Mad About Furious 7

The Fast and the Furious films has become one of the highest grossing film franchises ever, rubbing shoulders with the film greats like the Star Wars trilogy. I have a lot of issues with these movies, for a variety of different reasons, but since the release of the most recent film, Furious 7, I can no longer bite my tongue. The Fast and the Furious movies suck! This coming from a true gearhead. They took a cookie cutter plot, added some Easter egg colored Imports and made a successful street racing movie that jumpstarted a new trend of idiotic car modifications. Hollywood, no different than any other big business, is greedy so naturally they made a sequel. Six films later, and the F&F movies have jumped the shark and driven so far into fantasy land that I am surprised they don’t just call it what it is, a video game you watch instead of play. Because where else would you see cars jumping out of airplanes, fight with tanks, run 24-speed transmissions, and have drivers walk away without a scratch after jumping out of a speeding car.

As a writer, I find the plot of these movies to be a joke, and as a Gearhead, I get angry when I find out how many valuable and desirable cars they have destroyed in order to film a, “car chase”, that doesn’t come close to the standards of Bullitt or the Original Gone in 60 Seconds film. I am surprised more Gearheads do not feel the same as I do since most of us would cringe in horror if we saw a 1968-70 Dodge Charger get blown up in front of us, yet we pay $15 to see a dozen Chargers be destroyed on a big screen. Open your eyes! These films are NOT directed at Gearheads. The F&F target audience are the same group of people who enjoy Michael Bay films, people that like explosions, shiny things, and boobies. All flash and no substance is their motto.

I’ll prove my point by going through the plot. For those who have seen the movies, you know that the story in part three, F&F Tokyo Drift, ends with Vin Diesel’s character, Dom, in Japan about to race the main character of the movie. That movie was released in 2006, right? Now, the following 3 films in the series are supposedly the events that lead up to Dom being in Japan, and the death of supporting character, Hun. The problem with that is that they apparently do not care or failed to notice that if something takes place in 2006, and they want to tell the story of what happened before that, then you cannot use cars, phones, and technology that came AFTER 2006. I have yet to read an article that had noticed this, and I feel like the F&F movies are proving that most people do not care as long as the cars are shiny and Vin Diesel is punching something.

I could let this slide if the action scenes were good, by good I mean realistic. Although they are before my time, I grew up watching classic films that were made with Gearheads in mind. Films like The Love Bug (1968), Vanishing Point (1971), Two Lane Blacktop (1970), Dirty Marry and Crazy Larry (1974), and even the Dukes of Hazzard series (1979-85). Films before CGI, were if the director wanted a car to jump through a building, they hired a steel nerved stuntman to drive a reinforced Chevy Nova and crashed it though a real building. There was no shaky-cam effects, no rapid jump-cuts between the actor and the chase. Back then, they wanted a viewer to see the chase from a far to fully enjoy the stunt driver’s handy work as they powerslided around a corner or rammed a car off the road. The F&F movies don’t really have car chases, if you think about it, sure they have one or two chase scenes but it is usually filled with the actors “driving” from the safety of a green screen, while the rest of it is a rapid cut of shifting gears, car close ups, and crashes. There is no clear direction as to where the cars are going or what the hell they are doing. It’s all just noise and angry expressions. Yes the F&F movies do have some amazing stunts, and my highest respect to the stunt men and women who preform them, but I don’t think these movies will be remembered 50 years from now for their car chase scenes. Maybe their gear-shifting scenes, since manuals will be a thing of the past by then.

My biggest issue with the franchise is how they used the tragic death of Paul Walker to sell more tickets, and music. Paul Walker was a good actor, genuine Gearhead with a passion for racing, who worked with charity. When I heard that the ending of Furious 7 was a real tear jerker, I looked for it online. SPOLIER ALERT!! Paul Walker’s character, played by his brother with CGI used to make him look like Paul, drives up in a Toyota Supra next to Dom’s Dodge Charger. It is a reference to the first F&F movie ending, where they raced in similar cars. The movie cuts to a montage of Paul Walker’s character through the film series as Vin Diesel narrates saying they will always be brothers. Then cuts back to the two cars driving up and then parting ways as the road splits. I don’t know, but to me that seemed a little half assed. One of the many things people love about the movies is that Dom and Brain love racing each other to see who is the best out of the two, wouldn’t a more touching ending be that Brain finally wins against Dom before going off to be with his family? It would also be reflection of Paul Walker and his own true passion for driving. Then have video clips of Paul Walker and the type of person he was during the ending credits as a farewell montage. Not two weeks after the release of Furious 7, rumors of an 8th film already in the works start to fill the internet. I find that to be in bad taste, because if one of the main stars that made the franchise what it is passes away tragically then that should be the end of the franchise? Makes a person wonder, if it were Vin Diesel would the franchise have ended? It proves that it is no longer about the film’s plot or storyline, just about the money and milking the cow for as long as they can, much like the Transformers franchise.

