For many Ford Mustang lovers, there is nothing quite like seeing a pony car on the big screen!
Many vehicles must wait several years until they reach peak popularity before they appear in major movies, but everyone’s favorite muscle car made its cinematic debut a mere five months following the introduction of the first Mustang.
On September 9, 1964, French audiences marveled at Nicole Cruchot’s Poppy Red 1964.5 Mustang convertible in Le Gendarme de Saint-Tropez, or “The Troops of St. Tropez.”
Roughly two weeks following the release of the popular French comedy, the Ford Mustang once again appeared on the silver screen in the James Bond flick, Goldfinger. It may have been just one scene in the near-two-hour classic, but the chase/race that saw a 007’s Aston Martin lock horns with Tania Mallett’s 1964.5 Mustang Convertible, was nothing short of epic.
Over the next 50 years and change, Ford Mustangs made appearances in scores of popular films across the globe, including Diamonds Are Forever, Bull Durham, The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift, I Am Legend, Knight Rider, and of course, Bullitt among many others.
Each movie muscle car is special, with the Bullitt model being the most famous of the group, but out of all units to grace Hollywood over the past five-decades-plus, only one Mustang ever received star title credit in a movie.
That particular model is known as “Eleanor.”
Mustang Eleanor played an important role in the 1974 independent film-turned-cult classic Gone in Sixty Seconds, as well as the 2000 remake with the same title. In the original movie, the Eleanor Mustang was a Medium Yellow Gold customized 1971 Fastback (depicted as a 1973 pony car). More than 25 years later, Eleanor was reimagined as a striking, Dupont Pepper Grey 1967 Mustang Fastback (depicted as a Shelby GT500) with a 351 cubic inch, 400-horsepower-producing engine.
Next to the iconic Highland Green Bullitt Fastback, the Eleanor Mustang is perhaps the most famous Mustang to appear in film or television. In fact, even non-Ford fans cannot help but marvel at the stunning appearance and performance capabilities in which both Mustang Eleanor models offer in the two films.
So, what is so special about Eleanor?
In order to best understand the overwhelming notoriety of both films and the two vehicles that helped make them famous, it is important to understand all aspects of Eleanor and how she grew in popularity. This article thoroughly examines both Mustang Eleanor models and details their respective impacts on the classic car community and the Restomod industry at large.
Original Mustang Eleanor
The mid-1970s represented a tumultuous stretch for the Ford Mustang and for all who enjoyed them.
The tensions resulting from the oil embargo abroad and a host of new emissions laws back home brought about major changes to the automotive industry, including ones felt throughout the Ford Motor Company. The five-year stretch from 1974-1978, better known as the Mustang II era, is a period of time in which many pony car fans choose to forget.
Gone were the beloved muscle cars of yesteryear, and in their place, Ford unveiled a far different take on the Mustang. These units were more fuel-efficient, but pushed out a measly 125 horsepower… a far cry from what Mustang enthusiasts and performance drivers alike had grown accustomed to in the old days.
The First Generation builds were a thing of the past, but in July of 1974, an eccentric film buff reminded muscle car aficionados as to what they had been missing. Looking to produce the ultimate car movie on a limited budget, Henry Blight Halicki wrote, directed, and starred in the original Gone in Sixty Seconds motion picture.
In the movie, Halicki’s character, Maindrian Pace, and his team must steal 48 exotic cars in a matter of days. Out of all of the vehicles in which Pace had his eyes on, a yellow 1971 Ford Mustang (redressed as 1973 unit for the movie), codenamed “Eleanor,” presented the biggest challenge to both apprehend and maintain.
Two separate Mustang Eleanor models were used for filming the 1974 flick, with one partaking in the vigorous stunt driving scenes, and the other for exterior and interior shots. Both Eleanor builds retain their 1971 front bumpers and valance panels but were facelifted with 1973 model grilles. The lower bodyside of each vehicle received a blackout treatment and closely resembled Mach 1 Mustang models of the time.
Medium Yellow Gold is the official color given to the original Mustang Eleanor, but in reality, the cars used for the movie were painted School Bus Yellow in order to save a few bucks. Halicki might have pinched pennies on the paint color, but he made up for it when it came time to modify the stunt Eleanor Mustang for all of those flashy maneuvers.
"250 hours of labor"
The crack team of engineers and designers spent roughly 250 hours of labor before the stunt car was ready for action. In order to install a roll cage throughout the unibody, Halicki and his team removed all body panels, while also chaining down the transmission for added safety.
Elsewhere throughout the build, the production crew installed Simpson shoulder harnesses, duel emergency-style brakes, individual locking rear brakes, electrical kill switches, and many other performance-oriented mods.
