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The best reality-based car chases and races of all time

From the Shadowfast supercar driver logs

1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 supercar

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This page last updated on or about 3-25-06
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Having actually designed, built, and driven my own real life supercar, I've many times been disappointed by the appalling lack of automotive experience and knowledge displayed by virtually every car chase (or race) film ever made. In most cases I believe the writers would have done much better jobs by simply first consulting the average city taxi driver, before setting pen to paper.

But don't take my word for it. Examine the films yourself. The tired mainstays of such movies are jumping obstacles or someone perilously climbing or jumping from one moving vehicle to another. Please! Can't we at least hire writers who've passed license exams here?

Below I list my own nominations for the best chases or races of all time. Contests lifted from the Shadowfast supercar driver logs. To my knowledge few scenes like these have ever been shot to film. And perhaps never will be. Because they're just not silly enough for Hollywood. But real drivers will get them. Heck, real drivers have lived them!

The accounts linked below were inspired by actual events. Details like names, dates, and more have been changed for reasons of privacy and readability.

[Caution: The author strongly recommends no one try to emulate the actions described here.]

From Slip, sliding away:

There's several relatively brief chases or races described here. My own favorite moments from them include...

The use of a large discarded sign among the myriad debris in a junkyard as an improvised automotive surf board across a substantial pond to affect escape from a demolition derby type threat to car and driver.

The astounding driving skills and tricks of a GTO driver used in a night-time race taken on a bet. The GTO driver tries to intimidate his opponent into a loss on the final leg of the contest by pulling a 180 degree turn on the fly and driving backwards from there shining his headlights in the other driver's face through to the race's end.

A car carrying two newly rescued girls from a prostitution ring leader's house in the country narrowly makes it past a sudden road block to careen down a large and bumpy hill-side cow pasture at night, via moonlight alone, in an effort to thwart further pursuit.

From Too close for comfort:

The main events in Too close for comfort occur during late fall, early winter.

The main moments here include a car barely making it across a river-spanning railroad trestle before meeting the train itself head-on in a narrow rock walled passage, and an insane slow motion block and tackle type movement of the car across a condemned automotive bridge with long ago rotted away roadbed, utilizing the steel girders of the bridge's side wall framework for transport means.

The two bridge crossings are elements in a race against time to win a teenage bet.

Later on the car is carrying a girl rescued from an attempted kidnapping, being chased by her armed captor in a truck. The car itself is suffering from engine problems and unable to escape via speed alone. A large socket tool set dumped out the window creates traffic havoc behind the fleeing car, thereby stymieing the truck's pursuit.

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From The Daytona 1200:

The Daytona 1200 takes place at the height of the summer.

The main event here consists of a long distance race of some 1200 miles in a round trip contest between the driver's east Tennessee hometown and Daytona Beach Florida. The two competing supercars are a home-built from a small block 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1, and a factory built 426 Hemi 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona. The Mustang driver has more racing experience and intimate knowledge of his car than the Charger driver, but the Charger possesses substantially more brute power and a much higher top end.

This is a race with big money riding on it (at least from the perspectives of the drivers). It's also a classic contest of skill and experience versus greater raw power; small block Ford versus Dodge big block Hemi; poor man's homebuilt versus top-of-the-line factory race car off the showroom floor.

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From Kissing the wall:

Timeframe: a long summer in Texas

This is a chase so short it ends almost the same moment it begins. Due to the surprise road construction hazard encountered.

The fleeing car jumps a pit at the crest of a shallow hill going roughly 80 mph just as a load of dirt is being dropped into it. The dirt covers the driver's windshield-- blinding him-- just after he spies a brick wall only some 50 yards away. His instincts and subconscious memory of a previous crash take over to save him from a crack up in perhaps the only way possible under the circumstances.

The cop chasing him though ends up in the pit.

From When push came to shove:

Timeframe: a long summer in Texas

The officer previously embaressed by the pit incident just above decides to take personal, off-the-record revenge against the driver. Apparently he personally owns a civilian version of a hot-rodded police pursuit car (a 1969 Dodge Polara 440 Magnum), and after some surveillance of the driver catches him on a stretch of interstate outside Houston Texas.

The cop's factory supercar possesses greater weight, raw power, acceleration, and a higher top end than the target driver's own car, and so after making contact from the rear begins pushing the other driver's car to speeds which will cause that driver's engine to blow or the driver to lose control-- or both.

The targeted driver quickly realizes there's little chance to escape with either his life or car intact.

Already at horrendous speed, the targeted driver does the only thing which might save him and his car. He abruptly lets off the gas and throws his transmission into neutral, which suddenly drops the resistance his own struggling motor was pitting against the cop's overpowering push, opening a small gap between the cars and allowing the driver to swerve away without losing complete control.

The driver passes through the median and across the opposite highway lanes in a series of high speed 360 degree spins, before finally slowing to more normal velocities in a construction site beside the highway. He immediately seeks cover and respite in a nearby large drainage channel, which seems to wind for some distance out of the vicinity. The cop finds him though to continue the chase.

