Some cars have been immortalized and remembered forever in pop culture after starring in Hollywood blockbusters. Some are more memorable than others and range from timeless classics to weird one-offs. There are famous movie and TV cars that you can actually buy, although some have seen their value rocket to the moon after their time on the big screen and pick up crazy figures at auction. For example the Ferrari 250 GT SWB from the 1963 comedy film Yesterday Today Tomorrow recently sold for $17 million. But not all movie cars were lucky enough to develop into cult heroes. Some were forgotten over time, probably because the movie itself wasn’t good enough or wasn’t appreciated enough.
Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 low-budget film pitted two iconic muscle cars against each other. A 1969 Dodge Charger and a 1971 Dodge Challenger enter a Mopar duel, and both cars are among the most forgotten movie cars. The film is part of the Grindhouse series and features numerous classic cars that reference other classic car movies. In this article, we decipher some facts about the White Dodge Challenger from the movie.
9/9 A classic from 1971
Grindhouse diehards will recognize that the White Challenger in Death Proof was supposedly intended to be a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T 440 Magnum. But that is not it. Instead, Tarantino and his crew worked on a 1971 Challenger and made it look convincingly a year older.
Dodge developed the 1970 Challenger in the late 1960s on a shared platform with the smaller Plymouth Barracuda and unleashed it in 1970 to challenge the dominant Ford Mustang and Chevy Camaro. It was available in ten engine options and is one of the coolest cars in movie history today.
8/9 A 383ci V8 under the hood
The 1970 Challenger came with several engine options, and the one at Vanishing Point had a 7.2-liter 440cu Magnum V8. Tarantino’s version comes with a 440 Magnum badge on the hood, but underneath is a 6.3-liter 383 Magnum V8, which originally came with the car.
The 383 is quite powerful and remains in excellent condition in the surviving cars. The free-roaming Mopar beast could hit up to 335 ponies in 1970 to help him take on the much-loved 440, which remains Chrysler’s second-largest V8.
7/9 About the movie
Death Proof was Tarantino’s tribute to the drive-in B movies of the 1970s. The Academy Award-winning director claims the film was the biggest failure of his career. Still, the stuntmen and behind-the-scenes moviemakers no doubt appreciated the gesture. The white Challenger is also a big star in the story.
The film follows actress Zoe Bell, Rosario Dawson and the characters of Sydney Tamiia Poitier aboard the Challenger as they engage in a lengthy chase with the Kurt Russell-powered Dodge Charger.
6/9 Modified to look like a car from the vanishing point
Death Proof is full of classic movie references in various forms. In particular, the rubber duck on Stuntman Mike’s Chevy Nova and Dodge Charger is a replica of the one in the 1978 action film Convoy. Kim’s yellow-and-black Ford Mustang Mach I pays tribute to the original 1974 car in Gone in 60 Seconds. Also, the white Challenger is a direct reference to the car from the classic 1971 road movie Vanishing Point.
Both cars are white and Kim and Zoe mention the car from Vanishing Point in one of their conversations.
5/9 White color for better on-screen effects
White is the dominant color you will see in the new and used car market. But it doesn’t fit a classic muscle car because many don’t consider it a cool color. Vanishing Point’s Challenger was an exception. It made a lasting impression and earned iconic status. As Death Proof’s car tries to imitate its spiritual brother, it turns out that the white color had a function of its own.
Stuntman Mike’s black Dodge Charger looks sinister and meaner as he chases the Challenger, whose tame white color provided better on-screen effects. The paintwork on the surviving cars is accentuated with stripes on both sides, some of which have been painted for added effect.
4/9 One of the more forgotten movie cars
Suppose someone asked you to name your list of ten most iconic movie cars. You’ll probably name three lists before Death Proof comes to mind. Many don’t even know these cars, but gearboxes should.
This Challenger doesn’t get a fraction of the popularity of its white Vanishing Point mate, nor is the villain Charger a cult hero like the Charger from Fast and Furious movies.
3/9 Six challengers used, two survived
Death Proof included several stunt sequences; some were too dangerous. There are two notable sequences. One is Mike rams his Chevy Nova into a Honda Civic, while during the movie’s climatic chase, Mike rams his 1969 Charger into the Challenger while Bell and her friend Kim attempt the “shipmast” stunt. All this happens at high speed.
Forget the danger of the stunt lady hanging on the hood; they had to use six copies of the Dodge Challenger to shoot this chase. Only two of the six Challengers used survived filming.
2/9 Still kept in battered film condition
Owning an original movie car with screen must be a great feeling. It’s not as expensive as you might think, and at just $5,000 you can park one in your garage and feel like a blockbuster protagonist or villain. They are not as shiny or spoiled as you might think. Instead, they used battered stunt cars that were jumped, slammed into curbs, and fun-driven by actors and stunt drivers.
The stunts on Death Proof were real and there was no CGI involved, so the muscle cars took quite a beating. Death Proof’s two remaining Challengers remain in their tattered film state, and the owners have no intention of restoring them to maintain their appeal.
1/9 Current Ownership
One of the surviving cars is in much better condition and the owner paid $80,000 for it. It currently resides in England. The other survivor was involved in much of the latest chase, and his condition can be seen.
Anyway, it has enjoyed an adventure around the world. Back to Back Films sold it to an Australian on eBay in 2007 after filming was completed. In 2017, it found its way to Europe in the hands of Franck Galiegue, a movie car collector and owner of the YouTube channel Movie Car Central. The last time anyone heard of it was in Los Angeles and at an eBay auction.