Mad Max – Part I: The Drive to Fury Road

There are very few movies I like that are remakes of existing movies. While it’s important to note we’ve had a decade of rebirths and reimagining of different action franchises, none stands out as a truly high-octane thrill ride like 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. But before we get to that one, let’s discuss how we got there and some of the trivia and cars along the way.

Let’s get our engines revved up on the first film of the series – Mad Max, then Mad Max 2 which is known in the States as The Road Warrior and then Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome.

The first movie came out in 1979, a low budget Australian dystopian action film. Directed by George Miller, it starred Mel Gibson as “Mad” Max Rockatansky. Later films dropped the last name to generate better world appeal.

The film presents a tale of societal collapse, murder, and revenge set in a future Australia in which an unhinged policeman becomes embroiled in a violent feud with a savage motorcycle gang. During this feud, he loses his best friend “Goose” and his wife and son at the hands of this vicious gang. Eventually, we follow his plan for revenge as he takes a black Ford Falcon V8, his police uniform, and goes wheel to wheel with Toe Cutter and Nightrider of the motorcycle gang.

It’s interesting to note the original Mad Max had a really low budget and often the crew would repaint cars instead of using the same vehicle in a scene where more were needed. Max’s yellow Interceptor was a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan (previously a Victoria police car) with a 351 c.i.d. Cleveland V8 engine. Given that it was a budget film, the car was only quickly masked up and repainted from its original white on the outside only. In several shots, you can still see the white paint: Door jams, under the hood, etc.

Max’s Ford Falcon XB 351 Sedan, was a former Victorian Police car in real life was bought by the director and producer to become Max Rockatansky’s standard issue MFP Interceptor. After the purchase, it was handed over to Graf-X to undergo modifications, along with other vehicles for the movie.

The Big Bopper, driven by Roop and Charlie, was also a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan and a former Victoria police car, but powered by a 302 c.i.d. V8. The March Hare, driven by Sarse and Scuttle, was an in-line-six-powered 1972 Ford Falcon XA sedan (formerly a Melbourne taxi).

The most memorable car, Max’s black Pursuit Special was a 1973 Ford XB Falcon GT351, a limited-edition hardtop (sold in Australia from December 1973 to August 1976), which was primarily modified. The main modifications are the Concorde front end and the supercharger protruding through the trunk (for looks only; it was not functional). The Concorde front was a fairly new accessory at the time, designed by Ford Australia as a showpiece, and later became available to the general public because of its popularity After filming the first movie was complete, the car went up for sale, but no buyers were found; eventually it was given to one of the modification crew.

When production of Mad Max 2 began, the director brought the car back the sequel. Once filming was over, the car was left at a wrecking yard in Adelaide since again there were no buyers. It was bought, restored, and eventually, sold again and put on display in the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Cumbria, England. When the museum closed, the car went to a collection in the Dezer Museum in Miami, Florida.

The Nightrider’s vehicle, another Pursuit Special, was a 1972 Holden HQ Monaro LS coupe, also tuned but deliberately damaged to look like it had been involved in many crashes.

The car driven by the young couple, vandalized and finally destroyed by the bikers is a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air Sedan, also modified to look like a hot-rod car with fake fuel injection stacks, fat tires, and a flame red paint job.

Of the motorcycles that appear in the film, 14 were Kawasaki Kz1000s donated by a local Kawasaki dealer. All were modified in appearance by Melbourne business, one as the MFP bike ridden by “The Goose” and the balance for members of the Toecutter’s gang, played in the film by members of an actual local Victorian motorcycle club, the Vigilantes.

By the end of filming, 14 vehicles had been destroyed in the chase and crash scenes, including the director’s personal Mazda Bongo (the small, blue van that spins uncontrollably after being struck by the Big Bopper in the film’s opening chase).

Director George Miller, previously a doctor, was fascinated with road-related injuries. He later decided to fund, write and direct a movie and clearly brought the realism of his emergency room in his films.

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