“Eleanor” is a customized 1971 Ford Mustang Sportsroof (redressed as a 1973) that features in independent filmmaker H.B. “Toby” Halicki’s 1974 film “Gone in 60 Seconds”. “Eleanor” is the only Ford Mustang in history to receive star title credit in a movie.
The Eleanor name is reused for a 1967 Mustang fastback in the 2000 Gone in 60 Seconds remake.
Though four Mustangs are portrayed in the film as “Eleanor” targets, only two cars were used for filming the movie, with license plates and tires alternated as necessary. Of these two, one car was modified for the stunt driving necessitated by the final chase and wrecked in said process, while the other was kept intact for all external “beauty shots.” The latter car was also used for all but two interior shots.
Both 1971 Mustang Sportsroofs used in the film (neither car carried Mach 1 trim, as often assumed) were bought in 1971, but – as it was three years before Halicki could raise sufficient funds to start filming – each car was facelifted with 1973 grilles for the film. Both cars retain their 1971 front bumper and valance panels, as retrofitting the 1973 parts to the car would have required swapping the fenders as well.
As with the liberties taken with the body modifications, Halicki’s paint scheme on both cars were similar – but not identical – to Ford factory offerings. Both cars received blackout treatment to the lower bodyside – resembling Mach 1’s and base models equipped with the Exterior Decor Group – and a unique blackout treatment to the standard hood not seen on any factory 1971-1973 Mustang. Additionally, neither car wears any identifiable badging spelling the “Mustang” name in type, though the pony badge and “Ford Motor Company” hubcaps are visible in the film.
Despite suggestions that both cars were painted in Ford’s Medium Yellow Gold, Halicki – in a 1974 interview – stated that the cars were painted “generic school bus yellow” to save money.
The modified car required 250 hours of labor before it was ready for the film. All body panels were removed in order to install a roll cage throughout the Mustang’s stock unibody. The transmission was also chained in for safety. An adjustable camera rig was mounted in the back seat to capture footage from the internal “driver’s point of view.”
The wrecked Eleanor was equipped with a base interior and no instrumentation package, but utilized seats from the Mustang’s deluxe interior package; sourced from the beauty car. Unsurprisingly, the beauty car had deluxe interior, with the standard seats from the stunt car swapped into it.
Other safety modifications included:
Heavy duty Simpson shoulder harness, Deadbolt door locks, Aftermarket hood pins, 24-volt electrical system, On-board first-aid kit, Electrical kill switches, Individual locking rear brakes, Fish plating of the undercarriage – 3” x 3/8” steel,
The interior of the stunt car is seen only once in the film, when Halicki – as Maindrian Pace – places his hands against the windshield when cornered by the Long Beach police. The rollcage is clearly visible against the A-pillar. All other interior shots were executed with the “beauty” car, generally on alternate filming dates.
The stunt car survives to this day, despite two serious incidents during filming.
The first occurred during a stunt wherein “Eleanor” cuts across multiple lanes of freeway traffic. The stunt driver leading the “traffic” overshot his mark during the take, clipping the Mustang and causing it to careen into a nearby light pole. Halicki was rendered unconscious from the impact, but filming resumed the following week – utilizing this accident as part of the final film. Halicki’s first words – upon regaining consciousness – were “Did we get coverage?”
Following the incident with the light pole, Halicki compressed multiple vertibrae after performing the impressive 128-foot jump in the closing minutes of the film. The modified Mustang survived, despite the rough nose landing.
The second car was left absolutely stock – as noted by cinematographer Jack Vacek in the film’s DVD commentary – and was not modified extensively other than the obligatory matching paint job, grill change, and seat swap with the stunt car.
Though this car was not damaged during filming, Halicki stated (in 1974, at the film’s premiere) that the car was crushed.
Eleanor – 2000 film
In 1995, Denice Halicki licensed the rights of the 1974 film to Disney for a remake of the same name. The new 2000 Gone in 60 Seconds film, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, features Nicolas Cage as master auto thief Randall “Memphis” Raines. Both films share plot similarities about a crew of thieves’ who steal a large order of cars (48 in the original, 50 in the 2000 film) and deliver them to the Long Beach docks. Once again, the “Eleanor” name is given to the film’s featured car; now a pewter, 1967 Ford Mustang fastback, depicted as a Shelby GT500, with a customized body kit designed by Steve Stanford.
Depending on the source, either eleven or twelve cars were built by Cinema Vehicle Services for the film (not including CVS’s creation of one additional Eleanor clone – with a Ford 428 – for producer Bruckheimer). Nine were shells, and three were built as fully functional vehicles. Seven were reported to have “survived the filming made it back to Cinema Vehicle Services” according to research by Mustangandfords.com.