A Closer Look At John Wick's Cars

Movies & TV / 3 Comments

Remember: John Wick didn't kill all those people for a Camaro.

Keanu Reeves has come a long way since his breakthrough role in Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Somehow the Canadian actor has managed to star in two movies that redefined and revolutionized action movies. The first was The Matrix, which is why every American action movie suddenly embraced computerized special effects and switched from guys slugging it out with haymakers to carefully choreographed martial arts. The second was John Wick, which has taken action choreography to a whole new level and why every action movie now has its heroes using a heavily stylized, over-the-top gun-fu based on genuine technique and high proficiency. More importantly for us, the car chases aren't artificial and have a grit to them Hollywood hasn't used for a long time.

Both franchises (we try to forget about the second, third, and fourth Matrix movies, but they exist) are super heavy on stylization. Stylized movies tend to have excellent cars in them. And the leading vehicles in John Wick movies are perfect.

What kind of car does John Wick drive? More than one, and they're all muscle cars so far. In the case of the first John Wick movie, his classic Mustang is a crucial plot point.

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

The first John Wick is a revenge movie, but the genius is the lack of cliche in the protagonist's initial motivation.

It's been a few years, but the son of a prominent Russian gangster has the audacity to kill Wick's dog. A dog that was left to him by his wife, who died very recently.

To add insult to the brutality and sadness of the movie's opening act, the same person that kills his dog also steals John Wick's car - a 1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429.

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Exactly what car does John Wick drive? It's a legendary classic, limited production, NASCAR homologation Mustang.

The Ford Mustang Boss 429 was Ford's answer to the HEMI engine Dodge was running in NASCAR in the 1960s. Ford took its big block V8 engine and went to work stroking it out and putting such big ports on the block it was known as the Shotgun engine. No other Mustang of its generation could match it for power.

For the street, it was regulated to 375 horsepower. However, a few simple modifications and the 429 engine could make 500 hp and not fall apart. The engine was too big for a stock Mustang, so Ford brought in Karkraft to take 500 428 Mach 1 models and widen the bodywork and suspension to squeeze it in there.

John Wick's wasn't a real Boss 429 but a modified Mach 1 with a modern Coyote V8 under the hood for reliability. If you look closely, you'll see the car is automatic, not manual, like the Boss 429, with a Shelby steering wheel.

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1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396

When John Wick: Chapter 2 opens, he still hasn't got his Mustang back and goes to get it from the brother of the first movie's end-of-game bad guy.

The body count in the opening sequence is high, and the Mustang is effectively destroyed getting away. Wick also uses it to launch one particularly unfortunate henchman into some scaffolding. Reeves trained to do his own driving stunt work, and it shows.

By the time Wick's rampage is over, the car is wrecked, so he falls back to another golden-era muscle car, a 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle SS 396. The SS 396 was a gold standard in American muscle with its claimed 396 cubic-inch engine and 350 horsepower.

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Why did we use the qualifier "claimed" for the SS 396? Because manufacturers at the time had a habit of not being entirely truthful about engines, Chevy bumped it up to 402 cubic inches.

Why? Cost of insurance. Muscle cars were being priced out in the late 1960s, and if a customer couldn't afford to insure a car, they wouldn't buy it. Plus, there's an added benefit of making the competition think you're pulling more horses out of a smaller lump.

In the movie, it doesn't get anywhere near the screen time of John Wick's Mustang, but its presence in the frame is significant when it's on screen.

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2011 Dodge Charger SXT

A curious choice for one of John Wick's cars is the 2011 Dodge Charger SXT. It's curious because it wasn't the year's fastest or most aggressive-looking Charger.

Maybe it was a budgetary constraint as the car was destroyed and movies use more than one car, and SXTs were more available while meeting necessary specs. Perhaps the styling as stock was precisely what the production team needed, and the badge didn't matter because they removed most of them.

Chances are a Charger was chosen over the Challenger for having four doors, which makes using cameras for stunt scenes much easier - and John Wick's Charger gets one hell of an action set piece to star in.

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1971 Plymouth Cuda

We'll make a note to come back and update this, as it could be a 1971 or 1972 due to the appearance of vents on the fenders.

The car appears in the trailer for John Wick Chapter 4, so we're presuming 1971 for now, as that would have John Wick's classic muscle cars appear in yearly order. It could be a coincidence, though. Given Wick's predilection for destroying cars in violent episodes, you could be forgiven for thinking he would be wiser to invest in modern vehicles that perform better than classic muscle and have safety features like crumple zones and shatterproof windows.

However, if you're thinking like that, you're missing the point of the movies. Of the cars from John Wick movies, a Cuda doesn't have the same muscle car weight as a Boss 429, but it's on brand.

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