posted on February 28, 2016

Cars that make you say “Whaaaa?”

Cars influence film and film lovers in many ways. We all have those moments in the dark theater, with our popcorn and 40 oz. soda, when we catch ourselves thinking “Whaaaaat did I just see?”

Here are my top films that showcase cars that made you (or will make you) do a double-take.

Death Race 2000 (1975)

If you haven’t seen “Death Race 2000”, you need to see it. Starring David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, this film is a campy, dark comedy about racers who use their suped-up cars to kill civilians while driving across the US. Yeah, read THAT again!

This film showcases a 1965 Fiat 850 Spider, a VW Karmann Ghia, a 1968 Corvette, a Nova Sterling, and two, count them TWO, custom Manta Mirages. Complete with razor-sharp teeth, machine guns, swords, and bombs, this film is somewhere between an early Steve McQueen film and Mario Kart. Simply awesome!

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

All you film nerds love and remember Max’s V8 Inceptor, Special Pursuit. This famous scene-stealer is based on the 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe, and may now be known as one of the most low-key cars in the Mad Max series.

Have you seen these things!? The Gigahorse is two Cadillacs piled on top of a monster truck! The Nux Car (that Max is strapped to), is a nitrous-filled Deuce Coupe with a steering wheel made of doll heads! And my personal favorite, The Peacemaker, is a Valiant Charger merged with a tank!

BTW, if you didn’t immediately go home and Google that truck with the creepy guitar player in the front that leads the entire brigade, they named it the Doof Wagon. Sigh. I guess some things just don’t translate from Australian to American.


Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)

It’s both ugly and unforgettable — the Pussy Wagon. This yellow and pink disaster is owned by a nurse named Buck, and is actually a Chevy Silverado SS with a rear spoiler tacked on. Nothing says “I race” quite like a pick-up truck, so three years later Chevy came out with the Intimidator SS which is actually the same truck now with the spoiler as an option. (#badcarmods)

The truck, owned by Buck, who is here to …never mind… goes from a tool of sexual violence, to becoming Beatrix’s valiant steed, taking her from place to place as she seeks revenge. The truck became such an icon of postmodern feminism that it was later used again in a Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” music video with Beyoncé. Get it guuuurl.


Total Recall (1990)

Although the film “Total Recall” was famous for multiple unusual aspects, no one can forget Johnny Cab! The robot bust that controls the car is modeled after and voiced by “Star Trek: Voyager” actor Robert Picardo (The Doctor). Now you can’t un-see it!

The vehicle itself is nothing exciting — VW chassis with a simple futuristic golf-cart like shape — but with all the new hype about autonomous cars, I would just like to say to Google and/or Uber: please do not allow Johnny Cab to happen. I know you want to make the cars cute, and approachable, but this not the answer! Just imagine that thing malfunctioning, its head spinning like The Exorcist. NOPE!

Honorable Mention: The Who’s “Quadrophenia” (1979)

The film “Quadrophenia” is The Who’s second rock ppera (after “Tommy”), and is about a culture war in 1965 Britain, between the Mods and the Rockers. There are not any outstanding cars in Quadrophenia, but those scooters the Mods drive are ridiculous!

The Mods, short for Moderates, are the clean-cut, tailored suit kids, and they drive Lambretta Vespa Scooters with 5+ head lamps and 6+ side mirrors. No matter if you’re in front of or behind those scooters, you will be blinded. I mean sure, you will see it coming, but it would be like looking into the sun!


With the Oscars fast approaching, I’ll remind the Academy to not overlook the bizarre in search of the great; the twain not only meet, but more often than not, they’re one and the same.


Maggie is a supervisor for Turo's Customer Support team and an avid movie lover. She spends her time living it up in San Francisco and will jump at any opportunity to talk about film and television. Her latest obsession is "The Leftovers" on HBO.