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DEATH RACE

The Cars Of Death Race
The cars in the action-thriller are not just an extension of the men driving them; they are characters themselves. It was key to the production that the Death Race autos were insane modifications of expected models. It was like designing two movies in one; creating the cars was just as difficult as developing the characters.

Anderson and Austerberry worked with two concept illustrators to begin the process. "We had to pick cars you could easily recognize in the fray of the race—those that have different silhouettes,” explains the designer. "We also wanted cars that would appeal to a broad range of ages.”

The industrial character of the autos came from the gritty, bashed-up aesthetic, as these are machines built by the criminals. The actors loved their respective rides, complete with napalm, nitrous-oxide (NOS) tanks and ejector seats. Says Statham, who, as Ames, drives a tricked-out 2006 Ford Mustang GT known as The Monster—armed with a ¾-inch steel tombstone and two mounted mini-guns that spit out 3,000 rounds per minute: "The Mustang's the signature all-American muscle car. Just the drawings were enough to seduce any man, so to get to see what was available behind the door…”

Gibson as Machine Gun Joe drives a weaponized, armor-plated 2004 Dodge Ram 1500 Quad Cab 4WD. His truck was designed to incorporate a Vulcan machine gun pulled from a helicopter gunship, which makes the car slower than the others but heavier all around. "It's a big piece of metal, and that makes sense. My car was a reflection of my character in the movie,” says Gibson. "I have the biggest car because I'm a bully.”

Neo-Nazi Pachenko drives a 1966 Buick Riviera chop top, lovingly known as the "Death Machine.” "The arch-villain's car is quite different; it's like a Hot Wheels car,” says Austerberry, adding that inspiration came from a picture of a Riviera with a chopped-down roof in Hot Rod magazine. "We combined those things together and created Pachenko's villainous car. It has a bright '60s color on the side and matte charcoal gray on the top to squish it down, with a low roof and narrow windscreen.”

The other cars driven by Death Race principal competitors were a variety of fiendish makes and models. They include 14K's 1978 Porsche 911, outfitted with four hellfire missiles on the roof and four mini-rocket clusters on the hood; Travis Colt's 1989 XJS Jaguar V12 with two M2s (.50 cal.) on the hood front; Grimm's 300 monster car, a 2006 Chrysler 300C with three MAG 58s (.308 cal.), rocket-tube machine guns on the hood front and hellfire missiles on the back.

Of course, the deciding factor in the design was maneuverability, but that didn't mean drivers couldn't die in style. Others who meet an early death in the race roll out in a 7 Series BMW (1989 BMW 735i) made to look like an aircraft cockpit. The design team imagined one-half would be cut out of it, and they put the navigator behind the driver (with a mini-gun on the side) to create a different silhouette. There was also a 1971 Buick Riviera "boat tail” with a pointed back nose, quite the contrast to Pachenko's '66 Riviera chop top—with its points on either side, front and back.

Alongside these beauties, Anderson commissioned a rebuilt 1979 Pontiac Trans Am with a cattle guard, .50-cal. gun on the hood front and .308-cal. mini-gun. They were designed to be painted in a way that kept them looking like battered, rusty machines that have seen and done some damage over the six years since the Death Race began. When all cars were lined up in the Bleeker Tunnel, they made an impressive sight.

Finally, Warden Hennessey has control over the biggest, meanest vehicle of them all. The Dreadnought is the monster of all monsters. It's painted battleship gray and comes smoking down the track, guns blazing and fire spitting. With its flamethrower, six h

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