In more than a century of filmmaking, there have been tons of memorable vehicles to grace the big screen. Whether it’s Doc Brown’s DeLorean time machine from Back to The Future, Clark Griswold’s Ford LTD from National Lampoon’s Vacation or Frank Bullitt’s Ford Mustang GT from Bullitt, these iconic modes of transportation are now as much a part of culture as the films themselves, though there’s one car you’ve likely seen in several classic films and never really noticed.
Appearing in more films than many actors can claim, it’s nothing souped-up or flashy – no, it’s just a regular 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Audiences were first introduced to the car in 1981’s The Evil Dead, when Ash Williams – played by Bruce Campbell – looked to escape a cabin in a remotely wooded area. Dubbed “The Classic” by director Sam Raimi, the Oldsmobile sort of became his calling card, showing up in the majority of his films in the almost four decades since reshaping the horror genre with his first film.
Last weekend Bruce Campbell hosted a Q&A at The Mahoning Drive-In Theater, part of his Keep Your Distance Tour, where he was asked about the now infamous Oldmobile, which he lovingly referred to as “that piece of s*** Delta 88.” Explaining that it was the car Raimi’s mother used to drive them around, back when the two friends were growing up in the Detroit suburbs, the Oldsmobile was later gifted it to her son. And it even saved his life during the drive back from Tennessee to Michigan after filming The Evil Dead, as the sleep-deprived 20-something and writer Rob Tapert would be awoken by the loud sound of the car when it would start to veer off of the road.
Campbell said he’s been trying to kill the car for years because since he and Raimi grew up together, the two worked on many projects, with Campbell getting smaller roles in Raimi’s films. And often it would be Campbell behind the wheel of the older car. He knew all about it and, off the top of his head, ran through a quick list of the films the Oldsmobile has been in, even if the car sometimes appeared unrecognizable to audiences.
Indie film, mega-blockbuster, cult-classic, or bonafide flop, it didn’t matter what project Raimi was working on, that car would get screen time. After The Evil Dead, the Oldsmobile showed up in Raimi’s 1985 sophomore effort, and ultimate flop, Crimewave and he even bought two additional Delta 88s to serve as stunt cars. When he found out Campbell, an actor and producer on the film, had the car modified to accommodate shooting inside, Raimi later got it put back to normal and paid for it out of pocket.
Besides The Evil Dead’s two subsequent sequels, Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness, the Oldsmobile narrowly missed Liam Neeson’s character in Darkman during the scene when he is dangling into oncoming traffic. Then it was parked in the background of the small town in A Simple Plan. But it was The Quick And The Dead where it feels like Raimi might’ve officially been obsessed with getting the car on film. The star-studded 1995 western had no place for an early 1970s Oldsmobile but that didn’t stop Raimi, as Campbell explained, since he created a special wooden wagon and placed it over the car. It’s impossible to see while watching but the creators certainly know that it’s there.
With 1999’s For Love Of The Game Raimi’s streak of including “The Classic” into his projects came to an end – but not for a lack of trying. The baseball drama reportedly had one scene that featured the car but it was left on the cutting room floor during editing. After a spot in The Gift as the battered car Cate Blanchett uses to get around town, the car housed one of comic book’s most famous family members in the film adaptation of Spider-Man. For the trilogy, the Oldsmobile appeared in each film and was owned by Uncle Ben and Aunt May. In the original, it served as the backdrop for where Uncle Ben was murdered and in the other films it either sat in the driveway or was used for flashbacks, focusing on that important moment.
In 2009, it was the car Alison Lohman’s character drove to her job as a bank teller. Then, just three years later, Raimi released Oz The Great And Powerful, a prequel to the 1939 classic The Wizard Of Oz. The only problem is that the fantasy film’s setting doesn’t exactly allow for cars. But that didn’t stop Raimi, as Campbell eluded to this past weekend, confirming longstanding reports across the internet that the director actually took pieces of the Oldsmobile and scattered them in the tinker’s shop scene.
When an Evil Dead reboot was announced, Raimi and Campbell were both producers and that gave the director the opportunity to feature the Oldsmobile, more than 30 years later. And, just like that, not only had Raimi’s career come full-circle but so had his mother’s now infamous ride. It’s also been featured in the Ash Vs. Evil Dead TV series.
With more than a dozen films under its belt – not to mention appearances in Cohen Brothers projects such as Blood Simple, Fargo, Raising Arizona, and The Big Lebowski – the Oldsmobile Delta 88 has been in some of Hollywood’s biggest films and true cult-classics and, much like the deadites in the Evil Dead franchise, somehow this car just keeps coming back from the dead for more, despite Campbell’s best efforts. All told, there’s been over 100 Delta 88s in Raimi’s films and the original still lives on in infamy.