Buying a Movie Car – What Car Should I Buy?
For me, the Mach 5 from the Speed Race cartoon is what got me into cars. Ever since I laid eyes on that car, every car I bought or built had to have key elements from the Mach 5 – a wrap around cockpit, lots of buttons, lots of gauges, lots of power and sleek styling. I’ve spent my entire adult life living this dream.
Buying a movie car sounds like a dream come true for most people and, for the most part, it can be. But before you rush out to find one, there’s a lot you should know.
Don’t Start Shopping Until You Actually Have Money
To put this nicely, nothing is more ridiculous than going to the grocery store with no money in your bank account and no idea of what you want. Yet I get dozens of message per week from hapless people who feel it’s ok to waste their time (and mine, apparently) asking vague questions as to what movie cars are available for sale. If you walk in to a car dealership with no idea of what you want and no way to pay, you’re going to get tossed out.
If you want my help, I’ll provide it so long as you’re not this guy.
Here’s my answer to that: EVERY movie car you’ve EVER seen in a movie is for sale – FOR THE RIGHT PRICE. Here are a few tips that might give you some idea of what to expect:
— A screen-used car (one that was actually on-screen in a movie) could be as cheap as $5,000 for a car that was parked in a garage for a fleeting moment or used as a backdrop car.
— A car that was driven by a character could range from $10,000 to into the millions. It just depends on what car, what character, what movie, how long it was on-screen and how cool the — car was. A screen used Yugo is stil a hunk of crap no matter who drove it, but it’s worth more than one that wasn’t driven by a movie star.
— The current owner of my Supra has turned down offers in the millions. The current owner of my GTR has likewise turned down millions.
— The jump Skyline (a beater) from 2 Fast 2 Furious sold for $50,000 awhile back
— A 2 Fast 2 Furious Supra jump car sold for $80,000 (non turbo, beat to shit car but intact)
— Edwin’s red Integra sold for around $60,000 back in 2015 or so (this car had maybe $4,000 of parts on it)
— Edwin’s Civic which sold for $30,000 awhile back is still wasting away, sun faded, dry rotting and deterioating in a sandlot and is being offered at $20,000 – with no takers.
Replicas can be had for cheaper. I know a guy with a pretty decent replica Eclipse that he’d probably let go for $25,000. The car is really worth maybe $8,000 but because Fast and Furious fans have lost their ever-loving minds, but I’ll bet he gets at least $20,000. And therein lies the rub – Fast and Furious fans and movie car fans in general are really buying these cars for the passion of it. They know these cars aren’t worth the prices they’re fetching – to reasonable people.
If you don’t feel like reading further, let me simplify the process if you’re shopping for a Fast and Furious car:
1) Have cash in hand. No a promise from mommy and daddy that they’ll consider it, not a loan application at your bank pending approval – CASH. IN. HAND.
2) Decided upon a car. If you call a collector who has five movie cars and you tell him you just want a movie car….ANY MOVIE CAR, he’s going to sell you the shittiest one at the highest price. You need to pick a car, then do your research as to how that car was used in the movie (who drove it, was it a stunt car, etc) then make an offer to the owner.
3) Do lots of research on the vehicle and INSPECT IT PERSONALLY.
Prices for cars Paul drove certainly went up after his death, but they’re starting to stabilize as the charm wears off. Some movie cars have changed hands many, many times, further diminishing values. Still, if you’re not sitting on $80 – $100,000+, finding a good car from one of the film’s top superstars would be difficult.
The Truth About Movie Cars
For starters, movie cars are not what you think they are. They are NOT shiny, pretty, well cared for, pampered show cars. In fact, they’re usually the exact opposite. I realize that most visitors to this website are accustomed to seeing shiny movie cars in the Fast & Furious movies, but that’s mostly faked.
This movie franchise did something almost no other movie has ever done: they rented their Hero No.1 cars from private owners. Why? They needed shiny, showy, fully built/modified cars to star in leading roles. While the Hero No.1 cars were indeed all that and more, the clones we built for the Hero No.2 car, Stunt Car No. 1 and all the others were hobbled together cars that were nowhere near what the Hero No.1 car was.
That’s not to say the clones were poorly built – quite the opposite. The technicians who built the clones were very good at their jobs. The problem was that these cars get hammered during production. In the case of the Fast and Furious cars, most of them have been on and off car carriers more than 100 times. They have been jumped, smacked into curbs, joy ridden by stunt drivers and actors, maintenance schedules are ignored, the cars are often smoked in, food is consumed inside and you can bet that anyone getting in and out of these care probably hadn’t washed their hands in awhile.
