Beautiful Cars

Beautiful cars have driven movies from the start.

Let’s speed through some favorites, shall we? Starting with….

The 1963 Aston Martin DB5 in Goldfinger

It’s the most iconic movie car of all: The modified Aston Martin DB5 that James Bond (Sean Connery) first drove in 1964’s Goldfinger. What was modified? Well, for one thing, the original DB5 didn’t include a Browning .30 caliber machine gun in each fender or wheel-hub mounted tire-slashers.

A fully restored Goldfinger Aston Martin DB5 sold for $6.4 million in 2019, and auction house RM Sotheby’s said it included such features as “hydraulic over-rider rams on the bumpers, a Browning .30 caliber machine gun in each fender, wheel-hub mounted tire-slashers, a raising rear bullet-proof screen, an in-dash radar tracking scope, oil, caltrop and smoke screen dispensers, revolving license plates, and a passenger-seat ejection system.”

And yes, Sotheby’s guaranteed “all gadgets in fully functioning order.”

The Lamborghini Miura in The Italian Job

Lamborghini announced in 2019 that the Miura featured in the opening of the The Italian Job — with chassis #3586 — had been rediscovered.

Lamborghini said that collector Fritz Kaiser, from Liechtenstein, purchased the long-missing car in 2018, and that Lamborghini’s restoration program, called Polo Storico, soon went to work bringing it back to its former glory.

The 1966 Alfa Romeo 1600 Duetto Spider in The Graduate

The 1966 Alfa Romeo 1600 Duetto Spider was already a classic by the release of The Graduate in 1967.

Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) had the perfect convertible for squiring his girlfriend (Katherine Ross) around town. And could simply put the top up when sneaking around with her mom (Anne Bankroft).

The 1968 Ford Mustang Fastback in Bulitt

No list of the prettiest movie cars would be complete without the most iconic car in film (with the possible exception of James Bond’s Aston Martin): the 1968 Ford Mustang fastback in brooding green, driven very fast and well through the dizzying streets of San Francisco by Steve McQueen in Bullitt.

The film has a long, storied history: One of the two cars used in the film spend years in a Mexican junkyard, and the other was recently sold to a mystery buyer for $3.74 million.

The 1958 Chevrolet Impala in American Grafitti

American Grafitti is full of jaw-droppingly beautiful cars, but for our money the prettiest of them all was the 1958 Chevrolet Impala driven by Steve Bolander (Ron Howard). It left them street racing to others.

The 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I in The Great Gatsby

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby describes Jay Gatsby’s car as having a “rich cream color, bright with nickel, swollen here and there in its monstrous length with triumphant hat-boxes and supper-boxes and tool-boxes, and terraced with a labyrinth of wind-shields that mirrored a dozen suns.” Sitting down behind many layers of glass in a sort of green leather conservatory, we started to town.”

The book was written in 1925, but the 1974 Robert Redford film came close enough with a gorgeous Rolls-Royce Phantom I built in Springfield, Massachusetts, once a hub of Rolls-Royce manufacturing.

The 1958 Plymouth Fury in Christine

1958 was an awfully good year for beautiful cars, wan’t it? The Stephen King adaptation Christine actually cobbled together a lot of cars to make the various killer cars used in the film. Christine killed a lot of people, but always looked very pretty doing so, and beautiful cars can get away with anything.

The Modena GT Spyder in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

That beautiful vintage “Ferrari” that gets taken out for a joyride and destroyed in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off wasn’t really a Ferrari. The movie used three 1985 Modena GT Spyders, built by Modena Design and Development in California.

Why didn’t the film use a real Ferrari? Because reportedly, only 56 of the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California purportedly featured in the film were ever made. Destroying one would have been absurdly expensive, and a crime against beautiful movie cars.

The Tucker 48 in Tucker a Man and His Dream

Released 40 years after the unveiling of the Tucker sedan, the largely forgotten 1988 Francis Ford Coppola drama Tucker: A Man and His Dream told the true story of attempts by the forward-thinking Preston Tucker (Jeff Bridges) to independently make a revolutionary lines of safe, easy to repair, and — obviously — beautiful cars.

