So, You Want to Build a Movie Replica Car
Before you go out and build a movie replica car, you should know what you’re getting yourself into. For decades movies, have featured vehicles that define the movie, a culture, or even a generation. In some movies, the vehicle itself could be the star of the show. With the continuing rise in the popularity of custom vehicles, the interest in the replica community has also increased dramatically.
Today, more fans than ever from around the world are trying to recreate these vehicles. With the power of the world wide web, you’d think it’d be easy.
Some of the most popular movie replicas would be the VW bug from Herbie the Love Bug, the 68 and 69 Dodge Charger from the Dukes of Hazard TV show, the AMC DeLorean from Back to the Future, an ’82 Pontiac Firebird used for KITT in Knight Rider, and several of the cars from the Fast and Furious franchise.
Don’t Expect To Make a Profit
Know that to build a movie replica car is a rewarding experience, but you should expect to run into walls constantly. Part of the experience is figuring out how to get over that wall. Another important consideration: be ready to spend money – lots of money. Take the budget that you realistically think you will need, and double it. Before this scares you off, let me add that it is all worth it – if you are building it for the right reason.
To go out and build a movie replica car for the joy of the build and then the joy of the people that see it is what makes it rewarding. Don’t expect to make your money back by selling it. Some of the actual screen used cars are sold for not much more than it costs to build a good quality, accurate replica.
The phenomenon of building these replicas has been going on for a long time, but unfortunately it has become increasingly harder to build them.
For the older vehicles, the cars themselves are getting harder to find in a usable condition. With the newer cars, the parts are often one-offs or no longer in production. With how quickly the market shifts in aftermarket parts, you only have a limited amount of time that parts are available from the original manufacturer. After that, you’re forced to resort to Ebay and auction sites from around the world. Making these parts even more expensive is the fact that people who have these used parts know what you’re using them for and the price will be high – sometimes double or triple the price of the parts when new.
Making things even more complex is the fact that aftermarket parts will often need extensive fabrication to make it them fit properly. This isn’t something done intentionally by the movie car builders, it just is part of the process of replicating a custom-built vehicle.
Global Searching Required
To give you some examples, here are some of the things I had difficulty with when building my Fast and Furious Eclipse replica. Anytime you set out to to build a movie replica car, you can expect some challenges but for these cars, there are some unique issues.
That means the entire world’s supply of these wheels has already been produced. Some of these wheels were destroyed in accidents, some were sent to the junkyard with junked cars, others might be sitting in a shanty in Burma. This limited the availability even more. It took me 4 years to finally find a set of the accurate wheels in the right size. To find them, I had to scour the internet weekly, for hours, on websites from around the world. No easy task.
The seats were also out of production in 2006 and also took some time to find. Further complicating matters is that with a racing seat, they actually have certifications on them that are only good for a certain amount of time. If used for racing, the racer would then toss the seat in the trash once the seat was no longer certified. This again created a limited availability to the seats.
The examples I’ve just given are for my project on a car that is less than 20 years old. Now imagine trying to build a replica of a car from a movie that is even older.
Not all Replicas are Equal.
The decision to build a movie replica car is not one to be taken lightly. There are plenty of examples out there showing what can happen if you don’t pay attention to details or just don’t have the money to do it properly. Of course, that’s o.k. – we can all appreciate the work that goes into these cars. We are not here to bash on those builds, but rather to say that they aren’t replicas, but more of what would be referred to as a “tribute” car.
In a later blog we will discuss the differences between “screen-used,” a “replica,” and an “inspired-by” type of build.
When deciding to build a replica, you must take great care in doing your research. Utilize editing software that can allow you to go frame by frame in a movie to help you find all the little details. If the actual screen-used vehicle is on display someone, you might want to plan a trip out to see it.
Keep in mind that the movies often use multiple cars and the car on display may not have all the exact features that you see in the movie.
Take your time and don’t rush either. Rushing is a surefire way to miss important details. These details are what set the replica car builders apart from the tribute builders. It isn’t cheap or easy, but if it were, there would be no point in doing it.
If You Build a Movie Replica Car, You’re on your own.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind when building a replica is that you are on your own. It sounds harsh, but it is the truth.
While you may get help with some of the easy questions, you won’t get any help with the hard ones.
Builders of these cars have spent hours, days, weeks or even years searching for the information and for the parts. There’s no logical reason for them to give the information to someone just because they need “help.”
When it comes to finding the parts, again, the same holds true. There are only so many of these parts floating around the world and owners of screen-used cars or replicas always looking for replacements in case something happens to their cars.
If a person says that building a replica is easy or cheap, just proves that they have never actually tried to do it themselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Peacock is a well-known car builder and replica owner in Southern California. He’s been building and modifying cars for more than 10 years. Kevin is an industry veteran and regularly attends car shows to share his creations.
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