What You May Not Know About The “Vanishing Point” 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T


“Vanishing Point”; it’s a name well known in the Mopar community. Many have seen the movie but surprisingly, quite a few haven’t. Spoiler alert below! Released in 1971, “Vanishing Point” tells the story of Kowalski, a guy who makes a bet that he can deliver a car from Denver to San Francisco in just 15 hours. It’s not long before he attracts the attention of every law officer on the west coast. With some help over the radio from a DJ named Super Soul, Kowalski partakes in one of the longest car chases in movie history. In fact, most of the movie is a car chase.

Graveyard Carz recently shared some interesting facts about the movie car used in their blog and we’d love to share it with our readers; while adding a few facts of our own!

1. The car featured in the movie is a 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T powered by a 440 four-barrel and A-833 4-speed pistol grip transmission. [contrary to what a recent issue of a certain Mopar magazine might claim -Ed] Some of the rumors that have circulated say the car had a 440 Six-Pack or 426 HEMI under the hood. Nope; it was just a 440. (Although, the Challenger used in the 1997 remake with Viggo Mortensen had a 426 HEMI under the hood.)

2. It’s said that 20th Century Fox studio executive Richard Zanuck wanted to do Chrysler a favor for their long-time practice of providing the studio with cars on a rental basis for only a dollar a day. Stunt Coordinator Carey Loftin said he requested the new (at the time) 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T because of the quality torsion bar suspension and for its raw horsepower.

3. The car used is white; plain and simple. While many have speculated at hidden reasons for the choice of the color, white was chosen because it would stand out easily against the desert backgrounds of the movie. Due to the cars being supplied directly from Chrysler, we assume they were all factory EW1 White but we’ve heard one of the supplied cars was possibly green originally.

4. Chrysler loaned four cars to the studio for filming. Some say five, others say eight but our sources across the board say four. Three of them 440 four-barrel 4-speeds and one 383 four-barrel automatic. They were all badly damaged during filming. Director Richard C. Sarafian has said the cars were so badly abused that near the end of filming they had to take parts off the other cars to keep the last one running to finish filming. After filming, they were returned to Chrysler and said to have been crushed due to Chrysler not being happy about the use of drugs in the movie.

 

5. [Spoiler!] In the final legendary scene where Kowalski meets his end by slamming into two bulldozers at full speed, the car used for the collision and quickly followed explosion wasn’t actually a Challenger. In fact, the car used was actually a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro shell that had been filled with explosives. The Camaro was attached to a quarter-mile long cable system and then pulled to its death at high speeds by the 383-powered Challenger.

6. According to calculations made by Graveyard Carz, assuming that Kowalski traveled primarily via Highway 50 from Denver to San Francisco, which is approximately 1,214 miles, he theoretically could have made it, had he averaged about 81mph. Of course, if he didn’t crash the car into the bulldozers.

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Cody Krueger

Car Feature Editor – cody.krueger@shawgroupmedia.com Since the age of 4, Cody has been obsessed with everything Mopar. On Christmas of 1998, Cody's parents gave him a rusty '69 Charger shell that his father saved from a field. Cody's garage still features that '69 Charger as well as the additions of a '70 Coronet, '71 Charger R/T, '71 Super Bee, '04 SRT-4, '06 Grand Cherokee SRT8, '08 Challenger SRT8 and a '17 Ram 1500 Rebel. Cody can truly and proudly say him and his wife are true Mopar nuts in love with all types of Mopars!

11 comments

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  1. James Sciarrino 3 July, 2018 at 22:43 Reply

    Hi Cody, Had a quick question. You mentioned that there was 3 440 cars used but 1 auto 383 car. Later on in the article it is mentioned that the car is a 383 powered machine. I always saw the Vanishing Point
    Challenger as a 383 4 speed EW1 white car, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

  2. Randy Berry 22 April, 2019 at 21:48 Reply

    From watching DVD I have I always hear 5 cars used.But watching the movie with the director talking he will tell you 9 cars were used. As a matter of fact he says he had to rent a car to finish the movie because they tore up all the other cars. I remember back when it came out years later on TV, TV guide had article on the movie they claim the stunt cars had skid plates for some of the jumps and some claimed 11 or 12 cars used but who knows only the director knows.

  3. Carroll D Glass 26 April, 2019 at 13:22 Reply

    I was the same way . I went with mom & dad to the drive in movies and I was12 years old and I’ve loved molars ever since. My fiancée bought me a 71 barracuda for my 30 birthday And the last thing she said about it was fix that car. She passed away in 93 at 40 years old from a blood clot .Well it seemed life got in the way and then I became disabled from a fall while out of town working. And I haven’t been able to save enough to fix it. If you know anyone who might help me restore my convertable barracuda curious yellow white interior electric windows a/c 3speaker dash. Please let me know thanks Carroll. glasscarroll@gmail.com

  4. Zaza Pensive 7 June, 2019 at 08:04 Reply

    From what i recall in the chase the police mentioned or said the car was supercharged.
    Was this the case for any of the cars 440 engines?

  5. J-mac 1 October, 2019 at 16:32 Reply

    Don’t believe everything you hear from Mark. Guy is full of false “facts”. It is well known by many people who have known that movie since before you (Cody) were born that there was at least five cars. There has been many other magazines publish stories on this very subject that are way more accurate than anything that has ever came from GYC. Mark like to think he knows everything and change facts, but it’s not true.

  6. tim 8 October, 2019 at 02:43 Reply

    I read an article a long while back that said they used the 383 car as a chase car for filming and it kept right up with the 440 cars

  7. Frank 10 May, 2020 at 09:29 Reply

    Read this: “In an article in the March 1986 issue of Musclecar Review, the film’s star (Barry Newman) and stunt driver (Carey Loftin) agreed that only five Challenger R/T’s were used during filming. All five were loaned to Cupid Productions by Chrysler for promotional consideration. Four were equipped with a 440 CID V8 and a 4-speed manual transmission while the fifth was a 383 CID V8 with an automatic transmission.”

    I liked this fun fact: “An engineless 1967 Chevrolet Camaro was loaded up with explosives and used to smash into the bulldozer at the end of the film. The 1967 Camaro was pulled into the blades of the bulldozer by the 383 CID V8 equipped ’70 Challenger R/T on the original film.”

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