Ever since the debut of the Ford Model T in 1908, cars have been ingrained in American culture. Whether you enjoy going to auto shows, collect them, or use one to go from point A to point B, automobiles are a key part of many people’s lives.
Of course, one of the most popular functions cars are used for is racing. Not only are there several official sports leagues dedicated to it, street racing has emerged as a leading activity for car enthusiasts. In Need for Speed (read our review), mechanic and street racer Tobey Marshall is forced to go on a cross-country race if he hopes to clear his name of a crime he did not commit. The film’s trailers have showcased several high performance cars performing breathtaking, death-defying, stunts - as Tobey tries to accomplish his mission.
Even in non-racing movies, cars can still play an important role in the narrative. With Need for Speed hitting theaters (with hopes of launching a new franchise), we started thinking about famous movie cars we’d want to see in a sequel and compiled the following list.
NOTE: For the purposes of this article, we focused exclusively on iconic vehicles from film (meaning, those prominently featured in TV series were ineligible). Also, we're aware any car can be modified, but we used the standard specs for those that are based in the real world.
9 The Tumbler: The Dark Knight Trilogy
When Christopher Nolan rebooted the Caped Crusader for a modern audience, he didn’t just give Bruce Wayne a makeover. Adding another version to the long line of Batmobiles on film, the director gave Batman a military vehicle with several impressive gadgets, including a multitude of potent weapons.
One only has to look at the car chase sequence in Batman Begins to understand how effective Wayne’s ride could be at winning a road race. The jet engines would be more than enough to give the driver a power boost, while the machine guns and rocket launchers could create a multitude of road obstacles to make driving difficult for opponents. If all else fails, the Tumbler is ideal for pancaking other vehicles, as its heavy armor will prevent the car from suffering too much damage.
8 Aston Martin DB5: James Bond Series
He’s known for his designer suits and dry martinis, but James Bond’s Aston Martin is also a key part of his superspy identity. Making its first appearance in 1964’s Goldfinger, this particular model has gone on to be featured in five additional movies throughout the long-running franchise. Most recently, it was one of the several crowd-pleasing Easter eggs in 2012’s Skyfall, serving as Bond and M’s main source of transportation to 007’s childhood home.
The DB5 may not have the most powerful engine to keep up with the cars of today, but it possesses several gadgets that would help make up the difference. The machine guns could easily take out opponents from a distance (without causing too much damage to the person driving the other car) and should someone get too close, the spinner hubcaps can slash tires, rendering opponent vehicle useless.
7 Delorean Time Machine: Back to the Future
Doc Brown said it the best. If you’re going to make a car into a time machine, you might as well do it with some style. Earning a spot in viewers’ hearts with its iconic design, it’s gone on to become a staple of pop culture for nearly 30 years.
Barring time-travel use of the flux capacitor, the car might not seem the best equipped for a race at first glance. Unless Tobey Marshall is up for some hijinks with George McFly in 1955, he’d only be able to do 87 miles per hour (while fast, this may not always put him in the best position to win). However, as Doc Brown showed at the end of the first film, the Delorean also has the ability to fly, which would make Tobey’s path to the finish line less crowded. Where he’s going, he doesn’t need roads.
6 Mustang GT: Bullitt
Need for Speed director Scott Waugh has made it quite clear he’s a big fan of car movies from the late ’60s and early ’70s, which specialized in practical stunt work. With old action classics like Bullitt influencing the revenge-fueled narrative of the new film, what better way for Waugh to pay homage than to have Steve McQueen’s legendary Mustang make a cameo in the follow-up?
Reaching a top speed of 110 miles per hour, the film’s now iconic 10-minute car chase makes the perfect case for why it would be ideal for a road race. The V8 engine gives the Mustang 325 horsepower, meaning a driver could make up ground. Bullitt’s vehicle is also durable, as it is capable of swapping paint with a Dodge Charger and take hits from bullets - while staying under control.
