By on March 19, 2014


“Gimme Carter!!! Gimme Carter!!!”

“You can have him!” My brother Lewis, a lifelong conservative was watching me, a hyperactive  six year old, pointing eagerly at our home’s only TV.

“I’m voting for Reagan.”

“Pa-tau!!1 Pa-tau! To a 1st grader’s ear, the word Reagan sounded just like “Ray gun”. And for all I knew, Carter and Reagan were locked in some Star Wars parallel universe fighting each other for control of the presidency.

Lord knows that 34 years later, I would need every single ounce of that youthful imagination to get through a day long movie shoot.

My wife and I always try to spend one day out of the month together. No kids. No work responsibilities. Just the privacy and solitude that comes with two people who are well-matched in what has become a picky, picky world.

She wants to get back into the film and video world, part-time, and so I took it upon myself to get two vehicles that would be a good fit for that elusive older car that looks neither brand new nor decrepit.


The 1980 Cadillac Seville that I mentioned last week was the optimal fit for this journey.  Black on black. Perfect leather seats. A little bit of wear. But not enough to make it look like anything more than a five year old car for the one to two seconds it would wind up on film.  After I put in a new master cylinder and properly bled out the brakes, it was good to go.

The second car was a more interesting case. I had sold a 1983 Mercedes 300D Turbodiesel to a fellow that I thought was a hardcore Mercedes enthusiast for all of $1700. I only made about $400 out of the deal. But I always take personal pride in making sure older cars are given to true enthusiasts. Instead of chucking it to someone looking to donate a car to the human hurricane within their family.


I got a great deal on that old Benz and in turn, left nothing to chance. New filters, fluids, brakes, two new tires. I spent about $300 prepping it for sale in parts and sold it to a guy who I thought would do a good job keeping it.

The good news is he didn’t abuse it. The bad news was that I couldn’t find out whether he took the lease amount of effort of changing the oil.

He said he did it recently. But a quart low already? The alignment is off? And that inner-tie rod end needs to be replaced? Mother of pearl!

A friend of mine who works for Porsches and Maseratis decided to give me the full-report on it while I handled the Cadillac.  The Cadillac was flawless. The Mercedes? Still tight. Just minor stuff…

“You’re getting picky-picky with this one Steve! Damn things old enough to be a Grandma in Alabama.”

“My wife wants to drive it out to a movie shoot. She hates big cars. So I’m gonna be drivin’ out the Caddy.”

“Get her an Impala or a Malibu instead Steve. I hate the smell of this diesel…$^^%$!!!”

My wife came by with her 1st gen Prius, and after I spent over ninety-five dollars filling the two vehicles up, we headed straight for Conyers, Georgia. A small town located somewhere between civilization and Deliverance.

The drive was the usual homicidal freakshow that is Atlanta traffic.  Folks don’t use their turn signals. Cell phones are surgically attached to most commuters, and two people driving 65 mph are justifiably banished to the right side of the freeway where they belong.


The Cadillac was just majestic. GM ‘s styling may have been a bit off the mark for this generation of Seville. But the 6.0 Liter Cadillac 368 engine was just perfectly matched to this particular generation, and it’s a shame that GM decided to off it after only one year for their diesel and 8/6/4 abominations. As for steering and handling,  you can do the same exact one finger cruising with this car that you can do for nearly any good Lincoln or Cadillac of days gone by… and it’s easier to drive than the Mercedes.


The Mercedes was meh. A 300D is expected to be infinitely higher in decibels than an old school Caddy and, even for the time, it wasn’t quite a luxury car.


I will admit that the material quality alone is easily a parallel universe beyond the Cadillac.  All the fake wood and cheaper vinyl of the Cadillac pales to the glory that is the W123’s design and engineering excellence.

That difference though is eliminated once you turn the key.

For the experience that is daily driving through a busy metropolitan area, I preferred the Cadillac. It has enough luxury to keep you isolated from the rampant vehicular stupidity that surrounds, you while allowing the driver to hear the smoothness of a big Detroit 6.0 Liter V8 over the 3.0 Liter clackety-clack-clack of the Mercedes. This noise difference is especially noticeable during the interminable traffic jams that happened on the ride back.

We didn’t hit anything other than air molecules for this first 35 miles journey. We arrived early. Just in time for the most important event for movie extras between the waiting and the shooting.


The eating. Lunch for a successful TV program is a true wonder to behold, and since there were only a few extras for this show which we’ll assume is called, “Go And Throw Ice At The Devil!”. Since there were only two of us at the time, we were spared of the usual culinary segregation and got to eat with the cast and crew.

I saw a familiar face as soon as I got out of the Seville. “Steve! I miss that old yellow pickup truck!”


“It’s down the street from me. The guy is using it for his lawnmower repair business.”

“He’s not restoring it? Damn! I wanted that thing.”

“I’ve been to his house. The family doesn’t believe in anything after 1984. He spent an hour going through the truck and it’s now the ugliest good running truck in town. ”

Brando and I caught up on life, and my wife caught up on crossword puzzles. At least until the opening shoot.


It was supposed to easy. The main character leaves his driveway in some Grizwold 1970’s woody wagon. My wife’s car goes straight past. The Caddy turns right, a Ford truck turns left, and a Triumph TR6 idles away at a stop sign.

Sounds easy enough? Not when you don’t have enough walky-talkies.

