Forty minutes of automotive mayhem as a bright yellow Mustang Fastback skids, slides, powers and jumps its way through six different Californian cities leaving the police in its wake and nothing less than 93 cars crashed, smashed and destroyed. This is a car chase like no one had ever seen before – or since!
Gone in 60 Seconds. And let’s start by getting one thing perfectly clear – I’m not talking about the terrible Nicolas Cage and Angelina Jolie remake from 2000. At ViaRETRO we appreciate all that is authentic and not least truly nostalgic, so it can only be the original H.B. Halicki version from 1974.
While this is of course all about the movie – or in fact, about that most epic of car chases – H.B. “Toby” Halicki really does deserve a mention. Born in New York in 1940, he developed a healthy interest for cars at a very young age thanks to the family towing business. As a teenager he moved to California and made a living working on cars. Eventually that lead to him owning his own impound and towing business. But he had a dream of making a movie – one about of cars of course. Gone in 60 Seconds was it. But Halicki went about things in his own manner. He self-financed the movie while also both writing, directing, producing and starring in the movie. He even did his own stunt work! There was no proper and official script for the movie – only several pages outlining the main dialog sequences. The other actors in the movie consisted mostly of family and friends. And Halicki even managed to source all the cars used in the movie – and there were many – himself, by purchasing the majority from city auctions at an average price of $200. This was indeed a man with a vision.
In the movie, Halicki plays the role of the aptly named anti-hero Maindrian Pace, a respectable auto insurance investigator who also runs his own chop shop in Long Beach, California. But on the side, he heads a gang of professional car thieves, who steal cars, give them new identities with legit VIN’s and engine numbers, and then sell them for profit. It’s through these illicit activities that Maindrian Pace is approached by a South American drug lord who offers him $400,000 if Maindrian and his team can deliver a list of 48 specific cars to the Long Beach docks within five days! And so the scene is set…
Each of the cars on the list is given a female code name. The list includes multiple Cadillacs, Lincolns and Rolls-Royces, but there are also several proper rarities on there, such as a 1930 Hudson, Citroën SM, De Tomaso Pantera, Maserati Ghibli, Lamborghini Miura, Ferrari 340 America, Ferrari 365 GTB/4 Daytona and a funky Manta Mirage to name but some. Against all odds, the team manages to car-jack 47 of the cars on the list, but with the five day deadline approaching quicktime, they’re struggling with the last one – a 1973 Ford Mustang. Eleanor.
And predictably, this is where it all starts going south for our anti-hero. As he emerges from a parking garage in Long Beach with Eleanor, he is met by two detectives in an unmarked police car. ACTION! Here starts the longest, wildest and most elaborate car chase in movie history. The detectives give chase and before long it seems every cop in the state is trying their best to keep up with Maindrian Pace as he guns the yellow Mustang through the streets of Los Angeles and out onto the freeway. Six Californian cities are left in ruins with cars piled up on every street corner as the 40 minute chase destroys all of 93 cars (the total count for the entire movie was 127). Eleanor is looking worse for wear herself.
While there can be no discussion that Gone in 60 seconds is of course a B-movie – perhaps in technical terms it might even be a pretty bad B-movie – it still deserves due credit for staging the mother of all car chases. For a proper gearhead, nothing has ever come close to matching the original Gone in 60 Seconds for sheer action and drama. The climax to the massive car chase is a huge jump, where Maindrian – still with Halicki driving the Mustang himself for the shooting – launches Eleanor into a 30’ high and 128’ long jump. Even without the enormous chase, just this jump alone is quite incredible as similar jumps are never performed on film without CGI or at the very least a gas-driven catapult to launch the car. Needless to say, the Mustang took a severe beating, and apparently so did H.B. Halicki as he compacted ten vertebrae and was claimed to never walk the same again after this scene.
In case you haven’t already seen the original Gone in 60 Seconds, I won’t be the spoil sport who gives away the ending. Instead, I will say that your automotive education is severely lacking without having viewed this extraordinary car chase! You will have to find the complete movie elsewhere (thankfully, it’s available on DVD), but for now you should as a bare minimum take the next 40 minutes to enjoy Hollywood’s longest car chase: