In 1991, legendary action-adventure film producer, Joel Silver was casually scanning a automotive magazine when he came upon what he thought would be the ideal vehicle for his upcoming project Demolition Man. Set in Los Angeles in 2032, Demolition Man was to star Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes and Sandra Bullock in an action-adventure feature. The vehicle was the GM Ultralite concept car. The Ultralite featured a totally carbon-fiber body, 3 cylinder direct injection gas engine a host of other light-weight features that help it reach 100 miles per gallon at 55 miles per hour.
GM’s Ultralite Concept VehicleAfter many discussions between Silver Pictures, Warner Brothers and GM, the decision was made to utilize not only the Ultralite, but 17 additional GM concept vehicles in order to add an authentic automotive component to the films futuristic look and feel. Silver Pictures and Warner Brothers quickly dispatched a production team to Detroit to see the vehicles first hand. After reviewing GM’s large fleet of drivable concept vehicles, the production team selected the vehicles they would utilize so they could be serviced and made ready for their upcoming work in the film.
Unfinished Ultralites in Burbank FactoryThe production team also brought with them a significant challenge. To meet the film’s goal of having a realistic future automotive environment, the production company would need at least 20 Ultralites. Some of them would be utilized as ordinary passenger cars while others would be transformed into police vehicles. To make the challenge even more interesting, we learned that some of the Ultralites would be destroyed. After all, this was an action-adventure film. GM had exactly one Ultralite and we were not interested in seeing it destroyed.
The great thing about working with the wonderful creative people in the film industry is they can make a mockup of just about anything a person could name. Within a few weeks, we had agreed to ship the Ultralite body molds to Burbank and where Warner Brothers would set up a small scale facility to build the required 20 vehicles.
Preparing for a real-world test driveThey would be constructed of fiberglass, utilize plastic windows and have a small gas engine for motive power, but they would look for all the world like real Ultralites. Driving unpainted, unlicensed futuristic concept cars around the streets of Burbank on durability tests, is one of those experiences that one does not forget.
Even the Burbank police helped out with the project. They are very accustom to seeing all manner of strange things coming out of the studios. They would pull over to ask if we need them to assist with traffic management when we would take out one of the clones.
In the end, more than 20 Ultralites of various configurations were built for Demolition Man. In addition, many repair parts were built to keep the Ultralite fleet in tip-top shape during the filming. After filming was completed, several civilian and police Ultralite clones were returned to Michigan to become part of GM’s concept vehicle fleet.