A long time ago, in the early days of the Internet, a misguided nerd wrote an article comparing the Millennium Falcon to a Chevrolet Nova. While the author made a compelling argument, Mel Brooks proved far more perceptive when he put the hero and sidekick of his Star Wars spoof, “Spaceballs,” in a beat-up Winnebago with wings, as represented on screen by the Eagle 5 filming model that crosses the auction block next month.
The largest Winnebago offering in the mid-Eighties, the Chieftain 33RU was a 14,500-pound GVWR 454-powered Class A motorhome that slept as many as six, according to Winnebago brochures. “A good deal more than just a good deal,” the brochures touted. And if anybody was likely to purchase a value-based motorhome – even the longest one available – it was rogue adventurer Lone Starr and his mog, Barf.
Brooks, who has stated that he wanted his parody to hew as close to Star Wars as possible and who even struck a deal with George Lucas to crack wise at the latter’s trilogy, didn’t choose a Winnebago by chance. Like Han Solo and Chewbacca’s Millennium Falcon – a freighter decked out with smuggler’s compartments and modified engines – Lone Starr and Barf’s Chieftain boasted secret hyperjets along with an “I Love Uranus” bumper sticker and the capability to jam Lord Helmet’s radar.
While Brooks did use a full-size Chieftain for a number of scenes, the shots depicting the Eagle 5 flying through space relied on a roughly 1/12-scale filming model made of cast resin, vacuum formed plastic panels, metal, and wood components with miniature versions of Lone Starr and Barf seated inside. Credit for the model goes largely to Grant McCune, chief model maker for “Spaceballs,” who helped work on the shark model for Jaws before moving on to build models for the first Star Wars and Star Trek films, among dozens of other Hollywood productions.
McCune held on to a number of models after filming, and some of them – the Eagle 5 among them – have made the rounds at Comic-Cons since McCune’s death in 2010. The Eagle 5 first went up for auction at a Profiles in History auction in June of last year, when it reportedly sold for $28,800, including premium. However, Profiles in History has listed it again, as part of the auction house’s upcoming Hollywood Auction, listed as part of the McCune collection, with a pre-auction estimate of $12,000 to $15,000. No word on whether use of the model has been planned for “Spaceballs 2: the Search for More Money.”
While the auction also includes a 1934 Harley-Davidson that Steve McQueen owned and a Team Gulf rain jacket that he wore in “Le Mans,” perhaps the other most noteworthy gearhead item from the auction is another filming model: that of the Bluesmobile, used to film the reverse backflip that Elwood used to escape the Nazis in the original “Blues Brothers.” (Nazi Pinto not included.) The pre-auction estimate for that model ranges from $30,000 to $50,000.
The Profiles in History Hollywood Auction will take place December 11. For more information, visit ProfilesinHistory.com.
And may the Schwartz be with you.