Posted by: Jerry Garrett | April 28, 2011

The Stinky Secret Behind the Filming of Thor

Thor: The dangers of filming black cars, with black interiors, under a hot desert sun. (Marvel Entertainment)

A while back, while looking around one of the prop lockups used by Marvel Studios, I noticed dozens of dusty Acura sedans, crossovers and SUVs being loaded onto trailers and being trucked away.

“What are those doing here?” I asked one of the workers.

“It’s a bunch of Acuras that were used for filming of ‘Thor’,” the man answered.

“How many are there?” I wondered.

“I think there are 40 of ‘em,” he said.

“Where are they going?” I asked.

“Back to Acura,” he said. “To be crushed.”

Astonished, I contacted Acura. “What is happening to all the vehicles used in ‘Thor’?” I queried. “Are you wholesaling them out at the auto auctions?”

“I wish we could offer a deal on one, but all the units have to be demolished,” replied Alison Sobkowski. “Sad isn’t it?!”

Sad indeed.

The reason was that many of the vehicles were so-called “pre-production” prototypes. Such vehicles are assembled ahead of regular production, for advertising, press previews and marketing tie-ins. (This was a rare movie tie-in for Acura; the last instance of an Acura placement in a movie was 1994’s “Pulp Fiction” – Harvey Keitel’s Winston the Wolf drove an NSX.) The ZDX crossovers used in the movie hadn’t even gone into production, at the time the filming with them was done in April 2010.

After factory production starts, the pre-production models are typically sent to the crusher – tires, interiors, stereos and all.

It seems like a waste, but maybe the movie tie-in will prove worth it to Acura (see the official movie trailer below; blink and you may miss Acura’s two seconds of fame).

Who are those people in the black Acuras following Thor?

I went back to my source at Marvel, and inquired, “What role did the Acuras have in the movie?”

“The good guys drove them – or maybe it was the bad guys; they were supposed to be feds,” he said. “Or some kind of cops.”

Acura: The Official Car of S.H.I.E.L.D. Note optional roof-mounted cannon. (Jerry Garrett, as seen at the 2011 New York auto show)

The cars had spent part of the time in New Mexico, where a lot of the movie’s filming was done, and some time up at Mystery Mesa north of Los Angeles. Mystery Mesa is a desolate site popular with special effects wizards because, up there, they can legally blow stuff up. (For one short scene in last year’s “Ironman 2”, some 40 cars were detonated at Mystery Mesa.)

“Blow up any of the Acuras?” I asked.

“Think so,” the guy told me. “Some of ‘em came back here pretty torn up.”

I had heard the filming had gone on for a month. That seemed like a long time to be up at a God-forsaken spot like Mystery Mesa.

“Oh yeah, it was,” the man said. “And it was hot up there. So hot nobody wanted to drive the Acuras.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“They stink,” he said.

“What do you mean by that?” I countered.

“When they sat out in the sun for a long time, the interior smelled bad,” he said. “Everybody would roll their eyes when they had to go get in them. Usually they had to sit out there with the sun beating down on them for hours. Everybody complained about the smell.”

“What was it?” I asked.

2010 Acura RL leather interior

“Well, the story I heard was it was the leather seats,” he explained. “Somebody told me a few years ago, Audi saw there was going to be a worldwide shortage of the best leathers. So they bought up all the good leather. The automakers who didn’t look that far ahead got whatever leather Audi didn’t want. Acura got stuck with some of the leftovers.”

Acura hotly denies their leathers are anything less than the finest quality. But I also asked someone at Audi about the story.

“We have some very sharp people in our procurement department,” said Dr. Johan de Nysschen, president of Audi of America, responding to my specific question only in general terms. “If they felt there was a concern about the availability of the kinds of materials, at the level of quality that we would require, I’m sure they would take whatever steps were necessary to make certain our needs were addressed.”

What do actual owners of Acuras say?

This is from an Acura online forum, written by the owner of a TL with black leather interior: “It is very clean, but when it gets hot outside my wife says it smells. This is not the first TL that she has said that about. When I was looking for this car she mentioned [she had heard this complaint] about a couple other TLs. Anyone else notice the smell?”

Another owner suggested the dyes used in staining the leathers might be the cause of the smell. Yet another suggested changing the cabin air filter, “It will help.” There were several Acura owners who recommended using high-end leather cleaners and conditioners to “get the smell out” and restore that “new-car smell.”

In fairness to Acura, it’s difficult to pinpoint the source of the complaint about the “Thor” cars. And the evidence – the cars – has been destroyed.

But keep an eye on those in the movie who are piloting the Acuras. I thought I saw a couple of them scowling.

Jerry Garrett

April 28, 2011


Responses

  1. One car is still alive and well, and still stinky.

    • Good to know. Hope you keep an open box of baking soda under the front seat…


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