God bless the summer movie season, a time when America's youth gets a welcome break from such socially responsible subjects as English and history to concentrate on hormones. Minimum wages earned at the mall or the golf course go immediately toward the important things in life, like the latest big-explosion action movie at the local Mega-Plex. Of course, the chemically imbalanced monsters avoid those pesky "flicks with plots," choosing to instead drop nine bucks for all of the face-sucking, butt-kicking, and sexual innuendo that Hollywood can cram into two hours of screen time.

This summer's retina-searing/eardrum-bursting thriller is "XXX," starring the muscle-bound Vin Diesel as Xander "XXX" Cage, a tattoo-covered thrill-seeker who gets collared by an NSA agent played by Samuel L. Jackson and is sent to do some government dirty work, with predictably (tired pun alert!) explosive results. This movie has all of the requisite blockbuster ingredients--ample-bosomed young women, lots of machine guns, a nearly believable story line, and the hip line "Yo, yo, yo, what is up with that trick?" But what made the harsh critics at HPP sit up and take notice was the uncovering of a purple 1967 GTO in a room full of Ferraris. Once it had been established that this flag-waving American was to be Diesel's personal transportation, we stopped making out with our wives, started taking some notes, and wholeheartedly praised Revolution Studios for producing this film. And as we tried to collect our thoughts in between ear-splitting explosions, we knew that there had to be an interesting story behind the shiny purple Goats on the silver screen.

Eddie Paul claims to be an idiot--not completely out of bounds, considering what the founder of El Segundo-based E. P. Industries has done for a living for the past 30 years. This 54-year-old engineer/stuntman, who has spent much of his life in the film industry,, has located, restored, customized, fabricated, rigged, wrecked, rolled, and jumped just about anything with wheels for many of the action flicks that we know and love. Do you remember Stallone's wickedly chopped Mercury and its blown and nitroused mill in Cobra? Paul built the Merc and the motor. He's taught characters how to ride motorcycles and had bit parts in movies himself. Most recently, Paul modified 58 stunt cars for The "Fast and the Furious," was a stunt driver on "Gone in 60 Seconds," and signed a book deal with MBI about his experiences. The guy can do it all, apparently--and we'll give him insane ... but an idiot?

"I started out as a welder in 1968, just some guy welding motorcycle parts," Paul explains. "Then one day someone walked in and asked if I could build 30 cars in two weeks for "Grease," and like an idiot, I agreed."

That someone happened to be the transportation coordinator for the film. The studio had gone somewhere else to have vintage autos built initially, but six months later they found the projects untouched and the money gone. So in full-blown panic mode, they immediately contacted and propositioned Eddie, and the rest, as they say in Tinseltown, is history. You would think that his involvement in over 25 feature films would have been enough to keep him busy, but just like the XXX GTO, this is only the tip of the iceberg concerning Mr. Paul. His company also specializes in prototype development, and the L.A.-based businessman contracts with industrial, environmental, and aerospace companies, as well as with the military, for everything from hydraulic systems to animatronics. But hearing him recount past projects reveals a passion for the automotive world in which we enthusiasts live (he's a Trans Am lover and has owned GTOs), and we were dying to hear about how Pontiac's original musclecar found its way into "XXX." Once we found him and eventually shut up, he told us.

"One day a guy that I've known for years, Dave Marder, called and told me to bid on a project for the upcoming movie "XXX," Paul starts. "We did, and we ended up getting the job from Revolution Studios that afternoon. So my staff started going through Auto Trader and calling on cars for sale. We use a special way of buying cars, since for some movies we have to get 50 of them in as little as two days. We began by calling up people with 1967 GTOs and telling them that if the vehicles ran and had clear titles, and if they could get them to us, we'd buy them sight unseen. Well, that didn't work. So then we called them up and told them that if it runs, get it to us, and then we chartered limos to take them home in. That worked out real well--people showed up in GTOs with clear titles and we bought five to seven of them, although I can't remember the exact number. One guy even drove an immaculate GTO in from Arizona, so we ended up buying him a plane ticket home. The only LeMans that we knew of at the time was bought without the engine and trans--it was a real rust bucket--so we spent 1,500 bucks on it and an outside company made it a convertible for an action scene. We dropped $15,000 to $20,000 each on all of the other GTOs, and they were nice--at least a few of them had been restored. We didn't check to see if the numbers were matching, but it wouldn't have surprised me."

