Emotion is one of the most dominant factors behind humanity’s growth as a species, influencing our concepts of morality, ethics and law. It should come as no surprise then that we are all collectively drawn to the powerful emotional stimuli from the emotionally evocative world of the arts. From paintings to music to dance, we explore, revel and rejoice in the resulting emotional hollowness, despair or ecstasy.
However, the advent of the movie industry in the first quarter of the 20th century, and subsequently, broadcast television, to the masses, magnified the breadth, scope and strength of the emotional effect of art into our lives. Over the years, a number of themes, plot devices and props have become dominant in movies and television shows, owing to their power to quickly and decisively affect us psychologically. Interestingly, among the hundreds of factors alluded to earlier, cars rank as one of more popular and visible ones.
Why cars, you wonder? To put it simply, manufacturers, copywriters and advertising agencies have always, from the birth of the car industry, associated cars with appealing elements such as rebelliousness, wealth, independence, and even, physical and sexual attraction.
Naturally, when cars start to become props in major movies and television shows, many viewers at home and cinemas developed an instant affinity with them. Heroic action figures, anti-heroes, superheroes, rebels without any causes and star-crossed lovers were frequently teamed with stylish and unique cars, creating lifelong emotional connections with fans, especially from the younger demographic.
Some of these cars became legends on their own merits, such as the 1965 Shelby Coupe featured in Redline 7000 (which won the FIA World Sportscar Championship) and the heavily-customized Aston Martin DB5 used by James Bond in Goldfinger. However, even hitherto regular cars were elevated into the realm of legends owing to the success of the films they were featured on, such as Bonnie and Clyde’s 1934 Ford Fordor and James Dean’s 1949 Mercury seen in Rebel Without A Cause.
Over time, as nostalgia starts to bleed into memories, the iconic status of these cars began to be reflected in its real world value. The gradual growth of the collectors and memorabilia market, driven primarily to tap into the emotional and psychological desires of long-time fans, propelled the value of these cars into stratospheric heights.
Compiled below is a list of the ten most expensive and recognizable cars from movies.
10 DeLorean DMC-12 (Back To The Future, 1985), $541,000
One of the only seven ever built, the Delorean DMC-12 became a worldwide phenomenon when it transported young Marty McFly and Dr. Emmett Brown thirty years into the past. Unlike its plutonium-powered engine in the movie, the real Delorean had a PRV ZMJ-159 V6 engine that could only hit a top speed of 85mph – just short of the 88mph required to cross the time barrier.
The car was sold in an auction in 2011 for $541,000, with the entire proceeds going to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
9 Chitty Chitty Car (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, 1968), $805,000
Sporting the license plate CUB 1, the Chitty Chitty Car was specially built for the family fantasy in the lot of the legendary Pinewood Studio. The movie, based on a book written by James Bond author Ian Fleming and an original storyline by Roald Dahl (author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), starred Dick Van Dyke, playing the role of Caractacus. Despite being a prop, the car could actually be driven around.
The prop car was originally offered for sale to eBay for $1 million dollar, which declined the offer. It was then entered into an auction in 2011, but the reserved price of $2 million was not met. However, intense negotiations immediately after the auction resulted in the car being sold for $805,000.
8 1969 Shelby Mustang GT500 (Gone in 60 Seconds, 2000), $1 Million
Affectionately called Eleanor by Memphis Raines (played by Nicolas Cage) in the hit movie, Gone in Sixty Seconds, the beautifully-designed American classic packs a monstrous 400 horsepower under its hood and only 38 thousand miles on the odometer.
There were three Eleanors built for the movie, but only one survived, and it subsequently fetched an incredible $1 million in an auction in Indianapolis in 2013.
7 1929 Duesenberg Model J Dual Cowl Phaeton (Spinout, 1966), $1.2 Million
The movie featured Elvis Presley, playing the part of Mike McCoy, a budding rock and roll star and race car driver. McCoy, caught between the loving embrace of two beautiful women, trots around the countryside in his Duesenberg, towing along his Cobra 427, amidst numerous song and dance routines. Spinout is easily one of Presley’s most entertaining and beloved flicks, and the Duesenberg gets a fair amount of screen time.
