Mad Max’s iconic black-on-black car has many in universe names: ‘Interceptor’, ‘the last of the V8s’ and ‘pursuit special’. It has appeared in some way in all four films, but the original car was only used in the first two. In the story line of the first movie, Mad Max (1979), the car was created to entice Max Rockatansky to stay with the police force. But after his wife and child are horrifically murdered by the Toecutter and his gang, Max steals the car to seek vengeance. The film Mad Max was part of the Australian New Wave cinema movement—a resurgence in popularity of Aussie movies across the world in the late 1970s—and was the brainchild of director George Miller and producer Byron Kennedy. These days the car is regarded as a famous and integral piece of Australian cinema history.
Miller and Kennedy met during a short film course and the two became inseparable almost right away. They complimented each other perfectly: Miller the quiet, creative-type director and Kennedy as the opinionated, financially-minded producer. They collaborated on a short film, Violence in the Cinema, Part 1 (1971), together that was met with acclaim and controversy. After a couple of other small projects, the duo become more ambitious and wanted to tackle a feature film. Inspired by his years as an emergency room doctor, Miller came up with the rough idea that would become Mad Max. Miller, Kennedy and a handful of close others worked on a few drafts of the script before they shopped it around. In the end, the story decided on was set in a dystopian future, after a nuclear war, and featured a highway patrolman trying to survive. While the world and society were breaking down, fuel (‘guzzolene’) had become a rare commodity and road gangs were doing whatever it took to control it. The film entered pre-production in 1976.
Mad Max had a $350,000 budget, most of it raised by Miller and Kennedy (no figures in this article have been adjusted for inflation). It was the highest grossing film with the lowest budget of all time until it was surpassed by The Blair Witch Project (1999). $20,000 of the budget went to purchasing vehicles for the movie and an additional $5,000 to modifying them. The production crew attended a car auction in Frankston, Victoria, where they bought two ex-Police Ford Falcons and a repossessed 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT hardtop coupe. Destined to become the all-black Interceptor, the GT coupe’s original colour was polar white. Only six cars in the colour were produced in Australia. Originally a Ford Mustang was proposed for Max’s car. But when Murray Smith (the film’s mechanic) pointed out that parts wouldn’t be easy to come by, Miller and Kennedy decided to go with a locally manufactured car instead.
The GT coupe was sent to Graf-X to be spray painted and modified. Based on concepts by art director Jon Dowding, the company was told to make the car look evil. Some of the modifications included a custom-made front end, cut-down flares from a Holden A9X Torana and a fitted super charger. Miller wanted the super charger seen, so it was mounted a foot higher than usual. The modification work took three months to complete.
Mad Max opened on April 12 and was an instant success. It did surprisingly well all over the world and talk of a sequel began. As a token of good faith and acknowledgement of his hard work, Smith was given the Interceptor. He drove it around as his every day car until realising how expensive it was to run. Smith decided to sell it but no one was interested. When Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) was officially greenlit, Smith sold the Interceptor back to Miller and Kennedy for $7,500.
The car was again modified for the second film. Two large fuel tanks were installed in the boot, the lower section of the front was removed and the suspension was raised, making it easier to drive in an outback environment. The Interceptor was also made to look more weathered—the last couple of years in the Wasteland had been hell for Max. The producers bought a 1974 Ford Fairmont and made it into a duplicate. The Fairmont was used for wide shots while the original was used in close up and interior shots. The Fairmont was the car crashed and blown up in the film.
With the production of Mad Max 2 complete, the Interceptor was destined to be destroyed. Noting the significance of the car, the scrapper kept it. It changed owners a couple of times before ending up in the front of an Adelaide scrap yard. The Interceptor sat for three years, and was in bad shape, when Mad Max super fan Bob Fursenko discovered it. He bought the car and restored it for $25,000. He contacted Murray Smith to verify the car was genuine. Smith had engraved his initials under the interior door trim. It was the real thing.
While at a German car expo in 1992, Cars of the Stars Motor Museum owner Peter Nelson heard that the Interceptor was for sale. It had been available for a while but had no buyers. Nelson purchased the car from Fursenko and it was shipped to him in the UK. In 2011, the Interceptor moved to the Miami Auto Museum in Florida. As of 2018, the car still resides there.
Miller spent many years contemplating a fourth Mad Max film. He wasn’t sure if it was right to continue the franchise after Kennedy was tragically killed in a helicopter accident in 1983. In the late 1990s, Miller came up with a premise that would eventually become Mad Max: Fury Road. The film was in ‘development hell’ for near fifteen years. Production was halted in 2004 after Broken Hill, NSW, experienced an abundance of rain. The location was too green to be used for the film’s desert setting. Miller moved between jobs—directing two Happy Feet films, among other projects—before Fury Road production began again in 2012. It was released in cinemas to critical acclaim in 2015.
In the early 2000s, another Interceptor was built for Fury Road but stayed in storage for over a decade until it was needed. Miller always planned to have the car in the film, but never intended for it to be the same car. There are subtle differences between it and the original. The Fury Road Interceptor was destroyed early on in the story before being rebuilt, and stripped back to bare metal, by the film’s antagonists. It was rechristened as the Razor Cola. Four cars were made and used in the movie. A popular fan theory suggests that Max’s camel wagon, seen at the start of Beyond Thunderdome (1985), the franchise’s third film, is the Interceptor’s chassis reused after it was blown up. Miller is planning additional sequels, the first with the working title Mad Max: The Wasteland.
Luke Buckmaster – Miller and Max (Book)
Ford Falcon XB GT Coupe 1973 “V8 Interceptor” (http://madmax.wikia.com/wiki/Ford_Falcon_XB_GT_Coupe_1973_%22V8_Interceptor%22)
Mad Max Interceptor, 30 years on… (https://www.motormag.com.au/features/0804/mad-max-interceptor-30-years-on)
The Real Story of the Mad Max XB GT Falcon (https://www.streetmachine.com.au/features/1505/the-real-story-of-the-mad-max-xb-gt)
There’s only one original Mad Max Interceptor and it’s not in Australia (https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2015/05/15/theres-only-one-original-mad-max-interceptor-and-its-not-in-australia/)