Or why Mad Max: Fury Road is the greatest car movie of all time (or at least of this century).
It’s rare indeed that a film franchise can culminate in its best movie. But such is the case with the Mad Max series written, directed, and produced by George Miller. The fourth installment, Mad Max: Fury Road released in 2015, starring Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, has already made our lists for best movie chase scenes and best road trip movies, and is easily the best of the Mad Max movies (sorry, Mel). But not only that, it’s neck-and-neck with Ford vs. Ferrari for the best car movie of this century.
Why? Because in Mad Max: Fury Road, the car isn’t just a means of conveyance, it’s a means of survival. It’s a home. It’s salvation. Heck, the War Boys of the Citadel literally worship the V8 engine as their god. The movie is so deeply imagined, so well-wrought in its detail, and so well executed from stunt and real-life FX work to acting and directing that it transcends genre labels like “post-apocalyptic thriller” or “car movie” to become legitimately great cinema.
This past week, ten vehicles used in the filming of Mad Max: Fury Road were auctioned off by Lloyds Auctions of Australia. The lot included many of the movie’s hero cars, including Furiosa’s War Rig and Immortan Joe’s Gigahorse along with an assortment of others from the film’s 130 vehicles. The auction inspired us to give the movie’s cars their own showcase. These are the Top 10 Cars of Mad Max: Fury Road.
Max Rockatansky’s Ford XB Falcon Interceptor is the only vehicle in Fury Road to have a history preceding the film. Max’s Interceptor goes all the way back to the original Mad Max. Originally, Max’s car was a modified police Interceptor sporting a dual-overhead cam V8 complete with a supercharger emerging from the hood and making 600 horsepower at the wheels. The Interceptor was further modified in Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior in the US) where it gained additional fuel tanks for greater range, a custom dog seat in place of the passenger seat for Max’s dog, and booby-trapped explosives lest the Interceptor be stolen. Those explosives do get set off at the close of the movie, leaving the car a wreck.
But this wasn’t the ultimate fate of Max’s XB Interceptor. At the open to Fury Road, we find Max and in Interceptor, both of which has seen better days. The Interceptor is a dented, rusting hulk with smashed headlights and rags patching a rear wheel. Little wonder Max fails to elude a party of War Boys, wrecking the Interceptor in the process. However, even this isn’t the end for “the last of the V8s” as it was resurrected by Citadel mechanics as the Razor Cola (which we’ll get to below).
Driven my Imperator Furiosa, the War Rig was described by the filmmakers as a character unto itself, a stage for the actors, and “a beast.” Indeed, the War Rig is as fully realized as any of the human characters with a staggering level of detail. Built from a Tartan T815 truck, the War Rig has more than a few added modifications including a 1947/48 Chevrolet Fleetmaster chopped in half and widened to form the rear of the War Rig’s cab. Up front is a massive cow catcher complete with the Citadel’s signature screaming skulls. The wheels feature jagged steel rims to prevent attempted puncturing. There are weapons stowed throughout the cab, even a knife hidden in the shifter. The driver’s side door is painted with a skeletal arm to evoke the one lost by its driver. There are a series of kill switches to prevent anyone but Furiosa from starting the truck, though she does let Max in on the secret. The accelerator is fashioned from a metal shoe ruler (like the ones at the shoe store). It can be put down and locked in place for a sort of cruise control hack.
The Gigahorse, like all the vehicles in Fury Road, is an embodiment of its owner, in this case, the Citadel’s dictatorial leader/messiah Immortan Joe. The idea behind the Gigahorse was to function as a throne for Joe, to project his power and eminence. The Gigahorse is built from a pair of 1959 Cadillac Coupe De Villes stacked on top each other and powered by two supercharged 502 big block V8s stitched together. There are hand-made quad exhaust pipes, embossed with the screaming skull insignia, and even specially made wheels to fit the massive dual tractor tires in the rear. All this doubling was very conscious according to production designer Colin Gibson, “In a world where there’s barely one of anything, to show you had power, he’s the man whose got two of everything.” The Gigahorse is truly awe inspiring.
No proper war party can be without its bugler and thus the Citadel’s War Boys have the Doof Wagon. Built from a MAN 8×8 rocket launcher truck, the Doof Wagon is basically a huge stack of speakers on wheels. It’s manned by the blind, maniacal Coma the Doof Warrior, who plays a flame-throwing guitar/bass to direct and inspire the War Boys in their attacks. The Doof Wagon also carries four taiko drummers on its back with the sound resonating through enormous AC ducts.
The 32 Chev Coupe, driven by the War Boy Nux, is your classic hotrod, this time, outfitted for battle out on the wastes. The old V8 is both turbo and supercharged and nitro boosted. To ensure the vehicle could handle the Namibian desert where the movie was filmed, the suspension was lifted, and the car given proper off-road tires. As seen both in the film and in behind-the-scenes footage, Nux’s Coupe was a very capable machine, able to perform a “j-turn” or 180° at terrifying speeds (at least a little terrifying for the stuntman strapped to the front of the car).
The Razor Cola is the Citadel’s restomod version of Max’s wrecked, captured and resurrected XB Interceptor. The car has been raised in the back, given new tires, a new larger supercharger with requisite screaming skull, a spear gun, and a set of caltrops to puncture pursuers’ tires. The Razor Cola, formerly Max’s XB Interceptor, finally meets its end, smashed between Furiosa’s War Rig and the People Eater’s Limo.
The mayor of Gastown, known as the People Eater (seriously, don’t ask), drives a fuel tanker built from a Mercedes-Benz limo married to a Kaiser military truck. The People Eater’s limo was imagined as its own “horizontal cracking station,” a refinery on wheels capable of refueling war party vehicles on the move. Most notable the set of five bumpers, “so shiny, so chrome,” embellished with vertical teeth-like struts and all meant to evoke gluttony and avarice. The explosion that destroys the People Eater’s limo is the biggest and most spectacular in the movie.
Immortan Joe’s son, the seven-foot-tall Rickus Erectus, drives the equally vertical Bigfoot. The Bigfoot was built from a Dodge Fargo truck, given major suspension upgrade and 5-and-a-half-foot monster truck tires. It’s powered by a turbocharged 527 Chevy V8. Cool details include the chrome dolls’ heads on the bumper and the handmade .50-caliber machine gun.
The Bullet Farmer, Major Kalashnikov, drives the Peacemaker a tank tread driven vehicle specially built for the film. Two halves of a Chrysler Valiant Charger, split and widened, along with paneling from a Cessna airplane, make up the body of vehicle, which is further embellished with 12-gauge shot gun detailing throughout.
For our tenth and final selection we had a lot of crazy, compelling vehicles to choose from. There was the Buzzards spike-covered excavator, the V12-powered Elvis hotrod, or the War Boys’ shiny dually Buick, but our pick was the least assuming in Immortan Joe’s war party, Buggy No. 8, the 1964 Mini Cooper S. Buggy No. 8 was actually built from the shell of a Mini set atop a Holden farm buggy chassis and given a Holden straight-six engine for power. Reportedly, George Miller hated the car and kept to the deep background when filming. But we love it not only for its indomitable attitude but for it’s knocked-out headlight adding yet another note to the motif of creepy dolls’ heads that runs across numerous vehicles (the War Rig, Big Foot, etc.).