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Gone In 60 Seconds 'Eleanor' Mustang Sells For $1 Million

Viknesh Vijayenthiran MOTOR AUTHORITY
05/20/2013

A 1967 Ford Mustang used during filming of 2000’s hit movie Gone in 60 Seconds has sold at auction for a staggering $1 million. This was no ordinary Mustang, however, as the car in question was none other than the famous ‘Eleanor’ Mustang driven by actor Nicholas Cage in the movie’s closing stages. Eleven of the fictional Eleanor Mustangs were created for the movie, although only three of these were working cars, and two of these were destroyed during filming. This one was Cage’s primary ‘beauty’ car, used mostly for close ups as well as promotional efforts. The car was sold during the Dana Mecum 26th Original Spring Classic Auction in Indianapolis last week. No details about the auction’s winner have been announced, though the price paid is not at all unexpected given the car’s fame as well as its pedigree.

Though not an original Shelby, the Eleanor Mustangs was based on a 1967 Mustang fastback and was built by Cinema Vehicle Services with the help of legendary coachbuilder Chip Foose. Key features of the car are its central-mounted driving lights, pumped fender flares, and unique hood and trunk. Power comes from a 351 Ford V-8 crate engine, rated at 400 horsepower. Other specs include a four-speed manual transmission, lowered suspension with coilovers, 17-inch wheels shod with Goodyear F1 tires and a faux nitrous kit. Included in the sale was certification of the vehicle’s authenticity from the company responsible for building it as well as a special plaque that includes the VIN.

Note, this is the second time in five years that this particular Eleanor Mustang has come up for sale. Replica Eleanor Mustangs are rare and extremely popular in the collector car market, especially overseas. Replicas can be purchased built to suit starting at only $139,995 at www.brandnewmusclecar.com.

Gone in 60 Seconds Mustangs

Inside the Gone In Sixty Seconds Mustangs

Mustang Monthly
John Pearley Huffman
November 14, 2000
Photos By: Randy Lorentzen

Whatever its merits as a film, last summer's Gone In Sixty Seconds was required viewing for Mustang lovers. After all, it's not often that Hollywood makes a movie starring a car, much less a Mustang. And the Mustang in Gone was definitely the star. What's with that Mustang? And the movie? Those are questions substantial enough to build a story upon. And despite the fact that not everything makes sense in the movie (such as hitting the nitrous when the engine is already turning 7,000 rpm), we know you're going to buy the video.
 
The Movie
 
While the 2000 version of Gone In Sixty Seconds is obviously inspired by 1974's Gone In 60 Seconds, it's really not a remake. Although both titles are pronounced the same, technically, they're not identical because the title of the newer movie spells out the word sixty and the old title uses the number (even though the poster for the new movie uses the number). That's not bad, though, since (except for the 40-minute chase within its 97-minute running time) the first movie was practically incomprehensible. "The major appeal of Gone In 60 Seconds--and it is considerable--is that it is a genuine primitive work of art," says the Los Angeles Times, upon the original's release.
 
Art or not, the idea for the remake germinated at Disney and wound up in the hands of producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Bruckheimer produced Flash dance (probably not a top pick for the guys in the audience), Top Gun, and Days of Thunder with his late partner, Don Simpson, and such recent hits as Armageddon, The Rock, and Con Air on his own. With a script from Scott Rosenberg, who penned Con Air, Bruckheimer recruited Nicolas Cage to star and TV commercial director Dominic Sena to direct. Throw in a supporting cast that included Oscar winners Robert Duvall and Angelina Jolie and hopefully the result would be a hit.
The story is similar to the original in that a group of car thieves needs to steal 50 cars in a 24-hour period. The makers of the new movie threw in a threat to the life of lead character Memphis Raines' (Cage) brother, Kip (Giovanni Ribisi), to add some emotional wallop to the film, but people were going to see this movie based on the quality of the action. And the action would include a big car chase featuring, as in the original movie, a Mustang named Eleanor.
 
Creating Eleanor
 
When the movie started production, Eleanor wasn't necessarily going to be a Mustang at all. "We really wanted to see a GT40 blowing through downtown L.A., flying down the L.A. River, doing all that [expletive deleted]," says production designer Jeff Mann. But even for a movie that cost a reported $90 million to make, a fleet of GT40s was prohibitively expensive. So it was back to Mustangs.
 
