Bullitt in Miniature

Michael Louie


When I was young I was fascinated with the fact that my father’s first car was a dark green 1967 Mustang fastback, the same car driven by Steve McQueen in the cop movie Bullitt. He had that movie on VHS and would have me watch the chase scene, which basically revolutionized the way movies filmed chase scenes from there on out. I always thought it was strange how the bad guys made a point of putting on their seatbelts just before they gunned the Charger, with McQueen in hot pursuit, up the streets and steep hills of San Francisco. That was the only part of the movie we ever watched. As soon as Steve McQueen skidded out and broke that front axel my dad would turn it off and say, “Well, that was the best part of the movie.” My dad flipped his Mustang over a year or two after he got it, probably drag racing somewhere on the back roads of nearby Pennsylvania. This is a fact I always held in my head whenever I got into an accident when I was first driving, and there were a couple.

Fast forward a bunch of years and I was watching Bullitt again on DVD. My then-girlfriend rented it for some reason and I had no idea Norman Fell had a part. I also recognized the early tracings of the chase scene as Cesar Chavez near Alabama Street. When I left San Francisco in 2005 I was living right by there, on Florida between 26th and Cesar Chavez. That’s where the chase scene starts: right by that gas station in the triangle, before zooming up into Bernal Heights, then somehow ending up in Pacific Heights, downtown, and then somewhere outside the city, maybe Pacifica where the Charger crashes and, of course, explodes in flames. Overall the movie was a pretty good detective film: one good guy with incredible style and cool against some crooked cops, especially for that time period. But that chase scene leaves an indelible mark.

Now there’s a fellow by the name of Steve Day, a British graphic designer, who is creating a stop-motion re-creation of that famous scene, only in miniature using slot cars that were donated by the Pioneer Slot Car company (after Day had sent them his idea and some test shots). The result is incredibly detailed, almost Robot Chicken-like animation of what many, myself and Day included obviously, believe is the greatest car chase in film history. Day says that the final version won’t be so choppy, but I kind of dig the distinct animated quality to it. Also interesting, even in slot-car form, I still think that 1967 Mustang fastback is the greatest looking American car ever made. Currently, Day only has a preview of his work up on YouTube but the release of the full scene is imminent. Personally, I can’t wait. Check the trailer out below.



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