The Cars of the Great Gatsby
“On week-ends,” wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in his classic American novel The Great Gatsby, “his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight…”
Automotive history is intertwined with the plot of both the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, the 1949 film adaptation starring Alan Ladd, the 1974 version with Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston, and the current, updated version of the film featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire.
The “creamy yellow” Rolls-Royce with green leather interior that appears in the novel is a central character, and it’s referred to mockingly by Tom Buchanan in Chapter 7:
“Come on, Daisy,” said Tom, pressing her with his hand toward Gatsby’s car. “I’ll take you in this circus wagon.”
If we were to get really specific, it’s probably a 1922 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, since the novel is set in 1922. In the 1974 film starring Robert Redford, the produces selected the right car, but from the much later 1920s, a 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I.
Despite the fact that the novel specifically highlights Gatsby's Rolls-Royce, a Duesenberg was the ultimate symbol of wealth in the 1920s. America built the greatest, most desirable cars in the world in that era, and the Duesenberg Model J topped the list.
When Alan Ladd starred in the 1946 adaptation, he too drove a Duesenberg, one that was chosen out of his personal fleet of cars. It's interesting that at that time, the car was only 20 years old, yet it was recognized even then as one of the finest automobiles ever built.
Imagine looking back on anything built in 1993 in that way.
There's an interesting panoramic shot of a number of different cars used in the film sitting at the port in -- presumably -- Australia where the movie was filmed.
Here, the Duesenberg is in the upper right, but the array of automobiles assembled is pretty impressive. You can see the full version here. See if you can pick out all the different makes and models, and who was driving what.
While you're doing that, try to think about what Jay Gatsby would drive today. Remember that this car served to ferry people to and from the city every night. Cars like the Duesenberg and Rolls-Royce were not only known for their opulence, but they were a symbol– both in the films and in reality. To drive one was to ascend to a class of its own. With that (and the ferrying needs) in mind, Jay would most likely drive one of two cars; the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, and/or the Maybach Landaulet.
Though the Landaulet may have the credentials to roll like the original Gatsby might have wanted, it is far to out of style. Given the automaker's recent demise, riding in a Maybach would be like donning a pair of Zubas pants for a gala ball. No, the vehicle of choice has to be the grandiose, too-big-for-life G63 AMG. Gatsby would ride in style, six feet above the road, with all around him gawking at the magnificent ride.
Now, would it be in standard AMG Silver, or that "cream yellow" color of Gatsby's other rides? You be the judge.