Are you ready for the end of the world? Well, you better choose the right vehicle to survive it! This list is in no particular order, just an overview of what I believe are the finest post-apocalyptic cars, trucks, buggies and battlewagons out there.
1. The Landmaster from Damnation Alley: If you drive past Gene Winfield’s Custom Shop on Sierra Highway between Rosamond and Mojave, California, you just might catch a glimpse of this beast, a 12-wheeled amphibious articulated vehicle that was originally constructed by Dean Jeffries at Jeffries Automotive in Universal City, California. Only one was ever built at a cost of $350,000 in 1976 ($1.6 million today). No wonder they keep showing it over and over (and over) in the film!
The Landmaster vehicle is very real and uses as many standard truck parts as possible so that any junkyard would have whatever was needed for repairs after the end of the world.
This ten-ton vehicle is powered by a 390-cubic-inch Ford industrial engine, an Allison automatic truck transmission and has the rear-ends of two commercial trucks. Even the tri-star wheel arrangement really works, allowing this vehicle to climb over boulders and all 12 wheels are driven (although only 8 hit the ground at all times).
Unlike other vehicles on this list, The Landmaster has appeared in other movies and shows, such as an Amoco commercial, Quiet Riot’s video for “The Wild and the Young” and episodes of Highway to Heaven and Get A Life, where it memorably battled Chris Elliot in “Paperboy 2000.”
It also shows up in Mike Jittlov’s The Wizard of Speed and Time, A.P.E.X., Hybrid and influenced the Japanese video games Phantasy Star, Starfox, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey and the manga Battle Angel Alita: Last Order.
2. Ark II from the 1976 CBS live-action Saturday morning TV show Ark II: Not to be confused with The Landmaster, but the Ark II — a mobile storehouse of scientific knowledge, manned by a highly trained crew of young people — brought hope to the people of the 25th century.
This 44-foot-long, six-wheeled combination RV and mobile laboratory was created by the Brubaker Group. It was made with a fiberglass body on a 1971 Ford C-Series (C-700) cabover.
If you ever watched later Filmation shows like Space Academy and Jason of Star Command (which is worth it just to see Sid Haig play Dragos), the front of the Ark II is the Seeker spaceship.
There was also another vehicle called the Ark Roamer, which was a smaller, 4-wheeled all-terrain vehicle built from a modified Brubaker Box, a kit car that uses a Volkswagen Beetle chassis. Keep an eye out for Brubaker Boxes in the Andrew Stevens’ film Grid Runners and Soylent Green.
3. The Battletruck from, well, Battletruck: If you’re gonna give this movie this name, it’s vehicle better live up to the nom de plume. Obviously taking its cue from the vehicles of Mad Max, the Battletruck is so beloved by its driver that he gives his life rather than allow Straker to destroy it. But I mean, just look at that thing. You’d love it if you could drive it, too.
4. The spinners from Blade Runner: This vertical take-off and landing vehicle, also known as a VTOL, was conceived and designed by Syd Mead. When you think of this film, often your first thought is the look of these vehicles. However, the spinner also shows up in plenty of other films, such as Trancers, Back to the Future II, Solar Crisis and Soldier.
Mead thought of the car as an aerodyne, which used air directed downward to create lift, although the producers claimed that the vehicle ran on three engines: “conventional internal combustion, jet and anti-gravity.”
5. The Lawmaster from Judge Dredd: The Lawmaster is Judge Dredd’s vehicle of choice when it comes to patrolling the mean streets of Mega City One. For this 1995 Sylvester Stallone movie, an exact replica of the comic Lawmaster was made by vehicle designer David Allday, but it proved way too awkward to steer. Built with an unknown 650cc engine with a rolling chassis that features mismatching wheels, it was auctioned off in 2018 for $21,400. I just spent that much money fixing up my house and I think that having this bike to drive to work would have been a much better investment.
For the superior in every way 2012 Dredd, the Lawmaster was built on Suzuki GSX 750s with an extended chassis. I really need to get around to covering that soon.
