The cars of ‘Transformers: Rise of the Beasts’


The latest spectacle in the Transformers franchise is about to hit the theaters. The final trailer was released, giving us peeks at what appears to be a pretty boilerplate story about the end of the world. There’s some kind of ancient interplanetary war brewing and it’s up to some teenagers to sort it out with the help of their robot buddies. But this is Autoblog, so we’re not even going to try to suss out a plot so thin it won’t hold a spittle globule’s worth of water. We’ll just go over the cars.

Porsche 911 Carrera RS 3.8: Mirage

So far the star of the film, car-wise, looks to be a blue-on-silver 964 Porsche named Mirage that is voiced by Pete Davidson. It’s been the most promoted of the movie cars, even more so than formerly central characters like Bumblebee and Optimus Prime. Except, this isn’t just any ordinary 911; it’s a Carrera RS 3.8, a European-exclusive model of which Porsche only built 55 units. As the name implies, it came with a bored-out M64 turbo flat-six as opposed to the 964 Turbo’s 3.6. It wore the Turbo’s wide-body badonk with a bi-level rear wing, but Porsche reportedly stripped out 570 pounds’ worth of weight despite embiggening key performance parts like brakes and wheels.

Fortunately, no actual RS 3.8s were used in the movie. Producers had to build five cars for different purposes — shooting closeups of actors, jumps, the obligatory driving backwards real fast. However, the sound department did record the engine note of an actual RS 3.8 for accuracy, as the higher crank speeds of the 3.8 have a distinctive sound. 

In the original 1984 Transformers lineup Mirage was a Ligier JS11 Formula 1 car, complete with faux Gitanes cigarette branding (on a children’s toy!). An F1 racer would raise an eyebrow on the streets, so it made sense to update to a street-legal sports car. If you’re wondering why this Porsche isn’t the character Jazz, whose original vehicle mode was an ultra-cool Martini-liveried Porsche 935, well, he was remade into a Pontiac Solstice voiced by Darius McCrary during the GM product placement rewrite in 2007’s Transformers reboot, then unceremoniously killed.

1977 Chevrolet Camaro: Bumblebee

Formerly the franchise star, Bumblebee gets far less screen time in the trailers. He’s still a Camaro, but because Transformers: Rise of the Beasts takes place in 1994 he’s not a fith-gen. Instead he takes the form of a 1977 Camaro, which is how he starts in 2007’s Transformers. Here, though, Bumblebee is safari-ized with brush guards, fender flares, rally lights and a bunch more cosmetic frippery in order to drive at speed off-road. And yes, in case you were wondering, that is a robot cheetah running beside him because in this movie there are apparently sentient alien machines that take the form of Earth mammals the size of an Amazon delivery truck in order to, uh, blend in.

Of course, any Transformers originalist knows that Bumblebee was a VW Beetle before the GM placement deal turned him into a Camaro. Interestingly, in 2005 Hasbro tried to reboot the toy line and the New Beetle would have been the perfect update. The toymakers approached Volkswagen but were denied because they didn’t want to be associated with “war toys”. Similarly, Jazz was reportedly supposed to be updated to a 986 Boxster, but Porsche had a similar stance on “war machines” not representing the brand. 

1967-ish Volkswagen Type 2: Wheeljack

The Autobot mechanic and scientist known as Wheeljack is represented by a white-over-pink Volkswagen Kombi. However, this is no ordinary Kombi, as it strangely combines visual cues from both the T1 and T2 generation in a way that was never offered from the factory. We’ll kick it over to The Autopian‘s resident VW freak Jason Torchinsky for the details because it’s a deep, deep rabbit hole. Suffice it to say, the picture cars were likely South American-market T2 buses with the older T1 front-end “V” graphic grafted on.

In the original series Wheeljack was a Lancia Stratos Turbo complete with Alitalia livery. A VW bus would be quite a downgrade in the horsepower department, if Autobots’ power units were in any way associated with the car disguises they adopted.

R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R: Nightbird

For a franchise that started as line of Japanese toys, it’s a bit surprising that it took this long for a Japanese car to appear in the movies. A new character named Nightbird on the team of the evil Terracons takes the form of a gray R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R. The car appears wear a version of the Pandem body kit from Japanese tuning house TRA Kyoto, modified with extra vents, rear window louvers and JGTC-style mirrors. We’re not sure where Nightbird’s scenes take place, but seeing a heavily modified R33 Skyline anywhere outside of Japan in 1994 would have drawn a ton of unwanted attention. That’s not so great for robots in disguise. 

In the original series Nightbird was a robot built by humans that the bad guy Decepticons reprogrammed to do their bidding. As such, there was no vehicle mode to speak of. As with the Porsche, it’s unlikely that the picture cars are actual AWD GT-Rs. Instead they are likely rear-drive, RB25-powered coupes.

Ducati 916: Arcee

Arcee is a female Autobot who transforms into a 1994 Ducati 916, considered one of the most beautiful and influential motorcycles of its era. Why this race of alien robots need to be gendered is still a mystery, though. We don’t get to see Arcee in her vehicle form in the trailer, but director Steven Caple Jr. posted an image of all the cars together on social media.

In the original Arcee lived on the Transformers’ home world of Cybertron, and was a Cybertronian car resembling a futuristic Jaguar D-Type.

Freightliner FLA: Optimus Prime

The noble Autobot leader retains his classic red-and-blue cabover semi-tractor form in this installment. In the trailer he drifts, um, sans trailer, along a mountain hairpin like a 240SX. Optimus is probably the only character to keep their original form from the 1984 toy line.

Kenworth JF: Scourge

To be completely honest I’m not 100% sure the bad guy Scourge is a Kenworth, but that’s what fans are saying. In any case, the truck is heavily modified with extra exhaust stacks, visors, tanks and a menacing cow-catcher guard in the front. In the trailer it looks like it’s headed towards Optimus Prime and ready to go truck-fist to truck-fist in battle. In the original series Scourge was a Cybertronian speedboat-like spacecraft so a big rig is about as different as you can get. 

GMC C7000 Tow Truck: Battletrap

The trailer shows an orange GMC wrecker doing its road warrior fight with Wheeljack and Arcee on a mountain pass. It uses its tow hooks to latch onto Nightbird, who then swings the heavy-duty truck 180 degrees while maintaining the same speed with the Skyline driving forward and the GMC in reverse. It’s a trick that would be impossible for Earth vehicles, but presumably Transformers have different transmission gearing than our primitive human-engineered cars. That probably also explains why the blower launches rockets instead of taking in air. 

In the original, Battletrap was a robot that transformed in to two vehicles, a generic SUV and a helicopter. It’s not clear whether that nuance of his character is explored. 

Transformers: Rise of the Beasts hits theaters this Thursday, June 9.

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