John Pearley Huffman
November 14, 2000
Photos By: Randy Lorentzen

Once the prototype pieces were completed and the molds were made, theproject moved into the hands of Ray Claridg's Cinema Vehicle Services(CVS), where construction of the actual Eleanors took place.

Building Eleanor

"In all my time in this business," explains Ray Claridg, "this was thetoughest show." Because of the screen time the Eleanor Mustang wouldhave and the stunts it would be asked to do, several Eleanors would haveto be built. The occasional improvisation of the production of the filmitself further complicated the issue; script changes were constant andthe needs of the filmmakers practically changed daily. Ultimately, therewould be 12 Eleanors built for the film, including the prototype thatdidn't appear in the movie.

Construction of the Eleanors started with the CVS staff scouring theSouthern California want ads, searching for '67 and '68 Mustangfastbacks. The cars CVS acquired ranged from clapped-out machines withleaky 289s to at least one Mustang GT powered by a 390. All the cars inthe movie are '67s, and none were actual Shelbys.

Because certain cars were required to do different things in the courseof the film, no two Eleanors were alike. Many of the Eleanors remain inCVS' inventory, but they've all been twisted, fiddled with, and rebuiltso many times, it's hard to determine their original condition when theyappeared in the movie. And apparently, CVS didn't take any pangs tocatalog all the cars.

Some of the cars received Lincoln Versailles rearends, and at least oneof the cars was geared for high-speed running along the concrete canalsof the Los Angeles River. All the cars were lowered, but some of themreceived a Total Control rack-and-pinion steering system and engine baybracing. Some of the cars were built to slide around corners, some werebuilt to survive a jump, and others were built to be crushed in ajunkyard.

Up close, the Eleanors are a mix of sweet design work and expedientengineering. These cars weren't built to last a lifetime, win a carshow, or go extremely fast; they were built to look good in a movie anddo their particular task well.

Of the 12 Eleanors built, 7 survived the filming to end up back in CVS'possession. Two of the cars were destroyed doing the climactic jump onLos Angeles' Vincent Thomas Bridge at the end of the film. That jump wasdone in segments: in the first segment, a car jumped off a ramp and wasdestroyed during the landing. Another car had a longer jump, and itlanded in a pile of cushioning boxes. That car, according to stuntcoordinator Johnny Martin, actually came out in surprisingly good(though still damaged) condition. Another car was suspended from wiresfor the portion of the jump between the takeoff and the landing. Acomputer-generated Eleanor was used for a few seconds during the jump aswell. And finally, another Mustang was destroyed when it jumped off aplatform and back down onto the bridge's unforgiving tarmac to completethe jump. That car was definitely totaled.

Two more Eleanors were destroyed in the film's final scenes when the caris seen being snatched up in a junkyard and put into a crusher.Destroying that many Mustangs seemed like an utter waste of perfectlygood cars. But it's all in a day's work for Hollywood.

The best Eleanor of those used in the film actually plays the leastpristine of the bunch. CVS was in the process of building an Eleanorwith a new Ford Motorsport 351 crate engine and all the best mechanicalpieces (Versailles rearend, rack-and-pinion steering) when theproduction put out a call for a car to play Kip's gift to Memphis at theend of the film--a ratty Shelby. The car that was in the process ofbecoming the nicest Eleanor of them all--finished in primer, fitted witha derelict front bench seat, and mismatched steel wheels--was chosen toplay that car. So the nicest Eleanor you see in the film, is actuallythe cruddiest looking.

173_0011_5z 1967_Ford_Mustang_GT500 Fuel_Door
The area under the phony fuel cap of each Eleanor was marked for itsparticular use. The photo car was used for stunt work.
173_0011_1z 1967_Ford_Mustang_GT500 Front_Driver_Side
Chip Foose (below left) sculpted Eleanor's body in clay on a prototype.Molds made from this clay were used to cast the fiberglass pieces thatwould be used on the Eleanor in the film.
173_0011_2z 1967_Ford_Mustang_GT500 Headlight
All the lights on the Eleanors came from PIAA, including both theheadlights and the rear reverse lamps.
173_0011_3z 1967_Ford_Mustang_GT500 Wheel
Schmidt wheels, modeled after the magnesium units used on Ford's GT40s,were fitted to Gone's Mustangs. The 17x8-inch wheels were wrapped inGoodyear Eagle F1 tires.
173_0011_7z 1967_Ford_Mustang_GT500 Engine
This particular car wasn't fitted with rack-and-pinion steering, but theelectronics for the PIAA lights are visible. By the time the photos weretaken, the 390 in this car was tired.
173_0011_16z 1967_Ford_Mustang_GT500 Front_Passenger_Side
Jerry Bruckheimer's personal Eleanor was modified to look like the otherEleanors but was the only bonafide Shelby. The interior of this 13thEleanor is stock Shelby, except for the AutoMeter tach, the LeCarrawheels, and the fire extinguisher.
173_0011_14z 1967_Ford_Mustang_GT500 Engine
(above & below) Bruckheimer's Eleanor still has its original 428 in place, with thestrut tower bracing added.
173_0011_15z 1967_Ford_Mustang_GT500 Interior