Even for a metal-suited superhero film, Iron Man 2 destroyed an awful lot of cars. The list contains everything from smashed Rolls-Royce Phantoms to formula cars sliced in half by laser whips. Here's how the magic is made.
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Let's start with the obvious: Tony Stark's formula car. The car you see here was driven for the film by stunt driver and Top Gear USA host Tanner Foust. It's one of two driveable cars built specifically for the film, and one of 25 open-wheelers (the rest were unpowered props) constructed for the movie's pivotal Monaco scene.
Tony's car isn't a real Formula 1 car, but it's somewhat close. Film car coordinator John Armstrong and his crew built the tube-frame cars around molds taken from 1970s Wolf F1 cars. The cars are claimed to modeled after a machine from the 1978 season, most likely the WR6, though they bear a much greater resemblance to earlier cars like the '76 Wolf FW05.
For reference, this is a Wolf WR6. You can be forgiven if the name doesn't ring a bell — Wolf was one of the many in-and-out constructors that popped up in the late 1970s. Wolf Racing was essentially a temporary rebranding of the Williams F1 team that came about at the behest of Slovenian businessman/backer Walter Wolf. The team's efforts were not pretty...
...and neither was the faux-Wolf that was destroyed on film, which is why we didn't really get worked up when it was trashed. Only, as you'll see in the next slide...
...the car wasn't really trashed. The stunt body that was cut up and catapulted through the air for the film still exists, but it wasn't the car that Foust drove for filming. This was. As you can see, it's by no means a real F1 car — like most movie cars, it was designed more for appearance and durability than anything else. According to Armstrong, the Chevy 350 in the back produces roughly 320 hp.
Note the aluminum siding around the cockpit, meant to simulate the riveted monocoque of a purpose-built racing car. One of the Rolls-Royce Phantoms used in filming sits in the background, as does the Stark car's bodywork.
Robert Downey Jr. in the cockpit of the faux-Wolf. Again, you can see the aluminum cockpit siding; notice how it gives the illusion of more beneath the surface.
The faux-Wolf as it currently sits, this time with bodywork on and car coordinator Armstrong in the cockpit.
The spare body after being cut in half for filming. Note "Stark Motor Racing" logo and the number eleven. The latter is supposedly main character Tony Stark's lucky number; it's also found on the license plates of the film's Audi R8 Spider.
Another shot of the spare body. Any guesses as to the meaning of the logo on the nose?
The other running race car — a yellow faux-Wolf painted in Kodak livery and wearing Tesla/SpaceX founder Elon Musk's name on its cockpit. Musk was Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man director Jon Favreau's inspiration for Tony Stark, and he has a cameo in the film's Monaco scene. (He's the guy who gets up and tries to tell Tony about his idea for an "electric plane" before the race.)
Musk's name. Check the funky steering wheel and lack of gauges.
This is the complete, albeit computer-generated, field from the film's race. The "Monaco Gran Prix de Historique" vintage event depicted was set at Monaco's historic F1 circuit, but it wasn't actually filmed there. The principality gave Favreau permission to shoot on the course, but F1 head honcho and all-around creepy guy Bernie Ecclestone nixed the idea before filming began. As a result, most of the track scenes were filmed in a green-screened parking lot in Los Angeles. The backdrop and most of the course workers were added in digitally. (Enlarge the image to the left, and the CGI becomes obvious.) Fun.
Peeling back the digital: This is the fake Monaco grid during filming. Note the green screens and the real John Player Special Lotus at right — an actual late-'70s F1 car, and an iconic one at that. It was one of six cars supplied to the film's crew by Historic Grand Prix, an owner-driver association focused on the 1966-1983 F1 era...
...and currently run by these guys. This is Historic Grand Prix principles Chris Locke and James King standing next to the wrecked Stark car. The spectators in the background are inflatable fakes. (Blow-up dolls, not citizens of Los Angeles. We're not that mean.)
Mickey Rourke walking through the same set during the film. Note how still shots bring out the difference between real (foreground) and CGI (background).
Robert Downey Jr. in the same location, wearing what is quite possibly the world's least realistic fake racing suit. At least he looks cool. Or like one of the X-men. And maybe not flameproof or breathable in any way. But cool.
Same basic set, different angle, blue and green screens galore.
Ready for a shocker? This is the parking lot where the Monaco scenes were filmed — it's the primary lot for Downey Studios (no relation to Robert), a production facility housed in an old aerospace building. Random trivia: This is where the first four space shuttles were built, which accounts for the moon painted on the outside wall.
Another shocker: This is the main straight of the "Monaco Grand Prix de Historique." Note the asphalt patches on the right and orange cones on the left; both mark where the straightaway's fence poles were located. The lightpost was removed for filming.
