In post-apocalypse Australia, the world has well and truly gone to hell. Deprivation, anarchy and outright barbarism are the order of the day. To the tiny extent that any forces of civilization remain, it’s the MFP: Main Force Patrol. They pursue and intercept the forces of death and destruction. The best and baddest one of all of them is Max Rockatansky, known for a cardio system that runs ice water instead of blood. But he’s decided to pack it in and quit the force. Not before they don’t offer him a severe sweetener to reconsider: A custom-built ride, alternately known as the Pursuit Special or the last of the V-8 Interceptors. Hello Mad Max.
They walk him through the MFP garage, lighting spotty, but enough to see a bunch of marked cars with hoods open, undergoing work, a near dungeon of horsepower maintenance. The head mechanic leads Max right to the Interceptor, along with support from another MFP officer. And the car is truly something to see. It’s a Ford Falcon XB GT. That car, with the right wheels and tires, was already aggressive. However, the work turned it all the way up to 11. Besides its magnificent black-on-black, one of the most prominent features on the car is a Weiand through-the-hood supercharger with a Scott injector hat, and as the trio approaches the car, that setup dominates the visual field.
The chief mechanic becomes delighted to be presenting Max with the car. He starts it, with a roar of eight rocker exhausts and the whine of the supercharger. He tells Max that he put it together from “a piece here and a piece there,” while also addressing the cams, the fuel and the supercharger, and the fact that it puts 600 horsepower to the wheels. Max smiles. The mechanic concludes: “She’s meanness put to music and the bitch is born to run.”
And with that, this 1973 Ford Falcon GT XB enters movie history, spawning huge fandom, countless replicas, novels, comics and even video games. But nobody involved in making the original movie had an inkling that that was going to happen.
They did it on a virtual shoestring. Today, an action/adventure movie can go solidly into the triple-digit millions, but they did it on an astonishing and paltry $400,000 Australian. Everything was pushed to the economic edge. The legendary supercharger wasn’t purchased — it was borrowed from a Top Fuel team and, at least in the first movie, it was totally non-functional. Indeed, the choice of the car was itself an economic compromise. The production team originally wanted Mustangs, but found it far cheaper and easier to use Australian Falcons. How cheap were they? The movie crew used it for daily transportation for simply getting around. Would have been a sight to see in the drive-thru.
They started the process with a white, production run car with a 351. Then they took it to an outfit called GrafX that did the mods. It got a black treatment, a Monza front end, some honking rolling stock, eight side pipes (of which only two were functional per side), and a survive-the-wasteland interior.
Given the perspective of hindsight, it’s mind-boggling what happened to the car and the end of principal photography of the first movie. They didn’t have enough money to pay everyone, so they gave the car as payment to one of the mechanics. He, in turned, tried to sell it. Further unbelievably, nobody wanted it. It was like missing buying Microsoft at $6 a share.
The first movie was a storming economic success. So much so, that it spawned a sequel. In much of the world, it was called “Mad Max 2,” but some stateside marketer had a little more imagination, and christened it “The Road Warrior.”
Well, that meant they needed their damn car back. And maybe more than one.
In its reincarnated form the car had gone full badass. While it had had a beautiful finish in the first place, in now looked oxidized and sandblasted. It had had a full trunk and rear window (for you purists, that’s “boot” and “backlight”), which they removed for more of a survival elan, with two enormous cylindrical fuel tanks, a spare wheel and the like. As to the interior, only the driver’s seat remained, the back and passenger side having become living areas for Max and his faithful dog.
Enter Brian Grams. As regular readers will know, Brian is The Movie Car Guru. He operates out of a family-owned auto museum in Volo, Ill. He, like all of us, wanted one of these. Problem was, there were only two actual screen cars. One of them subsequently destroyed in characteristically spectacular fashion for the franchise. Hard to believe, but the only other one went to a scrap collector, who, thankfully, didn’t have the heart to crush it. It ended up living in the UK for about 20 years. Then, a collector snatched it up and nested it in a Florida museum, where it currently resides.
So what’s a guy to do? Right. Get the very best replica you can. While Brian didn’t have access to the crazies who built the thing to begin with, he did have access to the next best, and that’s the guy who meticulously restored the original. He documented that car to a fare-thee-well, down almost to the individual nut and bolt level. The aux fuel tanks are but one of untold examples: He didn’t just get some drums. He had photographed and microscopically measured the originals, and had the ones for the replica custom made. Detail after detail, all the way down.
Like the original, Brian’s Pursuit Special has a 351 Cleveland, with a Weiand blower. Unlike the original, this one is functional. The “zoomie” rocker exhausts are functional, with only resonators in the zoomies themselves, no mufflers, with a consequent sound of the apocalypse when it fires up.
The car remains such an icon in the wonderfully deranged public mind that it has spawned countless clones. And crazier yet, it has spawned a full-on business that goes to Australia, finds the ever-dwindling supply of XB GT’s, brings them to the U.S., and gives them a breathtaking restoration and conversion. You can check them out at madmaxcars.com, and you can check out Brian’s car at volocars.com. You could end up with your very own meanness put to music.