When Dennis McCarthy hit the ignition on The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift's 1971 Chevrolet Monte Carlo, it was as if the whole world stopped for a moment in anticipation. As the starter spun, no one dared breathe, it seemed, for fear that the Holley carburetor atop the Bill Mitchell "World Class" 509-cubic-inch big-block V8 would suck in the entire atmosphere in one mighty gulp. Then the engine exploded to life: A big-block with a big cam sounds like tectonic plates colliding.
Most of Tokyo Drift's action takes place in, naturally, Tokyo, but the story is framed as the consequences of the hero's stateside street racing. The primered, NASCAR-inspired Monte Carlo is what gets him in trouble.
Two of the nine first-generation Monte Carlos built for The Fast & the Furious: Tokyo Drift had big-blocks — this one with the 560-horsepower 509 aboard and the other with a 700-hp, 572-cubic-inch Bill Mitchell "Hardcore" crate engine (the other seven either had small-block V8s or were used as engine-less bucks). In both Chevrolet cars, the engines feed Hooker headers and Flowmaster mufflers and, for story purposes, are disguised with "Hardcore 632" valve covers. Both run Richmond T-10 four-speed manual transmissions, Wenco driveshafts and Moser-built 12-bolt rear-ends running 4.88:1 gears in a spool differential. Both also ride on a chassis wearing Global West front control arms and coil springs, KYB shocks, Speedway Engineering anti-sway bars, Global West weight jack plates and quick-ratio steering boxes.
Wilwood disc brakes sit behind each of the Cragar 397 steel 15-inch wheels. The tires are Goodyear stock-car specials, 27 inches tall and 8 inches wide in front and 27-by-10 inches in the back. The stark interiors consist of sheet metal fabricated in the Tokyo Drift shop, custom-built roll cages, Grant steering wheels and massive Hurst V-Gate shifters. Auto Meter gauges bolted to sheet metal replace the stock gauges and the seats are Beard low-back buckets.
Everything about the Tokyo Drift Monte Carlo demands muscle to operate and steely courage to remain composed. The 509 Monte ripped to 60 mph in only 4.4 seconds and devastated the quarter-mile in 12 seconds at 118.3 mph. That's despite tires built for circle-track racing rather than straight-line acceleration, and a distinct lack of traction that had the car squirming all the way down the course. That's quick by any measure, and it's hard to imagine any car accelerating with more drama.
Not many movie cars are true bad asses. The Tokyo Drift Monte Carlo is.