CONCORD, N.C. (March 17, 2003) – America’s most famous stolen car makes its Carolinas debut during the April 3-6 Food Lion AutoFair at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
When Nicolas Cage played car thief “Memphis” Raines in the 2000 blockbuster movie Gone in 60 Seconds, the object of his obsession was a Pepper Gray 1967 Shelby GT-500 Mustang named Eleanor that sported custom body work, a race-ready powerplant and enough attitude to fill the silver screen. The Mustang was the final car on a list of 50 that Raines and crew had to lift during a 24-hour period in order to save his brother’s life. No sooner does Raines remove Eleanor from the safety of her parking garage than a city-wide chase through crowded streets, a flood control channel and a blocked bridge begins.
As is the case with many famous custom cars from film or television, every speed freak in the world wanted his or her very own Eleanor after seeing Gone in 60 Seconds. Past experience told them not to start saving their pennies, though; one-off movie cars had never been reproduced for sale to the public. The most recognized custom car in the world, the ’60s Batmobile from television, was never copied and sold. Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs never parked in the driveways of middle America. Exact replicas of the General Lee 1969 Dodge Charger could easily have been built and marketed to nostalgia enthusiasts and fans of The Dukes of Hazzard, but no one stepped up to the plate.
Tired of being shown cool cars that he and others could never drive, collector car dealer Steve Sanderson of Plano, Texas, contacted Cinema Vehicle Services – the folks that created the batch of Mustangs for use in the Nicolas Cage movie – and purchased enough parts to create his own car. Once finished, the fastback Mustang was a twin sister to Eleanor and it immediately generated interest from potential buyers.
Sanderson and partners sought and received the blessing of GT-500 creator Carroll Shelby to produce a line of “continuation” cars bearing his name and all of the go-fast custom goodies seen on or suggested by Eleanor in the movie.
The GT-500E, as it’s known, comes in three flavors – the $80,000 base model, a $120,000 Performance Package and the $150,000 Super Snake. Powering the $80K Eleanor is a 302-cid V-8 rated at 325 horsepower and backed up by an automatic or four-speed manual transmission. A custom deluxe black vinyl dresses up the interior, which also benefits from a race-style rollbar, full gauges, a CD stereo system and air conditioning. Outside, the GT-500E is decked out with the same custom-fabricated fiberglass spoilers and scoops, quick-fill gas cap, side-exit exhaust pipes and driving lights Eleanor wore in the movie. Seventeen-inch Edelbrock alloy wheels take the place of the similar Schmidt rims used on the original.
Stepping up to the Performance Package nets everything in the base model plus a 351-cid/430-horsepower V-8, nitrous oxide injection, a six-speed manual transmission and a laundry list of parts that would seem more at home on a NASCAR stocker than a street car. The GT-500E Super Snake features a supercharged 427-cid aluminum V-8 cranking out 750 horsepower.
All Eleanor replicas – 400 base and Performance Package cars and 75 Super Snakes – will be built from restored 1967 Mustang fastbacks and given Shelby-approved sequential serial numbers. The idea of turning old Mustangs into new continuation models is appropriate for Eleanor as the 2000 version of Gone in 60 Seconds was actually a remake/sequel of a same-named 1974 film directed by, produced by and starring the late H.B. Halicki whose Detroit-built femme fatale was played by a yellow ’73 Mustang fastback.
Visitors to the Food Lion AutoFair will have a chance to steal a peek at a base Eleanor as well as a Super Snake. As if Mustang enthusiasts didn’t have enough to look at with the Eleanor twins, there will be a display commemorating 10 years of Ford SVT Cobra production and the national debut of a special anniversary edition.
Food Lion AutoFair hours are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Sunday. Tickets are $8 for adults with children under 12 admitted free when accompanied by an adult. Parking for the event is $5.