The Creation of Bumble Bee

On July 4th, 2007, the movie version of the 1980s cartoon Transformers hit the big screen. The biggest stars of the new movie are in fact the cars, not the actors. GM scored big in this regard, as five different GM models are featured in the movie.

Bumblebee in "Transformers" (2007.)

Bumblebee in Transformers (2007.)

On July 4th, 2007, the movie version of the 1980s cartoon Transformers hit the big screen. The biggest stars of the new movie are in fact the cars, not the actors. GM scored big in this regard, as five different GM models are featured in the movie. These GM models include a Hummer H2, the Pontiac Solstice, a GMC Top Kick truck, a 1976 Chevy Camaro, and lastly, the star of the movie, a 2009 Camaro known as Bumblebee.

The only known model of this car is the concept car, which debuted at the 2006 North American Auto Show. Many who have seen this movie may be wondering where this 2009 Camaro came from, considering it is still a concept and not being produced for sale. There is a quite interesting story behind how this car was built.

In early planning stages, director Michael Bay was searching for cars to use in the upcoming movie. He has a long past with GM, having directed numerous commercials for them, and approached them about using GM cars for the movie. While touring the GM facility he found a car that struck his fancy: the 2009 Chevy Camaro concept car. He decided at that moment that the Camaro was the car he had to have for the movie.

GM agreed to supply the production company with two Camaros for the movie; however, the main problem was that they had to build them. GM builds cars in very large quantities, so the task of building two cars was foreign to them. Also complicating matters was the fact they only had 45 days to build the cars. GM contracted with Saleen, indeed the same Saleen who builds Mustangs, to build the two movie cars.

Camaro Concept at the 2006 New York International Auto Show.

Camaro Concept at the 2006 New York International Auto Show. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Since most of the engineering for the new Camaro is nowhere near complete, the team at Saleen was given two Pontiac GTO’s to work with. The wheelbase of the GTO was just slightly shorter than that of the Camaro, so it was a natural fit to use the GTO. One major complication was that the GTO is a uni-body, which means the build team could not just throw a new body on the GTO chassis.

To start, the build team cut the body off the GTO and went to work with the remaining structure. Next, they welded up a box frame to add rigidity to the car and make up for all the lost material. GM supplied the fiberglass body panels for the project, using the same molds that were used to build the show car. This guaranteed the fitment would be as perfect as possible.

The interior panels were also largely formed out of fiberglass. The build team did use a large majority of the stock GTO interior, most noticeably the stock GTO seats and gauges. The interior is fairly simple compared to the stock GTO, or even the Camaro concept, and does not feature many amenities production cars normally do. There was one amazing feat the build team was able to accomplish: retaining the factory air conditioning. The finished product is far from a production car, but it is close enough to fool many. The wheels appear to be large alloys, but are actually a hubcap made of composites to look like wheels. The car does not have functional windows either, they are fixed Plexiglas. It also has fake door handles and a fuel filler door, but for the use it was intended for, it is perfect.

In the end, the Saleen build team did an amazing job recreating the 2009 Camaro for use in the movie. It is hard to build two cars of this caliber in 45 days, but this team some how pulled it off, hats off to them! The car is fully drivable and functional, and even did its own stunts! If you haven’t seen the movie, it is time for you to get to the theater!

Jason Helferich is the owner of Street Style Customs, an aftermarket accessory and performance company located in Cincinnati, OH. He has over 10 years experience in this industry and has vast knowledge on many topics related to the automotive aftermarket. Be sure to visit Street Style Customs website at www.streetstylecustoms.com.

Copyright © 2007 Jason Helferich