For the better part of two years now, I have been taking incisive looks into some of my favorite cars from the movies in this column. John Wick’s Mustang, the Hemicuda from Nash Bridges, and Joe Dirt’s GTX are just some of the cars that have been covered.
Each successive month though, I felt the nagging desire to do something different with the concept. After all, introducing the car, giving a brief synopsis of the film, covering the car’s intricacies, wrapping the article up, and rinsing and repeating the following month had been the status quo since the beginning.
For the life of me though, I couldn’t think of a way to spice things up, and since the column was so dearly embraced by you out there, I suppressed the desire to change things.
After a conversation with everybody’s favorite Street Muscle Magazine editor, Vinny Costa, a new angle for this month’s edition was arrived upon. Forget about movies, folks. This time, we’re gonna have a look at some amazing muscle from the world of music videos. So without further delay, I give you Rob’s Movie Muscle: Rock n’ Roll Rides!
The first of the videos we’ll be having a look at is Steve McQueen by the earthy and soulful Sheryl Crow. For those who need a primer on Sheryl, she first burst into the public consciousness in 1993 with the release of her debut album, Tuesday Night Music Club, which featured the insanely catchy, country-influenced pop song, All I Want to Do.
Based on the strength of that single, as well as the top-40 hits, Leaving Las Vegas, Strong Enough, and Can’t Cry Anymore, the album went on to reach number three on the US Billboard charts and sold an astonishing seven-million copies.
After a slew of other successful albums, Crow released C’mon, C’mon in 2002. The first single, Soak Up the Sun, was a well-received hit, but it was the second track from the album, Steve McQueen, that garnered her a Grammy Award for Female Rock Performance.
An ode to the legendary screen icon, race car driver, and “King of Cool,” the song’s lyrics relate the travels of an unnamed character from Memphis to Hollywood, and all the yearnings for Kerouac-style freedom and experience the person has. The protagonist clearly holds McQueen up as a role model for their existence as the chorus proclaims:
Like Steve McQueen
All I need’s a fast machine
And I’m gonna make it all right
Like Steve McQueen
Underneath your radar screen
And you’ll never catch me tonight
For the video, Crow and the director, Wayne Isham, decided upon creating an homage to the late actor, by reinterpreting some of the memorable car-related scenes from McQueen’s life and movies.
In the first automotive sequence in the video, Crow is depicted driving a cream-colored Porsche 356 Speedster through the desert. McQueen himself owned a black, 1958 Speedster 1600 super that he often competed in organized sportscar races in.
The video then segues into my favorite scene – a recreation of the classic chase sequence in Bullitt. Crow is seen driving a very, and I mean VERY accurate replica of Frank Bullitt’s Highland Green, 1968 Mustang GT fastback. Complete with correct interior, wheels, and lack of pony ornament in the grille, the car is seen navigating hills and performing some serious jumps that remind us of shots in the movie.
Although the production location of the sequence was the Silverlake neighborhood of Los Angeles instead of San Francisco, and the chase car is a black Yenko 427 Camaro replica in lieu of a ’68 Charger 440, the latter, at least, is made up for by the fact that the driver is none other than NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. Also a bonus is that Crow did some of the stunt driving herself, performing handbrake turns and doing a few smokey donuts for good measure.
Following this is a shorter sequence that is a nod to the McQueen classic, The Great Escape. Sheryl, wearing a cool, vintage Triumph Motorcycles tee is roaring through grassy hills on what appears to be a KTM dirt bike, with Dale Jr. once again in pursuit on a motorcycle of his own. Even the iconic leap of a wood fence from the film is faithfully recreated.
Finally, a tribute to perhaps the greatest racing movie in history, Le Mans, is presented. Crow, dressed in a racing suit reminiscent of McQueen’s Gulf-Porsche liveried version from the film, is racing a Ford GT40 Mk I in classic Ford racing blue. She competes against a pack of other classic racing cars, including C2 Corvettes, Shelby Mustangs, Porsche 911s, Camaros, and Dale Jr., in a similar GT40.
The scene looks to have been shot at Willow Springs Raceway in California which doubles for the La Sarthe circuit in Le Mans. Why GT40s were used instead of Porsche 917 and Ferrari 512 race cars was probably down to the value and scarcity of the latter, but the sequence nonetheless conveys the spirit of the original.
The next fabulous, car-related video we’ll be looking at is Show Me How to Live by Chris Cornell’s post-Soundgarden effort, Audioslave.
An amalgam of Cornell with three of the four members of Rage Against the Machine – Tom Morello, Tim Commerford, and Brad Wilk – Audioslave proved to be a hugely successful band from the get-go.
Their eponymous debut album was met with rave reviews and prodigious sales. It yielded three hit singles including Cochise, Like a Stone, and Show Me How to Live.
The latter was treated to a sprawling, big-budget music video, directed by AV Club, that pays homage to one of my favorite car movies of all time, Vanishing Point. But unlike in the Steve McQueen video, where scenes of McQueen’s films were recreated, the video for Show Me How to Live goes one better, seamlessly incorporating actual shots from the film into scenes of the band.
The video begins with a clip from Vanishing Point in which the prophetic DJ, Super Soul, played by Cleavon Little, introduces the band via clever audio dubbing that substitutes “Audioslave” for original film dialog. This is followed by the beginning of the song, which is covered by more clips of the film, including wide shots of Kowalski’s Challenger tearing through the desert.
As Cornell’s singing begins, deftly edited close shots of the band inside the Challenger are intercut with the movie footage. So dead-on is the color matching and choice of lenses of the new footage, that it is literally impossible to tell at times what is original and what is recreated.
Many of the film’s plot points are recreated in this way. This includes the pursuit by motorcycle cops, the street race with the silver Jaguar E-type, the head-on game of chicken with a pair of Dodge police cars, the original musical performance on the commune stage (now featuring Audioslave in place of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends) and, of course, the climactic suicide by car, that ends Vanishing Point, this time with Cornell instead of Kowalski slamming the big white Mopar into a police roadblock at high speed.
The 1970 Challenger R/T used to recreate scenes is a dead ringer for the movie car, right down to the Hurst pistol grip shifter and Colorado OA5599 license plates. The car was owned by a fellow named Steve Foster, who kept the exterior and interior 100% original, but bored and stroked the engine to 500 cubic-inches, installed Diamond forged pistons, Eagle H-beam rods, Indy cylinder heads, and added a dual-plane intake, a Holley 950-cfm carb and a Hotchkis TVS suspension system. Foster routinely races the car in autocrosses and has driven Kowalski’s entire Vanishing Point movie route in his big, white whale.
For me, owing to my insane love of car movies, the videos for Steve McQueen and Show Me How to Live are amongst my favorite of all time. I hope they’re yours too!