As a commercial photographer and filmmaker I'm often invited to shoot some interesting cars. But few have been as personally exciting as a street legal, working replica of one of every kid-of-a-certain-era's fantasy car: the Mach 5. And when I say working I mean it has two giant saw blades coming out of the front.
I got to shoot it, I got to drive it, and I got the story of the man who decided to put such a gorgeous car together.
As you can see from the video later in this gallery and sense from the photos, it was a hot day. I was probably suffering from heat stroke and a wicked farmer's tan by the end of it, but I got to tear around in the Mach 5 on Florida back roads after the shoot for TheRealMach5.com. Thankfully, she's street legal… if you don't drive with the spinning saw blades deployed.
It was worth making the trip just for that.
What It Was Like
While traveling around the country the past several years for my regular paid photoshoot projects, I have been taking time to shoot portraits of various movie and TV car owners (replicas like the Ghostbusters Ecto-1 included) for a personal photo series I have been doing for my portfolio that I fondly call the Unicorn Project (more of them on my blog). This project has opened the door to many unique car collectors and vehicles with crazy stories of their own. I hope to one day make a book of it! I met Len Mosco, owner of The Real Mach 5, through another buddy that built an amazing replica of the Luke Skywalker Landspeeder that I photographed a couple years back.
Len is one of the sweetest guys you will ever meet and is just so enthusiastic about his friends and family as well as any project he touches. One of Len's biggest motivating factors in having this car made was to have something he and his son could bond over and enjoy. Makes me wish I had a cool dad like that.
My son Lenny actually came up with the idea. He was 15 at the time and we were, and still are, huge animation, anime and cartoon fans. He knew I always talked about my childhood love for the cartoon Speed Racer. I always explained how I simply couldn't wait to come home from school and watch it on TV. I used to sit there watching, mesmerized by all the action and cars
Driving the car was quite a memorable experience to say the least. It's based on a C4 Corvette chassis and is capable of the same relatively high speeds, although I was honestly very cautious to push the vehicle to its limits. This is despite the fact that Len handed me the keys and told me to really go crazy with the car. He just shook my hand and sent my assistant and myself on our merry way. Len's last bit of advice as I drove away in his one-off priceless hand-built vehicle? "Have fun!" It's moments like this that I question when my life and career had become so surreal.
In true movie and tv car fashion, it's made to represent a cartoon vehicle which isn't always the most ergonomic design. Speed Racer was not a tall guy, so I don't know how he could see over that long hood or behind him without the help of a rear camera, which this car actually has (it pops up electronically like a periscope).
Why It Was Made
Although, the feeling of dropping the pedal down to the floor and hearing the V8 engine roar and seeing confused/horrified/shocked faces of pedestrians as the actual Mach 5 flew past them became quite hilarious and addictive very quickly. You find yourself gripping the steering wheel and looking at the true-to-tv buttons and wishing if you pushed one, that you would actually fly up in the air.
Take THAT New York City traffic! Now, I've been very very lucky to drive a wide variety of high end exotic vehicles, and this has to be one of my favorite driving experiences. In the end, for me, its not always how fast you go... it's how young and alive you feel doing it.
It's experiences like this that remind me why I have never truly grown up and why I have so enjoyed doing this movie and tv car photo series over the past few years. In the end, I would never have had experiences like this if I hadn't picked up a camera nearly 20 years ago. Trust me, I never would have guessed that.
Click to the next image to hear Len's explanation for why he built it.