Vintage cars fill streets during filming

Published 9:30 pm Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pebble Davis, a Selma resident, takes a picture of several of the vintage State Trooper cars brought in for the production of the movie 'Selma.'

Pebble Davis, a Selma resident, takes a picture of several of the vintage State Trooper cars brought in for the production of the movie ‘Selma.’

The glitz and glamor of Hollywood became the most recent addition to Selma’s culture this week, but behind the actors are dozens of decade old cars, some traveling hundreds of miles to get to Alabama’s Black Belt. 

Cars from the 1950s, 1960s and earlier began showing up in Selma a few days before filming. As the start of filming inched closer, more cars began filling parking lots and side streets. By Monday, much of downtown Water Avenue and two blocks of Broad Street were chock full of cars that helped set the stage literally for the filming of the movie “Selma.”

Paul Norman, from north Massachusetts, was one of several car owners on set during filming. Norman’s car — a 1954 Buick Special — sat in the shadow of the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the first day of filming. He said it was the car’s first appearance in a feature film, though it had been in TV shows and even in several weddings.

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“It kind of surreal to see it go by on screen,” he said. “I like doing this more for the recognition of the car, but I get to meet all kinds of people.”

The film began its filming in the Atlanta Metropolitan area in early June. At least five of the Alabama State Trooper cruisers made the trip to Selma with the film crew.

Southern Picture Cars, based in Atlanta, supplied the state trooper cruisers. Though, the company’s president Robyn Taylor has roots in Selma.

“We lived in Selma during the time of the marches,” Taylor said referring to the Selma-to-Montgomery marches of 1965 that serve as the focus of the film. “I was just a little kid, but my parents tell stories about our time there.”

Most of the state trooper cars weren’t originally outfitted with gold lettering and sirens, but Taylor said making the cars match the time period is important for accuracy.

“You want to make sure that they are period correct, so that it doesn’t distract from someone watching the movie,” she said. “That way it just blends into the background.”

At least eight of the cars call Selma home.

Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard, who owns several vintage cars, loaned eight to “Selma” for filming. It’s hardly the first time that Ballard’s cars have been in a movie. His cars’ first appearance in a movie was in the mid 1990s din Blue Sky, which featured Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones.

“It helps the history of a car to say it was in a movie,” Ballard said. “It makes a great story when I can say Jessica Lange and Tommy Lee Jones sat in my car.”

Some of Ballard’s cars in the film include a 1963 Volkswagen, 1951 Studebaker, 1965 Ford Thunderbird and 1965 Mustang.

A few of Ballard’s cars actually wouldn’t start previously, but Ballard said the film crew worked to get several in running condition.

As the head of Dallas County government, Ballard also speculated on the potential once the film is released.

“”I honestly think that the film will put Selma on the forefront,” he said. “From my experiences, you can tell that the operation reeks of class.”