Speeds mount once again. The driver enters a huge drainage pipe at speed only to see a large debris pile ahead and swerves up and around the pipe interior to avoid a crash. His speed, momentum, and custom car aerodynamics all serve to support the maneuver.

The debris pile seems to be what stops the cop's pursuit, as the driver never sees or hears anything of the guy again after that.

The 1969 Ford Mustang Mach 1 Shadowfast supercar driving acrobatically around a huge pipe interior to avoid a deadly obstacle and evade pursuit.

From Shadowfast versus the tornados:

Timeframe: a long summer in Texas

High velocity experiences can sometimes be reversed from their more usual arrangements.

For instance, those wanting the free fall thrill of sky diving without the impact peril can rent a few minutes in a vertical wind tunnel at various tourist resorts.

Likewise, those wanting to feel the fear of high speed movement without actually piloting a car at high velocities, can...face a real life tornado. Or three at once.

This one does technically qualify as a chase, as it begins that way. A relatively slow motion chase between cops and robbers, in which our driver has accidentally involved himself. It turns slow motion due to a building storm and driving rain in the area.

Soon the true robbers manage to disappear into the woodwork, leaving our driver and the pursuing cops still caught up in the moment. A moment which takes a turn for the much worse when the driver's car is struck by lightning, killing the engine, and everyone suddenly seeing tornados forming all around them.

The increasing winds begin playing with the cars like they're toys, alarming everyone present. The folks are also now in the worst possible place to face tornados: a vast, flat agricultural field which stretches as far as the eye can see. With no obvious structures or low spots within which to take refuge.

There are however occasional narrow drainage channels in the area. One of which the driver noted not long before the lightning strike. He manages to restart his car and backtrack to the small bridge crossing the channel, then get his car into the channel not far from the rare local structure. Then he backs his car under the bridge and ties off to it via his roll cage and heavy duty tow ropes he carries onboard.

Driver and passenger survive the tornadic melee, but the aftermath is grueling.

From Ring of fire:

The chase here consists basically of a running defensive rear guard action following the rescue of a family from a dire siege.

The driver minimized enemy pursuit capacities early on by various measures-- but didn't wholly quash them. This results in three altercations along the way as the driver maintains his position between mobile gunmen and the fleeing family. He gets off relatively easily in the first two confrontations by blowing out tires on one pursuit car with some custom-made automotive gear, and shooting shotgun slugs into the radiator of a large truck in the second, forcing it and its small army of shooters off the road, so the driver himself can retreat again in the fleeing family's wake.

The driver finds a good terrain bottleneck for a stand not long after, and decides to stop there for a while to stave off all further pursuit until the family has sufficient time to complete their escape.

The large truck turns out to still be running, and comes into view of the driver again. High powered rifle fire is coming from the truck, even while it's too distant for the driver's own shotgun slugs to reach. The driver utilizes the means at hand to lay down flaming gasoline dosed carpeting across the road to spoil their aim, then once again uses his slugs against the motor and cab of the large truck once it comes into range.

The big truck goes off the road again, dispersing its armed men into the woods on either side of the highway.

The driver is positioned on the far end of a bridge crossing a small river, the river between the driver and the gang.

The driver uses a flare gun to start fires in the woods lining the river banks on the gang's side, to foil their attempt to use it for cover to fire upon him. He also switches from using slugs to buckshot, raining his fire on any shooters who get past the flames and smoke on the opposite banks. Soon the gang gives up and retreats, and the family has had time to get away. So the driver packs up and leaves.

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From Over the edge:

This is a major chase. Of a gang on motorcycles and driving four wheel drives out to capture and permanently put out of action the driver and his car who have been providing escort services for a rival gang's smuggling activities.

Let me emphasize most of this chase takes place off-road, in mountainous wilderness, with four wheel drives and motorcycles in aggressive armed pursuit of a two wheel drive street car.

The main things going for the outmanned driver and his street car in this chase are their great stroke of luck in surviving largely intact the initial tumble off a mountainside into the rugged terrain; and after that the driver's considerable experience, ability to improvise on-the-fly, and the substantial thought he previously put into his car's design and its onboard stores of equipment and supplies. I guess good weather should also be included here.

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From What goes around...:

A series of unfortunate encounters between the driver and a boss of a local car theft and drug ring (and his cronies) leads the boss to decide he wants rid of the driver once and for all.

Having both first hand experience and second hand accounts of many of the driver's previous exploits to guide him, the crime boss assembles a company of minions plus others sharing the losing end of past altercations with the driver, to put an end to the driver's career-- or at least his trick car.

The main event turns out to entail multiple running ambushes of the driver on the interstate, attempting to end things quickly or at least drive him off the interstate and into better controlled country environs to trap him and finish him there. This is a swarming attack, with the first team of vehicles immediately converging on the driver once alerted by watchers he is headed into the kill zone. Some of these attack him directly, while others pretend to be part of normal traffic, merely observing the results and continuing to track his movements for subsequent actions.

