Full disclosure, I wrote elements of this article close to a year and a half ago when Paul walker passed. Like many in the enthusiast community, I was legitimately saddened by what I considered a tragic accident. So I shared my feelings via blog post like many others. Fast forward to April 2015 and his passing was in the forefront of a lot of minds with the release of Furious 7. I wanted to update my thoughts and feelings on the Fast & Furious saga and its impact on car enthusiast culture, but not in a way that greedily went looking for site traffic. So I held this version for a few weeks, and having since seen the new film, figured it was time to hit the “publish” button.
The header above, it’s something that we talk a lot about, but what does it actually mean? In 2001 I had a 1999 Honda Civic, unmodified but sporting a 5-speed with upgraded factory wheels and spoiler. I was kind of into cars. Sort of. You can take a look at my WheelWell profile and judge for yourself. In June of that year I went to see The Fast and the Furious. The commercials looked good, cars, action, crime, drama, chicks, cool. And it had that guy from Varsity Blues, he seems pretty likeable. He was. And I loved the movie. I think I saw it twice in the theaters. Now I didn’t run out and buy stickers and a bigger wing for my car, but it made me appreciate driving, appreciate my car, and most importantly appreciate automotive culture. Hey, there are people out there who like to stand around and stare into engine bays and talk about cars. Cool.
Shortly after that I was back at the local Honda dealer negotiating for a manual transmission, electron blue 2001 Honda Prelude. It wasn’t the best deal I’ve ever gotten, and was probably a bit of an impulse buy, but man what a car. That was it, I disappeared into a world of automotive forums (Car & Driver and a few others that I ended up being an Admin on) and that was that. It stuck. I found autocross racing and flipped my way through several Mustangs, Miatas, a 951 Porsche, a 9-2X, 350Z, G35S, and well..more Mustangs. I am a car guy now, tried and true, and whether or not I would still have become one if the Fast and the Furious series didn’t exist or not is irrelevant.
Any comparison to Star Wars is spot on, it’s a little campy but certainly keeps your interest and let’s face it, how many car movies have there been in the last decade? Redline? Oof, terrible. Need for Speed? Also terrible, but less terrible than Redline. Maybe. So it was all we had and it was pretty good. The series continued and got better in my opinion (although truth be told the second one wasn’t my favorite, but I did like Tokyo Drift oddly enough). They moved to some great on-scene locations for “4-6” and I know I’ve had more than one daydream about either being an undercover cop paid to drive fast; or perhaps someone on run in a fast car. They were escapism and O’Conner was someone you wanted to be. You rooted for the “good guys” even if they were the bad guys.
The series made cars cool again. Sure the cars weren’t always exactly what we wanted; I watched the first movie last night and there are still still quite a few face palm moments looking at how the cars were styled. But in their basic form they were all pretty awesome once you strip off the stickers and wing. Aesthetics aside, I would drive anything Brian O’Conner drove, the DSM, the MK4 Supra, Skylines, etc. and like it.
Which brings me to today’s question, which of Brian O’Connor’s cars would you build as a tribute? There are quite a few options, the neon green DSM (which is my choice and I’ll tell you why in a moment) and Supra from the original, the GT-R and Evo from Miami, various Subarus, etc. So why, with all those cool options, did I choose the 1995 Diamond Star Motors car?
Well, its for several reasons actually. If I were to build a car from the movie, it would have to be attainable. That rules out the un-importable-ish R34 Skyline GT-R and the more-expensive-than-original-MSRP MKIV Supra. Plus imagine showing up at Cars & Coffee with this car, laptop powered up on the passenger seat with “Danger to Manifold” playing on a loop next to you. Perhaps some loose washers or parts laying on the floor from the big race. That’s just fun. I don’t care who you are. Fun fact, the original movie car was an Eclipse GS with a lesser powered 420A (vs. the typical 4G63T) engine.
So, which car do you choose and why?
Brian Earl Spilner….”sounds like a serial killer”.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost a year and a half since Paul Walker died. In real life, Walker seemed to be legitimately likeable, which is rare in Hollywood. I heard a re-run interview from 2009 on the radio not too long after he passed and he spoke about how he had to take his 10 year old daughter to see Hannah Montana even though his movie was out (would have been “Fast and Furious” that year) and we have all seen how much of a car guy he was. My wife’s friend met him in a bar, or so the story was retold. Even after said friend, who had had a few too many drinks, was sort of a dick to him, Walker played it cool and they all talked for 20 minutes or so. Again, rare in Hollywood, he didn’t punch anyone or end in rehab.
So I found myself once again sad as I went to the theater to see Fast 7, and no offense to other deceased Hollywood actors and actresses, that usually doesn’t happen when someone famous passes. Much less 16 months later. The automotive world really did lose a good ally, and ambassador of sorts, on November 30th, 2013. Perhaps it took his passing to realize how much he was appreciated, sad if that’s the case. I don’t know that I have researched James Dean’s life enough to compare the two, but there seem to be some parallels, on the surface at least. Great looking actor, passion for cars, race driver, maybe not an Oscar winner but made entertaining movies, and tragically died at speed. Perhaps this will engender Walker’s career and legacy with the same sort of status. Regardless he will be missed and I need go DSM shopping now. I’m sure I can find an nice unmodified version for sale….right?
Oh, and as Josh warned me before I went to the theater, “bring some tissues for the end”. He was right.