VIDEO: A Datsun 240Z is the hero car in this 1979 chase movie

1970s Los Angeles was an automotive paradise. Not only did you have a diverse mix of Detroit land yachts, European compacts and heaps of Japanese runabouts, but its freeways ran long and wide. Back then, before the 405 was one giant parking lot, it was a more innocent time, too. A serial killer with a windowless van merely ran his victims off the road, instead of abducting them and doing some weird sex stuff. This was the premise for the 1979 movie Death Car on the Freeway, which took place in LA and featured a whole bunch of J-tin — including a first-gen Honda Civic and, as the hero car, a Datsun 240Z. 

To give you an idea of just how innocent the era was, the faceless killer was called the Freeway Fiddler and yet, we repeat, did not do any weird sex stuff. He probably still had some issues though, because he targeted young women like some kind of MRA psycho. After dispatching several ladies with good taste in cars — including a Honda Civic (in yellow, of course), Mustang II, and a beautiful vinyl-topped 1971 Camaro — our heroine, played by Charlie’s Angel Shelley Hack, fights back with her handbrake turnin’ Datsun 240Z.

The chase scenes are all pretty cool and filmed with real vehicles, unlike today’s computer-generated fakery (and may we remind you this was a made-for-TV movie), but the most fun part is scanning for neat background cars. We spotted a B110 Datsun 1200, TE51 Corolla Liftback, S10 200SX, Celica, Corona, even a Mitsubishi Dodge Colt wagon. Such was the diversity of California highways back then. Let us know if you see any more that we missed.

Thanks to Ryu Asada for the tip!

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8 Responses to VIDEO: A Datsun 240Z is the hero car in this 1979 chase movie

  1. Randy says:

    Now THERE’S a movie I haven’t though about in forever! I consider it one of those time-burner flicks that I wouldn’t spend money to go see, but if it’s on Saturday night, okay, I’ll watch it.

    Note though, when you refer to it as a “hero car,” the style of the car – and what I’ve said is lacking in today’s cars: they don’t make the driver feel like a “hero.” All those “personal mobility vehicles” (pods) that we see in the manufacturers’ concept areas of their web sites, and at the auto shows? My prediction is that you/we will NEVER see those as the heroes’ rides. Seriously – isn’t the Corolla still the number 1 car on the planet? Drop that into the chase scene in a modern-day “Bullitt.” Just ain’t gonna happen.

  2. Directed by Hal Needham, the genius who gave us “Smokey and the Bandit” and “Cannonball Run!”

  3. Keith Measures says:

    That eight track is enough to make anyone go crazy

  4. Clay says:

    Reminds me of the Datsun Z owner’s manual admonition: ‘Never exceed redline in top gear for long periods of time unless absolutely necessary.’ Brings to mind being chased by Godzilla. (My memory tells me the source for this information is an editorial in an old Car and Driver magazine.)

  5. John Moran says:

    Hmm, definitely something dodgy about that van.

    Good amount of Z action, but hard to beat Seibu Keisatsu #104 with a lengthy chase culminating in a Z jumping through a billboard and across a river.

  6. Censport says:

    I remember seeing this on TV as a kid, as at the end, the van was painted just like my Hot Wheels car.

  7. Gil says:

    I purchased a 280Z due to seeing this movie. That 160 MPH speedometer got me hooked. Glad to see the movie on YouTube whenever I like.

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