Sunday, June 04, 2006

Sunday Porsche Blogging: Sally Carrera the Leading Lady in Cars

c Leonard Turner
This photo of Sally Carrera, the 2002 Porsche from the movie Cars was taken by Porsche photgrapher extraordinaire Leonard Turner

Sally Carrera, a former big-city lawyer moved to Radiator Springs, is the “leading lady” in the upcoming Disney/Pixar animated movie Cars. As the name implies her automotive character is based on a Porsche Carrera, in fact she is based on a 2002 Porsche Carrera, referred to as a type 996; the newest Carrera models are referred to as type 997s. Porsche started using the name Carrera to celebrate its class win in the grueling Carrera Panamericana race of 1953. The first Carreras of 1956 were considered too luxurious to race, that changed dramatically the following year.

Sally was modeled after the second newest iteration of the long-lived 911 line that acquired the Carrera designation in 1984 after using the SC or Super Carrera nameplate from 1978 to 1983. Previous to that time the Carrera moniker was reserved for low volume cars that were often race-bred specials derived from a street car. Then there was the Carrera 6, or the type 906, the first Porsche race car that could not be driven on the street at all (a Wikipedia disputes that and so far I haven’t found the proper citation).

The Porsche Club of America’s (PCA) monthly magazine Porsche Panorama did a full write up on the Porsche/car-guy angle in their May issue. When Pixar decided to make this movie in 2001 the production team has made sure that the animators understood cars, their dynamics and auto racing. They took them to NASCAR races, auto shows, car museums; they were even sent them out onto Infineon Raceway with pro drivers. Pro race drivers can put the fear of God into most folks. As a result of all the preparations, technical and psychological, the vehicles shown in the movie have the dynamics of the actual vehicles, down to suspension and tire pressures.

Apparently Doc Hudson, voiced by actor/racer Paul Newman has driving characteristics of a 1951 Hudson Hornet, of course Sally behaves like a 2002 Carrera and the leading man Lightning McQueen, behaves like a NASCAR race car. In addition Pixar used a new technique called “ray tracing” that accurately depicts reflections off of the surfaces of cars, the dozens of head-light beams in night shots and the shading of surfaces and characters. This technique is so complex that even using Pixar’s 3000 networked computers the average time to render a single frame of film for Cars was 17 hours! Obviously many frames where done at a time.

For many Pixar employees this entire exercise must’ve been a blast. Panorama interviewed PCA member Gary Schultz and pictured him in front of his white 1967 911S with some trick yellow rally lights. 1967 was the first year for the 911 S series, the most performance orientated of the street 911s. The S designation has been carried on with the modern Carrera S. 1967 is also the final year of the short wheel base 911s, making that year’s S model a particularly desirable 911.

Porsche Cars North America donated the promotional Sally pictured above, the car started out as a 1999 Carrera that was updated with 2002 body panels. The car was created by movie car creator Eddie Paul from a car that had been damaged in transport and had been used as a repair training model. In order to achieve the proportions of the animated Sally the car’s wheelbase was shortened by seven inches, the roof was raised by 3 ½ inches and the windshield rake was lessened giving the car a more upright windshield. Eyelids are built into the windshield and the eyeballs are controlled by magnets built into the interior. The front grills of modern Carreras also hold a number of radiators that Sally must be hiding quite tactfully behind those teeth.