Rob’s Movie Muscle – Jack Reacher’s 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396

Last month, the premier installment of this series took a look at the 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429 from the Keanu Reeves action film, John Wick. For the second iteration, I thought we’d ogle the automotive star of another fairly recent movie, the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 from the Tom Cruise action thriller, Jack Reacher (2012)!

The 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 from Jack Reacher (2012).

Chevelles have been featured in a number of films and television shows over the years, including Drive Angry 3D (2011), The Other Guys (2010), War (2007), Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), Charlie’s Angles: Full Throttle (2003), Tales From the Crypt (1992) and others. But what makes the one in Jack Reacher stand out is the amount of screen time the classic gets.

During the writing of the screenplay for Jack Reacher, it was decided that unlike the character in the books the movie is based on, the hero would, instead of consistently travelling by bus or train, in fact be the possessor of a car, and a pretty hot one at that – a red 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396 with black racing stripes and matching interior.

One of the nine cars used in the film being prepped for service.

During pre-production, nine Chevelles in total were procured, mostly lower trim level models, some even lacking a V8, from states as disparate as Michigan, Ohio, and Connecticut. Only one of the nine cars was a legitimate SS 396 and never actually made an appearance in the film, but instead was later snapped up and kept by Cruise himself.

Movie car builders Pete Mandel, Justin Mann, Bill DeLuca, Trevor Mann, and Jeff Walters were hired to convert all of the cars to a seeming SS 396 spec, and to outfit each car with the transmissions and engines necessary for what each car’s role in the production would be. As is common practice in film production, some of the cars would be used for stunts and action sequences, and others for close ups and “beauty shots,” and thus the capabilities of each car would vary depending on use.

The interior of one of the stunt cars.

The builders worked for forty-two days straight to get all the cars prepped and ready for the film. The Chevelles used for interior and beauty shots were all equipped with a 540ci V8s for a deep, rich exhaust note, Dart heads, Holley 850 cfm carburetors, and Muncie 4-speed manual transmissions with Hurst white-ball shifters and Centerforce clutches. The cars used for the stunts had 502ci big blocks with greater low-end torque, and factory automatic transmissions.

Six of the production’s nine cars on set awaiting their call time.

As far as suspensions were concerned, the stunt cars were given beefed-up aftermarket front shocks, and rear Hotchkis sport kits, while the beauty cars rode on stock suspension. For brakes, the build team fabricated custom brackets to replace the stock rear drums with discs. SSBC 44mm, four-piston calipers with Hawk Blue brake pads were installed in the rear of the cars.

The final touches included c-clip eliminators with a 12-bolt rear end that were fitted to the stunt cars to allow for the intense cornering performed in the film’s action sequences. Each stunt car was given a diminutive eight-gallon fuel cell to minimize the chance of serious fires.

Tom Cruise did all his own stunt driving.

The Chevelles are given numerous appearances in the film. In what is perhaps the most memorable sequence in the entire movie, Tom Cruise, who did all his own stunt driving, engages in a lengthy high-speed chase with police. His steed is pressed to the limit and weaves and dodges through traffic, until Cruise surreptitiously jumps out of the still moving Chevelle and blends in with a crowd of pedestrians, leaving the pursuing police baffled.

Sadly many of the picture cars were totaled during filming.

Sadly, as in many action films, Jack Reacher’s car is ultimately destroyed. It’s always difficult for the car nut knowing that an example or multiple examples of an increasingly rare classic car were totaled during the production of a film, but at least we can take solace in the notion that no actual SS 396s were harmed.

The scene is easily one of the best chase sequences in recent years for all of its spectacular drifting and edge-of-your-seat near misses. The fact that it features such an awesome example of classic American muscle makes it all the more sweet. I recommend you spend an evening with the movie and its SS 396. I have no doubt you’ll enjoy it immensely.

 

About the author

Rob Finkelman

Rob combined his two great passions of writing and cars; and began authoring columns for several Formula 1 racing websites and Street Muscle Magazine. He is an avid automotive enthusiast with a burgeoning collection of classic and muscle cars.
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