'Furious 7' Car Guru Talks Paul Walker, Off-Road Chargers, and Skydiving Cars

If you've ever watched a Fast & Furious movie and thought, “Hmm, I wonder if there's a person who specifically picks out all these amazing cars?” We're here to answer that question – yes, there is. His name is Dennis McCarthy and while his full title is Picture Car Coordinator, it might as well be "The Most Interesting Man in the World." Dennis does what every car guy and gal the world over would like to do. He selects and builds the cars for the most popular automotive film series of all time, and he has been doing it since 2006's Tokyo Drift. If there's a motor that graces the F&F silver screen, he gave the go-ahead to put it there. We sat down to talk cars, explosions, Dodge Chargers, and the all-new Furious 7, for which he provided well over 300 cars for production. Here's what he had to say. ZD: Picking the cars for the biggest auto movie franchise in the world – is that the world's best job? DM: It really is, I cannot complain at all [laughs]. I'm so grateful every day that I work on these projects. I will say that it's not all fun all the time, but it's always an incredible experience. ZD: How do you decide which cars get in the movie, and who gets what? DM: It's really a character thing. My end goal is that if you saw the cars lined up in front of my shop, you would know which car goes to which character. Dom's character obviously started in the first movie driving Hondas and the Mazda RX-7, but I don't think that would have worked today. Once Dom brought the Charger out of his garage – that was it, there was no going back. The other big factors are: what's going to be asked of the cars, what kind of terrain will they be on, what the location is. For instance, the car Dom drives off a plane in Furious 7 will be different than what he cruises the streets of LA in. VIDEO: Watch the unforgettable Super Bowl trailer for Furious 7 ZD: What was it like to work with Paul Walker? DM: It was great – he was just a huge car enthusiast. He had a shop, he made parts, and he raced. With Paul it was really easy choosing the cars for his character because all you see Paul driving in Fast & Furious movies are cars he would drive on his own – the GT-Rs, the Subarus, the Supra. Those are all cars that he loved and owned. He'll be truly missed. He was the one guy that was usually my first call when one of these movies got off the ground. He'd say “Hey man, what am I going to be driving?” He wanted to come down to the shop. He wanted to talk about his cars. He appreciated all types too – muscle, classics, European – if it went fast, he liked it. It's such a tremendous loss. It was truly his passion. ZD: Of the current cast, who is the biggest car guy or gal? DM: Vin (Diesel), probably. He'll come right down to the shop, and he always seems to like what we create for him. We always seem to put the most effort into Dom's vehicles for all these movies, but it's great that he is interested and it's great that he comes by because he's absolutely part of the process. And if the actor loves what they're driving it just makes it a better final product. VIDEO: Get behind the wheel of Dom's 1970 Dodge Charger R/T ZD: A few of the muscle cars in the movie have massive long-travel suspension. How much of what we see is actually real and functional? DM: It's 100 percent. My background is off-road racing, both in desert trucks and in the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series, and we basically designed the off-road Charger that you're talking about off a Pro 2 platform. The frame rails are extremely similar, and there's probably more travel in the rear than a Pro 2 truck. We started testing it in the parking lot for a few days with jumps then we went out to Glen Helen and ran the entire course for a couple of days. That's one of my favorite parts of my job, just bombing around and around and around. We ended up building seven of those: four of them were full-function racecar quality and the others were built for specific shots. It took about three months and nearly every bit of our prep time to build those Chargers. ZD: What's the biggest challenge in dropping half a dozen cars out of a plane? DM: The timing. We were doing that sequence and we were also still filming those cars in Colorado; the date got moved and we still needed those vehicles. Luckily it all went very well overall – I think there were about 15 different drops between the five different vehicles, but a couple of them didn't end so well. One of those Chargers – our most difficult car to replicate – came out of the plane, parachute opened correctly, car landed on its wheels, mission accomplished. But then the wind picked up and dragged it about a half mile across the desert, ripping every body panel off of it and stuffing cactuses through the windshield. RELATED: Check out this Porsche 911 Paul Walker tribute car ZD: Is there a car that sticks out to you as the best from the entire F&F series? DM: You know, there is and it's that off-road Charger. That's one that, once again, is kind of what I do for fun, and when I read the script and saw that opportunity, I put the majority of my efforts into that vehicle just to make it absolutely perfect. It's not an easy look to get right. We didn't want it to look corny or like someone built it in their backyard – definitely my all-time favorite Fast and Furious franchise car. Furious 7 drops in theaters on April 3. Be ready for some off-road Charger action. VIDEO: Watch behind-the-scenes footage of the Furious 7 car parachute scene  

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