Re: Lola T70 in movie Le Mans
Correct, the Porsche 917 and Ferrari bodies were mounted on battle weary Lola T70 rolling chassis. Lolas were cheaper than 917s and Ferraris!
My friend, Bud Rossler, in the 1960s managed Stirling Moss's Automobile Racing Team (SMART) with his brother, Ed. The brothers certainly had a tough background having worked in gold mines in the Johannesburg area, trying their hand at fruit farming, racing cars and bikes, etc. Being a race car mechanic in the 1960s was a demanding job, with low pay and long, long hours, not for the feint of heart.
Bud, met an English owner of a Lola T70, Robin Ormes, who had been asked by Steve McQueen if he could hire the car for his forthcoming film,'Le Mans'. The deal was done and Bud who was an expert on the Lola T70, having maintained Hugh Dibley's SMART T70 Spyder, was asked to look after the car for the duration of the filming which took about three months.
During that time the head of McQueen's special effects unit spotted Bud's various talents and offered him a job at four times his salary as a race car mechanic. Bud accepted and that move launched him into the exciting world of special effect for the next 14 years all over the world.
During one session, the mock, radio controlled Ferrari with dummy at the wheel was run along the main straight between the pits and grandstand in second gear. Without warning the car suddenly veered to the left and crashed into the embankment on the left. Bud pondered the problem and realised that the radio controlled steering column was in a locked position with no slack either way. A pair of human hands on a steering wheel allow for constant subtle movement to keep the vehicle on track. Then Bud had the answer. Somewhere he had seen a computer clutch drive working. Solar Productions had an aircraft parked at the landing strip behind the main grandstand and Bud asked the pilot to fly him to Paris. He found exactly what he wanted and back at the circuit he sawed the steering column in half and inserted the computer clutch drive. For a trial run Bud rode shotgun on the back of the car in case anything went wrong but all was OK.
In another scene one of the Ferraris was to crash into the forest. The ramp was put in place and as the scene was to be in the wet a water truck sprayed water in front of the car and towards the bend but with the car parked on a dry track. With all ready to roll the rear tyres bit into the dry tarmac but as it hit the wet patch the car slewed sideways and demolished itself against the embankment. When they finally got the scene right the car flew further than expected and the cameraman , who luckily kept a cool head, had to run like hell to get out of the way. That scene is in the film.
Many people think that the Porsche 917 accident scene was David Piper's accident as a result of which he was to lose his right foot. As was pointed out it was staged by a 917 body stuck on to a T70 rolling chassis. The car was radio controlled by two Frenchmen, one controlling the throttle and the other the steering. This was a tricky operation requiring great teamwork and for the scene the two guys stood side by side on a raised platform inside the circuit. When the cameras started rolling the throttle man gave too much stick which caused the car to go into long tail slide. When it clouted the Armco barrier the radio aerial controlling the steering, taped along the long tail, was ripped off and the rudderless 917 continued on its merry way bouncing off the Armcos on either side of the circuit. Luckily the scene was so perfect that it was used in the film.
Bud remembers Steve McQueen with great affection. He remembers the barbeques at night with Steve sitting around the fire talking to the lads while McQueen junior was bombing around on his little Husqvarna MX bike.
Bud actually appears in the film for a few seconds. If I remember correctly the name of the German Ferrari driver was 'Eric Straehle'. As he's getting ready for the start Bud can be seen handing him his crash helmet.
Some years ago I interviewed Bud for a local magazine on his life as a special effects man. You can't believe what the guys got up to! Certainly beats being a bank manager!
Some stories as follows:
Bud worked on 'Superman' with the late and brave, Christopher Reeve. For the flying scenes Reeve was attached to a thin length of tungsten wire and the cameramen had to be careful not to pick up the glint in the wire.
In the film 'Catherine the Great', lead star was the French actress, Jeanne Moreau. In one scene she had to fall into water wearing a period dress with petticoats. Bud and a colleague were circulating underwater in diving gear to rescue the star but when she fell in Bud got into a bit of a panic when he got entangled in her petticoats. He thought that if he wasn't meant to die in a gold mine or on race track what a way to go - between the shapely legs of a famous French film star!
For the film 'The Battle of Britain', at one point Bud had to lay explosive charges right on he edge of the White Cliffs of Dover. The French stunt helicopter pilot saw Bud and went straight for him. Bud fell flat on the ground and in that prostrate position the pilot gently pushed one of the skids on Bud's back without hurting him. Then roaring with laughter and with a cheery wave the pilot lifted off. Bud said he had never known anyone who could fly a chopper like that. It was the same pilot who flew through the streets of Monaco for the filming of John Frankenheimer's film 'Grand Prix'. However, about three months after the White Cliffs incident the pilot 'over cooked it' and that was the end of him - live by the sword, die by the sword.
During the filming of the 'Charge of the Light Brigade'in Turkey, Bud had the most terrifying experience of his whole life when an earthquake hit the region one evening. He said from his hotel bedroom window he could see the road snaking and the lamp posts waving about. Everyone made a dash for the foyer, including a well-known film star, who shall remain nameless. She was in the bath, baled out and ran to foyer, dripping and stark naked but with flannel in hand. Then the quake subsided and there she stood wondering how to cover his shapely body with a small flannel. Bud said he never knew there were benefits to earthquakes!
Some of those race mechanics, in particular Bud, were powerful guys who would pick up and move heavy V8s and Hewland gearboxes, like no problem. One night in the car park of the 'Bunch of Grapes' pub in South Kensington in London, a black Morris Minor had parked in Ed's
Ford Anglia. With not a chance of getting hold of the owner in the noisy pub, Bud bent down, took hold of the Morris by the rear bumper, lifted both the rear wheels clear off the ground and moved the car through 90 degrees. Try that!
Today Bud's back is full of stainless steel plates and screws. Surprised?
I must stop telling stories. I have work to do!
Best wishes to all.