The 100% death proof weapon of choice for Stuntman Mike
Referred to as Tarantino’s worst movie, Death Proof is a gear-heads dream movie mixed with super trashy fun, and a true head-nod to stunt work that includes pinky-violence, the slasher genre, and hang-out movies.
The movie was filmed in the anamorphic format, (super-wide angle,) which gave the POV (point of view) scenes great realism.
Four Chevy Novas used for the movie. The most functional was the ‘screen’ version. It was a Chevrolet Nova, with a 350 cubic inch V8 engine, TH350 transmission, 650 Edelbrock carburetor, Hooker headers, Moroso valve covers, a B&M shifter, a quick-disconnect steering wheel, Positrack rear end differential, slapper bars, a JAZ 12-gallon fuel cell with roll over valves, rally wheels, a Simpson racing seat, and a fully-functional roll cage.
Amusingly, of the only two Novas that survived, the ‘screen’ car, was used for close-up filming only. It never saw a single action scene. But one of the stunt cars, called “The Jesus,” was purchased by Kurt Russel’s stunt driver, Buddy Hooker after the film was done.
One, of dozens of kudos to the production team, was the use of the Nova named “The Prius,” (no relation to that nasty battery-operated Toyota.) It was destroyed in one glorious take called the Cannon Roll. With pain-staking planning, the Nova is blown out of a massive cannon, which propels, and rolls, the car 160 yards down the road, over and over, until is begrudgingly falls to a final stop, directly in front of the camera. A feat of insane difficulty, even for veteran stunt driver Buddy Hooker… who was in the car for the stunt!
It was so hot during filming, the production designers cut a hole from the engine bay through the dash where they pumped ice-cold air conditioning into the car while shooting. While the Novas were 30+ years old, the crew still meticulously aged and rusted all of the parts and body panels, and then clear coated them for sealing.
During one chase scene, Zoë, Kim, and Abernathy smash into a boat (“Did you just hit a boat?”), a head-nod to Gone in 60 Seconds. The film is actually dripping with tributes and winks to other car films. The Charger’s license plate, 983-DAN, pays homage to the Charger’s in Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry; Stuntman Mike’s favorite rubber duck hood ornament is an obvious tribute to Convoy; and his Chevy Nova’s license plate is JJZ-109, was stolen right from McQueen’s Bullitt Mustang.
Sadly, the Nova loses its life in an epic battle between the psychotic Mike (Kurt Russel) and the three women he stalked, Abernathy, Kim, and Zoë.
Suffice it to say, the Nova did not disappoint. Tarantino described Death Proof as “real cars, real shit, all at full speed!”
Why? Note the scene where Zoë Bell is on the hood of the Challenger, in an interview, she said, “[it’s] the perfect example of why people have such a visceral response to that sequence, because there is no bullshit. There’s no double, there’s no CGI, it’s all practical, and you’re seeing that the person crying is the same one [who’s] falling off the damn speeding car. I think, on some deep, subconscious level, it’s ‘real’ to the people watching.”
FYI, we found the best movie synopsis here, if you’d like a bit more light reading.
Death Proof is the only Tarantino movie that runs in chronological order.
Stunt double Buddy Hooker bought the nicest of the film’s Novas and gave it to his son as his first car. (Skull and lightning bolts in tact.)
The cops in the hospital scene are father and son.
The Dodge Challenger isn’t factory, the window frames were welded in for the ship’s mast stunt.
The jukebox in the film actually belongs to Quentin Tarantino
The character of Zoë, is Zoë Bell, playing herself
No quippy jokes here. Don’t build a car like this. Just don’t. But, if you must, might as well get a world-class FRASER remanufactured engine to hide under that slick skull and lightning bolts!
Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!