Unfortunately, the Big 3 automakers and Tucker’s own shortsighted board of directors foil his dream of futuristic, beautiful cars, and only about 50 Tucker 48 automobiles were ever built. But the film at least renewed interest and appreciation in one of the most gorgeous cars of all time.

Coppola had long been fascinated by Tucker’s tale — and perhaps saw parallels with his own struggle to make new and beautiful things within the studio system. (The Godfather director’s company, American Zoetrope, had recently filed for bankruptcy after a string of failures.) — But Coppola’s friend George Lucas urged him to tell Tucker’s story, and became an executive producer of Tucker: The Man and His Dream.

The film was a box-office disappointment, but, like the Tucker, has many admirers all these decades later.

The 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 in John Wick

Speaking of killer cars: A chance encounter between John Wick (Keanu Reeves) and a mobster’s son who admires Wick’s 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 ends up getting a whole lot of people killed.

Also: The car used in John Wick isn’t a real Boss 429. It’s another type of car that will also turn up later on this list, albeit for a different year.

The 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo in Mission: Impossible 3

Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team use a showstopping Lamborghini Gallardo to create a magnificent distraction during one of many infiltration scenes in Mission: Impossible 3.

“It’s such a nice car,” says Zhen (Maggie Q) in Mission: Impossible 3 — just before she blows it up.

We don’t want to spoil too much, but Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning also includes a very memorable scene involving an Italian car model.

The 1970 Chevy Nova in Death Proof

Death Proof is Quentin Tarantino’s homage to grindhouse carsploitation classics of the 1970s, and features a serial killer named Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) who has modified his 1970 into a killing machine that is “death proof” for the person behind the wheel. Mike gets a thrill from killing women behind the wheel.

His Nova had the license plate JJZ-109, an homage to Steve McQueen’s 1968 Ford Mustang GT fastback in Bulitt. The film, which Tarantino has called his worst (though in his defense, it’s supposed to be trashy fun, and delivers) featured four Novas behind the scenes. To make the car look even meaner under the hood, the Death Proof team reportedly upgraded the Nova’s 350 cubic inch V8 engine by adding a TH350 transmission, 650 Edelbrock carburetor, and shocks with a JAZ 12-gallon fuel cell.

As lovingly, horrifically shot in Death Proof, the Nova is one of the most menacing and beautiful cars of all.

The 1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 in Death Proof

Mary Elizabeth Winsted in Death Proof

The car driven by Stuntman Mike’s quarry isn’t so bad, either: The black-and-yellow Ford Mustang is very similar to the vehicles used in Alexandre Aja’s High Tension, and as “Eleanor” in the 1974 Gone in 60 Seconds.

If you want any more movie references, it also matches the colors in The Bride’s signature yellow and black in Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Her yellow-and-black jumpsuit in Kill Bill is based on the ski suit worn by Bruce Lee in Game of Death, purchased for him by Rosemary’s Baby director Roman Polanski on a trip to Gstaad, Switzerland. And to get even more referential, the hero of Death Proof is Zoë  Bell, Uma Thurman’s stuntwoman in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2.

Also: John Wick’s Boss 429 was actually a Mach 1, securing its reputation as one of the most beautiful cars in movies. Look, we obviously have a weakness for Mustangs.

Eleanor in Gone in Sixty Seconds

Speaking of Eleanor, here’s the 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof featured in the 1974 film Gone in 60 Seconds — which was redressed as a 1973 Mustang. “Eleanor” was the code name for four different cars used in the beloved H.B. Halicki film, about an insurance investigator who steals cars on the side.

Gone in 60 Seconds was also a triumph of indie filmmaking: Halicki shot it for a reported $150,000, and it went on to make $40 million — enough to buy a lot of beautiful cars.

Doc Hudson in Cars

There’s no denying the beauty of Lightning McQueen’s mentor Doc Hudson, the 1951 Hudson Hornet manufactured by the Hudson Motor Car Company of Detroit.

Voiced by movie star and race car driver Paul Newman, his automotive bona fides are undeniable, even if he isn’t exactly real. Are you really going to argue that a three-time Piston Cup winner doesn’t belong on this list?

Doc is also the only car on this list who is a medical doctor and judge — and the only car on this list who can talk. On top of all that, he has beautiful blue eyes.

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