I am very tempted to submit something, just a short 3000 word paper, not on the movie per se, but on the Pontiac GTO which plays a starring role. As Koshar suggests:
“The automobile deserves at least as much attention as do other topics recently favoured in cultural studies scholarship, such as cinema or popular music, cultural productions that also have deep social resonance in modernity.” (145)
The GTO has a very rich history in the US. It is regarded as the first ‘muscle car’. In fact, it defined the ‘muscle car’ as a specific genre of automobile design/marketing for two short years 1964-1966. In 1966 GM cracked down on links to motorsport and performance options for factory produced vehicles. The response from the performance division of Pontiac was to build cars listed with lower horsepower ratings than they actually had (here):
As we said, by ’67 the ram air packages had developed into something really special around Pontiac. It was another instance of Pontiac leading the industry. Its engineers had discovered the 10 percent boost in power with cold air before anyone else and exploited it to the fullest. Not only was the ram air package a status symbol around the drive-in, it really worked because it included the above-mentioned specific internal engine parts that were completely different from the standard engine packages. And Pontiac played the horsepower rating game to the hilt. Both the standard high-performance, or HO, engine and the ram air engine were called 360 hp. But despite the identical horsepower ratings, obviously the ram air engine was much stronger. Yet both engines ran in the same class according to NHRA rules. It was situations like this that finally forced NHRA to factor horsepower ratings.
Recently, GM starting importing GMH’s Monaro (that is ‘General Motors Holden’) and rebadging it as the GTO. It has been a tremendous flop. The car has been a winner in a Australia, but from all accounts it appears US consumers have a different aesthetic. GM even bank rolled a movie length advertisement masquerading as a movie to try to incite some enthusiasm from the US car enthusiast consumer.
From the look of other cars on the market it is apparent that the US consumer wants retro and retro in a big way. For example there is the Ford Mustang or the forthcoming Dodge Charger. The new Mustang:
Remember, the original GTO has an iconic status, so anything less than an iconic reproduction would be flawed.
So we return to Mr Diesel and xXx. Would the movie have ‘worked’ if Vin was in a new school GTO? No, it certainly would not have. It is an extraordinarily good example of where the car is explicitly used as ‘cultural production’ rather than belonging to the technological. Maybe GM designers need some sort of XXX-test?