The film Gone in 60 Seconds starring Nicholas Cage and a 1967 Shelby GT500 named Eleanor turned 20 years old this year. This is a terrible movie if not for the fact that it featured Angelina Jolie as a Ferrari expert, and Nick Cage doing his own stunt driving in the film. Most, however, only remember Eleanor and her Go-Baby-Go nitrous button.
This article is going to go even further back. Back to the ’70s with the original Gone in 60 Seconds (1974) film that was the baby of a truly spectacular car-guy H.B. Halicki, aka the Car-Crash King. He produced, wrote, starred, directed, and did his own stunts on this film that includes a record-holding car-chase scene that lasts for over 30 minutes. This chase scene was filmed using civilians, real cops, and had several unplanned major accidents that were kept in the film. The most remarkable thing about this unique piece of automotive cinema is that they only used one Mustang for the entire chase. Just one stunt car that was built by H.B. Halicki himself to survive its Hollywood debut. This is the real Eleanor. The hardest Mustang ever built.
How Do You Build a Stunt Car?
Different sources state that it took 250 man-hours to build Eleanor. It started out as a 1971 Mustang Fastback that was converted to a ’73 so it could pass as a new model for the time this movie was being filmed. The cockpit was fitted with a NASCAR-style roll cage. A Simpson shoulder harness, seat belt keeps the driver in place. In the back seat rested an adjustable camera mount powered by a 24-volt electrical system controlled by a kill switch.
Its 351 Winsor V8 was modified by Halicki to give the Mustang more giddy-up. The automatic transmission was chained to the frame so it wouldn’t accidentally fall out. For stunts, they gave the car individual locking rear brakes to for quicker 180 spins. Three-inch thick steel skid-plate covered most of the undercarriage. Heavy-duty wheels and Goodyear Rally GT tires topped the whole thing off. Now you have a Death Proof Ford Mustang.
A Real Hero Car
To put things in perspective, the 5-minute car-chase in the movie Jon Wick 2 saw the death of 5 1969 Ford Mustangs. In one scene Eleanor missed the mark causing it to be clipped by a Cadillac causing it to spin out and crash into a telephone pole at 100 mph. The car and Halicki were taken for repairs and were back on set two hours later. The big jump at the end of the chase involved flying 128-feet in the air before crashing landing hard on its chin. Halicki suffered lifelong spine injuries after this stunt.
The most exciting thing about this car is that it’s still alive! Halicki was tragically killed in a stunt gone wrong while filming Gone in 60 Seconds 2 in 1989. His wife, Denise, kept Eleanor and it was last seen on display at the Petersen Museum in 2014. This Mustang is the only one to have a star title credit in a feature film. It’s a real-life hero car.
Crash with Telephone Pole
Eleanor Jumps 128 feet!