Although it is a much loved classic cult film, Harold and Maude contains one scene that is hard for old car lovers to watch.
Jaguar lovers find it particularly gut-wrenching.
If you are a movie buff you know exactly what we’re talking about.
That is the conversion of a Jaguar E-Type roadster into a hearse. And then, to make matters worse, that final scene where it ends up flying over a cliff.
Let’s back up a bit for those who are too young to have experienced this cinematic moment.
Harold and Maude tells the story of a death-obsessed young man, Harold (the legendary Bud Cort), who falls in love with a free-spirited elderly woman, Maude (the even more legendary Ruth Gordon).
It’s the early work of acclaimed director Hal Ashby, who would go on to direct such films as The Last Detail, Coming Home, Shampoo, and Being There. Sadly he died too young and left a lot of movie lovers heartbroken.
In Harold and Maude, the male lead’s main hobbies are faking his own death – much to the horror of his aristocratic mother – and obsessing over hearses and all things macabre.
Harold’s mother doesn’t like the first Hearse that Harold purchases so she replaces it with a spectacular and cutting edge 1971 Jaguar E-Type Series 2 roadster. (The same car just celebrated its 60th-anniversary last year around the same time that Harold and Maude celebrated its 50th year as a classic).
Those of us who love classic cars delighted in her choice.
Until Harold picked up that blow torch.
Suddenly, just a few scenes later – in what appeared to be a matter of days – the Jaguar had become a perfectly compact hearse.
This actually happened to the Jaguar.
But the retrofitting was done in England and took about six months to complete.
Here are some other fun facts about the Harold and Maude Jaguar.
-The car was actually based on an E-Type 2+2 coupe, not a roadster as it is depicted in the film. “Regular E-Types were two-seaters, but the 2+2 had a small back seat, made possible by a 9-inch-longer wheelbase. That stretched wheelbase, in addition to the 2+2’s 2-inch taller windshield, made the conversion of an E-Type into a “last ride” more feasible,” according to Consumerguide.com
-The customizer who did the work on the Harold and Maude Jaguar was a British man, Red Harden. He actually attended the screening of Harold and Maude at the International Jaguar Festival in Scottsdale, AZ, in 2016, where he saw the film for the first time!
-Harden also worked on cars such as Batmobile, The Dukes of Hazzard General Lee and Drag-u-la from The Munsters.
-In Harold and Maude, the Jaguar hearse really is driven off a cliff in one of the final scenes. It cost the film production company about $32,000, which is about $215,000 today.
-There’s actually a replica of the Jaguar hearse that was built by a collector named Ken Roberts. It took hundreds of hours of research plus four years to build and cost Roberts about $1 million to complete.
Love it or hate it the Harold and Maude Jaguar hearse represents an incredible conversion and is a piece of cinematic history.
Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the Jaguar E-type. To celebrate the introduction of its super mod masterpiece, Jaguar built six roadsters and six coupes that were delivered in March of last year. Delivered in pairs, six collectors took possession of the exact replicas of the most famous E-Types: the “9600 HP” and the “77 RW.”
Jaguar recreated the incredible pair at its Classic Works garage in Warwickshire
The team took 12 existing 1960s E-types and painstakingly restored them to sparkling new condition with certain 60th-anniversary specifications that included commemorative detailing overseen by Jag design director Julian Thomson. The cars also got a custom paint job.
It’s testament to the E-Type’s advanced design and engineering that it can still be enjoyed and admired as passionately almost 60 years on,” Dan Pink, director of Jaguar Classic, said in a media statement at the time. “The E-type 60 Collection is a lasting tribute for E-type admirers, honoring the car’s legacy and the achievements of the team that created it.”
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