The fully restored two-tone car was sold at an auction in 2011 for $1,237,500, significantly more than expected.
6 Porsche 911S (Le Mans, 1971), $1.37 Million
The Porsche 911s, which was featured coasting along the French countryside in the opening sequences of the 1971 classic, Le Mans, was owned by the star of the movie, the late Steve McQueen.
The Hollywood icon, who was also an amateur race car driver, was famed for his collection of racing and high-powered cars. Over the years, cars associated with his name have regularly fetched premium prices on auction blocks. So it didn’t come as a shock when the car was sold for $1.37 million in an auction in 2011.
5 Aston Martin DB5 (Goldfinger, 1964): $4.6 Million
A little known fact about arguably the greatest ever James Bond car – there were two of them used in the movie, complete with dummy ejector seats, machine guns and rocket launchers. The first Aston Martin DB5 has long disappeared from the public eye after it was stolen in 1997 from its Dutch owner. The second one, however, was successfully auctioned off for $4.6 million in London in 2010.
The image of the silver coupe, with Scottish actor Sean Connery at the wheel, remains one of the most memorable aspects of the James Bond franchise. The new owner, Union Savings Bank’s president Harry Yeaggy, currently displays the DB5 in his private museum in Ohio.
4 Batmobile (Batman, TV Series, 1966-68), $4.62 Million
When 20th Century Fox decided to bring Batman from the comic books to the television, one of the most important requirements was the Batmobile. After several false starts, car stylist George Barris was eventually given the nod to design the car with a budget of $15,000.
Building upon the blueprint of Ford’s Lincoln Futura, Barris constructed a vehicle that has gone on to become probably the most famous television car of all time.
Forty-seven years after the show ended its successful three seasons run, the car was sold for $4.6 million at a Barrett-Jackson auction in January 2013.
3 1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe (Redline 7000, 1965), $7.25 Million
The FIA championship-winning car has two other claims to fame: it remains the only completely American-built car to defeat a Ferrari-built one in a race, and it was once driven by Steve McQueen in the movie Redline 7000.
With such pedigree and historical worth, the car was expected to fetch a great price when it was listed in the Mecum Auctions in Indianapolis four years ago. However, the final price of $7.25 million for the sleek blue coupe almost blew everyone away. The price became the highest ever for an American car sold in a public auction, until 2012.
2 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, 1986), $10.9 Million
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, written and directed by the late John Hughes, appears to be nothing more than the thousandth retelling of the story of the smart, but misunderstood young antihero. However, the film has proven to be one of the most influential and critically-acclaimed comedies of the 1980's, and continues to be held in reverence by those who grew up during the era.
In the film, the 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California Spider took on the central role of aiding the day-long escapade of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick), his best friend Cameron (Alan Ruck) and girlfriend Sloane (Mia Sara).
The appeal of the film lies with the premise of a 17-year old outsmarting his principle, teachers and parents while driving around in an electrifying $300,000 Ferrari. For teens around the word, it doesn’t get any better than that.
In 2008, British radio personality Chris Evans won an auction for the car for the pricely sum of $10,894,900.
1 1968 Ford GT40 Gulf/Mirage Lightweight Racer (Le Mans, 1971), $11 Million
If you’re still unconvinced about the effect that Steve McQueen has on car prices, then this should clear all your doubts away.
The 1968 Ford GT40 was only seen fleetingly in the 1971 movie, Le Mans, as it was chiefly used as a camera car. The competitive race car also participated in the 1968 Le Mans Endurance Race and Daytona. However, these two factors, along with its former ownership by McQueen, proved to be more than enough.
The powder blue car was sent to the block in 2012, and in predictable fashion, set a new auction record for an American car with a whopping price of $11 million, breaking a 3-year record held by another McQueen-linked car, the 1965 Shelby.
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