Welcome to Fraser Fast Facts • Vol. 1, Issue 24
The Legendary 1974 Dodge Monaco from the Blues Brothers movie
They were on a mission from God in the functional equivalent of a police tank.
“It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark… and we’re wearing sunglasses,” pretty much sums up one of the most iconic movies of all time, the Blues Brothers.
And the movie would be nothing without the infamous Blues Brother’s Bluesmobile, a 1974 Dodge Monaco sedan.
In the film, Jake Blues says it’s powered by by “a 440-cubic-inch plant,” and it was. But this massive 4-barrel V8 Magnum, tipped the car’s scale at 4,500 lbs., and was produced during the oil crisis with horribly underpowered at measly 220 horsepower. In actuality, it was lucky to go from 0-60 mph in 10 seconds… downhill… with a tailwind.
But, as Elwood said, “It’s got a cop motor. It’s got cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks. And, it’s a model made before catalytic converters so it’ll run good on regular gas.” Unfortunately the cigarette lighter didn’t work. Bummer.
Amazingly, (and this is the mission from God part,) the Bluesmobile could do seemingly impossible stunts, such as jumping over an open drawbridge, flipping backwards in mid-air, and even “flying” for very brief periods of time.
The film’s director John Landis notes that all of the stunts were real. No computer graphics. That fact alone kept a local body shop open 24-hours a day during the film’s shooting.
How could a film need a body shop running 24-hours a day you ask? Starting with the fact that the film set a world-record for the most cars destroyed in one film, which they held until 1998, when then break their own record with the Blues Brothers sequel.
But more importantly, they used 13 different cars as the Bluesmobile, all were former police cars purchased from the California Highway Patrol. Every one was customized for a particular scene or stunt. Some were tweaked for speed, others to survive the insane jumps and keep rolling, and one other, built over a seven-month period, just to literally fall-apart upon its arrival at the Cook County Building.
They also purchase 60+ retired police cars for the film’s chase scenes alone, and hundreds of ‘real’ police officers for everything from crowd control to actual chase senes.
While the Bluesmobile was used in a number of high-speed chases throughout the movie, few know the lengths director John Landis went to, to ensure the authenticity of the car scenes. In the final chase sequence beneath the elevated train tracks, a snippet showed 120 miles per hour on the car’s speedometer. Landis confirms this was actually speed during filming; a testament to the Monaco’s police car heritage. He also re-shot several of the scenes adding pedestrians on the sidewalks, so movie-goers would know that the film had not been sped up to create the effect of speed.
In the Lower Wacker Monroe scene, the Bluesmobile races up an exit ramp and vaults over a squad car. The director wanted the stunt driver to take out the spinning lights on top of the police car with the Bluesmobile, but the driver could only guarantee clearing the cop car. After Belushi and Aykroyd ante’d up $1,000 each for the stunt driver, he successfully clipped the lights perfectly.
Filmmakers actually got permission to drive down Lake — between trestles supporting the L, no less — at more than 100 mph. After Landis shot the sequence he realized it looked as if he simply speeded up the film. So he reshot it with stunt pedestrians on the sidewalks so viewers could tell the drivers were, indeed, going that fast.
In the La Salle scene, they choreographed ten car pile-up of epic proportions. The stunt coordinators drilled holes in the street and installed pipe ramps, a concept developed in Australia, that had never been used in a major motion picture before. This coupled with police cars entering the frame already upside down, or turning sideways, inspired Landis to say, “We were just seeing how wacky we could be.”
Movie critic Ebert wrote, “It has to be seen to be believed. I’ve never seen stunt coordination like this before.”
With all of these ridiculous stunts, there were just a few minor injuries. Dan Aykroyd said, “That we got away that lightly, is miraculous. God was on our side.”
Finally, and not on purpose, the Bluesmobile’s model is never actually mentioned by any of the actors in the original film. It is only referred to as a “1974 Dodge sedan” over the CB, and as “that shitbox Dodge” by one of the state troopers.
FRASER FAST FACTS
76 Chicago police cars chased the Bluesmobile on the first day of shooting, and it only got crazier.
103 cars were totally destroy in the production of The Blues Brothers. A world record at the time.
One of the 13 highly-customized Bluesmobiles, and the most frequently used, had separate brakes on each tire, giving the stunt driver incredible control for spins and other tricks.
The mall chase scene was shot in a real shopping mall, no a set.
40 stunt drivers were flown into Chicago every weekend for Sunday filming, when the streets were empty.
One of the Bluesmobile’s stunt drivers was John Wayne’s son.
If you want to recreate a vintage Bluesmobile of your own, (and who wouldn’t,) bolt in a world-class FRASER remanufactured engine and impress all the cops in your neighborhood!
Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!