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Movie Continuity

Right now I’m watching the movie Muhammad Ali’s Greatest Fight. In the opening scene, a law clerk is driving what is now considered the classic VW Beetle, and it overheats. As it overheats, steam comes form the rear-mounted engine.

I wouldn’t consider myself an expert on cars, but even I know a VW bug of that era is air cooled. Where is the steam coming from? Is it even possible for an air-cooled engine in that configuration to overheat in Washington, DC summer weather?

They didn’t need to do this (make steam come out) to make a VW Beetle of that era breaking down seem believable. They might have been reliable for the time, but by modern standards, they’re anything but reliable.

In the movies anything is possible.Sometimes it’s even based in reality…:slight_smile:

The air cooled VWs can overheat even on a 0 degree day though. Loose generator belt, thermostat for the cooling flaps stuck, generator fan blade loose, etc, etc.

Severe overheating could cause smoke (not steam…) from oil leakage if the oil cooler seals go out, pushrod seals fail, etc.

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Okay, so it could overheat, but if it was one of those causes, what color would the smoke be? Would it be white like steam, or a darker color?

…and how would a loose generator belt cause overheating? Wouldn’t the engine lose spark before that happens?

The generator belt drives the generator (well, You know that), but the cooling fan is mounted on the rear of the generator, so - no fanbelt - no cooling. It will only take a very few moments for an aircooled engine to overheat without the fan.

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At least they didn’t have tire squealing on dirt road. One of my favs…


… or brakes locking up on a modern car that obviously would have ABS–if it hadn’t been deactivated in order to make things look and sound more dramatic.

As to movie continuity, in the movie North By Northwest, the protagonist leaves the Plaza Hotel in a Ford taxi of one model year, and arrives at The UN a few minutes later in a Ford taxi of a different model year.

I just love the way the movies have cars burst into flames for every crash more severe than a fender bender, not to mention cars exploding if the gas tank is hit by a bullet. Not a fire slowly spreading due to leaking gas but exploding as if a tank full of gas was movie dynamite. Movie dynamite is different than actual dynamite, real dynamite does not make a huge fireball when it explodes, it make a rather undramatic strobe flash and a cloud of dust.

Also, if you want to win a sure fire bar bet, challenge someone to set a dish of gasoline on fire by throwing a lit cigarette into it. You’ll waste an entire pack of Marlboros without being successful.

And don’t even get me started on Hollywood silencers which make a high powered rifle shooting a bullet that goes over twice the speed of sound just go “fffft” when shot. Real silencers make rifles loud instead of deafening.


TV series CHiPS was well known for continuity bloopers.
One I remember well was an Impala hardtop with a bomb in the trunk. The guys could not get the trunk opened so pushed the car into a revine. The car going over was a Biscayne sedan and as going over the trunk popped open.

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IMDB is full of continuity errors of people starting out in one car then ending up in another.

If you throw a bucket of water on a hot VW engine I bet it will steam - if not crack.

The cast of Bonanza always wore the same clothes in every episode, just so that stock footage could be recycled.
There were however some glaring anachronisms in an episode that had the American Civil War as a backdrop when the ranch house gun rack had rifles that weren’t invented yet.
John Wayne was also infamous for fighting historic battles with guns that weren’t invented yet.


Yes. If you go to IMDB and the name of the movie, you click on “Trivia” and under that click on “Goofs.”

I tried that on a few movies and it’s amazing how long the list of goofs are, anachronisms, lamps that cast their own shadows, con trails in the sky etc. Sometimes I refer to Monument Valley Utah as “Hollywood Texas”.

Sometimes I think it’s best not to ruin the movie looking for goofs and just enjoy it. It’s like being hung up on the performance specs of a high end stereo, so you can hear your Nickelback records the way they were really meant to be heard.

Remember that movie “Training Day” . . . ?

At that seedy apartment complex, Ethan Hawked leapt onto the windshield, destroying it, and Denzel Washington really bashes up the front and rear of the car, trying to get away

Yet in the final scenes of the movie, Denzel Washington is sitting in the car, the windshield is still busted, but somehow the body is straight


Poetic license. How would you visually know the engine broke down better than steam from overheating? If it had been radio, they probably would have used backfires to indicate engine failure. I’m sure whoever provided the cars knew better, and probably told the director it was incorrect, but they were overruled.

My guess is the smoke is coming from whatever part makes movie cars explode when they crash. :wink:

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I have been interested in history (especially military) for most of my life. I also have problems with incorrect firearms being used since I collect and study vintage military and some civilian firearms. Westerns seem to be the worst offenders. When set in the 1870s they frequently use Model 1892 Winchester rifles. Plentiful, cheaper, and they easily digested the Hollywood universal blank cartridges. Like many other inaccuracies such as screeching tires on dirt/gravel roads it is Hollywood. I don’t lose sleep over it.

Whitey, the smoke will appear bluish/white and with air cools there’s a lot of places that can smoke. The oil gets splattered all over the sheet metal shrouds and there’s no end to it.

The reason the generator (alternator on very late models) belt has something to do with overheating is because the generator drives a hidden fan inside the upright shroud. When the belt gets very loose the generator (and the fan attached to it) turns much slower. An air-cooled operated with a broken fan belt will overheat very quickly and fry the engine.

The upright shroud also has a number of flaps inside of it. When cold the thermostat coil keeps the flaps closed and allows the engine to warm up quicker. As the thermostat heats up an arm opens the cooling flaps to direct air over the cylinders/heads.
It was common for the flaps to stick closed or open. Closed means trouble. Some people would remove the flaps or wire them in the open position to avoid overheating the engine.

It’s also common with an air-cooled engine to recommend a complete engine overhaul if the engine was leaking from the crank seal, pushrod tubes, and oil cooler. This did not go over well with the car owner who thought it was simply a matter of changing a few seals. Not so.

Yea, but a trapdoor Springfield at the Alamo? COME ON NOW!!!

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It looks right to the ignorant and can fire blanks. I have a Harrington and Richardson replica “1873” trapdoor carbine. It had a modern rear sight. I found an original sight at a gun show and installed it. Much better!

I couldn’t agree more, but in this case, I wasn’t looking for it, it was impossible to ignore.