6. The Pursuit Special from the Mad Max movies: Also referred to as the “Last of the V8 Interceptors,” this heavily modified, Australian built 1973 Ford Falcon XB GT Hardtop was designed by art director Jon Dowding and built by Melbourne-based car customizers Graf-X International.
The main modifications are the spoilers, wheel arch flares, front nose cone and Concorde style air-dam designed by Arcadipane. Plus, eight side exhausts — only two function — and a purely cosmetic Weiand 6-71 supercharger were added.
After the first film was completed, the producers couldn’t pay everyone, so the car was put up for sale. After no one took it, it was given to part-time actor and head mechanic of the film Murray Smith as his payment for his work on the film.
For the second film — The Road Warrior — the car was bought back from Smith and painted a matte black. It now had two large cylindrical fuel tanks added to the back. Another Pursuit Special was made and destroyed in the film’s climax, but the original vehicle found its way to a junkyard in Broken Hill before it was rescued by Bob Fursenko, who restored it and showed it throughout Australia.
It was sold to the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in England, where it stayed until 2011, before it was relocated to the Dezer Car Museum, which is currently being relocated from Miami to Orlando.
While the Pursuit Special doesn’t show up in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, it returned for the spiritual sequel Mad Max: Fury Road. Max only has the car for a moment until he’s kidnapped and the car is taken by Immortan Joe’s War Boys. Repainted a chrome silver color and renamed the Razor Cola, it is destroyed in the final battle.
Finally, in the 2015 video game, Immortan Joe’s son Scabrous Scrotus steals Max’s car. After an odyssey across the Plains of Silence in his new car, the Magnum Opus, Max finally conquers his nightmarish memories, takes out Scrotus and reclaims his beloved vehicle. At the end of the game, he places the photo of his family back on the dashboard and drives out into the desert.
Honestly, I could fill this article with every other vehicle from the Mad Max series. It is the wellspring from which most post-Armageddon films flow forth, after all. There’s even a site, Mad Max Cars, that can help you make your own car just like the movie!
7. The cars and tricycles in the films of Willy Milan: If you haven’t partaken of the films of this Filipino director yet, let me tell you to stop reading and start watching. Beyond featuring a cybernetic bad guy who is convinced that he’s a werewolf and forces his men to watch him sleep with their wives, Mad Warrior is packed with all manner of completely berserk vehicles. W Is War is also pretty much the same thing, as if the comic book Love and Rockets and the cartoon Wacky Races went off and did a ton of psychedelics and emerged with a twisted future child.
One of my dreams of doing this site is to expand people’s minds toward films I love. Do me a favor: Grab W Is War, with the Mad Max of Asia driving a big block Camero to get his bloody revenge after being castrated, or Mad Warrior, which has a lightsaber duel that comes out of nowhere at the links I’ve provided at Cult Action.
8. The vehicles of Warriors of the Wasteland/The New Barbarians: If you’re the kind of person who has thought to yourself, that ’67 Firebird needs a giant bubble on it and a skull for a hood ornament, good news. This is the movie for you. And even better, One’s gang of Templars rides the wastelands in what looks like murderous golf carts. Cheapy fun from Enzo G. Castellari!
Seriously, if someone asks me to pick one post-apocalyptic movie, this would be the one I would tell them to watch. It’s packed with mayhem, murder, Fred Williamson kicking ass and Giovanni Frezza (Bob from House by the Cemetery) showing up a child mechanic.
9. All of the cars in Death Race 2000: If you’re looking for post-apocalyptic movie packed with cars, look no further. Everyone has a car attuned to their dynamic personality, like some demented WWE of the future. Frankenstein’s Alligator car and the Machine Gun Joe’s car were re-bodied Volkswagens. Matilda the Hun’s Buzz Bomb was a VW Karmann-Ghia, Calamity Jane’s Bull was a Corvair and Nero the Hero’s Roman Lion was built on a Fiat 850 Spider chassis. They’re all used to maim and murder pedestrians and one another throughout this black comedy.
According to producer Roger Corman, the custom cars featured in the movie were later sold to car museums for considerably more than it cost to build them. In fact, Volo Auto Sales in Illinois recently sold both Frankenstein and Calamity Jane’s cars.
