By all accounts, Michael Bay's Transformers movies are a spectacle of steel, sports cars, and super-sized 'splosions. It's a relentless onslaught of visual stimuli meant to overload and overwhelm you with non-stop action and truly dazzling, outrageously expensive supercars. Sure there's a sprawling, labyrinthine mythos about the fate of the world, warring robots, and now apparently King Arthur, too, but they trigger the same type of endorphin release as seeing a car jump from skyscraper to skyscraper in a film like in Furious 7.
Recently, in honor of Transformers: The Last Knight's release, Paramount furnished an opportunity for a group of Los Angeles-based press and digital content producers to see what it would actually be like to get behind the wheel of some of the supercars you see on-screen in the Transformers films. We pulled up to the sun-baked asphalt of the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, CA, walked through the doors of Exotics Racing Los Angeles, then promptly picked our jaws up off the floor at the dazzling array of Lamborghinis, Porsches, Ferraris, and other rare vehicles parked just outside.
Image: Exotics Racing
After watching a brief safety video, I was escorted out to the sea of supercars, trying to process what my new driving instructor was telling me as I frantically looked from vehicle to vehicle trying to suss out which obscenely expensive car would be my first ride of the day. Eventually, my instructor led me to a bright yellow Ferrari F430. With a nearly 500 horsepower engine, the Ferrari F430 is capable of reaching speeds of 198 miles per hour, going from 0-60 MPH in just 3.9 seconds. It also retails for around $200,000, which is many many thousands of dollars more expensive than my Honda Civic. While it doesn't have a direct analogue on the big screen, it does bear a resemblance to Mirage from Transformers: Dark of the Moon, a car inspired by Enzo Ferrari that took the form of a Ferrari 458 Italia, and that's close enough for me.
Image: Dan Casey
As a filthy city-slicker who never learned how to properly drive stick, I was more than a little nervous about shifting gears during my drive around the track. Visions of accidentally stalling out mid-drift and dropping a transmission more expensive than my college education on the speedway appeared before me, heralding untold financial apocalypse. Thankfully, these cars were modified to have paddle shifters, which are located on either side of the steering wheel, and felt eerily similar to using shoulder buttons on a PS4 controller. Suddenly, I felt grateful for all the hours and hours I spent indoors, honing my fast-twitch reaction time in first-person shooters because unlike in video games, there is no re-spawning in real life. Then again, given my track record playing racing games, I was all but certain that I would crash into at least one wall, disappointing the pixelated model waving a giant checkered flag at the end of the course.
A scene I will never see. [via Giphy]
My first laps around the course were tentative as I listened to my instructor's constant stream of orders to shift up, shift down, brake, accelerate, and generally not die. But as I got more comfortable on the course, I began to let loose and finally understood the visceral thrill of driving at genuinely irresponsible speeds. At least, I thought I was going at a genuinely irresponsible speed. Watching the playback of my dashboard camera footage, I saw that I rarely exceeded 80 MPH, which was disappointing in hindsight but probably speaks volumes about my survival instinct. Sure, it means that I'd likely perish at the mechanical hands of Decepticons in a high-speed chase, but at least I'll be able to make it through the notoriously hairy Los Angeles traffic in one piece.
For my second ride, I was ushered over to a Porsche 911 GT 3, which I was told was "the best car we have" by my excited tour guide. Packing a 500 horsepower engine, capable of reaching speeds of 200 MPH, and retailing for a whopping $250,000, this rally-ready speedster is a genuine joy to drive. Smaller than the Ferrari F430, I found myself feeling a bit disappointed that I wouldn't get to flip open the suicide doors of the bright orange McLaren P1 sitting across the parking lot. Yet when I buckled myself into the driver's seat of the GT3, I felt less like a giant, gangly fish out of water and more like I was in the cockpit of a mech. My driving instructor wasn't nearly as entertained by this as I was, but I'm guessing I wouldn't be nearly as entertained by NCIS: Los Angeles as he is, so I'll just chalk it up to a generational gap.
Image: Hasbro Studios
The history of Porsche in the Transformers franchise is a fascinating one. You'll be hard-pressed to find one in the Michael Bay movies; in fact, the only place you'll see a Porsche in Transformers is way back in the 1984 animated series. The Autobot known as Jazz, who appears as a Pontiac Solstice in the live action films, was originally based on a Porsche 935 Turbo. In 2003, though, when Hasbro wanted to license a Porsche 986 vehicle for its Transformers: Alternators version of Jazz, the automobile manufacturer allegedly refused the request on the grounds that Transformers are "war machines" that are "not worthy [of] carrying the Porsche trademark." So, in a way, getting to drive a Transformers-branded Porsche around the Speedway track was sort of the ultimate deleted scene. Eat your heart out, Sam Witwicky.
So did I do well enough to leave my life as an entertainment writer behind, embarking on a career as the most highly paid stunt driver in cinema history? Absolutely not. Did I feel like I just did a rail of energon cubes and release enough adrenaline to bench press Megatron? You bet your ass I did. And much like what I want from the Transformers movies, that's all I ask for.
Transformers: The Last Knight is in theaters now. Read our review right here!
What Transformers car would you most like to drive? Let us know in the comments below.