Two Rolls-Royce Phantoms were purchased for Iron Man 2's production. With the exception of minor trim details, the cars were identical and produced by Rolls-Royce specifically for the film. According to Armstrong, each car cost $438,000. The cars were cut up, wired with pyrotechnics, glued back together, bondoed, and then blown apart during filming. They are currently in storage.
Phantom with a slice in it.
Sad and expensive mess.
Sad and expensive mess in a dumpster. (This is actually a Phantom model, not a real car.)
Sad and expensive... no, wait, that's a Phantom engine in a shipping container, along with some Stark faux-Wolf bodywork. Our mistake.
Interesting side note regarding Elon Musk: Scenes that depict Justin Hammer/Sam Rockwell's New York factory were filmed in Musk's Hawthorne, California SpaceX facility. The producers modified little for filming — if you look closely, thinly disguised rocket parts can be seen in the background. In one scene, a SpaceX logo appears in the wall.
Musk standing in his facility.
Photo Credit: Jurvetson/Flickr
There's no carnage here, but it's worth taking a look into Tony Stark's garage. Iron Man 2 is set six months after the first film. The garage itself looks roughly the same, but the cars have changed. We'll tackle each one individually, but before you hit the next slide, see if you can figure out what the two cars in the background are. Hint: They are not Audi R8s.
The car to the left of the R8 in the previous shot — and the car that we unfortunately don't have a decent shot of — is a 1949 Mercury "lead sled." It's the second car in line here. The Mercury was customized by Sam Barris, brother of George, and it was loaned to the producers by L.A.'s Peterson Automotive Museum. Here's another question: What the hell is that silver thing in back?
Answer: one of these. This is an ICON A5, a $139,000, carbon-fiber-bodied, folding-wing amphibious aircraft targeted at people who have a lot of money. It's powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912 four-cylinder driving a rear-mounted propeller, and it can be towed behind a car. It was developed by a banker and a former F-16 pilot and has a maximum speed of 120 mph. Fun. Do not want. But fun.
On to the other cars. Figured out the hot rod yet? This is director Jon Favreau's personal '32 Ford flathead roadster, a car that he claims is his only toy. It also appeared in the first Iron Man film, as did the scene this still was taken from — the moment where Stark lifts a cylinder head off the engine and has J.A.R.V.I.S., his in-house computer, check cylinder compression.
Favreau on his car: "It doesn't really belong in [Tony's garage], but it's a classic and the... one toy I have. I'm not a collector, but I do like the old-fashioned, Fifties-style hot rod. That's something I got many years ago."
This is the third car in the lineup, the one that can be seen in front of the airplane a few images back. This is a Ghia-bodied 1953 Cadillac Series 62 coupe. It was once owned by Rita Hayworth, and was given to her by her lover (and later husband) Prince Aly Khan. It's currently owned by the Peterson.
Interesting trivia regarding the Peterson and the loan of its cars: Iron Man 2 marked the first time the museum had ever loaned a car out for filming. The producers wanted to compensate the museum, but because the latter is a non-profit, there were barriers that prevented them from simply paying to rent the cars. As a result, the museum was given a 6.7-liter V-12 — the engine in the storage container — from one of the destroyed Rolls-Royces as compensation.
That brings us to the Audi. The R8 Spider placement is a continuation of the placement agreement that saw an R8 coupe appear in Iron Man. At the time of filming, the car was new enough that it was one of just two production prototypes in existence. This shot was taken in July of 2009 on the Pacific Coast Highway in Los Angeles, just north of Malibu.
Photo Credit: Hans Lehmann/Autoexpress
According to one source, the Audi agreement wasn't Armstrong's first choice — the mandate for Iron Man 2 was that everything be bigger and badder than the first installment, and he initially approached Mercedes-Benz about using the company's then-unreleased SLS. Stuttgart balked, however, insisting that the timing was too early, and that the car needed to be unveiled at a proper auto show. We like the SLS, but the R8 Spider is also a couple hundred kinds of awesome. We are not complaining.
Photo Credit: Getty Images
Thanks to Jerry Garrett for the use of his photos and information. We received no promotional material or compensation from Marvel Studios in exchange for running this story, though we'd gladly take a functional, rocket-powered battle suit in exchange for our integrity and journalistic objectivity*. All rights reserved; your mileage may vary; Jon Favreau is pretty cool; tip your waitress.
*In this case, please contact Sam@Jalopnik.com for details on how to trade futuristic technology for one man's soul and career. For reference, he will also take a functional lightsaber, one of those nifty guns from District 9, or anything else you might find in a bar.
Photo Credit: Hans Lehmann/Autoexpress