Anyway, movie cars have a rough life from the get-go. When we buy a car we intend to use in a movie, we just buy the cheapest version of the car we need. Say we’re looking for a 2005 BMW 3 series. We buy the cheapest one we can. It probably has really high mileage, the maintenance hasn’t been done, the interior might have tears or damage, tires might be bald, a shocl may be blown, etc. For our movie, we’ll fixed only what is necessary to keep the car running.
As you can see already, buying a movie car more often than not means you’re buying a used up, highly worn car that was the cheapest one available. Although this one has damage, our technicians can fix this in a few days for far cheaper than buying a pristine version. Since we’re just going to smash it up anyway, it makes no difference.
There are tons of places to buy old movie cars like this one, but another secret no one tells you is that these cars have inflated values. Make no mistake: if you’re buying a 74 Ford Gran Torino because you liked Starsky and Hutch, you can get one as cheap as $4000, like this one. But if you really want an authentic screen-used 74 Gran Torino, you could pay much more.
The same holds true for Fast and Furious cars. After Paul Walker’s untimely death, values of these cars skyrocketed beyond absurdity. Jesse’s Jetta (built off of a $6,000 VW Jetta) allegedly fetched more than $80,000. Anybody who would pay $80,000 for a $6,000 car because it was used as a supporting character’s car is buying based on emotion, not on financial sensibilities – and that’s totally o.k. For such a buyer, this car has value. The value comes from the fact that the car was used on screen, aka a “screen-used” car.
These cars hold more intrinsic value than clones, replicas, private party copies and such. In other words, even if someone were to build an identical copy of a highly desirable movie car, it will likely never reach the value of an actual screen used Hero No.1 car. The true value (and hence the price) will be influenced by the vehicle’s provenance.
HOW TO BUY A MOVIE CAR
If I had a nickel for everytime one of my IG followers reached out to me and told me they were going to buy a movie car, I’d be rich. For starters, it’s most annoying when someone asserts their parents are going to buy the car for them. Newsflash for young people: unless your family is rich (and stupid), there’s no way your parents are going to buy you a $50,000+, 400hp movie car, or a MKIV Supra, or a Skyline GT-R, so start being real. (On a side note, it’s almost as annoying is people who reach out to me and ask questions like, “hey, I’m considering a Supra MKIV or MKIII, which is better? ” I give my opinion, and they start making a justification for buying the MKIII. It’s a waste of everyone’s time if you’ve already talked yourself into a car, so do what you’re going to do.)
This leads me to my next point: if you’re going to buy a movie car and someone is trying to talk you out of it, you have two choices 1) realize that you’re buying based on nostalgia or 2) save your money for other, more sensible choices.
If you think the value of a movie car will skyrocket, you’re taking a huge gamble….huge. Only in extremely rare cases does that happen. O.k., with the obvious stated, and your mind made up, it’s time to start shopping for a movie car.
You’ll have ot watch auction websites and do daily searches for the car you want (i.e. 2 Fast 2 Furious Supra for sale). Once you’ve located a car, it’s time to check and verify the authenticity. Contact the seller and ask for photos, VIN number and a Certificate of Authenticity. A legit seller will show you this stuff, even if it has to be through Facetime.
You have to be careful here – back in the arly 2000’s, “legendary” George Barris sold a “real” Batmobile at an auction for $280,000. When the buyer found out the car was build on a 1972 chassis (and the Batman TV show only ran 1966-1967), it was a scandal. Eventually, the auction house refunded the guy’s money. HERE IS THE ARTICLE
Once you’ve verified its authenticity, you’ll want to research how the car was used. If it jumped a canyon and was welded back together, you should probably know that before you buy car that is little more than a doorstop.
Negotiate the best price you can, of course and as a rule, I offer 75% of the asking price as my first offer, assuming I don’t already know what the seller paid for it (and I usually do).
Whatever you decide, remember that buying a movie car has risks and rewards.
Goals Without a Plan are Just a Fantasy
Everytime a young person reaches out to me and tells me of their goals to buy a movie car, I commend them. In the same breath, i ask whet they’re doing to make their goals a reality.
If you’re 16 and not studying for the S.A.T. tests or learning a trade through an apprenticeship, you’re not serious about buying a movie car.
If you’re sitting around all day drinking, smoking a blunt or out doing hood rat shit with friends every day, you’re not serious about buying a movie car.
For those of you who are serious, you have a plan and you’re following it. You’re learning a high paying skill, you’re getting straight As in school and you’re alrwady looking at universities. The sad thing is that, in a few years when you finally have that cash in hand, you will have matured to the point where you realize that spending big money on a depreciating asset is a bad choice.