We did the shot 16 times. 16 TIMES! And every time I did the shoot, I got an unwelcome surprise.

The police officer blocking off the road I turned into decided to change his cruiser’s parking position after each shoot. Why? I have no idea. His vehicle wasn’t even in the camera shot. But sure enough, every single time I made that turn, I found myself performing another new and exciting three point turn with a 34 year old Cadillac.

“Ka-thunk! Ka-thunk!” Asthamtic sounding acceleration back to position. Then wait….


I also discovered something else. Black on black plus even a 70 degree time will equal about 90 degrees inside one of these things. The A/C worked, thanks to the prior owner who converted it into R134. Unfortunately the director wanted the vehicles to idle at all times. So we likely wasted about $30 worth of gas in the shooting process.

None of the cars broke down or even overheated. However the Triumph had more blue smoke than anything I had ever seen that didn’t already have a two stroke engine in it. I’m willing to bet that the thing was dirtier than any old scooter you can find… but it ran. That vehicle was a bit rough around the edges. But this gorgeous Riviera helped smooth out the line-up that day.


After the shoot, we had dinner and then… a holding cell. No joke. The extras had to stay four abreast in a 2 foot by 10 foot room with no nuttin’ for two hours.


Conversation, yes. Smartphone? Wonderful! A TV? Surely, you’re joking Mr. Feynman.

Once the clock struck exactly 8:48 P.M. we were out on parole. No overtime this time. Brando signed us out and we quickly made a 37 mile skedaddle towards the north Georgia woodlands we call home.

Will we do it again? Probably. However, Georgia weather is rather nasty and brutish during the summer time. A Malibu with light colored cloth and a snow white exterior may be the perfect match for the next set.


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13 Comments on “Hammer Time: The Third Set...”

  • avatar
    Roberto Esponja

    Mr. Lang, are you sure the Benz is a 1983? I owned a 1983 240D and the center A/C vents were two side-by-side rectangular ones, not the round ones shown on this one. Unless I’m wrong, the round ones would be from an older vehicle…

  • avatar

    Great article.

  • avatar

    It’s that easy to get into show biz? Dang! Maybe I should have held onto my ’80 Buick Regal.

  • avatar

    Ahhhh … reminds me of the experience with my 63 Dodge a few years back. The Cohen Brothers were in Minneapolis filming “A Simple Man”, and they needed cars from the 60’s as “extras”. All of the car clubs were contacted by the car wrangler and we were asked to send pictures. Long story short, our car was chosen for three different shots. My first outing was on the first day of shooting (lots of local press present … I was interviewed by KARE11) where it was static in a restaurant parking lot. Just in case the camera caught items outside the big restaurant windows, they wanted the correct cars in the shot. That restaurant scene took up the whole morning, so all of us car guys talked GM / MOPAR / Ford stuff. Next in the afternoon was a street scene in a residential neighborhood. All our cars were on the street at random locations as the camera rig passed by. Again, took all afternoon to film what was probably a 5 minute scene. However, it was interesting to watch from afar how all this was staged. 2 days later I was called for another scene at a now defunct grade school where the tornado scene at the very end of the movie was being filmed. Again, it took almost all day for what wound up being about 4 minutes on film. However, on that particular day I got fed lunch. Let me tell you, these Hollywood guys don’t skimp on the food. We might have been in a tent, but we had lobster, steak, corn, potatoes, assorted pastas, all sorts of veggies, and numerous types of bread. Oh, and about 6 different types of deserts. Yum!!! Sad thing is, other than about a half second of exposure at the very end of the movie, all of the shots that my car was in never made it past the cutting room floor. Even with that, I would love to be part of a movie production again. It’s a blast to watch the producers and directors put their considerable skill on display during the filming process.

  • avatar

    I have to ask the obvious question if you preferred the Caddy over the Merc: How many miles does the Merc have?

    We know the Caddy has 93k, and I’m guessing the Merc has close to 300k.

    Point being only that the Caddy will never make it that far to be compared to anything.

  • avatar

    I enjoy carspotting period movies. But I always laugh when every single car is clean and shiny. You’d think Hollywood could come up with authentic looking dirt that wasn’t dirty for the “actors”.

    • 0 avatar

      Very few movies I’ve seen seem to spend the time choosing period correct looking vehicles. It really ruins the feel of a movie when you see nothing but over restored musclecars, from some local club, with modern tire/wheel combinations used for a vintage street scene.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    Remember many years back ( the seventies ) as I watched a not seemingly very demanding car scene being filmed in Austin , Texas and couldn’t believe the number of takes required for a pretty lame , even for the era movie that hardly seemed to have very high production values . The movie was ” Outlaw Blues ” ,a Peter Fonda / Jill St, James movie . IIRC the scene where Fonda drives up to a local mall involving only 3 or 4 vehicles and a little tire screeching took 16 takes .

  • avatar

    Watching True Detective recently on HBO, where things take place in different eras – 1995, 2002, and 2012, I was very disappointed I’d see cars plainly in shot which were not available at whichever time period.

    In 1995 I saw an Acadia in a helicopter shot.
    In 2002 I saw a 07+ Tahoe.

    And the worst – It’s 1995 and Woody Harrelson’s character tails this woman out of a parking lot, in her 01+ Subaru Outback wagon.

  • avatar

    AAAAAAAnd the Oscar for best actor in a non speaking role goes to…….

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