“How did you develop your passion for cars?”
W hen I’m asked this question, my answer is probably not surprising: for me, cars represented freedom. My family was not rich and as such, I had to work for anything I wanted. Some of my earliest cars included Datsun 240Zs and while they were in bad shape, I took the time to learn how to work them. In the 1980s, cars were more analog and much easier to work on. As I got older, my car hobby took a bit of a back seat as I worked my way through school and into my career in marketing. Like many young people, I had posters of cool cars on my bedroom wall. I knew that someday, I would own a dream car and I committed myself to owning an exotic car before my 40th birthday.
“I wish I was smart enough back then to stop spending money on mediocre cars.”
I had owned many cars throughout the 1980s include my Datsun Zs, a V6 1973 Capri, a ’67 Chevelle, a ’78 Fiat Spyder, a ’76 Audi Fox, an ’88 Nissan Pulsar and a 1981 Honda Accord. Each one was a mild step forward and a colossal leap backwards because every nickel I spend on fixing up mediocre cars kept me from owning something with real potential. By the mid 1990s, I was rocking a supercharged ’93 Mustang GT and a ’96 Impala SS. All that changed one day in early 1998 when I got smoked by a MKIV Supra. That day changed my life.
My First Car
The Birth of My Automotive Addiction
Like most people, I came from humble beginnings. My first car was hand-me-down from my father – a 1981 Isuzu I-Mark (4 door). It was hardly cool, but I quickly started modifying it. It was painted Porsche red, had a big rear wing (we called it a “whale tail” back then) and had a single Weber carburetor. A bumping stereo system was also added.
Datsun 240Zs, a V6 Capri and My First New Car
My Cars Got Better
Through the 1980s, I went through several Datsun Z cars, an 81 Honda Accord hatch and my first new car, a 1998 Nissan Pulsar twin cam. Each of them was more modified than the last one. 80s styling would be laughed at today but back then, it was trendy. I learned from every car.
My First Real Car
1993 Mustang GT (Supercharged w/N20)
By this time, I was done with slow 4 cylinder cars. I stepped up to a Mustang GT and proceeded to get crazy. The car had a 347 stroker, a Vortech S-trim cog-driven blower, TFS heads and a custom fabricated fuel system. The interior was gone through and the car had tons of suspension work and big brakes. The car ran 10.44 on sticky tires.
I went over to the dark side.
I Bought a Supra
After getting dusted in my Mustang by a Supra, I decided turbos were the way to go. I bought a bone-stock, white, 1994 Supra off some small dealership in So Cal. The car went to the paint shop three days later and was now yellow. After winning some shows and race events, the car was spotted by Universal Pictures.
From Movies to Video Games
Need For Speed Underground
After the success of the first two films, I was hired by EA Games’ Need For Speed Underground game to build a real life Skyline GT-R that they could incorporate into the game. In collaboration with Neil Tjin, we created “Eddie’s” GT-R. I was also tasked with consulting on in-game dynamics. I got to spend time at the EA Games HQ in Vancouver, Canada. It was a great adventure.
From Video Games to Diecast Toys
Getting in on the tuner craze, Racing Champions hired me to consult on development of diecast replicas of all the main cars from the first movie. I shared my photo library and notes of all the modifications for all of the cars. Still, they missed a few details. Most notably, the replica of my Supra they created still shows 1995 as the year of the car…that’s wrong…my car was a 1994 Supra.
Director and Co-Creator
While serving as Director of Global Marketing for MagnaFlow Exhaust, I helped develop a show geared towards tuner enthusiasts. By this time, the market had shifted interest to drifting and the tuner show’s days were numbered. Fewer people were modifying cars, fewer were going to car shows, and there were way too many shows on TV about cars. The market was saturated and it started to unravel.
If You Enjoy Your Work, It's Not Really Work
Director of Playboy's ``Badass`` TV Show
I helped to create a show for Playboy TV called “Badass.” I also served as the Director of several segments within several episodes of the shows over the course of a few years. I had lots of friends who “volunteered” to be of service on-set. Wasn’t that nice of them? The show’s concept was to show empowered women doing sports normally favored by men.
Available on Amazon
``Crashing Cars`` - My Book
After years of talking about it, I did it: I wrote a book chronicling my adventures with The Fast and Furious franchise. It was released on Amazon in the Spring of 2017 and made its way to the #1 bestseller in its category. The book covers every aspect of how I got involved in the franchise, my role and duties, how my cars got chosen to be the main cars and much more. I made sure to mention many of the people who helped make these movies what they are – the mechanics, the stunt teams – and so many people behind the scenes that contributed so much.
The book goes into great detail about many aspects of the first two films, details that I’ve never seen publicized anywhere else. It includes about the box office results, specs on some of the cars and stories about many of the behind-the-scenes shenanigans.
There are no pictures, as I chose to made those available for free on my Instagram.
You can view the pictures along with little story snippets by following me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/craiglieberman_42
You can buy the book on my Shop page.
WHAT AM I DOING NOW?
Today, I’m Digital Marketing Director for Imaginate Media. I still enjoy playing with cars. My current car is a 2015 Nissan GT-R with modest power upgrades (FBO) and some tasteful styling elements.
This car has been modified to run on E85 and makes about 625hp to the wheels. I use it as a daily driver – usuall, but there’s also a 2017 Audi S3 in the garage for long distance drives.
Craig served as a Technical Advisor on the first two Fast and Furious films. For Tokyo Drift, Craig had a smaller role.
For the first two movies, my role revolved around finding the cars, the parts and extras for various scenes. At the time, I was deeply immersed in the tuner scene and was well-connected. Universal saw value in these connections
By the time Tokyo Drift came around, the “Fast and Furious” franchise was big enough that they did not need my “inside” connections. The new Picture Car Captain, Dennis McCarthy has many years of experience and is now serving the franchise’s picture car needs.
Today, Dennis’ shop and staff continue to produce some amazing machines and although the movies don’t focus on tuner cars anymore, it’s hard to argue that the cars we see on-screen today are simply epic.
Universal didn’t originally plan on a sequel – in fact, they just kept making movies IF their latest release made money. As time went on, the “Fast & Furious” grew into a juggernaut because each money made more than the last (in most cases).
As of 2019, the franchise is set to end after FF10, but the new “Hobbs and Shaw” movie doesn’t count – that’s a spinoff.
The Future of Cars I had a great conversation with some of my closest car friends, recently.