A car that gets blown up by dynamite in The Hunter.
Earlier this year, the legendary 1968 Ford Mustang GT Fastback driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt was rediscovered after being missing for over 40 years. Now, one of the lesser-known movie cars driven by the King of Cool has been liberated from a barn in Illinois. It’s a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am that McQueen drove in the 1980 film The Hunter, which tells the fictionalized story of real-life bounty hunter Ralph “Papa” Thorson. It was McQueen’s final film role before he died in 1980.
While McQueen’s character in Bullitt was a highly skilled driver in the iconic chase scene, the opposite is true in The Hunter. McQueen's character, "Papa" Thorson, is a terrible driver and struggles to handle the Trans Am. A chase scene occurs when McQueen drives a combine harvester through a cornfield in pursuit of thieves who have stolen the rented Trans Am. Sadly, the car gets blown up by dynamite and the remains of the car are then returned to the airport on a trailer, much to the horror of the rental company employee.
Six Pontiacs were provided for the film. Out of these, two 1979 Trans Ams were destroyed. During filming, the first explosion wasn’t dramatic enough for the producer, who had another Trans Am ordered from a local dealer. Both cars were repainted black for the movie, and the second was altered structurally so it would break apart more spectacularly during the explosion.
Filming attracted a crowd of locals, including farmer Harold McQueen (no, he has no relation to Steve McQueen). He provided the trailer truck that hauled the remains of the blown-up Trans Am in the film and was provided with the car as payment by Paramount Pictures. The problem was that Pontiac hasn’t signed off the plan and applied pressure to have the Trans Am returned because it feared Harold could rebuild the car for the road. Ironically, this was exactly his plan, but the car ended up languishing in a barn for nearly 40 years.
Last year, Harold agreed to part ways with the film car after discussions with Stan Harvell, a family friend of Harold’s daughter. Stan contacted then contacted Calvin Riggs, who had a passion for Trans Ams, and the pair took joint ownership of the car. Studio documentation proves the car was loaned by Pontiac and used in the film, and some of the original stunt modifications can still be seen in the in the Pontiac's floor and dash. It isn’t clear what the owner plans to do with Steve McQueen’s final movie car but judging from the state of the car it won’t be easy or cheap to rebuild.