I'm crawling up SoCal's 405 freeway in an '81 Suburban, on mile three of about 100 to go. It's an ungodly hour to be awake, morning traffic is bad, and I'm legally confined to the right two lanes. I'll be here for hours before I can drop my cargo, put in a 12-hour work day with it, and then repeat my trip in the opposite direction... in evening traffic. And I'm getting a cold. But if you asked me eight years ago what I was doing, my reply would come quickly: Living the dream!
I'm on my way to Hollywood for a photo shoot, and in tow is the very '08 Subaru STI that's being hailed as the "Halo Car" of the upcoming Fast and Furious film. And judging by the barrage of envious looks my cargo and I are getting from passers-by... it's a pretty big deal. Like a lot of you, I was excited for the original The Fast and The Furious film's debut in '01. I'll admit it. Attention was being given to a subculture that I was a part of, and the on-screen glamour of SoCal's import scene came across as a dream lifestyle for any northern East Coast native. A dream that, sadly, was shot down after 120 minutes of seven-speed Eclipses, flammable NOS, MoTeC Systems exhausts, 10-second drag races that last 1:20... and titanium valve springs. Fast forward a few years, to when the second movie dropped, and... on second thought, don't--it's not worth the ink.
Upon the release of the third installment, Tokyo Drift, we saw more than a few wrongs righted. Sure, it was a bit fantastic, but no more than could be expected of any mainstream action flick. Real drift cars with real sound bites were used, technical jargon was more accurate, and portrayal of a more diverse--gasp, Asian--import community all made it a refreshing break from the previous two installments. Once the Fourth movie's trailer hit, however: heavy domestic involvement, vinyl-covered imports, truck-jacking antics by the original cast... "Here we go again," I thought.
And then Carter managed to get a hold of an official script and casting-call pictures of the film's cars. What we saw was more "action/car movie" than botched "import scene movie", and the imports--what few of them there were--appeared far cleaner than anything yet; two welcomed changes, to those of us whose tastes still sour from the first two films. Tokyo Drift director Justin Lin was back, as was Paul Walker--now a real-life, die-hard import enthusiast. Would the fourth time be the charm? Will the world really see an accurate representation of our scene and what our cars are like? Breaking it down in his signature pragmatic point of view, Carter only offered, "Who knows. But at least we can show the world what their cars are really like."
Contrary to what your eyes are telling you, this is not a Skyline. It's not even a Nissan, for that matter. It's a kit car, made of the Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R chassis, imported by Kaizo Industries, and given a Nissan RB26DETT engine swap. Its a Kaizo R34 GT-R. At least, this is what the cool kids are telling the Feds these days, when they want to drive JDM Skylines, legally, on U.S. streets. Having owned more R32s, 33s, 34s, 35s, S15s, and other JDM rides than we can count, this is the process Daryl Alison and JustDriven.com recommend to all their clients; clients like Paul Walker, who is having Daryl and co. build his third R34 GT-R; this one, a fully dedicated track car. When direction decided that an R34 should star as Brian O'Connor's car for two-thirds of the new film, they contacted Daryl to import eight of them.
"This one is my personal car now," Daryl begins, "but was brought in specifically for the film by Kaizo, under the NHTSA's `assemblage of parts' rule, which allows it to be imported, only without a drivetrain." For that, Daryl contracted LRS Trading in Orange, CA, to import a low-mileage RB26DETT swap, and had Vildini Motorsports in Mission Viejo, CA, handle the installation, while also modestly upgrading its intercooler, exhaust, suspension, wheels, and interior and exterior components. "Since the car is driven on public roads extensively in the film, Justin (Lin) and Paul (Walker) wanted it to appear as solid and reliable as possible," he explains. No Lambo doors, gaudy battle kits or chrome dubs this time around, "Paul even had to fight the production company--almost literally--to keep vinyl graphics off the car during filming."
This car was designated as "first unit production", which means that only actors get to sit in it, not stuntmen. Remember those seven other Kaizo "Skylines"? Wrecked; destroyed during filming, mostly during the "Dom and Brian race scene", which you'll have to wait to see. "Six weren't even based on the GT-R chassis," Daryl explains, "They were based on the non-turbo, RWD GT-Ts, and were each given matching East Bear `Master Piece ER34' conversion kits and wheels to look like GT-Rs, but with slightly narrower fenders." The only other GT-R imported was completely gutted, given a tube-frame chassis and a rear-mounted VW engine, and used specifically for off-road stunts. Something else you'll have to wait for the movie to see...