"We were looking at a '67 GT500. It's a bitchin' car, no doubt," continues Mann, "but does it really stack up against these other vehicles?" This is a pertinent concern in a film that would be overstuffed with Ferraris. "In the context of all these other cars, it's not necessarily going to be the hottest thing going down the road (That depends on who you are--Ed.). That's when Jerry kind of opened the doors for me to come up with a variation on it …" Building that variation that didn't suck started with famed Hot Rod illustrator Steve Stanford, who drew up an illustration of an over-the-top '67 GT500.
 
Former Boyd Coddington designer Chip Foose was hired by the production company to turn Stanford's work into a reality. Foose fitted the car with PIAA lights in both the nose and rear backup areas. He also prototyped the hood, the front valance, the side skirts, the scoops, and other fiberglass parts that would be used for the car. That billet grille is based on aftermarket pieces originally developed for Chevy Astro vans and Foose found the Paul Schmidt (PS Engineering) 17x8-inch wheels that would be sheathed in P245/40ZR17 Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, front and rear.
 
Neither the side-exit exhausts nor the C-pillar-mounted fuel fillers ('71 Mach fuel doors) were functional on the cars seen in the movie. Why? First, because actually making the side exhausts work is tough, considering how the '67 Mustang is built. And second, because they didn't need to be functional.
 
Once the prototype pieces were completed and the molds were made, the project moved into the hands of Ray Claridg's Cinema Vehicle Services (CVS), where construction of the actual Eleanors took place.
 
Building Eleanor
 
"In all my time in this business," explains Ray Claridg, "this was the toughest show." Because of the screen time the Eleanor Mustang would have and the stunts it would be asked to do, several Eleanors would have to be built. The occasional improvisation of the production of the film itself further complicated the issue; script changes were constant and the needs of the filmmakers practically changed daily. Ultimately, there would be 12 Eleanors built for the film, including the prototype that didn't appear in the movie.
 
Construction of the Eleanors started with the CVS staff scouring the Southern California want ads, searching for '67 and '68 Mustang fastbacks. The cars CVS acquired ranged from clapped-out machines with leaky 289s to at least one Mustang GT powered by a 390. All the cars in the movie are '67s, and none were actual Shelbys.
 
Because certain cars were required to do different things in the course of the film, no two Eleanors were alike. Many of the Eleanors remain in CVS' inventory, but they've all been twisted, fiddled with, and rebuilt so many times, it's hard to determine their original condition when they appeared in the movie. And apparently, CVS didn't take any pangs to catalog all the cars.
 
Some of the cars received Lincoln Versailles rear ends, and at least one of the cars was geared for high-speed running along the concrete canals of the Los Angeles River. All the cars were lowered, but some of them received a Total Control Products (TCP) rack-and-pinion steering system and engine bay bracing. Some of the cars were built to slide around corners, some were built to survive a jump, and others were built to be crushed in a junkyard.
 
Up close, the Eleanors are a mix of sweet design work and expedient engineering. These cars weren't built to last a lifetime, win a car show, or go extremely fast; they were built to look good in a movie and do their particular task well.
 
Of the 12 Eleanors built, 7 survived the filming to end up back in CVS' possession. Two of the cars were destroyed doing the climactic jump on Los Angeles' Vincent Thomas Bridge at the end of the film. That jump was done in segments: in the first segment, a car jumped off a ramp and was destroyed during the landing. Another car had a longer jump, and it landed in a pile of cushioning boxes. That car, according to stunt coordinator Johnny Martin, actually came out in surprisingly good (though still damaged) condition. Another car was suspended from wires for the portion of the jump between the takeoff and the landing. A computer-generated Eleanor was used for a few seconds during the jump as well. And finally, another Mustang was destroyed when it jumped off a platform and back down onto the bridge's unforgiving tarmac to complete the jump. That car was definitely totaled.
 
Two more Eleanors were destroyed in the film's final scenes when the car is seen being snatched up in a junkyard and put into a crusher. Destroying that many Mustangs seemed like an utter waste of perfectly good cars. But it's all in a day's work for Hollywood.
 
