Development of the “V8 Interceptor” used in “Mad Max” (1979)

The Last of the V8 Interceptors also known as a “Pursuit Special” (although it is only briefly called by this name by the radio voice of the female dispatcher in the film) is the car built to convince Max to stay on the force but instead is used to carry out vengeance.

Original concept

In 1976, film makers Bryon Kennedy and George Miller began pre-production on Mad Max. Byron Kennedy and George Miller had budgeted $350,000 for their film, including a mere $20,000 for props and vehicles, and a paltry $5000 to keep those vehicles on the road. The climax of the film was to feature a super-hot pursuit car, known at this point only as the Pursuit Special. A year later, funding in hand, work commenced on the cars. The initial designs for the feature car were highly stylized and futuristic, with spoilers to the roof and boot, flares on the wheel arches, and a modified front end. The original design was based on a modified Ford Mustang, and for a brief moment that is what Max was going to drive.

Pursuit Special Original Concept

A change in plans

Murray Smith was a mechanic hired on as part of the film crew, and one of his tasks was to put together the Interceptor. His opinion on using a foreign Mustang was that it would be difficult to find parts for that car and it had to be functional enough to perform high speed stunts. It was almost certain that repairs would be required and the foreign Mustang would be too much for this low-budget production so it was decided that Australian Fords would be used instead. It was the height of the van craze in Australia and the production crew spotted Monza front ends for Holdens which could be modified to fit the Ford Falcon and achieve the look they were aiming for.

The purchase of vehicles

Next stop was a car auction in Frankston, Vic. Three Australian exclusive cars were purchased for less than $20,000 — two ex-Victorian police Ford Falcon V8 XB sedans and a white 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT coupe that’d been repossessed. The sedans became Big Boppa and Max’s Yellow Interceptor, while the GT would become the Last of the V8 Interceptors. The coupe was to get a Monza front but it turned out that similar fronts were being built to suit Fords by Peter Arcadipane, then still a designer working for Ford. The original Concorde front end concept was designed for a high-performance aerodynamic Falcon GT coupe much like the long-nose Plymouth Superbird for NASCAR. Unfortunately, Peter was not allowed to create a Concorde end for a GT. In secrecy, however he he built a concept Panel Van instead that had a very positive response from the Ford management. The van was driven by Peter himself[3] and displayed at the 1977 Melbourne Motor show with a custom front end strongly influenced by the slightly earlier HPF Firenza. The front end was later marketed as the “Concorde” style and it caught Ray Beckerley’s eye. Ray worked at Graf-X International and had been contracted to customise cars and bikes for the film.

Ford Falcon XB GT 1973


Murray Smith along with Peter Arcadipane, Ray Beckerley, and various others, proceeded to modify the car to what was needed for the film. First the blower was fitted, simply mounted on top of the air cleaner. Eight individual exhaust side pipes were added. The fibreglass nose was fitted in Peter Arcadipane’s workshop while the spoilers were the work of Errol Platt at Purvis Fibreglass Products. The spoilers were actually ripped off Bob Jane’s Monaro Sports Sedan. It didn’t take a lot to make them fit, just a little bit of grinding, some Sikaflex and bog. Ray also decided to include a roof spoiler after looking at the car from the side. The design was visually appealing, but aerodynamically useless. The flares were done by Rod Smythe and his brother. The paint scheme was described as “Black on Black” by the movie’s art director, Jon Dowding. Ray interpreted it as gloss and matt black similar to the factory XB GT design, differing only in swooping up from the rear wheel arch to follow the line of the rear spoiler.

 Arcadipane 1977 Panel Van Concept, photo

Post Mad Max

Following the production of Mad Max, the car was no longer needed, and was put up for sale for merely $7500. There were no takers, so the car was given to mechanic Murray Smith as settlement for unpaid work. With the success the film achieved on release, the producers decided to buy the car back, for a sequel. Modified once more to make it suitable for use as a standard road car by removing the blower and side pipes It was then toured around Melbourne to shopping centers, car shows and so on as part of the promotion done for the film.

Pursuit Special at 1979 Melbourne Hot Rod Show


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