The terribly sad news about Lewis Collins reminded me of this post I wrote a few weeks ago. Originally inspired by our cars appearing on BBC2, it seems a fitting tribute to Mr Collins who appears with his two legged and four wheeled co-stars in my Top 10. Nobody born after the 1980s can really understand the impact that Bodie & Doyle had on a generation of impressionable young boys – and sales of Dagenham’s sporting family cars. Maybe The Professionals typecast Lewis Collins but what a role – tougher and more streetwise than Bond, he was the British Steve McQueen, very nearly.
Here’s to Lewis Collins – thanks for all the bonnet-rolling, cardboard box-busting brilliance.
1. Bullitt Mustang
Inevitably with a name like Great Escape we have to bow down to the King of Cool. Mr McQueen. We set up the company with the aim of giving customers a chance to be Steve McQueen For The Day, a legend of cool that owes a lot to a Highland Green Mustang. The Bullitt car chase is epic, of course, not least because Steve-o did most of the stunts, but because it showed that a little customising can turn a chrome queen into a cool classic. Simply the best car, man and chase combination in cinematic history.
2. Plymouth Valiant in Duel
If you’ve missed Steven Spielberg’s big screen debut, download Duel now. Taking the car chase oeuvre and turning it on its head with an Everyman driver and Everyman car, Duel still thrills car fans with its brilliant screenplay and cinematography. Sure, it’s just a Plymouth Valiant, the automotive equivalent of vanilla, but in a movie this good, the car’s anonymity is part of the tension.
3. Italian Job Minis (and The Bourne Identity)
Two films, one simple idea – a little car dodging big cars and buildings. My Name Is Michael Caine starred alongside rather than with the Minis, such was their central role in the film, an inspired choice of car that probably sold more Minis than any marketing gimmick. Jason Bourne repeated the trick with a best up example years later – without quite the same impact but perhaps with more drama.
4. Audi S8 in Ronin
It shared screen time with a Citroen XM (an interesting choice of getaway car) but it’s the S8 that sticks in my memory. The big, growly, twin-turbo Quattro put the bad boy in big executive barge, its combination of Teutonic cool and V8 rumble working considerably letter than the rest of this iconic but rather messy film.
5. Jaguar Mk2 and John Thaw
Whether pootling around Oxford or being driven on the door handles by a carload of toe rags or stumbling up the M6 in Withnail & I, no car quite achieves dishevelled respectability like the Most beautiful saloon car ever made. The stylish Jaguar was the Subaru Impreza of its era, but with a smart Saville Row suit, quick, nimble and the perfect getaway car.
6. The Bandit’s Pontiac Trans Am
The only thing that could upstage Burt Reynolds’ lip furniture in the Bandit movies, the stylish black be-eagled Trans Am T-Top was the blue collar GT car of the 70s. For kids in Britain it was part of a heady combination of long straight roads, big block V8s and CB radios. And who can truly assess the psychological impact on impressionable young minds of the discovery that Americans spent a lot of their time ‘getting air’ over broken bridges and ignoring conventional entry routes via car doors.
7. Dukes of Hazzard Dodge Charger
Almost, yes almost, as good as the Bullitt Mustang through sure screen durability, the Dookes’ Orange Charger took the Smokey & The Bandit concept and turned it up to 11. By this time British children could be mistaken for assuming America was a land of dusty roads and moon shiners with a markedly creative approach to getting into cars, but no matter. While dads split their screen time between the Charger and Daisy Duke’s daisy dukes, their children had no such conflict – the Charger with its mammoth 7 litre V8 took centre stage.
8. The Professionals’ Escorts and Capris
Imagine if you will Bodie and Doyle leaning against their Dolomite Sprint waiting for the AA. Such would have been the scene had BL agreed to supply the cars to the series instead of Ford. BL’s myopia was Ford’s gift, the tyre-squealing scenes helping to sell acres of Escorts and Capris. We will never know why they had to drive through quite so many cardboard boxes but we do know why they had to find a novel way of getting into the cars – because The Bandit & Dukes did it. Rolling over the bonnet may not have been quicker than walking round, but it was funnier.
9. Audi RS6 in Layer Cake
Sharing screen time with a yellow Range Rover, the RS6 was an inspired choice for Daniel Craig’s wheels, pulling off the same dishevelled level of respectability achieved by the Jaguar Mk2 – the perfect criminal wheels. The opening sequence to a soundtrack of She Sells Sanctuary also made The Cult sound cool, which is an achievement in anyone’s book.
10. Alfa Spider in The Graduate
It may have suffered the ignominy of having its crackling twin-carb engine overdubbed with a V8 for the film but the little Alfa still entered the annals of motoring history thanks to Mrs Robinson and Dustin Hoffman. Few cars capture the elusive combination of romance and freedom quite like the little Latin two seater, making it Dustin’s perfect screen partner.
So there you have it, our favourite film cars. We could go on of course. You can hire several of these cars from us at http://www.greatescapecars.co.uk or call 01527 893733. Mention this article to claim 10% off.
You can watch 40 of our cars on BBC2 7pm weeknight during in November as part of the Celebrity Antiques Road Trip series.