In our recent story, we detailed why the car movie C’était un Rendez-vous may very well be one of the best car movies ever made that few people know about. Now that we have brought you up to speed it is time for a little trivia and to let the cat out of the bag. First the shocker; the car you think is a Ferrari 275 GTB in the movie is actually a boxy Mercedes-Benz sedan.
OK, I don’t really believe it either. However, the man that made the film, and who may also have been the driver, Claude Lelouch, says that he could have used a Ferrari, but he needed a vehicle that would not shake and vibrate the camera so much. He says now that he used a Mercedes-Benz 450 SEL 6.9. That particular car had a special hydropneumatic suspension that helped keep the camera level.
I have watched reviewers break the film down and claim that the sounds of the car at times “are all wrong.” I don’t agree. Even knowing this might be the case and watching the film closely I think the vehicle’s speed, shift points, and engine sounds all work. Also, if a Mercedes was used, but a Ferrari was then run along the same path at speed to catch the engine sounds, do I really care? Either way a Ferrari blasted down those narrow streets running red lights and dodging pedestrians at some point.
What does not work is the tire scrub and screeching. This becomes painfully obvious at the very end where the sounds of tires sliding seem to go on a bit longer than the car’s motion. Personally, I am going to go on believing that a Ferrari was used and that the sound was not completely overdubbed, just layered. You can believe what you like.
We gave away one odd fact above when we said that the director actually drove the car, not a famous race car driver as many speculated for years. Also, there were passengers in the car helping. This counts as a secret. The next secret is that the video is not as free-wheeling as it seems. LeLouch employed a spotter at a single tricky spot to help ensure nobody died. When LeLouch makes the left turn into the tunnel, the traffic approaching at a right angle to his motion on the other side is not visible. He takes the section at top speed and if a car was at the other end of that tunnel about to block his path he would not have known. So LeLouch had a spotter there with a radio who could tell the passenger in LeLouch’s car if the coast was clear. When LeLouch approached the tunnel, the story goes that there was no warning, so LeLouch assumed the maneuver was safe. In fact, LeLouch says that the radio operator’s radio was dead and that if anyone had been coming he would not have been warned. Yikes!
That adds up to about three secrets. The last is a fun one. Who was the woman the driver was rushing to meet? Reports are that she was a former Ms. Sweden named Gunilla Friden. She is obviously worth rushing to meet.
We hope we have not ruined the fun. Regardless of what the car was that made that morning run so long ago, the resulting movie and street racing video culture that emerged are priceless.
Credits: Many of the facts form this story are from Alex Roy and J.F. Musial which, found at this link. If you try to watch, you may find that our version goes more quickly.