General Motors has been involved in the creation of Michael Bay’s Transformers movie franchise since it began in 2007, and the “Bumblebee” Chevrolet Camaro hero car has featured prominently in each iteration. In advance of Transformers: Age of Extinction arriving in theaters June 27, we visited the General Motors Design Center in Warren, Michigan for an in-depth look at the latest film’s hero cars.
The three Transformers project cars, the Bumblebee Chevrolet Camaro, a race-inspired Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, and a Chevrolet Sonic rally car, were brought to life thanks to a team of General Motors designers. Aiming to create cars that would engage the Transformers audience, designers treated each car as its own character within the movie, rather than simply as a prop. Director Michael Bay supplied the General Motors design staff with images of what the cars would transform into, which helped give them a sense of the car’s personality.
“All of these cues in common with the Transformer aren’t verbatim, but at the end it all ties in and you can really connect with it,” senior creative designer Jelani Aliyu told Automobile. “With the Bumblebee Camaro’s headlights, we wanted to capture and create very technical and space-age effects, just like the real Autobots’ eyes.”
Bay wanted the 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 for the other, “Crosshairs” Autobot, but General Motors didn’t want pre-production movie shots to leak before the high-powered Corvette debuted at January’s Detroit show. Instead, you can see the stunning Allspark Green Chevrolet Corvette light up the silver screen. It boasts a racing spoiler, a Z06-derived front splitter, and unique scoops over the rocker sill vents.
The Chevrolet Sonic rally car is sort of the odd one out, given that it doesn’t appear to be a Transformer in the movie. Judging by the preview of the movie we saw in the GM Design virtual reality room (I need to get one of these as a home theater) the burly Chevrolet Sonic will be tearing through some serious terrain in monstrous fashion.
“The design study for these cars was like an audition,” vice president of global design Ed Welburn told reporters. “The actor has to fit the character.” Welburn took us up to his own office, one of numerous places at the Design Center where Bay shot scenes for the upcoming Transformers movie. The Design Center will be the site of the CIA headquarters in the movie, perfect for the campus’ timelessly modernist design that practically vibrates with the confidence of GM in the 50s. Welburn himself even earned a speaking role in the upcoming summer flick—as a “thank-you for everything we’ve done for the movies”—where he gets to shout furiously at Mark Wahlberg.
Make no mistake though, GM doesn’t do this for charity or because it really digs Optimus Prime. Welburn was clear that participation in the movies is huge for extending the company’s reach globally. This is true particularly for China, where he says the Chevrolet Camaro is simply called “Bumblebee” with astonishing frequency.
Other GM vehicles that were used in the Transformers movie shoot were the Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Trax, Cadillac Escalade, Cadillac XTS, and Cadillac Ciel concept. The Ciel concept, thankfully was handled a bit more delicately (i.e. not launched into the air, crushed, blown up, or otherwise Michael Bay’d).
See Transformers: Age of Extinction in theaters on June 27.