posted on January 18, 2017


The role of cars in film is frequently overlooked, but they often play critical supporting roles to their feature actors. Think James Bond’s Aston — the two are so intimately tied together it’s almost as if the Aston is an anthropomorphic extension of Bond’s character; it’s way more than just a simple prop.

Such is the relationship that Pontiac enthusiast Thom S. of Tucson, AZ sees between the tricked-out 1967 Pontiac GTO and protagonist Xander Cage (Vin Diesel) in the high-octane film franchise, xXx (with the third installment, xXx: Return of Xander Cage premiering this Friday, January 20). Debuting in 2002 with the spy thriller xXx, extreme athlete turned government operative, Xander Cage, meets his faithful steed in a classic Pontiac GTO, the Silver to his Lone Ranger. In xXx: Return of Xander Cage, recruiting an all-new group of thrill-seeking cohorts, Xander finds himself enmeshed in a deadly conspiracy that points to collusion at the highest levels of world governments.

“It’s a hero car” of the films themselves, Thom reflects. And Thom has become the ultimate superfan — “I’m the quasi-official historian of xXx,” he jokes, “I know so many details of the story and production it’s almost scary.” What sparked this love affair with this franchise? For Thom, it all started in high school.

A Pontiac love story

The real draw for Thom wasn’t the star-studded cast, or even the storyline. “My true interest has always been Pontiacs. Back in my teenage years I just fell in love with the styling and design, and when I moved to Arizona for college, I bought my first car — a 1971 Pontiac GTO, which I still own today.” As time went on, his passion for the Pontiac brand only grew and he eventually joined his local chapter of the Pontiac club.

At one of those meetings in the mid-nineties, he and a friend thought up an idea to do a movie review column, “Rally Reels”, for the Pontiac-Oakland Club, International — a magazine for Pontiac, the now-defunct Oakland make, and GMC truck enthusiasts.

“The idea [for the column] was to find movies that featured Pontiacs, and talk about how the Pontiacs serve as characters or personalities within the films,” he recalls. “Actors and actresses are cast because they possess certain qualities; the same theory applies for cars cast in films. They have their own precepts, their own idiosyncrasies.”

Fast forward to 2002, when Thom was at the movies and saw a xXx trailer for the first time. “All of a sudden, I see a ‘67 Pontiac GTO… and I jumped up and yelled ‘‘67 GTO!’ Everyone in the theatre looked at me like I was crazy,” he jokes. With relatively few modern films that featured Pontiacs, he made a point to see the film opening night, and became enamored enough to research the color-shifting GTO from the film.

“I made it my goal to uncover every single shred of detail about the cars that were built for that movie,” he explains. Becoming the ultimate hobby project, he interviewed over 75 individuals associated with the movie to get all the nitty gritty details of the car’s provenance and creation.

A few years later, the cars from the movies went up for auction (which is typical protocol when movies wrap and the props are no longer needed), and he procured two of the five identical GTOs that were used in the movie constructed for the movie to add to his stable of vintage Pontiacs — one of which is now for rent on Turo. And, yes, Thom quickly interjects, “This one is a real GTO — not a clone or replica — with its original 335-horsepower Pontiac 400 V8 under the hood!”

Getting in on the xXxcitement

With his rigorous research of the xXx Pontiac, he eagerly kept his ear to the ground for a reprise. Fifteen years later, his patience was rewarded. Rumblings in late 2015 that Diesel had signed up for xXx: Return of Xander Cage incited Thom to reach out to the filmmakers to offer the original cars for use again in the film. The only trouble? It’s tough for somebody in Tucson, AZ to call Hollywood and get the right people on the phone.

Perseverance and persistence won the day, however, and the next thing he knew, Thom was flying to Toronto with his two GTOs to be on set for shooting. It was a “once in a lifetime experience that I’m so grateful for,” Thom reflects, to watch the stunt drivers shoot in the original movie car that he had cherished for years.

Xander’s tricked-out Pontiac

So what makes Xander Cage’s Pontiac so pimp? For many of the same reasons why James Bond’s Aston is so pimp, and why Inspector Gadget is such a badass. “Spoiler alert from the first movie,” Thom warns, “the car helps save the world.” And this isn’t your granddad’s Pontiac.

It’s tricked out with “all these crazy wires, buttons, gauges, and things — the dashboard is insane with a JEG’s Performance catalog-worth of gadgets… As part of Xander’s mission [in the 2002 film], he needs to eject himself from the car. The car is introduced as a hardtop, but in the film’s final action sequence, the roof needs to peel off, essentially rendering it forever roofless,” he explains. And as such, “both the cars I own have had their roofs cut off by the film’s crew.” The car endures a litany of other trials and tribulations in the first xXx film, all of which have left indelible marks on both authentic movie cars. Apart from the cut-off roofs, rockets were launched from the headlights, and the hood scoops became flamethrowers, leaving them scorched.

These are proud scars, scars that make Thom’s GTOs authentic artifacts of the original movie and the perfect candidate for a cameo appearance in the soon-to-be-released xXx: Return of Xander Cage.

Be sure to check out xXx: Return of Xander Cage in theaters January 20, rent Thom’s iconic 1967 Pontiac GTO, and rent your very own Flame Car proxy — minus the sawed-off roof and flamethrowers — from the Turo Adrenaline Collection.

Megan is the copywriter and content tsarina at Turo. She lives to wander near and far, never met a beach (or dog) she didn’t like, and loves to talk postmodern lit and theory to anyone who’ll listen.