'07 Kaizo GT-R
"The hero car"
Name: Daryl Alison
Hometown: Torrance, CA
Occupation: Owner, Justdriven.Com
Hobbies: Vehicle Restoration, Track Karting, Collecting
Build Time: Five Months
Quote: "It's not a Skyline; it's a kaizo. It's still all Nissan, but it's a kaizo."
Engine: Nismo NE-1 exhaust; Turbonetics front-mount intercooler and plumbing
Suspension: Nismo lowering springs; custom roll cage; ARC titanium strut tower bar
Wheels/Tires: 19x11 Volk Racing RE30 wheels; Continental tires
Brakes: Rotora big brake conversion, front and rear
Exterior: Nismo Version II front bumper, side skirts; Sunline Auto carbon fiber hood
Interior: Rear seat delete; Momo steering wheel; Nismo V-Spec Nur pedals; custom heads-up display for dash-mounted PC; MFD Xenarc gauges; Sony head unit.
When it comes to movie props, all that glitters is not always gold. In abandoned back-lots and production warehouses alike, lie substances ranging in authenticity from high-grade pyrite to $2/can knock-off Krylon-over-foam spray jobs, and everything in between. If the disillusionment of a VW-powered Skyline, or the fact that over 100 cars were built specifically to be crashed during filming, has killed your faith in the `Biz, here's a chunk of 24-karat, daily driven gold to lust over: Vance Hu's NSX-T; another "first unit production" ride, this one piloted by Jordana Brewster's character, Mia, for all of one scene--a very important one, but not much more can be shared.
"Some of the casting directors are regular patrons of my Hookah bar," informs Vance, "When the call went our for a car for Jordana's character to drive, they immediately thought of my NSX." Some might be surprised to learn that Vance's car is the most heavily modified of the three, by far. Don't. Subtly is a strong virtue among car builders, one that is all-but unseen on the big screen. Aside from the slew of genuine NSX-R upgrades--"They were impossible to find," Vance assures--this NSX breathes easier with an ultra-rare Mugen carbon fiber airbox, Fujitsubo exhaust manifold with test pipes, and Bel Canto Soprano exhaust; one of Vance's own creations, that gives it a ridiculously JGTC-like din that only an upscale car of its caliber could pull off on the street. Inside, are even more authentic NSX-R goodies, including an original pair of NA1 NSX-R red Recaros--thought to be the first such set to make it to U.S. shores.
Even more legit, is the car's prototype NSX-R suspension. When we say that it was the same set used by Gan San of Best Motoring International during his record-setting NA2 NSX-R Nurburgring lap time of 7:56, we mean that it was literally wrenched off his car after the race, and onto Vance's... don't ask us how he managed to pull that one off.
"To other NSX owners out there, I say, `Don't half-ass it!'" Vance says, "You are representing the Honda family with the greatest car to ever come out of Japan!'"
The Technical Advisor
"`How do you make a car do a wheelie in the dirt?'" asks Sean Morris, RB Motoring front-man (Motorex before that) and Technical Advisor to this latest F&F flick. Remember the yellow RH9 R33 GT-R and blue R34 GT-R that made cameos in the first film? Thank Sean. "`Hey Sean, how do we get a tow-truck to spin on the highway and back up into a tanker truck at speed... and make it look believable?' Those are the questions I'd get asked on a daily basis," he continues, "My job was to sort out that mess for the new film... and that was the easy part."
Most of Sean's job dealt with teaching the actors proper hand and foot movements--counter-steering, heel-toe shifting, left-foot braking--for "inserts" in scenes where stunt doubles couldn't be used. "Some of the actors, like Paul, picked it up pretty quick," says Sean, "But others... I accidentally hurt Vin Diesel's hand, trying to counter-steer for him in a buck [a chopped prop car] with two steering wheels. Vin was like, `Bro, you gotta tell me when you're gonna do that.' " he recalls, "I think he was kinda pissed."
Sean even had to do a few stunts himself. "In the trailer, when the gasoline land train is being hijacked," he explains, "One of the drivers is this Puerto Rican dude with a `fro in a green shirt and a painter's hat. One of the stunts was pretty heavy, so I helped film that part; hence the strong shadow over my pasty-white face." It was even funnier when he had to dress like Vin: "I'd be in a wife beater, bald cap--looking like him, minus 100 lbs and a tan--hanging around on the set all day, sitting across from him at lunch... it was a normal `day at the office' for those guys."
