When I think of cars from the Fast and Furious franchise that I could drive in real life, not only would I rather take the bus than be seen in Tyrese Gibson’s purple and silver Eclipse Spyder from 2 Fast 2 Furious, I’d actually also rather be hit by said bus instead.
No offense to all you Spyderheads out there—I am sure there is a thriving community around the third-generation Eclipse convertible and its proud Chrysler Sebring underpinnings—but it’s just not my jam. And I don’t think it’s really a car that helped define that franchise.
But it turns out the Eclipse has a much more interesting backstory than I initially realized, and its placement in the film has a lot to do with the tug of war between the Hollywood suits, the gearheads and even the stars that occurred when F&F started really taking off.
We turn to Craig Lieberman, car historian and technical director on the early F&F movies, who has been sharing his knowledge of car culture and these films on YouTube lately.
Lieberman says that for the sequel (remember, the first one was kind of a surprise hit) the producers got a bigger budget for car sourcing. Being an enthusiast steeped in the culture at the time, he wanted some of the JDM cars that would probably be your obvious picks too: NSX, AE86, 300ZX and so on. But Universal wanted more “crossover” fans, people whose car preferences were not represented in the first film. And they wanted more “flair,” though Lieberman admits he had no idea what that meant.
He succeeded in getting the then-new Mitsusbishi Lancer Evolution into the movie as Paul Walker’s star car, but the producers requested the 2001 Eclipse Spyder because it was believed it would help attract a wider audience—even though that never really caught on with the SoCal tuner scene from back then.
They got four Spyders direct from Mitsubishi and at least two of the cars had the 3.0-liter V6 putting out 200 horsepower. (Side note: any of you kids reading this better be damn glad about the power we have available to us in 2019.) No engine mods were done to any of the cars for the film; the car used in most shots was an automatic, so Gibson was just... moving the gear selector back and forth.
The Spyders got their visual mods at the same El Segundo warehouse where they built the first film’s cars. They were moved to Florida midway through the build for shooting. The cars got purple paint and spider-web graphics but were never lowered.
Here’s a fun fact: according to Lieberman, the Spyder originally had an expensive yellow interior, but that was removed when Gibson saw the car and said he refused to drive “a freaking Lakers car.” But he didn’t use the word “freaking.” Gibson is from Los Angeles so I don’t know what his issue was; maybe he’s a Clippers fan.
Gibson also insisted they use 20-inch chrome wheels on the car too, feeling that there was too much wheel gap as-is. In the end, he was happy with the car, but Lieberman felt the final product “looked like it came from an episode of Pimp My Ride.” To be fair, that kind of aesthetic was increasingly in vogue at the time, but not with the tuner crowd, and it made a lot of enthusiasts cringe as a result.
Here’s another fun fact: originally one race was supposed to have an NSX and a Toyota MR2, but the producers felt there wasn’t enough American muscle, so they added a Yenko Camaro and a Hemi Challenger instead—both junkyard rescues.
Also, in the original script, the Spyder was supposed to drive upside-down in a tunnel thanks to the downforce of the “racing wing.” But in a rare example of the F&F films using actual science, Lieberman helped put a stop to that.
It’s good that someone spoke up before these movies got too ridiculous.