On the set of "On the Road"

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Wandering around old Montreal in November of 2010  after enjoying some poutine, I inadvertently stumbled on to the set of On The Road. In the film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s novel, which opened on December 21, the historic part of Montreal stands in for New York City of the 1940s with its old art deco buildings and minimal visual intrusion of technology.

The crew were only a couple dozen in number, and while they were getting ready to do a take, they were cool with me hanging around and chatting with them for a half hour as we drank coffee. I was dressed as a 21st century American in subzero Quebec, so unfortunately I couldn’t finagle a role as an extra. No, not even a cameo as a time traveler.


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I spent about a half hour checking out the cars, most of which were the definition of 20-footers. Late 1940s sedans aren’t exactly hot right now, and most were probably bought at auctions for a few grand or rented from the locals, with driveability being the decisive factor. Some had been converted into taxis quite recently, judging by the paint. So this wasn’t a case of concours-grade collector cars with Armor All dripping off the tires carefully driving past the camera, as in most Hollywood films (before Hollywood figured out that not everyone drove concours-grade Duesenbergs in the 1940s).

Directed by Walter Salles and produced by Francis Ford Coppola, the film stars Garrett Hedlund, Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, and Viggo Mortensen, and went into wide release on December 21, after several showings at film festivals over the summer.

I talked to the cars’ drivers a bit, who were in period garb, and shot a few long exposures on a gorillapod. How many of these cars can you identify?


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12 responses to “On the set of "On the Road"”

  1. JayP2112 Avatar

    I read the book ages ago but there were some scenes in the movie I did not remember.
    Best part of the movie was Moriarty's Husdon.

  2. jeepjunkie Avatar

    Fantastic opportunity to see and spend some time with the old classics…..so you didn't get picked up as an extra….but you were there….that makes it all the (with pardons to my dear old departed pappy) more better…..

  3. TelstarLogistics Avatar

    I saw the very same thing

  4. TelstarLogistics Avatar

    I saw the very same thing, with a similar mix of 1940s cars, during the filming of the same movie…. only, in San Francisco:

  5. Sjalabais Avatar

    Why aren't late 40s sedans "hot" right now? An investment opportunity, maybe?
    @TelstarLogistics, hot shot of the taxi – very bright colours indeed!

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      Meh, they were common cars then, so they're common now. There wasn't a whole lot of rare or exciting cars back in the 40s really, early post-war years anyway. Detroit was more concerned with catching up, I think, than producing rare sports-type things.
      The woodie wagons, if anything, are the only cars right now from that era that enjoy any kind of following and highish market values.

      1. Sjalabais Avatar

        Thanks for clearing that up. I guess that's just different in Europe, there is really no era without fans anymore. Even the 90s have a strong following and everything from the 40s seems to be considered rare enough.

  6. Van_Sarockin Avatar

    What's with the wrong way parking? Crappy parking techniques are our age's prerogative.

    1. Jay_Ramey Avatar

      They closed down the whole street, the cars were sitting an idling before they all lined up and ran past a location to simulate traffic flow.

  7. lilpoindexter Avatar

    For some reason those pics remind me of Detroit…at least what I heard it used to be like.

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