'Car Talk' whizzes gauge 'Speed'

By Lois Alter Mark
Updated November 18, 1994 at 05:00 AM EST
  • Movie

Just call it the magic bus. Although L.A. ground-transit vehicle number 2525 goes crashing, thrashing, and literally flying around in Speed, it manages to survive most of the movie relatively unscathed. Somehow, this just didn’t feel right to us. So we went to vehicular poobahs Tom and RayMagliozzi (a.k.a. Click and Clack), the hosts of National Public Radio’s Car Talk, for a tune-up. Here are the brothers’ characteristically quirky assessments.

*Scene: Zooming off a freeway exit, the bus sideswipes dozens of parked cars. What would really happen: Bus would slow down as it brushed immobile cars, and bomb would go off. On bus with no bomb, cosmetic damage only. Repairs: Puff out dents with 500 pounds of body filler; repaint; use sheet-metal screws to replace ads that fell off. Labor: 2 1/2 hours. Cost: $88 if done at body shop in a mall parking lot; less with discount coupons; $18,000 if bus company does it.

*Scene: A secondary bomb blows the steps and doors off the bus when a passenger tries to escape. What would really happen: Driver would lose control of steering wheel, speed would be reduced to less than 50 mph, and main bomb would go off. Repairs: The do-it-yourself method: 3/4” plywood, L brackets, and hinges to rebuild steps. Doors not essential — it’s warm in California. Bus-company method: factory-made steps to weld into bus; factory-made door bolted on. Labor: Do-it-yourself, 1 hour 45 minutes; bus company, 15 hours 45 minutes. Cost: Do-it-yourself, $27 for parts at any hardware store; bus company, $10,000.

*Scene: Driver floors it so the bus can jump over a 50-foot gap in the highway. What would really happen: Pulled to earth by force of gravity, the bus would drop like a bomb. The roadway would shear off the top of the vehicle, which would fall into the abyss. Repairs: Impossible. Labor: Six months of being put on hold and filling out paperwork. Cost: $95,000 to replace the bus.

*Scene: Keanu Reeves accidentally pokes a hole in the gas tank with a screwdriver. What would really happen: Bus would leak gas at a rate of a half gallon per minute. Repairs: Replace gas tank. (Emergency fix: Rub a bar of soap over the hole to seal it temporarily.) Labor: 4.2 hours. Cost: $1,000.

*Scene: Tire tread flies off when the bus drives over parking-lot security spikes. What would really happen: Tires would be punctured, causing four flats and bringing the bus below 50 mph. Repairs: Four new tires. Labor: Do-it-yourself, five minutes with a can of Fix-A-Flat; repair shop, 2 hours per tire. Cost: Do-it-yourself, about $3.59; Repair Shop, $2,000 (about $500 per tire).


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  • Jan de Bont