Once all of the Pontiacs had been purchased, they found their way into Paul's 10,000-square-foot shop, which features hydraulic lifts, a wood shop for custom fabrication, and 'every kind of tool you can imagine.' His normal staff, usually around ten people, was bolstered to 20 to make sure that the project was finished in a timely manner. The ethereal A-bodies were days away from stardom, but they soon learned that sacrifice is the only way to make it in L.A.

"Initially, someone mentioned that they wanted to put Chevy engines in all of the GTOs because in Prague, where "XXX" takes place, you can't get Pontiac engines. Two motors were then pulled to make room for ZZ4 Chevy 350s, but due to cost requirements, pure Pontiac mills stayed in the rest of the cars. Initially, we thought that the stunt vehicles had the Chevy motors, but those examples didn't show any damage to the frames after filming, so we think they were the main picture cars that were used for the close-up shots. The Pontiac motors may have been in the stunt cars!

"It took us a month to finish the five to seven cars, which is more than enough time, so we took the time to make sure that they would be right. We drained the fuel tanks, cleaned the bodies and frames up, and checked the suspensions, brakes, nuts, bolts, and lines. We put line-locks on all of the cars and converted them to 4-wheel discs. We put electric doors on, did all of the bodywork, installed triple shocks, and welded a steel bar across the engines with 4-inch tubing. The stick cars were converted to automatics, since stuntmen don't like sticks. All of the GTOs were in good shape when we bought them, but for some reason every one of them was an electrical nightmare. I think we spent more time chasing those problems than we did building the vehicles! We finally just put in cutoff switches.

"The movie's director, Rob Cohen, picked a DuPont color that they wanted for the cars, and they sent down a sample chip for us to order. Problem was, it was a sample--DuPont had no intention of producing that color for at least another year."

Paul quickly contacted the folks at House of Kolor, who matched his sample to an in-house hue called Dazzleberry. The paint was then overnighted to Paul. Crisis averted and paint purchased, a gallon of color was used on each Pontiac, followed by a gallon of clear. E.P. Industries finished well ahead of schedule, and five to seven beautiful Pontiacs rolled out of Paul's production facility and were shipped to Prague for filming.

Of course, if you've seen the stunts that these Goats pulled off in "XXX," you know that this can't be a happy ending. Special effects crews "modified" the movie cars with hood scoops and 'side exhaust straight out of the 1970s before sending them out to create the kind of action that makes hormonally crazed teens squeal--think General Lee here, folks. And don't think about it too hard--some of these had to be numbers-matching examples, and the others, even if they did have Chevy engines, were still classics. Oh, the humanity.

"They were really abused, I heard that the crew went through 200 sets of tires," Paul reveals. "After filming, some of the cars that had been badly damaged were just left in Prague. As for the rest, one sold on eBay, I'll bet Revolution Studios has some, and we built a few clones."

As our summer draws to a close, we still aren't sure about the whereabouts of all of the XXX A-bodies. Paul's partner George Barris added a little "show biz" to three of the GTOs-rockets, flames, weapons and sidepipes-and these became display cars. A couple built by another company are touring the shows this summer, the gaudy add-ons still present and the hoods still down. The most attention has been paid to what has been verified to be a LeMans that was for sale on eBay. This Chevy-motored example was put up for sale by Rainmakers, an L.A. company that sells movie props through popular channels like the Internet site. Kurt Brenlinger of Rainmakers claims that this example was one of the stunt vehicles for the film, and it recently sold for $38,300, ZZ4 and all. As for the others, they seem to be hiding under the radar for now. Perhaps some will return for the obligatory sequel, which may be released as early as the fall of 2004.

There is no doubt that the rubber-burning Goats bumped the excitement level of this flick up a notch--which means there is no reason not to include them in the sequel. Is it possible that the new GTO could be sharing screen time with another action hero for part deux? Keep dreaming and hope for more summer hype.

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