What were the challenges of creating a working vehicle?
Tony: The cars were out of balance, the wheels too far to the side. You can imagine when you cut a car in half, that you now have two motorbikes with the wheels not positioned correctly for this new vehicle. But we couldn’t just reposition the wheels because they had to match the complete car. What was the answer? Find a stunt man who can ride such a dangerous vehicle. But this was a low-budget film and stuntmen were a luxury.
So what could we do? ‘We can do it Mahood,’ David said. ‘You and I can ride them!’ And that is what happened. On the days when we had stuntmen budgeted, they rode the cars. And on the days when we couldn’t afford stuntmen, David and I rode the cars. When you think you have enough speed, you bring in your leg and foot and bring the car up as close to perpendicular as you feel safe (and pray to God that Nadia Tass is not going to ask for a second take!).
How did you decide on the make of the car, the yellow Honda Z?
David: I didn’t want to use a Mini because they were well established as a kooky film vehicle by then. The Honda Z was Honda’s first foray into Australia. It is tiny, I loved its look and we bought three of them for less than $600! We needed one car as a complete car, the two others were cut in half – one for the stuntmen with real wheels and motors; the other was set on casters on a low loader, for the actors’ close-ups.
Do you have any memorable anecdotes about the making of the cars in the lead-up to the shoot?
David: I was still working as a stills photographer in 1985, and we built the cars in my studio. My clients thought I was completely nuts as I photographed them with these cars in various states, dotted around the studio. I remember Skyhooks and Daddy Cool being highly amused by the cars.
Would Malcolm be an easier film to make with today’s digital tools?
David: I think a lot of the charm of the film is that these cars were actually real – I don’t believe they would be as effective as visual effects. Yes, it would be easier, but I don’t think the result would have been so organic. Tony, Steve and I had to learn to weld to build these, but I think Malcolm would have actually had more skills than us!