Creative, bored, love cars and living in Rhode Island? Why not weld metal armor onto a Crown Vic cop car, then shoot a movie about post-apocalypse police forces trying to stem a tide of crazies? That's exactly what Jalopnik reader Josh Oakhurst did. Meet Chimera.
Chimera is the star of a short film of the same name, created by Josh and his buddies in and around the seedier parts of Providence, Rhode Island. It turns out that a Police Interceptor with a half ton of metal plating and a cow catcher makes a pretty solid lead character.
The whole thing actually got started as a photography project about abandoned buildings in the city. How'd it turn into a movie about a car? We'll let Josh explain:
People kept saying our photos of Providence looked like an apocalyptic movie set, and I thought they were right. The ridiculous, media hoopla surrounding Swine Flu was going on, though walking around PVD it visually seemed like the collapse of humanity was already among us. I didn't bother to get a flu shot, but I projected out six months to imagine what a real, threatening virus (like Avian Flu) would do to our cities and started from there.
At the time, I was also learning how to weld and really enjoyed banging metal around on Saturdays. Then when I found the P71 on Craigslist for $200 up in New Hampshire, it was pretty obvious what I had to do next.
How do you go from bog standard cop car to Chimera?
I wanted to have the cop car look like it was homemade-armored. As in the, combined police force/armored guard/private security just found whatever scrap they had and put it on whatever car they could keep running. Even with a million dollar budget, I'd still would have made the Crown Vic look very similar.
The car ran like a top. Fired right up every time I needed to move it. The reason I snagged it for so cheap was that it needed an all new brake system. Every brakeline on the car was rusted through. So I took a running car that couldn't stop and loaded it with almost a 1/2 ton of scrap metal plating.
I started with the cow-catcher up front, then boxed in the wheels using what I think was an old, steel bedframe. Then more plating for the windshield and roof. Last I divided the rear interior into two sides with a tunnel in the middle. So no two perps would sit together-they'd each have their own booth.
The battering ram also served as a connection point for a flat-tow dolly. That way I could tug the car around with my truck. Believe it or not, I did have course to drive it around every now and then. I puttered down a few side streets here or there riding the parking brake. Some guys asked me to bring it over to a hotrod show at the shop where I did most of the work. So of course I had to drive it in and surprise everyone.
The front suspension, as you might have guessed, was totally bottomed out. The plating up front acted like a snowplow, so driveways were taken gingerly. Other than that, it towed great and did exactly what I asked it to, even at the end of its life.
After the film, with a move to Charlotte, NC imminent, Josh had no choice but to depart with his project:
I fended off the crushers for a month, hoping it would make a LeMons donor for someone else. With no bites, I let it go to the scrappers for exactly what I paid for it. Though, I did keep and resold most of the plating.
So was the effort worth it?
The film's more esoteric than I imagined and barely scratches the surface of some ideas I was trying to get at. If I'm honest, I think I've got about $7K in those six minutes including learning to weld and tooling up a modest shop. I'm far from an effects whiz even though I have a small background in post-production, but hopefully the finished short shows off that I have a really nice eye, I can create tension, I'm good editor, and I have some messed up ideas that are both commercial and artistic.
I've got some other ideas that take advantage of my new surroundings. Stuff that I really could shoot, alone, with like three people. Or maybe I could be that guy building weird, custom cars for funded independent productions. Or I might keep the camera off and work on a purpose built trackcar.
In any case, I'll be in the garage.