5 Mazda RX-7: The Fast and the Furious
The Fast and Furious series has showcased a wide variety of high performance cars (a fact we’ve illustrated not once, but twice). All great things have a beginning, and the moviegoing public’s obsession with Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto started when they saw a red Mazda RX-7 blazing down the streets of Los Angeles. It’s true that Dom has driven several vehicles over the course of the series, but it’s always hard to top the original.
A perfect choice for those taking their life a quarter mile at a time, this sports car is equipped with a twin-turbocharger system and has 252 horsepower. Capable of reaching a top speed of 156 miles per hour, Toretto’s RX-7 is also powered with nitrous, giving the driver a speed boost that comes in handy when trying to finish in first place.
4 Cadillac Miller-Meteor Ecto-1: Ghostbusters
When you’re in an outrageous business like paranormal investigations, it seems only logical to have an attention-grabbing car like this one. When the Ghostbusters were just getting started, Ray Stantz fixes up an old Cadillac to serve as the team’s trademark source of transportation to the many jobs they receive. Its iconic look made it a fan-favorite, and it would be a thrill to see it on the big screen once again.
At first glance, the Ecto-1 doesn’t appear to be fit for street racing, but one look at the specifications would change that perception. With 325 horsepower (the same as Bullitt’s Mustang), the V8 engine allows this car to reach a top speed of 120 miles per hour. It may not have a sleek design like a high performance sports car, but it’s more than capable of keeping up with the competition. If Tobey Marshall needs a new ride, he should call Peter Venkman.
3 Dodge Challenger: Vanishing Point
When the job calls to take a ride from Denver to San Francisco, it helps to have a great car taking you there. One look at the 1970 Dodge Challenger, it’s no wonder why Kowalski was in such a rush to work on his next assignment. The vehicle of the “last American hero” displays its worth on several occasions, as it is both durable and sturdy.
Of course, smooth handling alone won’t help you win a street race, and the Challenger has more than enough under the hood to help a driver win. With the ability to reach a top speed of 146 miles per hour, this muscle car has the power of 390 horses. Faster than a Mustang, the high-performance Challenger is an easy choice for those looking to evade the competition.
2 Chevrolet Lumina: Days of Thunder
With stock car racing ranking as one of the country’s most popular sports, it’s no surprise that movie studios have looked to cash in by using NASCAR as a backdrop for films. Long before Ricky Bobby shook and baked in Talladega, Tom Cruise starred in the racing movie Days of Thunder. While the final product was criticized as “Top Gun in cars,” there’s no denying that Cole Trickle’s Chevy Lumina stood out as one of its highlights.
The basic 1990 Lumina isn’t much of a power vehicle, with only 110 horsepower to its name. However, Trickle’s stock car is equipped with one of Chevy’s V8 small block engines (size: 350), which can increase the horsepower up to 370. Since this car is specifically built for races, it also as an advantage in the speed department. Stock cars are capable of traveling at over 200 miles per hour. While the average speed varies depending on the track, it’s estimated at 188 mph overall (and that’s without nitrous). Performance values aside, its colorful paint scheme adds to its appeal. Plus, should Waugh choose this car; there’s always a chance for Mello Yello marketing tie-ins.
1 Honorable Mentions
With so many famous cars in movie history, it’s impossible to list all of them. Here are a few honorable mentions that couldn’t quite make it past the finish line.
- Herbie the Love Bug: Has the classic look of a VW Beetle, but it lacks the horsepower (only 40) to stay in contention.
- Mini Cooper S (The Italian Job): Like the Love Bug, it’s another case of “great look, low performance."
- Corvette C3 (Boogie Nights): Symbolizes you’re at the top of the world, and it’s perfect for getaways from coked out drug dealers. Pictured above.
- Eleanor (Gone in 60 Seconds): Has the speed and durability to stay in a 40-minute car chase, so it’s good for a street race.
- Wonder Bread car (The Ballad of Ricky Bobby): The choice of winners ready to shake and bake.
Of course, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive so be sure to list some famous movie cars you would like to see in a Need for Speed sequel.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.
Need for Speed is now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.