Remember — don’t stay off the streets. It’s your duty and honor to help the Death Racers score points!
10. The vehicles of Megaforce: While not strictly an end of the world film, the aesthetics of Megaforce permeated all the films that were to follow.
Bill Frederick, builder of the LSR Budweiser Rocket and other jet and rocket-powered vehicles, created 10 Megadestroyer Buggies. Only two survived the film and one even showed up on eBay for $10,000!
The influence of the cars, vans and trucks of this film go way beyond Hollywood (and Italy and the Phillipines, too). After filming was complete, the U.S. military asked director Hal Needham for the plans for the Megaforce vehicles. He happily handed them over and claimed that most of what the army used in Desert Storm came from those blueprints.
Courtesy of Sam Simon from the Italian blog Vengono fuori dalle fottute pareti: The Dead Reckoning from George Romero’s Land of the Dead, and The Snowpiercer from Snowpiercer.
Our own R. D Francis chimes in with Stryker’s Mad Maxian Ford Mustang from Cirio H. Santiago’s Stryker.
And Will Smith’s Mustang Cobra from I Am Legend.
No, it’s not from Megaforce, or any other movie, but should be in a movie: The Sherp ATV was actually built to drive in Siberia under the most extreme off-road conditions — looks totally “apoc” to us.
While it’s not a post-apoc world, but a post-alien invasion Earth, there’s Ed Straker’s car and the S.H.A.D.O Land Rovers from Gerry Anderson’s British-made, early ’70s series, Invasion: UFO.
Due to its soft-core adult shenanigans, Things to Come (1976) — a drive-in regional, San Antonio, Texas-shot rip of Star Trek meets Logan’s Run — is a difficult recommend due to its hard R-rated content (“X” in some quarters). Then these Rollerball meets Roger Corman’s Death Race 2000 deathcycles — complete with wedge cutting blades — appear in a subplot about a death sport game held in “The Pleasuredome” to entertain the masses — as the bikers hunt Westworld-styled, female-android/pleasure bots being put to pasture. Yes, the “murder bikes” are as cardboardish as they seem. Yes, the game is a little like Lucio Fulci’s “Kill Bike” in his later Warriors of the Year 2072. Did Corman rip off these bikes for his later apoc’er, Deathsport? Probably.
The Cyclone from Fred Olin Ray’s Cyclone (1987) is lost somewhere between Roger Corman’s laser-spewin’ Death Machines from Deathsport and the later Lawmaster from Judge Dredd. The Heather Thomas-seated bike that crosses NBC TV’s Knight Rider with ABC-TV’s Street Hawk is believed to be a refitted Honda XR350/XL350. In addition to those three-sided rocket launchers on the back: there’s lasers! And the bike gets really impressive in its Green New Deal-ness: it comes equipped with a “transformer” that allows the Cyclone to run on hydrogen pulled from the atmosphere. If only the bikes in Rollerball had rocket launchers . . . plus, it puts Fulci’s “Kill Bikes” from Rome 2072 to shame. And Heather wishes The Fall Guy wasn’t cancelled. And Willy Milan and Enzo G. Castellari wished they had one in their respective apoc flicks.
As we were finishing our July 2021 updating . . . Mike Delbusso of Splatt Gallery, Michigan’s premiere rock art gallery, posted this absolutely ’80s post-apoc ad for the Scorpion’s new, 1979 album, Love Drive, released prior to their first, real U.S. break through with Animal Magnetism. How come Cirio H. Santigo or Willy Milan never thought of an apoc war wagon with a stinger-tail?
Did we miss one of your favorite end of the world vehicles? Don’t be shy! Let us know in the comments. And drive safe out there!
Want more post-apocalyptic fun? We’ve been covering these kind of movies all month long and our Letterboxd list will help you keep track. And for a quick overview of the best of the best, turn to our handy “Ten End of the World Movies We Love” list. Also heck out our Atomic Dust Bin, Part 1 and Part 2 for more films.
You can find movie movie cars at the IMCDB – The Internet Movie Car Database (thanks for the Stryker Mustang image).