Remember in 1990 when Tom Cruise was in Top Gun again, but this time he was strapped into NASCAR cars instead of fighter jets? Well, that movie has its own title and story and everything— Days of Thunder. Cruise plays NASCAR racer Cole Trickle (named in tribute to racer Dick Trickle, the man with the funniest name in all of motorsports), and, most significantly, the movie has lots of cars.
The Volo Auto Museum claims to have one of the cars from the movie, specifically one they claim was driven by Tom Cruise himself. An owner of a genuine and verifiable car from the movie tells us this is, charitably, bullshit.
Volo claims the Days Of Thunder car pictured above was driven by Tom Cruise himself and is valued at $250,000. Currently, they're selling it on a no-reserve eBay auction, where the current price is about $9600
James Ricker, the owner of an actual movie car, has this to say about the vehicle being sold by Volo:
The Volo 'museum' is at it again - they have a long track record of selling fake 'screen used' cars, the most notorious being the Corvette Summer car that they said was driven by Mark Hamill in the movie but was oddly left hand drive (all the cars in the movie were RHD - it was a huge story point). I'm a little perturbed that this place keeps getting away with this nonsense. Normally I'd laugh at it - but now they're crapping in my garage by selling what they're claiming to be a screen used Days of Thunder car. At first glance I counted about 15 things that are incorrect on this particular forgery.
A brief list; Tom Cruise actually still owns the car he drove in the movie - there were many used - but Tom had one that was specifically his. The rest of the cars were driven by stuntmen and NASCAR drivers because they were being driven in actual races. The motor is wrong, the suspension is too modern, the air cleaner is wrong, the engine is wrong, the cut out in front of the windshield is too small, the fuel cell looks to be incorrect for the period, the interior is wrong; most notably the fire extinguisher placement and the electronics. The exhaust tips come out in the wrong place by about 6". There is no wiring or holder for the driver's radio. Decal placement is fantastically wrong and mostly crooked. I know the pictures are distorted slightly but the body still just seems oddly wrong....like is that a Pontiac body with Lumina bumpers? The slave cylinder for the brakes is incorrect - the movie cars had a dual reservoir setup so they could leave the fronts empty for rear-brake-only action. And the icing on the cake is whatever the nonsense over the window is isn't even close.
Ricker is an authority on these cars, and knows their details as well as anybody. Still, he did contact Volo to hear what they had to say about the car and the verifiability of their claim that it's a Tom Cruise-driven movie car:
The previous owner used it for promotion for his business. He added some decals, changed the seat (orig. included). There were more than 1 built. There is no chassis number on the car, several people have looked. Theory is, since it was built for film, not racing, that they may not have assigned it a #. I made attempts to talk to Hendricks on the car but never got a call back. Since there is no chassis # and the letter of authenticity does not show a chassis #, no, I can not be 100%. The previous owner was very confident that it is screen used and did stipulate that as part of the terms of the bill of sale.
So, even though the main graphic says in large, Myrtle Beach T-Shirt-style lettering, "Driven by Tom Cruise," Ricker says there's no hard evidence of any kind that Tom Cruise has even seen this car. And really, for a car like this, the association with the famous bonkers Scientologist and associations with the movie are really the basis for any value the car has at all.
I spoke with Brian Grams at Volo about Ricker's skepticism, and he said it was up to Ricker to "prove it isn't." He went on to explain that the letter from Hendrick Motorsports forms the basis of their claim that the car was in the movie and driven by Cruise, and the significant differences can be explained by the fact that the car was "over-restored."
Grams stated that 38 cars were built for the movie, and none had actual VIN numbers to aid in identification, and there is no specific photographic or other evidence that the car is actually the one driven by Cruise or even used in the movie, save for the letter of authenticity from Hendrick Motorsports.
He went on to suggest that Ricker's questioning was based on Ricker's desire to preserve the value of his own investment, and that Ricker "overpaid" for his car. As he stated in an email:
The gentleman that is making these claims of the car not being legit has never seen the car in person, has no knowledge of the car prior to us posting it on eBay, knows no history at all of this car and is basing his opinion of authenticity off of the few photos posted on eBay. After he made his claims to me, I asked him if he knew a way to tell for sure because if it was not the car, I would pull the auction avoiding selling a fraudulent car. He could not provide me with a way to either prove it or disprove it. Therefore if he cannot prove his claims that it isn't the actual car, I don't see how his claims can be taken seriously and are anything more than rumor. The reason this man is so concerned about the sale of this car is to protect the value of his Days of Thunder car. It's my impression from his e-mails that he paid considerably more for his car than what ours is currently bid. If I am correct, there was one sold in 2007 for $40k from profilesinhisotry.com and that might be the car he owns. He wants to discredit our car because if the auction ends at a low price he's worried it will affect the value of his, as he stated in an e-mail to me.
I have attempted to contact Hendrick Motorsports for further comment, but have yet to receive a reply; I'll update if I do.
Selling cars based not on their intrinsic value but on cultural or historical association will always require a delicate combination of evidence and trust. Remember the fake JFK hearse? It's really not any different than the art world, where forgeries can poison the market for everyone.
The Volo representative was friendly and forthcoming, but that doesn't change the fact that much of the car's value hinges on one unverified letter and doesn't hide the significant differences between the car shown in the movie and what's actually being sold. Still, this isn't exactly an uncommon situation in the celebrity-car business, where one letter is often all the proof offered.
So, you know, caveat emptor.
UPDATE: Volo's Brian Grams sent us this statement in response Ricker's claims:
I am always open for discussion when it comes to authenticating a movie car. Many people believe they know more than they really do. Mr. Ricker's claims are based on opinion. Its his opinion our car isn't legit, its my opinion it is. However bottom line, we are not establishing a price, the public is. I have also put forth the documentation I have to back up the claims about the car publicly so a buyer can make their own conclusion. These are claims that have come with the car, not claims made up by Volo Auto Museum and there has been no undisputable evidence to suggest otherwise. I am not frauding anyone or hiding anything and am happy to answer any questions a buyer may need to conduct their own research. If solid proof turns up that the claims made about the cars movie use are false, I will have no problem retracting them and representing the car as what the evidence reflects.
However it is unfair for Ricker to state as a fact that we have a long history of frauding people by us claiming our cars are screen used when they are not. If we were frauding people like this, don't you think there would have been a law suit? Or at least a report to the BBB? Do you think we would be in business 52 years if this was how we conducted ourselves? His example of fraud stems from the sale of the Corvette Summer car, which we never claimed as screen used. It was sold as an exhibition car; the buyer of the car was not under the impression that it was screen used so why is Ricker under this impression?
Ricker is a self proclaimed authority. Because he simply owns a movie car, does not make him a movie car expert. I own a Ford, am I a Ford expert? No. The REAL movie car authorities have high regards for us. A few of the true authorities that will back us are Picture Car Warehouse, Cinema Vehicle Services, Star Car Central and Television Motion Picture Car Club. It is true that not all of our cars are actual screen used cars and if they are not, we represent it as so, for example the Beverly Hillbillies truck that is also listed in our Star Car Auction, it's represented as a replica.