Trucks at Work

Cranking the wheel, jammin’ the gears

On the surface of things, it would seem professional truck drivers share little in common with stunt driver par excellence Ken Block – except, of course, when it comes to safety. I mean, truckers by law can’t exceed posted speed limits, and are focused on using as little fuel as possible to move freight from origin to destination – trying to minimize equipment wear and tear along the way.

Not so for Block, whose latest masterpiece – Gymkhana 5: Ultimate Urban Playground – uses the streets, docks, and hills of San Francisco, CA, to create a stunt driving tour de force.

Filmed over four days, Gymkhana 5 contains echoes of what some would call (myself included) the most epic of cinematic car chase scenes – pitting the famous 1968 Shelby Mustang 390 Fastback, powered by a throaty 325 hp V8 engine, against a 1968 Magnum Dodge Charger equipped with a 375 hp V8 in the darkly-themed police drama Bullitt.

Bullitt, released in 1968 (the year I was BORN for goodness sakes!), is probably one of Steve McQueen’s most memorable movies. What you may or may not know about the cars used in the chase scene is that while their suspensions and brakes were heavily modified to safely handle the scripted stunts, the engines were left unmodified.

Thus those wonderfully roaring monsters you hear as the cars go thundering around San Francisco (often exceeding 110 mph) were bona fide production line models; no different than what you’d find in the dealership showroom at the time.

[In the slice of that famous chase scene below, note how often you get a “driver’s view” of the action. That marks one of the first times such a camera angle appeared in film – and is another reason why this chase scene in many ways revolutionized how Hollywood filmed such action.]

Of course, while watching such dramatic vehicular activity, I’ve always said to myself: “Man, wouldn’t it be just so COOL if they used a truck to perform such stunts?”

Well, leave it to race truck driver Mike Ryan to prove that trucks can do anything that Block and his souped-up Ford Fiesta can do.

FYI, the location for Ryan’s stunts in the video above is the same spot Ken Block filmed his very first “Gymkhana” film. That’s why Ryan – no slouch of a driver himself, racing or stuntwise – purposely chose this location to make his own “big rig” version of “Gymkhana.”

“A lot of people could do something like Ken if they have a $200,000 race car,” Ryan noted in a recent online post. “Try it in a big truck. That’s why we called [this film] Size Matters.”

Finally, if you’re wondering who the young lady is in Ryan’s trucking tour de force, her name is Melany Delorenza; a professional model who has appeared in a number of bikini swimwear pictorials.

And you will NOT be seeing any of her photos in this space today … because this space IS, of course, about all things trucking (or trucking-related … an exceptionally elastic term to my mind as any frequent reader of this blog knows all too well!)

Still, I’ll bet even just one photo of her would garner FAR more web attention than any of my overly long (and overly wrought) blogospheric musings.

But we won’t be testing that theory... at least for today. 

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