How the First Fast and Furious Movie Made a Ton of Tuner Cars for Very Little Money

Screenshot: The Fast And The Furious (YouTube)

Here’s another gem from The Fast And The Furious tech director Craig Lieberman’s behind-the-scenes movie treasure trove: How the first F&F’s cars got picked, and more interestingly, how a bunch of eBay beaters were “modified” to look like the hero cars on the cheap.

Usually when movie studios make car flicks, Lieberman explains, the studio just buys whatever it wants and mods its actor cars as-needed. But because the first Furious’s budget was lean, Lieberman and company decided to rent tuner cars that were already made, use the good ones for beauty shots, and then use slap-dash knockoffs for stunts.

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As many fans already know, the famous orange Supra that smokes a Ferrari on the Pacific Coast Highway and Vince’s blue Maxima were actually Lieberman’s personal cars.

But, of course, he and every other high-end tuner owner weren’t about to let their precious projects get smashed and thrashed for the camera, plus the studio needed the “hero 1” cars intact for close-up scenes anyway.

The solutions to making random used car lot castoffs look like lovingly-modified tuner cars for the movie were hilariously janky: muffler pipe to make fake roll cages, seat covers to make regular seats look like Sparcos, and Xeroxed gauge faces for monster tachs and other extraneous dials.

The creativity there is really pretty impressive, and so is the amount of effort Lieberman put into picking which cars would get featured in the first place. He wanted the movie’s star cars to be legit. As in, stuff people would actually spend serious money modifying. At the same time, he had to pick cars that were readily available to buy in Los Angeles in the year 2000.

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I think he did a pretty solid job–the FD RX-7, second-gen Eclipse, MKIV Supra, EG Civics, DC2 Integras, and pretty much all the background cars in the movie, really did look like the collage of Super Street and Sport Compact Car magazine cutouts I had in my locker in middle school.

Craig Lieberman has been sharing these Fast & Furious facts on his website and in his book for some time, but the videos he’s been uploading to his YouTube channel are really cool captures of not just movie history, but early 2000s car culture history as well.

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Andrew P. Collins

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik | 1975 International Scout, 1984 Nissan 300ZX, 1991 Suzuki GSXR, 1998 Mitsubishi Montero, 2005 Acura TL