Welcome to Fraser Fast Facts • Vol. 1, Issue 34
Where a 1970 Stock Dodge Challenger Took Theaters By Storm
Before the days of GCI and Visual FX, real drivers beat up real muscle cars!
“Honey, I’m going to have the well-respected Argos car-transport company delivery our prized 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T to San Francisco. What could go wrong?” Said no one ever, but it makes a great film plot.
And so the uber-cult film, Vanishing Point, begins.
This is the story of a ex-cop, and car racing junkie, Kowalski, turned car delivery driver, tasked with another routine job of transporting a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T from Denver, CO to San Francisco, CA.
Along the journey, Kowalski stops for a little illicit-drugs boost for the drive; makes a bet with his dealer he can do it in an insane amount of time, and proceeds to engage in a non-stop car chase, (and a race with a Jaguar convertible,) for the rest of the film. For car fanatics, this is a 100 minute, high-speed pursuit movie.
What started out as a pristine white muscle car [in the movie]… well, it wasn’t delivered in San Francisco in the same condition. (That’s pretty much the same story for the actual vehicles used by the production company.)
Five Alpine White 1970 Dodge Challenger R/Ts were lent to the production company by Chrysler, and were “mostly” returned upon completion of filming. Surprisingly they were all “stock” cars. Stunt Coordinator Carey Loftin said he requested the Dodge Challenger because of the “quality of the torsion bar suspension and for its horsepower” and felt that it was “a real sturdy, good running car.”
Four of the cars came with 440 cubic inch Magnum engines, with 4-barrel carburetors, and four-speed pistol-drip manual transmissions. The fifth was a 383 with an automatic. All had the signature “hood bulge” with locking pins.
No special equipment was added or modifications made to the cars, except for heavier-duty shock absorbers for the car that jumped over the creek. Loftin noted that parts were taken out of one car to repair another because they “really ruined a couple of those cars” while jumping ramps between highways and over creeks. It was said that the 440 engines in the cars were so powerful that it was almost too much power for the body. “You’d put it in first, gun it, and the front-end would almost lift off the ground like a dragster.”
You’ll have to watch Vanishing Point to find out about the blind desert radio DJ that gives the movie Super Soul.
Fraser Fast Facts:
- Actress Charlotte Rampling had a role as a hitchhiker whom Kowalski met while en route, but her scenes were deleted before the US release. The scenes were re-inserted for the UK release. The DVD release includes both the US and UK versions.
- Director Richard C. Sarafian’s original choice for the role of Kowalski was Gene Hackman, but the studio, 20th Century Fox, insisted on using Barry Newman if the movie was going to be made.
- The color white was chosen for the car simply so the car would stand out against the background scenery in the movie. White was not symbolic in any way.
- A 1967 Camaro shell (no engine) loaded with explosives was used for the final crash. You can see the “Camaro” fender nameplate upside-down in the lower left corner of the screen after the crash.
- The lone 383 Challenger R/T, which was an automatic with green interior, was used for some exterior shots and it pulled the 1967 Camaro up to speed so the Camaro could hit the bulldozers.
- All of the cars used in the movie were NOT originally white. They were just painted white for the film. During the scene where Kowalski has a flat tire, you can see green paint in the dents.
- There was a cameo by singer/songwriter David Gates (of Bread fame), playing the piano during the rousing revival in the desert with the J. Hovah singers.
- The city names on the California Highway Patrol tracking board (where Kowalski never made it) were Stockton, Oakland, Berkeley,and San Francisco.
- Vanishing Point was ranked #2 on Entertainment Weekly’s “Guilty Pleasures: Testosterone Edition” list The magazine wrote, “In a decade that was wall-to-wall with great car-chase flicks, this was one of the greatest.”
Vanishing Point - Movie Summary (Spoiler)
Thinking about building a replica with an american-made engine? Fraser has the right engine ready for you!