The debut of Fast And Furious is quickly approaching. Last year, we went on-set for this exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the vehicles starring in the fourth installment of this high octane and high cheese series.
We braved the surprisingly chilly Los Angeles evening last year to witness the taping of Fast And Furious, the fourth (and maybe not final) film in the The Fast And The Furious series. We were there the night of the famous Vin Diesel Chevelle wheelie, a shot which we can honestly say took forever to setup.
The day's shooting took place at a parking garage in Los Angeles' Koreatown neighborhood that doubles as a driving range. The top level of the garage is covered with a 150-yard-long green beneath which countless hours and dollars worth of machines rest, safely out of the way of botched drives. Though quirky, the layout provides an ideal condition for shooting the cars with multiple heights and cameras available without the need for setting up cranes. Plus it just looks awesome.
We'll be honest, we're not the biggest fans of the Fast And The Furious film franchise. We enjoy car chases, crashes and mayhem as much as anyone but there's always been a sense that the franchise perhaps takes advantage of this. Justin Lin, director of the third film in the series, Tokyo Drift, and the latest film aknowledged this in an interview we did with him last year:
Justin Lin, Director
I think one of the knocks against the franchise was that it took and exploited cars. And made it look kind of cartooney."
Is this to happen again with the latest movie? Hard to say, but In our brief set visit we had a chance to converse with the cast, crew and extras over automotive topics as varied as the steps necessary to convert a Merkur XR4Ti Into a Ford Sierra and the different merits of the two generations of Toyota Tundras. We were pleased to find most of the people involved, at least on the car side, actually cared about vehicles (though tastes varied widely).
We spoke with Paul Walker, who plays the handsome and serious Brian O'Conner, about the film. This was mostly boring chatter about the movie-making process. Eventually we turned the conversation to cars and Walker lit-up. Apparently, Walker isn't of the get-rich-and-buy-a-Bentley variety of movie stars. In fact, he's of the not-enough-room-in-my-garage-for-all-the-toys variety a la Jay Leno.
In addition to a fairly predictable Ferrari 360, Walker boasted at the time of owning a classic late 1940's Chevy Woody and a Toyota Tundra with some modifications, which he loved to talk about. This isn't surprising, given the first car he bought with his money was a 1986 Ford Ranger. Most surprisingly, perhaps, is his admission he reads car forums and actually posts occasionally. Because he seemed like a genuinely nice guy we won't "out" the forums or his member name.
The day we visited there were lots of actors running around, including Vin Diesel, what we presume to be his muscles, both zooming to and fro on a pair of motorized scooters and matching fur coats (no joke), but the cars are the real stars for us. Nearly all of the two dozen cars stationed around the roof have their own stories and, luckily for us, the owners and keepers of the cars are around to share them.
One of the first things we noticed on set was the sheer number of Saleen vehicles, including a Ford GT. Thankfully, Molly Saleen was on hand to explain her family happily contributed a range of Saleens. Click on the Saleen GT above or click here for more info on those vehicles.
The other most prominent vehicle was the Pontiac Solstice. The owners of the cars, including the yellow Solstice used in almost every FAF marketing piece, claimed it was probably one of the biggest collections of performance-oriented Solstices in one place. They should know as all of them are heavily involved in the small, yet thriving, community. The best conversation was probably with an owner of the red Solstice, who has an eclectic garage that includes a Merkur XR4Ti converted into a Ford Sierra. You can learn more about these cars in the Extra Cars section.
The variety of cars, from a vintage Cougar to a new Porsche, underline an attempt by the film's creators to make the movie as inclusive as possible. This applies to the film as well, which you can see in the random fast and furious stills gallery. Note, especially, the switch from Hondas to the decidedly un-ricer-like Buick Grand National GNX.
After watching the Grand National abuse in pre-film teasers we're happy to report they did not, in fact, destroy any real GNXs. These cars are merely clones. As you can see in the photos above, there are multiples of most of the character cars. This includes the Brian's R34 Skyline GT-R, which has a 240SX-based clone seen next to the GT in the gallery. Why accidentally destroy a real R34 when you can destroy a fake one?
There's a lot of information in the galleries above and, we think, no real spoilers. But here's one piece of interesting background info. It was unseasonably cold while they shot the parking garage drag race scene but, in being true to the franchise's mise en scene, you can't have a drag race without scantily clad girls. Let's just say it was a good day to be a blanket. We're not sure if it'll show up in the final print but there was teeth chattering all around.
We can't lay a final verdict on the film until we see it and the dialogue we heard, while predictably comic book, gave no hint to the full tone of the film. We were actually surprised the trailer had such a Bourne Identity look to it. We can only hope the marriage of the best characters from the series (who doesn't love Vin Diesel?) to arguably the franchise's best director yields a not-too-serious car flick filled with a lot of metallic eye candy.