The Fate of Film Vehicles

Fresh from watching the latest installment of the Transformers franchise (which, I couldn’t help but feel was all just one extremely long, drawn out advert for General Motors), I was mildly impressed with the number of cars that are destroyed throughout the film. For the OCD among us, Michael Bay blew up, cut-in-half, smashed, crashed and crunched a grand total of 532 cars in the making of the film. So what happens to all of these vehicles after the movie?

Well, just like the actors and actresses, every vehicle has a role to play in the film – There are hero cars and stunt cars and back-up vehicles. The hero car is usually iconic and thus can be sold (sometimes public and sometimes auction) after production. Think about the most iconic film vehicles in recent history. These vehicles are never stunted, raced, or used for any aggressive driving – they’re of far too much sentimental value and importance. It’s the stunt vehicles that take the beatings during filming.

Most film productions are on relatively tight budgets and can only afford to shoot a limited number of action sequences, a limited number of times. Even with improvements in digital technology, real cars (or mockups of real cars) have to be used for many stunts. Thus, it’s seldom that you’ll see extremely exotic car models being trashed on film, as expensive foreign models (that would have to be extensively modified for the safety of the stunt performers and the actors) would be prohibitively expensive in all but the biggest budget productions.

And if you’ve ever wondered why a lot of films are set in universes where everyone seems to drive the same brand, it’s probably because a single car manufacturer has supplied all of the vehicles (Now that GM advert, AKA Transformers 3, doesn’t sound too far-fetched). Product placement!

Film productions will also have an entire team dedicated to the restoration of these vehicles from day to day to make sure that they’re ready for the next day’s filming. Usually this’ll be made up by a variety of panel beaters, make-up artists, safety experts and structural engineers who are all on hand 24-7 to keep all the vehicles prepped.

But sometimes filming takes a vehicle beyond repair. If, by the end of the day’s filming, a stunt or explosion is too much for the car, then it is simply shipped off for scrap and replaced with ruthless efficiency.

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