Movie heroes are only as good as the bad guys they must confront. And in Fast & Furious 6, the first time the good guys go up against the bad guys they're armed with five E60-series BMW M5 sedans. That's the generation of M5 built between 2005 and 2010: the one with the high-revving, 500-horsepower, 5.0-liter V10 and ridiculously complex seven-speed automatic transmission. You know, the one that emitted a wail when it launched that sounded like an air raid siren echoing across a Bavarian beer hall. It's the baddest-ass four-door of the last decade.
And of course the BMWs portraying the M5s in Fast & Furious 6 aren't actually M5s at all. Come on, it's not like there are close-up shots of the engines or timeouts in the chase to show off the transmission. And, obviously, there were more than just five 5 Series sedans involved, too. In fact, Dennis McCarthy's picture car department acquired and modified 14 right-hand-drive E60s for use in the film. And none of them were actual BMW M5s.
Since the "Team vs. Team" chase would be filmed in Great Britain, there was no reason to search out BMWs in other parts of the world. Instead McCarthy's team simply went looking at dealers and auctions in the U.K. for appropriate vehicles and purchased them. After that it was simply a matter of adding the right M5-spec plastic bits, digging holes in the front fenders for M5 vents, and fitting each of the 14 cars with a set of black-painted 19-inch M5 wheels and tires and faking up a set of four exhaust outlets.
The cars were a mix of inline-6-equipped 530i and V8-powered 550i models. The nicer ones were reserved for on-camera work with the actors, while the tired examples were prepped for their spectacular on-screen demise. Such is the way of cinematic unnatural selection.
For the stunt team that would drive them, however, the 5 Series did have one serious problem. "Modern cars all have electronic parking brakes," explained stunt coordinator Greg Powell. "So we needed to change that." Most of the cars were equipped with a supplementary hand brake acting on the rear wheels so stunt drivers could induce oversteer at will. And, naturally, all the electronic nannies (traction control, ABS, variable steering and the like) were disabled.
Each of the movie cars was also fitted with an extensive roll cage and Sabelt Challenge racing seats. While it's common in films for the roll cages to be hidden, it wasn't necessary in this case because of how the M5s were being portrayed in the story. That also meant the five-point Sabelt racing harnesses could remain visible.
There was no need to modify the engines or transmissions (a mix of manuals and automatics) of these 5 Series BMWs. After all, they're dang nice used cars.
14 Go in, Three Survive
While there were 14 putative BMW M5s built for the Team vs. Team chase, only three survived. The other 11 gave their lives so that you, the movie-going gearhead, could be entertained when the movie opens on May 24.
Not surprisingly, the cars that survived were the hero vehicles driven by the actors. And because these cars can be shown in greater detail on camera than the stunt machines, they feature more M5 equipment such as door sill logos and M Motorsport steering wheels.
It's always the pretty ones that survive.