It is remarkable what Halicki was able to accomplish with a $1,000,000 budget for his movie, and the Eleanor Mustang’s uniqueness was a tremendous part of the movie’s success.
Mustang Eleanor Reboot
While Halicki was forced to stretch every dollar for the original picture, director Dominic Sena and producer Jerry Bruckheimer had no such plans for the remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds.
In 1995, Halicki’s widow, Denice Shakarian Halicki, began to collaborate with Bruckheimer and Touchstone Pictures to produce a remake of her late husband’s 1974 cult classic. Five years later, the remake with the same title, starring Nicholas Cage and Angelina Jolie, grossed over $230,000,000 worldwide, which was far greater than the film’s $90,000,000 budget.
Sena and Bruckheimer’s thriller was similar to the original film, only this time around, the lead character, Memphis Raines (Cage) and company, had to steal 50 cars in a short amount of time. The 50 vehicles in which Cage and his team were tasked with seizing featured a pair of Aston Martins, a quintet of Ferraris, and a Dodge Viper Coupe GTS among others, but the crew saved one particular car for last.
The final vehicle on Cage’s radar was, you guessed it, a Mustang named “Eleanor.” Only this time around, the one-of-a-kind muscle car had an entirely different look to it.
A heavily-modified 1967 Ford Mustang Fastback (depicted as a Shelby GT500) represented “Eleanor” in the 2000 remake of Gone in Sixty Seconds. Cage’s character tried and failed to steal Eleanor several times, which led him to believe that the vehicle was cursed. Some of the finest automobiles in the world made up the list of targeted cars, but it is easy to see why the Eleanor Mustang stood out from the pack.
The dedicated staff at Cinema Vehicle Services (CVS) built 12 custom 1967 Mustang Fastbacks for filming purposes, with three of them designed as fully functioning cars. Though a dozen units were manufactured for the movie, the pony with the serial number 179710, or the “Hero Car” received the most screen time.
Renowned automotive designer Steve Stanford produced a concept drawing for the latest Eleanor project, and thanks to the hard work and dedication by the team at CVS, the ultimate, high-performance movie Mustang was born. The 1967 Fastback (outfitted as a Shelby GT500) features a customized front-end, with aftermarket lights, fender flares, and side scoops/skirts, as well as hood and trunk lids among other features.
Speaking of the head of the car, the team at CVS replaced the stock front suspension with a coilover spring setup. In order to achieve top performance in those chase/stunt scenes, the Mustang Eleanor 1967 build was also equipped with a power rack & pinion steering system and a quartet of brake discs were installed on all four 17” x 8” Cobra Style Wheels.
As far as the interior goes, very little else needs to be said besides, “Go-Baby-Go!”
Mustang Eleanor Legacy
With both Eleanor Mustang builds engaging in all types of difficult and dangerous maneuvers during filming, it is not surprising that some of the vehicles did not make it back in one piece.
The stunt car from the 1974 film remains (mostly) intact, despite enduring two serious incidents during production. Similarly, though the vehicle used for exterior shots did not endure any abuse in filming, Halicki stated at the movie’s premiere that the show car somehow was completely destroyed.
Thirty-five years later, seven of 12 Mustang Eleanor builds used in the 2000 Gone in Sixty Seconds remake survived and were returned to the folks at Cinema Vehicle Services. The team at CVS offered a trio of Mustang Eleanor cars used in filming at various auctions in 2009, 2012, and 2013 respectively.
In 2013, the “Hero Car” sold for a whopping $1,000,000 at the Mecum’s Auction in Indianapolis IN. On the off chance that you see an auction/show with an Eleanor Mustang for sale, bring the deed to your house and be prepared to empty your bank account as well!
Though you likely won’t find an Eleanor Mustang for sale anywhere near you, you can still dress-up your first-generation pony car to look like the 1967 build from the movie. The Gone in Sixty Seconds remake started a whole new trend in the world of restomod and the practice remains popular in the present day.
In fact, the runner-up from the 2018 Mustang Madness Tournament was a Pepper Grey 1967 GT500 with an aftermarket disc braking system and a full Eleanor Mustang body kit to go along with it.
Diehard fans of the movie are free to invest in special Mustang Eleanor kits that contain all of the exterior parts & accessories required to turn an average First Generation build into an exact replica from the film. Thanks to the magic of an Eleanor Mustang kit, you can pretend that you are Memphis Raines every day of the year! (Although) we strongly recommend that you obey all traffic laws and do not attempt any of the stunts from the movie).
If you are looking to build your own Eleanor Mustang, CJ Pony Parts has all of the body kits and individual parts that you need to make your dream a reality!
Image and Text Credit: classiccarratings.com