Before we go much farther, we should introduce the real man behind the wheel. Jeremy Fry is a professional stunt driver who started in the business by working and teaching at a stunt driving school called the Motion Picture Driving Clinic. He was there for 12 years and eventually became head instructor. He also spent time learning how to drift with a 1996 Ford Mustang and even did some rally racing. So far, he's been involved in a number of movies including the John Wick films. He's most certainly a car enthusiast through and through if his collection is anything to go by. He has a Nissan 180SX with a turbocharged SR20 four-cylinder, a Nissan 240SX for Chump Car and LeMons racing, his 1983 Toyota Corolla rally car, and a modified 1959 Morris Minor. He also has a Prius as his commuter car, but we'll cut him some slack, since gas is expensive in California.
On set, Fry was driving a pretty wide array of automobiles, too, including the film's clear hero car, a 2006 Subaru Impreza WRX. As is the case with movies, that car isn't quite what it seems. In fact, it's actually a few cars. Fry told us that each of the Subarus for the film was tweaked in different ways. The most conventional ones were a stock WRX STI, which had the rear wings changed out for WRX versions, and a hopped up WRX with over 320 horsepower, a heavier clutch, and the differentials from an STI.
The other two were a bit more unusual. One was an automatic car that had a seat and controls fitted to the roof. This car allowed the crew to film the actors "driving," without them having to worry about actually controlling the car. Another one was the car Fry said was his favorite to drive. It was a WRX with a modest power boost up to the high 200-horsepower range, and it was converted to rear-wheel drive.
In addition to the Subarus, the movie features a Chevrolet Avalanche, an SRT Dodge Challenger, and a Mercedes-Benz S550. That Mercedes presented a few challenges. According to Fry, to keep traction and stability control from intervening, they found a special dyno mode. Unfortunately, that also switched off the electronic limited-slip differential, making it hard to drift. To overcome this issue, they welded up the differential. This worked, but it also resulted in breaking axles. Fry said, "We went through axles like Skittles."
It's fortunate, then, that the Subarus were the stunt workhorses, and were featured in a shot of which Fry sounded quite proud. He called it the "180 In-and-Out" and it's visible in the trailer shown above. According to him, it was pretty difficult, in part because of the speeds. He said that right at the start when first driving past the trucks, he was going 55 mph. From there, the car spins around to the right, and then 180 degrees left to drive away. Fry said a further complicating factor was that the pavement was grippier than when they practiced. They covered the road in water to make it slipperier, but he said that made him nervous because he hadn't tried it in the wet. It turned out fine, as you can plainly see.
That shot was entirely real, too, as were all of the stunt driving segments. Fry said the only computer work used on shots was to clean up the images, and never to make the driving seem more grandiose or dangerous. He said that a number of stunts are even featured in their entirety without any cuts. With that in mind, it sounds like Baby Driver is going to be a joy for fans of excellent, authentic car chases, and we can't wait to see it.