I can’t say I have much interest in replicas of the hero car from the 2000 movie Gone In 60 Seconds, a customized 1967 Mustang fastback named “Eleanor,” because it’s been done a billion times and, frankly, it’s just not that interesting a car. What is interesting about that particular car, though, is that is is a copyrighted and trademarked design, and the owner of those copyrights and trademarks will, it seems, take your car if you dare to build one. At least that’s what happened to a well-know car-building YouTuber.
The YouTube channel in question is the popular B is for Build, and the project was to take a 2015 Mustang GT, remove the body, and replace it with a 1967 Mustang fastback body. Not a bad resto-mod project, and one that would certainly be tricky to do properly, so you can see why the idea was chosen.
B is for Build decided to make the car into a replica of the Eleanor Mustang from the (let’s face it, pretty crappy) 2000 Nic Cage vehicle about vehicles, Gone in 60 Seconds, as that car has a sort of cult following and, when it comes to YouTube videos, it makes sense to do things that will attract viewers.
Now, it’s not like there’s a shortage of Eleanor replicas out there; hell, people have even turned shitty econoboxes into them. Carroll Shelby even built some for a while, but there were plenty of questionable things happening there, and back in 2004 the holder of the Eleanor copyright, Denice Halicki, sued Shelby and forced the company to stop production.
That’s not unreasonable. A company like Shelby that was building Eleanor replicas and selling them for up to $150,000 should be paying some sort of license fees to the holders of the car’s copyright, I’d think. It’s very clearly a business venture and is using that car’s cachet and look and feel to sell cars.
The B is for Build situation I’m less certain about. Sure, money is still being made, though far less than Shelby could have potentially made, but a one-off build for a YouTube channel strikes me as needlessly aggressive, especially when the penalty is having the car seized, as appears to have happened here.
Of course, copyright holders are required to defend their properties, and on Halicki’s own website, their enforcement of this is very clearly and proudly stated:
“Denice Shakarian Halicki runs her companies, franchises, and brands with faith and strength of believing.
She is a Producer and the gasoline behind the 2000 box office hit, “Gone in 60 Seconds,” starring Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie, Giovanni Ribisi and Robert Duvall and of course Eleanor the star car character.
Denice and Eleanor WON a Ninth Circuit Ruling in 2008, with a Published Opinion by Judge Miner… setting new copyright law protection for car character’s look/image as they appear in their movies, television and comic books against infringers. Which helped the Batmobile’s look/image to be copyright protected against counterfeit infringers in its 2015 Ninth Circuit Ruling WIN, with a Published Opinion by Judge Sandra S. Ikuta… where she quotes from 1966 Batman TV Series: As Batman so sagely told Robin, “In our well-ordered society, protection of private property is essential.”
I mean, they even wrote both tenses of “win” in all caps, so you know they mean it.
While I’ve heard it suggested that Disney has some ownership of the copyright, since it was a Disney movie. It wasn’t just a Disney movie; it was a Disney movie that lost $212 million, even.
Man, that looks dated.
What’s odd is how many other movie cars that likely have similar protections seem to be built as replicas on a regular basis: Volkswagen Beetles turned into Herbies, for example, are common and also a Disney property.
Bullitt Mustangs are built with some regularity, as are Back to the Future DeLoreans, or even Blues Brothers Mopar cop cars, and yet they don’t seem to be policed as aggressively as Eleanors, which are arguably much less iconic than those other cars.
I’ve reached out to Disney for comment, and will update if I hear back.
In the meantime, just take this as another reason not to bother hacking up a nice fastback Mustang into an Eleanor.