17 February 2014

‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Cars

The Martin Scorsese film “The Wolf of Wall Street” chronicles the late 1980s through early 1990s rise and fall of penny stock swindler Jordan Belfort (played by Leonardo DiCaprio). If one surmises that a film that runs three hours — and features copious Quaalude popping and coke snorting plus roller skating chimps and dwarf throwing — has something to do with wretched excess, one would be correct. Not surprisingly, there are also some great cars in the film.  Here are five of our favourites:

  1. 1989 Lamborghini Countach: Few things in the ’Wolf’ era said over-the-top excess like a white Countach with matching wheels and interior. Many wound up in the Middle East, where their colour scheme (if not their cooling systems and air con) were appropriate for the climate. The rest seem to have been bought by “get rich or die trying” types like Mr. Belfort. In the film, Belfort attempts to pilot the Lambo in a, shall we say, slightly compromised state. While the car’s colour scheme may have been monochromatic, Belfort’s choice of drugs was decidedly not — a mix of alcohol, Quaaludes and cocaine. Predictably, the car and much shrubbery came to a bad end. The realism-obsessed producers insisted on using a real Countach for the scene. Prior to the 1991 crash in classic car prices (for which Belfort was not responsible), dealers were asking up to £200,000 for a 25th Anniversary Countach. Today, they’re a little more than half that.
  2. 1992 Ferrari 512 TR: Perhaps the runner-up for ’80s and ’90s ostentation was the Ferrari Testarossa. Seemingly as wide as an AEC Routemaster bus, with odd cheese grater-like grilles covering the side radiator intakes, collectors today find them hopelessly dated, while allowing that they’ll probably find favour when Gen-Xers take over the hobby. About £60,000 to £75,000 is the current price to look like Sonny Crockett from ‘Miami Vice.’ Like the Countach, they were more than double that at the height of the market in 1989-90.
  3. 1987 Alfa Romeo Spider Quadrifoglio: This car had a quick bit part breezing past the front of the 120 Broadway Building in New York City. The Quadrifoglio was a tarted-up version of the venerable 1966 vintage Alfa Romeo Duetto Spider that included a removable hardtop, different wheels and sill extensions — all in questionable taste. The Americans liked the Quadrifoglio well enough, though. As an aside, the owner of the car used in the film tried to capitalize on its 15 seconds of fame by asking $30,000 for it on eBay. Not surprisingly, there were no takers for what in actuality is today about a £9,000 car. As a slightly used car when the film was set, it cost about the same.
  4. Mercedes-Benz S-Class W140: S-class Mercs were all over the film. In their day, these were impressive cars and they were as over-engineered and imposing as a King Tiger tank, which the car rivaled in gross tonnage. Sporting features like dual pane glass and little probes that extended from the rear wings to assist in parking (using active sonar no less), the few left on the road confound mechanics with their complexity. Sadly, the car will always be remembered best for its use by the Hotel Ritz in Paris and the part it played in the tragic death of the Princess of Wales.  The top-of-the-line V-12 389-hp 600 SEL cost more than £80,000 new. Much like Belfort himself, it’s a case of how the mighty have fallen; you can pick one up for under four grand today.
  5. 1964 Jaguar E-Type 3.8 convertible: One of the few things in the film truly in good taste was Belfort’s yellow Series 1 E-Type convertible. Spotted parked outside of a New York City Greek restaurant by Jonah Hill’s equally amoral character Donnie Azoff, it led to the conversation with Belfort that resulted in Azoff’s employment, and ultimately to a conviction for securities fraud. Ah, the power of an E-Type. About £45,000 in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ days and about £75,000 today.

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