'03 Acura NSX-T
"The Real Deal"
Name: Vance Hu
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Occupation: Owner, Bulldog Cigar And Hookah Lounge
Hobbies: Trumpet, Painting & Animation, Nsx Building
Build Time: Three Years
Quote: My goal was to build my car as close to a real NSX-R as possible, to best represent the NSX community on the silver screen.
Output: 295 whp, 213 lb-ft
Engine: Downforce radiator duct; Fujitsubo Super EX exhaust manifold; Bel Canto Soprano JGTC exhaust; custom test-pipes; Prospeed high-flow catalysts; Mugen dry carbon intake system; NSX-R intake manifold cover and plate, mesh engine cover, ECU bypass
Drivetrain: NA2 NSX-R transmission input shafts and final drive
Suspension: NSX-R prototype suspension, front and rear sway bars, chassis bars
Wheels/Tires: NSX-R wheels, continental tires
Brakes: NSX-R brake rotors; Project Mu pads
Exterior: Downforce replica NSX-R carbon fiber spoiler, vented hood, rear diffuser; NSX-R front and rear emblems, front bumper under-cover, aluminum under-cover; JDM NSX fender set and side markers
Interior: Sorcery dry carbon rear window garnish, NRG short steering wheel hub, quick release; NSX-R Recaro seats and rails, floor mats, shift knob and boot, door badges, sill plates, steering wheel, gauge cluster set, tape deck door
"Purpose-built car" is a term we coin regularly around here. Usually refering to track-prepped rides, it's easy to forget how far-reaching the term can be. Take for example, a dedicated show car. While we feel the Revolution RX-7 featured in this issue is the type of car we'd rather get behind the wheel of, there's a lot to be said for the craftsmanship and vision that goes into a good show car transformation.
But what about a car that is built only for the purpose of looking good on film; a "screen-prepped" car, like this one? Shottily applied body kit and paint? Check. Race car sounds, thanks to a test pipe and straight-through exhaust, but no race car performance to match? Check. Colored electrical tape pin striping? Check. Fake roof scoop? Check. This baby has it all, but only because it didn't need any of it to get the job done. "This car's whole reason for being," states chief car wrangler Dennis McCarthy, of DMC Auto, "is to get used and abused on film. Beat-up through the desert, jumped off-road... it's a very utilitarian car, both on and off screen." From what we can tell, the car's supposed mods are never discussed in the film. Its hood is never lifted. And that's a good thing. Its engine bay is blue, and do you see that front-mount intercooler? You guessed it--fake.
The STI was sourced only for filming, along with seven others that were built identical to it, and crashed in the "tunnel scene" that awaits you in the theaters. Unlike the R34s that had to be bought and imported, the STIs h ad no buyer; they were contributed directly by Subaru, and are pre-production models that can never be registered and legalized for street use anywhere--otherwise known as "crusher cars", for the ultimate fate they will suffer after their usefulness subsides.
New to F&F4 is a rally influence--something Subarus are undoubtedly proficient in, straight from the factory. After a change of pace near the film's Third Act, this one becomes Brian O'Connor's car as he is forced into the sand dunes south of the boarder. "The STIs held up to all the abuse we put them through," elaborated Dennis, "It's funny--the one environment that so many cars had to be modified to handle didn't shake the STIs one bit."
'08 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
"The Halo Car"
Name: Subaru Of America, Inc.
Hometown: OTA, Gunma, Japan
Occupation: Building Cars
Hobbies: Saving The Planet, One Green Assembly Plant At A Time
Build Time: Six Weeks
Feedback: via subaru.com
Quote: Part race car, Part race car. The '09 WRX STI is to rally what carnivore is to meat.
Engine: Perrin intake system; Cobb tuning ignition system, cat-back exhaust; Remus Racing header, downpipe; Mobile One engine oil; pseudo front-mount intercooler
Wheels/Tires: Enkei NT03+M wheels, 18x8.5; Continental ContiSportContact2 tires, 285-40/18
Exterior: Veilside front and rear bumpers, sideskirts, vented hood; pseudo roof scoop; custom black and silver paint, red vinyl pin striping
Interior: Velside seats, steering wheel; Takata harnesses; custom roll cage by Matt Sweeney; Cobb AccessPORT (not installed)