The best Eleanor of those used in the film actually plays the least pristine of the bunch. CVS was in the process of building an Eleanor with a new Ford Motorsport 351 crate engine and all the best mechanical pieces (Versailles rear end, rack-and-pinion steering) when the production put out a call for a car to play Kip's gift to Memphis at the end of the film--a ratty Shelby. The car that was in the process of becoming the nicest Eleanor of them all--finished in primer, fitted with a derelict front bench seat, and mismatched steel wheels--was chosen to play that car. So the nicest Eleanor you see in the film, is actually the cruddiest looking.
 
The Nicest Eleanor of All (The 13th Eleanor – Built, but Not Seen in the Film)
 
Although it didn't appear in the film, the nicest Eleanor of all was built by CVS for producer Bruckheimer. It's an actual '67 Shelby GT500. The side-exit exhausts function, and so does the fuel filler in the C-pillar. The engine bay brace from Total Control Products (TCP) and the rack-and-pinion system were also installed, but the suspension itself wasn't touched. "There's nothing we can't reverse," explained Ray Claridge.
 
This 13th Eleanor is powered by a 428 with dual quads and was converted from its original automatic to a four-speed by CVS. While the exhaust system hangs low (low enough to be impractical), it makes a sound that rattled the condiments off the kitchen shelves at Bruckheimer Films when it was started in the facility's garage.
 
It may not have been used in the film, but Bruckheimer's Eleanor has the best claim to being the "real thing" of all the Eleanors.
 
Filming Eleanor
 
While star Nicolas Cage did a surprising amount of the driving in Gone, the heavy lifting was done by a team of Hollywood's best stunt drivers. "We've had a lot of man days on this show," says stunt coordinator Johnny Martin. "It's been nothing but weaving through traffic and dodging cars. And we did a lot of chase scenes in the middle of the day, through downtown L.A., so that pretty much causes a lot of traffic. We've had more than 350 guys work in it [the movie]." However, having Cage in the car most of the time allowed the director to better create the illusion that he was driving all the time.

Eleven Eleanors were used in the making of the film. This one was pieced together after the movie's completion for photography purposes. Though it looks good, it's one used-up '67 Mustang.

Although it's supposed to be the roughest in the film, this Mustang was probably the nicest in real life. It was presented as a gift from the character Kip in the movie to his brother Memphis.

Though it's covered in dust, the engine in Kip's gift Mustang was the most powerful (a Ford Motorsport 351 crate motor) of all the motors in the other Eleanors.

The interior of the gift Mustang may look wasted, but it's supposed to look that way. Note that the doorjambs have been painted silver, indicating that they painted over a paint job, like all the other Eleanors.

For stunt work, some of the cars were fitted with low-capacity, high-safety fuel cells. Note the battery mounted into a box for better weight distribution.

The area under the phony fuel cap of each Eleanor was marked for its particular use. The photo car was used for stunt work.

Chip Foose (below left) sculpted Eleanor's body in clay on a prototype. Molds made from this clay were used to cast the fiberglass pieces that would be used on the Eleanor in the film.

All the lights on the Eleanors came from PIAA, including both the headlights and the rear reverse lamps.

Paul Schmidt (PS Engineering) wheels, modeled after the magnesium units used on Ford's GT40s, were fitted to Gone's Mustangs. The 17x8-inch wheels were wrapped in Goodyear Eagle F1 tires, front and rear.

Bruckheimer's Eleanor still has its original 428 in place, with the strut tower bracing added (above & below).

Jerry Bruckheimer's personal Eleanor was modified to look like the other Eleanors but was the only bona fide Shelby. The interior of this 13th Eleanor is stock Shelby, except for the AutoMeter tach, the Moto-Lita steering wheel, and the fire extinguisher.

This particular car wasn't fitted with TCP rack-and-pinion steering, but the electronics for the PIAA lights are visible. By the time the photos were taken, the 390 in this car was tired.

Although the car is supposed to be a four-speed in the film, most of the actual Eleanors were automatics. Doing stunts or acting is easier when you don't have to manually shift gears.

Each Eleanor was unique, depending on what it had to do in the film. The Eleanor photographed here had a line lock at one time.

Though they were once movie stars, parts of the various Eleanors ended up unceremoniously bundled for disposal at CVS. Haven't these guys heard of eBay?