The driver manages to escape the first few traps, but then falls into the larger one of seeking refuge off the interstate, much as the gang desires of him.

The goal of the first team is thus achieved: the driver has been slowed, prevented from leaving the region, and been herded off the interstate onto what is essentially a lengthy dead end road in a sparsely populated and isolated rural community.

The first team ascertains the general location of their quarry, then sets up to prevent his escape from the trap, buying time for other teams to arrive from various locations.

Meanwhile the driver is beginning to realize the full scope of his predicament.

The driver next finds himself facing an old nemesis armed with tricks specifically meant to neutralize the driver's own car's gadgetry. Fortunately the driver knows the other's psychological buttons and pushes those to successfully rid himself of that particular threat. That win inspires the driver to taunt the rest of the gang over the radio in an effort to basically divide and conquer the group a chunk at a time. To disrupt their capacity to act as one against him. For that seems his best chance for survival.

The divide and conquer strategy works, with some angry gang members splitting off from the rest to attack on their own. When the driver encounters them he scares them all into running off the road in what amounts to a game of chicken-- where the driver's car is coming at them at high speed doing 360 degree spins: seemingly completely out of control and taking up the entire roadway.

Learning via radio that the gang boss is so far managing to keep the remainder of his men under control, and even tightening the dead end road trap on him, the driver decides to double back and attack the enemy drivers he only minutes before ran off the road, in order to get them begging their other gang friends over the radio for help.

He uses a new trick against them this time, to again drive off the road those who had managed to regain the pavement since the previous altercation. Then the driver stops on the side of the road and begins using shotgun slugs to disable the various enemy vehicles from afar, while at the same time terrifying the trapped gang members there.

The ruse works, getting still more of the gang to leave the main body in response to the calls for help from the now stranded and besieged.

The driver heads back at the main gang again, pondering how best to cope with the next wave, when he is surprised to meet the gang's sniper rounding a curve on a motorcycle.

The driver instantly realizes the critical importance of not letting the sniper go, and does an immediate emergency 180 degree turn and acceleration back around the curve after him.

The sniper does the same, and they meet head on again-- only this time with the driver's car commanding the center of the roadway in a terrible visual and acoustic display of blazing lights, wailing siren, massive acceleration, and smoke from nitro-assisted tire burning.

The cyclist is forced to skid off the road to avoid liquefaction.

The driver immediately performs another emergency 180 degree turn to reach the spot the cyclist entered the woods, and track him down on foot, as that may be the driver's only chance to avoid a long distance shot to the head sometime later from the man.

Fortunately the sniper is badly injured and no longer an immediate threat. So after performing certain necessary duties in respect to the sniper, the driver returns to the road to face the other oncoming gang members.

However, he meets them before he's had a chance to think up a new strategem-- and this bunch is considerably larger than before. So the driver makes an emergency 180 degree turn and beats a fast escape out of there, at his first opportunity ducking into a roadside hidey hole to allow the group to pass him by, then heading back the other way again.

By that point there are welcome indications over the radio that the main body of the gang was now being forced to abandon their plans. For the driver had managed to delay his own demise long enough that the authorities were now coming in to see what was going on in this normally quiet little burg, due to a steadily rising number of calls from residents.

By now almost out of gas, the driver is forced to refuel at a spot he's sure to be sub-standard in quality, before returning to the interstate and then home again.

Just as suspected, the fuel is bad, causing the driver problems with his car on the return trip. And making it easier for still present remnants of the gang to make one last try at killing him.

The gang attempts to bushwhack him again, and although the driver manages to swerve off the interstate and up a side of a hill the highway cuts through, he can no longer outrun his attackers, due to the bad gas. His only choice is now to stand and fight, which he does as best he can with pistol and shotgun.

Luckily he gets help at that moment from a new friend. And survives after all.

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From Nowhere to go but up:

A V.I.P. being ferried in-between two southern US cities in a vehicle convoy is targeted for kidnapping or assassination by parties unknown. The driver and his car are a part of the convoy team assigned to protect the V.I.P. and get them away from such incidents if they occur.

The convoy is suddenly attacked and so easily decimated as to imply the assault has insider elements to it.

The driver and his car and the V.I.P.'s limousine and driver almost immediately find themselves the sole remaining mobile survivors of the attack-- and under intense threat themselves.

The supercar driver manages to take out some five attacker vehicles with a mix of unusual vehicle gadgetry and driving experience, before being forced to take in the V.I.P. and limo driver too as passengers.

Still under enormous threat, the two drivers decide to escape entirely the highway which is now blocked in all directions by using a ramp-like hill to cross a stream not far off the road. Of course the jump basically demolishes the car, and so becomes the final major feat that particular automobile ever performs for its driver. The car remains technically drivable after the jump: just too badly damaged to seem worth repairing.

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