Selecting cars for a movie like The Fast and the Furious is, unsurprisingly, a pretty big job. It takes the director, producers, and picture car coordinator all get together to figure out what cars to choose. Many cars may be considered early on and even written into the script, only to be tossed out later. It turns out, The Fast and the Furious was no different.
Craig Lieberman was the Technical Advisor for The Fast and the Furious and 2 Fast 2 Furious. Part of his job was to make recommendations on which cars to use. Lieberman posted a video on his YouTube channel detailing the process the production team went through to arrive at the cars that appeared on screen.
In The Fast and the Furious, the cars were stars on their own. The production team set a bunch of rules for how those cars were chosen.
One obvious rule was that the car had to fit the character. That included more than just their style, but the car had to work for the character’s action scenes. If the car was going in the dirt, for example, it couldn’t be lowered. They also only stuck to vehicles that could be purchased in America.
While that one sounds silly, it makes sense. They needed to have four identical cars for each character and they only had a $2 million budget for the cars. Importing four copies of the same car and building them up would have been expensive. As the cars had to be representative of America’s car tuning scene at the time, there were no Lamborghinis or Ladas.
What kind of cars didn’t make the cut? Right out of the gate, the team nixed the idea of right hand drive cars for the hero cars. Getting four examples of the same right hand drive car would have been cost-prohibitive and too time consuming. They also felt that these cars would be confusing for non-car enthusiast moviegoers.
As for brands, Hyundai and Kia were ruled out because neither brand had much of a tuning presence. Mercedes-Benz didn’t make the cut because, as Lieberman says, young car enthusiasts weren’t showing up to the races in an expensive Mercedes. Domestic small cars also failed to make the cut because the film’s crew felt the audience didn’t want to see cars they could rent at the airport. Mazda didn’t find a way into the movie outside of the RX-7 because they didn’t have much of an aftermarket.
Specific cars like the Volkswagen Beetle, Mazda Miata and BMW Z3 were not considered because the team felt the vehicles were not masculine enough. Which, please allow me to double-facepalm before I finish this.
Some cars even made it into the script before being substituted. Brian was supposed to drive a Mitsubishi 3000GT, but the Toyota Supra was chosen as the 3000GTs that showed up to the casting calls didn’t fit the bill.
Jesse was supposed to drive an E36 BMW M3 or an Audi A4 S4 because he was a bit of a techie. But again, the cars that showed up to casting didn’t really fit, so he ended up in the Volkswagen Jetta.
Vince was supposed to drive a Toyota MR2 SW20. But he was too large for the vehicle. A Lexus GS or a Honda Prelude were also considered, but the team ended up renting Lieberman’s Nissan Maxima.
In the original script, Letty was going to drive a Mitsubishi Eclipse, but she drove a Nissan 240SX in the film.
For a weird twist, the script called for Johnny Tran to drive a Ford Mustang.
Of course, an American pony car didn’t really fit in with the movie’s theme of Japanese tuner culture. The car he ended up in was a black Honda S2000 from a member of the team.
I was most surprised with the bit about Tran driving a Mustang. It would be interesting to see how the movie would look with the original choices from the script.