason you see Ford Motor Company’s products playing in so many movies, books, songs or television shows is that we have a global stable of brands that no other automaker can touch,” said Valentic. “What other company can outfit the grittiest of adventurers with the toughest of trucks, the sexiest of secret-agents with the sleekest of sports cars, or the family next door with the friendliest of SUVs?”