The Fast and the Furious franchise should not be welcomed by Gearheads, because it is just a money hungry film that would destroy a rare Ferrari GTO without a second thought if it meant people would pay to see it. The cars spend more time flying through the air than on the road, so it is no longer a movie that a Gearhead can enjoy for the realism of driving action, and the story line seems to have been written by a group of seventh graders. People tell me that these films are, “Just for fun, and not to be taken so seriously”, which I understand, but if I wanted to see a movie like that then I would just watch Die Hard, because at least the main character gets hurt in those movies.

Sold on Mecum

I have fond memories of watching Mecum Auto Auctions on television with my father on weekend afternoons; trying to guess the hammering price on what seemed like an endless line of dream cars coming through the auction block. I grew up hearing the adventures my father had when he used to flip cars during the late 80’s and early 90’s. Buying and selling used Cutlasses, Citations, Diplomats, and K cars at car auctions in order to keep food on the table and me in clean diapers. So when I read that Mecum was coming to Texas, I knew that I had to make a father and son trip over to Houston to attend. We didn’t go to buy a Hemi or Yenko tribute car, we just wanted to witness what we had seen on television for so many years. We were not disappointed.

Entering the area, we were greeted by a 1970 Chevelle SS 454 driving past us on its way to the auction block. All 450 horses prancing without a trip or a miss as it hummed slowly across the floor to get in line with the rest of the high dollar machines awaiting to see if they will be going to a new home. It wasn’t until I was walking on the red carpet, standing within touching distance of a 1970 Plymouth Hemi Superbird, with 4-speed, that the magnitude of where I was started to hit me. I’ve been to plenty of car shows before, but this was the first one where every single car I was taking photos of had a for sale sign. It was almost overwhelming, makes you wish you had a clone so one can take photos while the other one simply admires and drools over the cars.

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Drinking a beer with my father as we listened and watched all our favorite cars was truly a Gearhead Hallmark moment, a good concept for an auto-themed greeting card. Listening to all these high dollar collector trailer queens start up, after probably months of being asleep in an air conditioned warehouse, and yawning in the form of puffing white smoke as they stretch their wheels. While others are pushed by volunteers or towed by golf carts to the center stage. A 1970 Hemi Daytona struggling to wake up as it almost stalls twice before getting on the auction block, carbs just need an adjustment. Or a 1969 convertible Chevy Camaro that nearly turns into a fog machine as it revs and shoots out a cloud of blue smoke before going back to sleep knowing it now has a new owner. One aspect I do not like about the collector car industry is that some people only see these cars as investments only. Keeping a car in storage, no matter how dry, well light, or clean it may be, can still hurt these machines if they are not moved or started up regularly. What’s the point of throwing down half a million on a Hemi if you don’t take it out on Sunday afternoons and show off a little?

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There were a few cars I really wanted to bid on at Mecum, like a Buick Grand National movie car that was driven by Vin Diesel in the Fast n Furious franchise. Not because I am a fan of the actor or movies, I just really like Grand Nationals. Since I was broke I sat with my father in the stands to watch the auction take place. You could feel the energy and excitement among the crowd. We all felt excited, and perhaps a tad bit jealous, of the bidders going wild every time the reserve went off on a car. Chanting, “RESERVE… IS… OFF!” like we were on a game show, because we are excited for the owner who is hopefully making a profit on his/her car while at the same time happy for the lucky buyer who will be taking it home. When you start seeing six or seven figures on the board for a car with no reserve, you can’t help but get a small rush from the people in a bidding war. “Sold, sold, sold, sold!” as the hammer drops, creating a new payday, a new owner, and probably a future pissed off wife or girlfriend.

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After hours of fun, and a few more beers, we were looking at the last cars on the floor that we hadn’t seen when I noticed someone that looked all too familiar. It was Mr. Rutledge Wood, some of you know him from NASCAR but I first heard of this man from his time on Top Gear US. I got to shake his hand and snap a quick photo with him, making him the first automotive celebrity I get the opportunity to meet. Mr. Wood has what I consider to be the dream, getting paid to work in the media and talk about cars for a living. I am pleased to say that Mr. Wood is a total gentlemen in taking a moment to talk to us and pose for pictures. Hopefully my career will cross paths with him again in the future.

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Overall, my father and I had a great time at Mecum Auto Auctions in Houston, Texas. We plan on coming here again, only this time we’ll make sure our pockets are stuffed full of cash so we can join in on the fun as registered bidders.

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