Can An Alfa Romeo 75 Survive These Mad Max Roads?
Photography by: Simon Weigall
My road trip was a rather unusual one, as it started off as just a regular drive. By the end of the day, it had evolved itself into one of my most memorable driving experiences, as it blended a number of my favorite pastimes into the one road trip.
I’m from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. To sum myself up in a few points, I’d say;
I’m a keen mountain biker,
My favorite film is the original (and the best) Mad Max, and
I’m fiercely in love with Italian cars from the ‘80s.
I’m extremely fortunate to live where I am, as the hinterland of Victoria is a mecca for mountain biking. A preferred riding spot of mine is the You Yangs; a series of granite peaks that jut out of the flat volcanic plains surrounding it. It’s a place of beauty and vibrant colors.
One summer’s day late last year, I prepared my mountain bike and set off in my car, expecting to spend the afternoon riding through the shady bluegums, weaving down the endless trails. After exiting the highway and beginning my final approach on the luminous You Yangs peaks, I began to recognize a few certain roads, bridges and landmarks.
Subconsciously, I was keeping a close eye on my rear-view mirror, as if I was half expecting a murderous gang of bikers to come roaring in from the horizon like horsemen of the apocalypse. Then it hit me: were these the roads where the original Mad Max was filmed, all the way back in 1979?!
I was aware it was filmed somewhere in the region, and online investigation confirmed my hopes; Mad Max was mainly shot around Little River; a country town surrounding the You Yangs with seemingly endless sunburnt fields, each one connected through long, undulating roads. Mad Max transformed these roads into a gladiatorial maze.
Although, my assigned vehicle to tackle the asphalt was quite different from Max’s XB GT Ford coupe “Interceptor”. My daily drive is a 1988 Alfa Romeo “Alfa 75” (sold in North America as the Milano). In my mind, its striking wedge shape gives it a weapon-like appearance, the perfect tool for any high-octane action thriller.
The roads that lay before the Alfa now presented themselves in their true light. They were all there, begging to be re-discovered and re-lived in their former glory. I just had to find them.
I was simply working off images from the movie on my Android phone, matching up the road with the landscape. This wasn’t too difficult, as the You Yangs were a backdrop in so many scenes; I used them as a landmark. Replacing the Interceptor with my Alfa was tremendously fun, (and almost the biggest case of vehicular fandom I’ve yet done).
Even then, I felt like I was the only person in the world, a lone warrior travelling somewhere unknown in an Australian post-industrial society. Coincidentally, I was running low on fuel, so I had to keep an eye on my watch to make sure I made it back to the sleepy Little River Service Station before it closed for the day.
To my pleasure, several filming locations revealed themselves without much difficulty. Highlights included the first car chase of the film; where Big Bopper encountered the Nightrider’s “Pursuit Special”. I could picture the Nightrider hitting the brakes, and Big Bopper dramatically sliding off the road.
Max’s ambush scene was also a must-see, and due to the You Yangs being especially showed off directly behind Max’s parked Interceptor, it seemed all too easy to piece the roads together. Before long I identified the ambush filming location, and was standing in Mel Gibson’s much younger footsteps.
But the sun was getting low, and I still hadn’t found the location of my favorite scene: the intense chase ending at the foreboding bridge. In the film, shortly after the madness had inevitably taken over Max, he set off for revenge on the Toecutter’s gang.
The menacing Interceptor quickly catches up with them, but instead barges through the pack and continues on at top speed, baiting the infuriated bikers. Before long the Interceptor is streaks ahead of the chasers. The bikers push their Kawasakis to the limit to catch Max, utilizing the You Yangs’ expansive plains for opportunities of speed. But the road has a sting in its tail; blind crests serve to catch out the unwary. Max roars down a valley and across a bridge, swiftly applying the handbrake to face the oncoming onslaught. The pack enters the valley, and in a cloud of tyre smoke Max zooms head-on towards them, wiping out two bikers and sending another two spectacularly flying off the bridge and into the river below.
I was becoming agitated, as my highly-anticipated final stop remained undiscovered. I felt like I was driving in circles, and the heat radiating off the road was starting to affect me. I stopped at the next intersection, using the Alfa’s overhead window switches to breathe some fresh air and consider if I should continue my quest. Then I saw it, the road sign to the left in faded black letters was marked; “KIRK BRIDGE RD”. I knew this was surely a good sign, pardon the pun. The Alfa had just enough juice remaining, and the nimble V6 urged me forward. After a few minutes of nervous anticipation, I suddenly rose over a crest and peered down into the valley below, with Kirk Bridge beaming back at me. I’d found it! I stepped out of the Alfa and in quiet appreciation observed the river that once claimed those unsuspecting bikers some 35 years ago.
My day was now complete, except for one thing: I’d totally forgotten about my mountain bike ride!