When the movie started production, Eleanor wasn’t necessarily going to be a Mustang at all.
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.
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.
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.
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 rearend, 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
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 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 Claridg.
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.
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.