Fate of the Furious: How a Blockbuster Series Changed Cars?
This week sees the release of the EIGHTH installment of the Fast & Furious film series. That was not a typo, nearly 16 years after the 1st movie hit theaters; The Fate of the Furious is already generating critical buzz and hype from fans all over. We’ll admit much of the offices of Endurance are divided into two camps: those who love this series that mixes globetrotting action, motorsports and family values (seriously) and those who…need to learn to have fun.
It’s no secret how these movies not only take their cues from what’s in pop culture and current car culture. And it’s safe to say how much of an influence these films were to a whole generation of wannabe tuners and racers to making Vin Diesel’s tank-top an acceptable look. Those of who live our lives a quarter mile at a time KNOW that The Fast and the Furious has had more of an effect on modern car culture than potentially any other franchise in history besides James Bond.
“One car in exchange for knowing what a man’s made of. That’s a price I can live with.”
- Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
This was the film franchise that “taught” millions of car fans that a 1995 Toyota Supra could best Ferraris in a head to head race with a little customization. And you may even want to blame these movies for why a stock Ford Fiesta comes with a rather ostentatious phosphor yellow metallic paint option.
The answer is: yes.
First off, it popularized the idea of customization and personalized touches to cars. Those were always around but now they were portrayed in a mainstream blockbuster. And now every car buyer can have that whether they buy a high-end Bentleys or a pre-owned Dodge Neon.
The first movie in the series, The Fast and the Furious owes much to the profiles on the West Coast tuner scene that had begun making waves in the press. Specifically it owes its inception to the California-based aftermarket Special Equipment Market Association aka SEMA. SEMA has been offering drivers exclusive customization that even automakers wouldn’t dare since the 1950s.
Today, the new Ford Fiesta is available in 10 different hues and the Fiat 500 has an incredible 500,000 different customization options.
“It’s all between you and the car. It’s a bond. It’s a commitment.”
- Tej Parker (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) Furious 6 (2013)
We would even say that the standard center consoles of everyday cars took a major upgrade thanks to tuner culture going mainstream. These days they are capable of just as much if not more multitasking compared to the movies’ band of street racers.
The vast majority of new cars now comes standard with a full suite of infotainment features, ranging from DAB digital radio to Bluetooth phone connectivity. And these all tend to be mounted on a slick, modern touchscreens that have a space-age quality about them.
“It doesn’t matter if you win by an inch or a mile, winning is winning.”
- Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) The Fast and the Furious (2001)
One of the biggest takeaways from the film on younger drivers is the big change in perception that big performance is not always associated with the size of your engine.
In the films seeing a nitro-fueled Mitsubishi Eclipse leaving a souped up Dodge Charger in the dust may seem implausible. And yet today you could buy a MINI with 228hp, while the Subaru WRX STi matches a Ford Mustang.
The idea of a small car putting out huge performance is well…normal now. You can cite the films or you can cite the popularity of “hot hatches” like the Ford Fiesta ST or more compact sports cars like Nissan’s 370Z.
If those are out of your range, no doubt in our a post-recession world, Fast and Furious has a certain appeal to prospective vehicle buyers who crave big power on a tighter budget. These days it’s far more exciting to read about a new Civic Type-R that delivers blistering performance but that also returns nearly 40mpg when fuel prices are high versus an expensive pony car.
Funny enough the least influence that the film franchise has had on automotive world is regarding drivers themselves.
What we mean is that after each film breaks box office records, tuner companies like Turbonetics may enjoyed a temporary bump, but that spike in sales is gone as soon as the film is out of theaters.
“Now you owe me a ten second car.”
- Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) Fast & Furious(2009)
You could roll your eyes on how the F&F movies opened the gates for every other impressionable 17-year to get a Honda Civic and slap a fart-can muffler on it. And yet for drivers who stuck around in the scene, it’s tough to say the auto industry and gearheads alike simply roundly ignored the films outright despite the outrageous depictions of street racing bombast which could very well end in space for the planned 10th and final installment.
For most of us cool people in Endurance, these movies aren’t just about the action, explosions or unlikely heists. It’s all about the cars.