Mad Max lives oncin Japan?!
Japanese car-nut Yoshinao Hirata has just bought
his dream car, a road-going MAD MAX Interceptor!!
"I removed the supercharger. It was a bit over the top."
Forget Steve McQueen's Mustang from Bullit or Burt Reynolds' Trans Am in Smokey and the Bandit. Yoshinao Hirata of Chofu City near Tokyo, reckons that Mel Gibson's Ford Falcon V8, which starred in the 1979 Australian cult movie Mad Max, is the greatest movie car ever. That's why he bought one.
When we caught up with Hirata near his house on the outer limits of Tokyo's sprawling metropolis, the thirty-four year-old home renovation specialist couldn't hold back his excitement that someone had recognized his Interceptor.
"My car gets lots of attention, but I'm convinced that few people realize what I'm driving," he says. Basically unknown outside of Australia, Hirata's 1973 model Falcon XB GT is a replica of Max's 600 hp Interceptor. But just to set the records straight, the car he's driving in reality employs a stock 300hp 5.7 liter V8 with 4-speed manual gearbox. To extract 600 horses from a 1973 V8 would have meant an engine rebuild every couple of weeks.
As an Aussie who was part of the movie's original cult following, I realized what I was seeing the moment it cruised past me. I was so surprised that I nearly plowed into the back of the 10-tonne truck stopped at the lights in front of me. It seems almost too coincidental that the first movie I saw when I first came to Japan in 1979 was Mad Max, even if it was dubbed into American English. And the fact that I should spot one of only three Interceptors in Japan, by chance, three weeks before the 25th anniversary of the movie's first release, seems to have almost been scripted. But it's all true.
Now you have to go a long way to find a 1973 Ford Falcon in Japan, let alone one dressed up as a full-bore Mad Max Interceptor. But that's exactly what Hirata had dreamt of since the first time he saw the movie as an eight year-old.
"Few movies are as impressionable as Mad Max was to me. I was so taken by the action and the look of that black Falcon, that I collected all of the movie brochures and used them to learn how to draw the car. I would sketch it constantly and sometimes even got in trouble at school for drawing it during classes. I knew that some day, I would own an Interceptor."
Then, one day in early 2001, his dream came true. He was flicking through the pages of a Japanese car magazine when he spotted a double-page spread on a Mad Max Interceptor that had just been imported from Australia. And the huge bonnet-mounted fake supercharger and side exhaust pipes were still attached!
"It took me about 2 seconds to call the shop that had imported it, and the rest is history." He paid around 4.3 million yen (US$36,000) for the 28 year-old Falcon (at that time), and one of the first things he did was remove the fake supercharger and side pipes. "The car looks mean enough on public roads without those two extras, plus it's easier to get the car licensed if it looks less menacing too."
And what about the police? Hirata smiles and says, "the police appear to pay more attention to my car than most, but I never give them an excuse to pull me over."
So what does he like about his car? "Apart from those eye-catching looks and the torquey 300hp V8, I adore the sound of the exhaust. It's awesome. There's nothing like it in Japan!"
And what about his favorite movie scene? "That's easy. The one where Max drives up slowly and does a cool U-turn, after wasting one of the bikers." As we bid farewell to Hirata and his Interceptor, he owned up to having one more dream; to visit the locations in Australia where the movie was shot. The only problem will be finding a 1973 Falcon worthy of the pilgrimage.