The original Death Race 2000 (1975) opens with a car race line up of the most amazing science fiction cars ever created…
In eight and a half minutes, the original Death Race 2000 (1975) opens with a car race line up of the most amazing science fiction cars ever created, predating, and as most Roger Corman-produced work, inspiring other films like Mad Max (1979) and a slew of post-apocalyptic car movies.
First at the starting line is Stud Bull, created by—as were all of the cars for this film—Dick Dean from a Manta Mirage car kit with an engine, rear suspension and transaxle, from a Chevrolet Corvair and front suspension from a Volkswagen. Painted white with brown cow spots, headlights as the pupils of its eyes, horizontal horns jutting out from the sides and a large brass ring on the nose of the car. Calamity Jane Kelly drives, played by Mary Woronov who would later make the equally dark comedy Eating Raoul (1982) with her Death Race 2000 director Paul Bartel.
The Buzz Bomb drives up next, a customized Volkswagen Karmann Ghia in gray and black military camouflage with a giant pencil point weapon sticking out of its grill and a large cannon affixed to the top and the spoiler. Matilda the Hun from Milwaukee drives with her navigator Herman the German Fox.
The Lion lines up next, a custom-built 1965 Fiat 850 Spider, a copperish gold with a dark orange “mane” painted on its hood and spreading to the doors, perfect yellow cat eyes, and a long line of feline fangs pointing straight out from its grill. Ray “Nero the Hero” Lonnigan drives, played by Cobra Kai sensei from the original Karate Kid (1984), Martin Kove.
The next car remains nameless, also a Manta Mirage kit car like the Stud Bull, except painted a solid black. A giant hunting knife lies like a lance in the center of the hood with machine gun headlights—not headlights that open up revealing retractable machine guns—just the machine guns already out and ready to go. And who drives this death machine? The Italian Stallion himself, Sylvester Stallone, one year before lasting all the rounds in Rocky (1976).
And then the final car arrives, driven by second generation Carradine, “Kung Fu” and Kill Bill star, David Carradine, as Frankenstein and driving the Monster, as in Frankenstein’s monster. Not only is it also made from a car kit by Dick Dean, but there is some argument about its Frankenstein-esque nature. It’s a custom built Shala-Vette, which was a Volkswagen-based street buggy, though arguments persist that it could be a Chevrolet Corvette, or downsized from a Corvette, and also that it looks somewhat like a Cimbria SS.
And they went all out for the Monster, painting it a glossy and scaly alligator green, with red serpentine headlights, a grill of brilliant white fangs and vertical reptilian scales like a stegosaurus down its entire center.
Roger Corman, who has been making movies since 1954, announced in February 2016 plans for a sequel to Death Race 2000, but the question we should ask is where are the Death Race 2000 models and Hot Wheels?