Bond and Batman flicks have always been responsible for inducing preteen four- wheeled fantasies.
Bond’s Lotus Esprit (from 1977’s The Spy Who Loved Me) was not just a playboy’s sports car that you parked up at a secluded Sardinian beach. His was a submarine that literally rolled up and out of the turquoise Mediterranean, a 133mph landing craft that casually nipped at the towels and toes of the bikini clad locals. Visual Viagra to the average 12 year old boy, but not exactly a true reflection of the plucky Esprit’s humble Norfolk roots.
Batman’s Batmobile on the other hand (of ’87-‘92), took form as a phallic, weaponised rocket. The “Bondagemobile”, as I like to call it, certainly suited firing grappling hooks at Tim Burton’s Gotham backdrop, but in reality Batman would have probably fared better in the city with a murdered out ’87 Ford Sierra Cosworth RS500. I mean it had a bat wing and everything.
Alas, spy and superhero movie franchises have always interpreted cars in the same ways as their characters - fantastical exaggerations which prompt us to dream away our average joe realities for a couple of hours. Which is lovely. The problem is that the machines in these films will always remain that – an unattainable fantasy. They exist only for the screen, for the love of imagination.
For some however, imagination wasn’t enough. There was Autotrader. There was Max Power. The prospect of your very own mods, tuning, styling – it was all very real. What’s more, they were attainable. Before you’d even passed your driving test, you could line up your dream car. Not an Aston Martin but a third hand Ford Fiesta XR2. Or you’d invested in a body kit to fit to your sister’s hand-me-down hatchback, once you had it lowered to within an inch of its life. This passion to see potential in the most mundane cars and make them your own beasts, is the true spirit of the underdog car fan - the boy racer culture.
A culture that doesn’t require going to a track when a carpark would do, that any kid could appreciate from the pavements of suburbia, a movement that has its own story in every corner of the globe. For anyone who’s heart rate flutters when the guttural splutter of an exhaust approaches, or the sight of a car creeping to scrape a speed bump gives you the opposite of road rage – this celebration of film and the starring rolls is for you.
’88 Renault 5 GT Turbo - Ali G Indahouse
Years before People Just Do Nothing perfected pirate radio, tracksuits and spliffs for British satire, Sacha Baron Cohen brought FUBU, So Solid and Staines to the silver screen. In the opening scene of Ali G Indahouse we’re privy to Ali’s dream where he fantasises about cruising the hoods of LA in a yellow Impala lowrider. However, in reality, his tupperwared Renault 5 GT Turbo was a much more powerful statement for boy racers of Blighty. What’s more, the rival East Staines Massiv also have their own plastic-fantastic Renault which results in a hilariously tame street race...
Custom Chevrolet Monte Carlos – Romeo + Juliet
From Staines to Shakespeare, Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet is one of the most aesthetically hedonistic films to date. In the same way that this adaptation is a wild customisation of Shakespeare’s tragedy - the fashion, the guns and in particular the cars are boldly bespoke. Never have gang rides been so lavishly theatrical, each car a one-of-a-kind extension of the character’s magnetic persona. The cars themselves are such chop shop mongrels, there is still debate as to what is exactly what - particularly on Romeo’s and the Capulet’s Chevy Monte Carlos. The latter of which steals the show during the infamous gas station gun fight scene, to such an extent that the entire set was designed to complement its “badass blue” paint job.
’97 Peugeot 406 / ’92 Mercedes-Benz E500 – Taxi
I can only assume that Luc Besson’s vision for writing Taxi (1998) was to imagine a reality where every single car is a street racer. Because his creation is quite simply the ultimate homage to boy racer culture, it’s an indulgent gift really. Souped up pizza delivery scooters, taxi rides à la touring car, a pair of naughty bank robbery Mercs, only the bumbling police have laughable, incompetent rides that literally pile up by the minute. I could dedicate this entire article to the delights of this French kiss of a car film, but there’s only one more thing worth sharing. Watching these high- spec European saloons gracefully tear up Marseille to the sublime sounds of 90’s French hip hop is an absolute joy.
Toyota AE86 Corolla GT Apex – Initial D
Six years before our screens were graced with Vin Diesel’s bulging biceps at the wheel of the Fast and the Furious franchise, a nonchalant 13 year old was drifting his tofu-slinging father’s Toyota banger down the mountain passes of Japan.
Originally a manga and anime series, the Initial D franchise played a key role popularising illegal street racing, under the editorial supervision of Keiichi Tsuchiya, aka the Drift King – the professional pioneer of drifting. This expertise shines through the 2005 real action movie (currently on Netflix) – the racing is raw and relentless as you’d expect from a story where the Nissan GTR is referred to as a national treasure. The hero is the now cult Toyota AE86 Corolla GT Apex, essentially a sleeper car tuned to perfection. Once you get past the hilariously Nickelodeon-esque veneer of the film, there is a rare boyish charm that welcomes the boy back in racer.
‘32 Ford Deuce Coupe / ‘55 Chevy Coupe – American Graffiti
If I could live in any other moment in time, (other than our joyous present of Snapchat and Gemma Collins of course!) without hesitation my mind beelines to the single night escapes of American Graffiti. The 1973 masterpiece is the most visceral snapshot of everything that made the rock ‘n’ roll era of the 50’s and 60’s so iconic. In essence, American Graffiti is a seminal portrayal of the very roots of boy racer culture as we know and love it today. The only difference – everything not only looked and sounded better, it was unequivocally cool. Even the effortless greaser style was enough to make anyone take up smoking again, just so you could roll up a pack in your sleeve... but let’s get to the point. The film is a glorious study of the boisterous cruising and hot rod culture, climaxing in a spectacularly real drag race at dawn, between the heavily modded Ford and Chevy Coupes. The image of these four wheeled relics on steroids will not only represent the history of a subculture, but will forever mark an entire era for America.
Oh, and by the way, the film is one of the most profitable of all time. Boysie Racers did good!
Ronin – Audi S8
Training Day – ‘79 Chevy Monte Carlo
Lock Stock And Two Smoking Barrels – ‘79 Ford Escort RS 2000 Mk II
La Haine – ’81 BMW 323i
Boyz In Da Hood – ’63 Chevy Impala Convertible