The Mad Max franchise has more than its fair share of adrenaline-fueled chase scenes, chaotic crashes, and increasingly insane explosive finishes, but one of the series’ signature features is its memorable vehicle design. Though there are far too many to mention all of them here, I’ve whittled the three films down to the best modes of transportation they have to offer; sorry, no Cow Cars or Doom Buggies this round. Special hat tip to MadMaxMovies.com, a fan site that has a trunk-load of images, history, and details on the Mad Max vehicles. Definitely check them out if this article wets your whistle.
Mad Max’s V8 Interceptor
This is the car that started it all! Although Max starts the film off in one of the Main Force Patrol’s Yellow Interceptors to take down the Night Rider, the specially commissioned V8 Interceptor Pursuit Special soon becomes Max’s baby. It goes through quite a few iterations during the franchise, from its creation in the Main Force Patrol’s garage in Mad Max, to its dystopian modifications and ultimate destruction in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, to its resurrection in Mad Max: Fury Road.
Originally a standard 1973 XB GT Ford Falcon Coupe (a model unique to Australia), the production team outfitted the car with a (non-functioning) supercharger sticking through the hood and a customized front end to give the hero vehicle a nasty look to match Max’s nasty disposition. The vehicle got a bit more roughed up for round two, with a functional supercharger and two cylindrical fuel tanks. Too bad it all gets blown up in the sequel, but perhaps there’s enough scrap left to patch it together for the new film.
Bonus: Max’s Cherry-Red Panel Van
It may not be the craziest car on the road but when you want to pack up the wife and Sprog for a countryside getaway, there’s no better way to do it than in this 1975 Holden HJ Sandman. In a bleak, arid landscape broken up only by black leather and oily smoke, the bright red family van is a bold splash of color in an otherwise bleached existence. With the exception of the yellow Interceptors and a baby blue camper that gets turned into shrapnel in short order, the panel van stands out in my memory like a red coat in black-and-white movie. I know, I know, it’s the van’s shoddy mechanism that gets Jessie and Sprog killed, but it’s a shining example of a period car used at the time of filming and the last vestige of Max’s life before his fall.
The Road Warrior’s Big Rig
What’s not to like about Max’s vehicular upgrade in the sequel? After his Interceptor gets trashed, Max’s only ticket out of Dodge is to retrieve a big rig he found abandoned out in the wasteland in order to haul the survivors’ fuel tanker out of the reach of Lord Humungus. It might not have the speed of the V8 (the Mack R600 Coolpower actually had less horsepower), but its mass and armored exterior make for a brutal weapon of war on the open road. Its sheer size also serves as a fantastic action piece to stage the film’s final climactic sequence, with a concussive conclusion that drives the coffin nail into the film’s antagonists. One might expect a fuel tanker to blow sky high with a crash like that, but George Miller’s script flip makes the final moment all the more enjoyable.
Who says all the Mad Max vehicles have to be ground-based? In fact, it’s the Gyro Captain’s antics that save Max’s hide on more than one occasion. There’s nothing particularly unique about the gyro-copter (unless you count the nude models pasted to its tailfin), as it’s powered by a small car engine and requires a runway to take off like any other plane. Still, it’s a fun addition to The Road Warrior that allows attacks (and camera shots) from above!
Max’s Mad Methane Train
The tried-and-true vehicles powered by gas and greased by oil are in the past by the time Beyond Thunderdome debuts. We first meet Max driving in an old F150 cab, which is pulled by a team of camels. Not the most auspicious of beginnings. And though this film has a distinct lack of vehicles right up until the very end, Max makes up for it with a beast of a truck. His outfitted 1965 Mack HD (or B77) didn’t just supply the power to Bartertown as a methane generator, it also happened to be geared to ride the rails. Beyond Thunderdome‘s final chase sequence goes off-road and onto the tracks, leading Aunty Entity’s hooligans on a high-speed rail chase. It’s certainly unique, making it one of the stand-outs in the series.
Bonus: Jedidiah’s Plane
Wait, isn’t this guy the Gyro Captain? And didn’t we just put a plane in the list? Yeah, well, this is another one of those weird, quirky vehicles from the world of Mad Max. And though he’s played by the same actor (Bruce Spence), the Gyro Captain and Jedidiah the Pilot are apparently two different people. Neither here nor there. This plane, Australia’s Transavia PL-12 Airtruk used for aerial surveying, famously rescued the lost tribe of children from the Bartertown marauders, spiriting them off to Tomorrow-Morrow Land. (Could it honestly have carried them all though? Probably not.) Sure, it was also used by Jedidiah and his son to bomb Max and other unsuspecting victims, but in the end it delivered the kids their long-awaited savior, Captain Walker.
Agree or disagree? These are some of the most unique vehicles to have graced the screen in the Mad Max universe, but Mad Max: Fury Road is set to blow them all out of the water. There are some truly gnarly looking hotrods storming across the desert in Miller’s latest film, so be sure to check them out (and let us know your favorites) when the film opens May 15th.