Dale Amy
March 24, 2014
Photos By: Courtesy Ford Motor Company

We're so easily manipulated. There's no better way to con a gearhead into watching a film or TV show than to promise us a good car chase, and if that chase happens to last the whole movie, well, all the better. We may not fawn over movie stars, but we can surely get revved up about movie cars. Not surprisingly, the Mustang has always been a Hollywood favorite when it comes to highway heroics, having played rolling roles—some memorable, some not so much—in upwards of some 3,000 cinematic or TV features dating all the way back to 1964 when a Wimbledon White ragtop in the hands of a scheming villainess pursued Commander Bond in "Goldfinger." More recently, "Gone in Sixty Seconds" pretty much created the whole Eleanor Mustang phenomenon. And who out there hasn't watched "Bullitt" at least 20 times?

This decades-long procession of on-screen Mustangs continues full force with the March 14th release of DreamWorks Studios' "Need for Speed," an action film based on the wildly popular video game series of the same name. While theatre marquees will give Aaron Paul (of "Breaking Bad" fame) the film's top star billing, to us in our cloistered little ponycar world, the real star may well be this '14 blue-on-silver wide body coupe in its supporting role as the hero's "900hp" ride.

The collaboration began with a request from the film's production company to Ford's Global Brand Entertainment Group to use a suitably modified Mustang in a very prominent action role. That Global Brand Entertainment Group, based in Los Angeles, exists to facilitate placement of Ford vehicles in TV shows and movies. Any such proposal is, of course, carefully scrutinized for appropriateness by Ford before moving forward. In this case, given the first-rate résumé of DreamWorks Studios, and the fact that the Mustang has been part of Electronic Arts' Need for Speed game franchise since the early '90s, Ford's decision to proceed came quickly.

Shortly after the ’15 Mustang made its debut last December, versions of the new car were made available for downloads for the Need for Speed Rivals video game.

"We were thrilled to have Ford play such an important part in a film adapted from one of the most popular video games of all time," said Keith Koeppen, Ford marketing communications manager. "Mustang has an incredible history appearing in movies and ‘Need for Speed' will be a great way to continue its hero-car legacy." This was particularly true given that a facsimile of the movie's hero car would also be playable in Need For Speed Rivals, the latest in EA's video game series (released in November 2013). Plus, both game and movie would benefit from worldwide release and promotion.

And all this just in time for the launch of the next-generation Mustang—Ford's latest world car. Not coincidentally, just days after photos of the much anticipated '15 Mustang were publicly unveiled on December 5, 2013, players of Need For Speed Rivals were invited to download a free patch giving them a '15 Mustang to pilot in the game in a choice of five different specifically designed liveries (including one penned by drift champion Vaughn Gittin Jr.). To allow such a timely release, Ford provided "design surfaces"—computer design models—of the '15 Mustang to game developer Electronic Arts months before the car's images first went public. What better way to market the latest Pony to the Millennials?

We don’t yet know the details, but while researching this article we learned that a ’15 Mustang, driven by Vaughn Gittin Jr., makes a cameo appearance in the “Need for Speed” movie.

Getting back to the wide body movie cars, try as we might, Ford would not offer much in the way of details or specifics, other than to say that they were designed and built in-house in collaboration with the film's director, Scott Waugh, who we're told is quite the knowledgeable automotive enthusiast.

Ford created more than a half-dozen visually identical coupes for use during filming and for promotional purposes, some built up from stock '14 Mustang GTs, others from final-year Shelby GT 500s. Look carefully at the wide body design and you'll see some nods to the '15 Mustang's styling, especially in its front fascia. Shaved door handles, a twin-scooped hood, 22-inch wheels (which appear to be from Forgiato), LED halo lamps in the grille, and impossibly low-profile side mirrors are some of the hero car's obvious embellishments. Finished in silver and topped with twin reflective blue stripes, there's nothing "sci-fi" or over-the-top about the appearance of the NFS hero car, unlike, say, the post-apocalyptic Mustang featured in the 2008 version of "Death Race." Instead, it's a tastefully modified, serious looking ride that most of us would be happy to tuck into our garages.

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Incidentally, you already may have seen one of these NFS coupes—we assume one that was GT 500-based—pacing last November's NASCAR EcoBoost 400 season finale at Homestead Florida, with Ramon Rodriguez, who co-stars in the movie, at the wheel.

In the film, the hero's ride supposedly boasts 900hp but, hey, this is Hollywood and Ford sources admit that the movie cars' powertrains were left pretty much stock. Of course, we all know that the current 662-hp 5.8L GT 500s can easily be modified to 900 or more ponies—even at the rear tires—so the movie's power premise is hardly far-fetched.

We're writing this in late December so have yet to see anything of the film beyond its official trailers. Safe to say, however, that "Need for Speed" will be a Mustang-in-movies conversation starter for years to come.

Additional Fords were placed, or used, in the production, which was filmed in locations across America, including segments right in Ford’s backyard in Detroit. Among them was this F-450 Super Duty descriptively known in the film as “The Beast.”