Vehicle Spotlight: 1992 Ford Explorer XLT

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Michael Crichton’s 1989 science fiction novel Jurassic Park explores the realm of science and ethics, depicting a bioengineering corporation called InGen that builds an island resort theme park populated with genetically resurrected dinosaurs. In typical Crichton fashion, the hubris of corporate man allows for disastrous oversight and subsequent escape of the dinosaurs.

When Universal Pictures gained the rights to adapt Jurassic Park into a movie, a significant amount of time and money went into selling audiences on the idea that this theme park was entirely plausible in 1993. The production design team, led by Rick Carter, created the imaginary corporate entity of Jurassic Park from head to toe. As a real theme park would have done in preliminary planning stages, the film production crew designed a unified color scheme and aesthetic for the park, complete with logos and fonts to plaster across fake merchandise and signs. The design of the park had to be futuristic enough (by 1993 standards) to appear cutting- edge, but not so futuristic as to alienate the audience and break its immersion. The side-by-side presence of modern-looking design elements with computer-animated dinosaurs helped reel in doubt the audience would have had that the onscreen monsters they saw were real.

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Of this great achievement in production design, the most iconic individual pieces are arguably the custom 1992 Ford Explorer XLT Tour Vehicles. The 1992 Ford Explorer XLTs that these original Tour Vehicles were based on were familiar enough in form as to be believable, but futuristic in their visual and imaginary modifications. The vehicle currently on display at the Petersen Automotive Museum is a replica of the original prop vehicles used in the movie, built to be used in the Walmart commercial “Famous Cars” (2019). This replica only lacks the custom dome roof units found on the original vehicles in the film.

Some elements of the Tour Vehicles were entirely imaginary, enhancing the futuristic aspect of the film. The character of John Hammond, a naive visionary and creator of the park, boasts in the film about how he “spared no expense” on these vehicles, stating that they have fully electric drivetrains and require no driver to move along their tracks. Every moving part on the cars were supposed to be controlled from the Main Control Room, even the door locks. Both Tour Vehicles #04 and #05 pictured in the film came with monitors mounted in the custom center dashboards, explained to be touch screen units running “interactive CD-ROMs” that displayed live information about the park.

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Although the Tour Vehicles had many features that were purely fictional and not physically implemented, the visual fabrication work done to them by the production team is nevertheless impressive in both craft and purpose. Both Explorers in the film have identically clean and corporate paint schemes, except for their number designations. Three registers of color stretch across each SUV, with burgundy, green, and yellow from top to bottom, respectively.

These vibrant colors, when paired with details such as brush and taillight guards, mounted antennae, and door-mounted spotlights, evoke the corporate vision of an off-road vehicle never meant to leave the pavement. Many eye-catching elements of the vehicle seem to exist to be beaten

and broken later in the film, such as the custom plexiglass dome roof that is shattered during the iconic Tyrannosaurus attack scene. The Jurassic Park logo and letterhead found on the hood and sides of the vehicles appear to be clearly framed in many scenes of destruction, adding an ironic sense of humor to otherwise tense parts of the film.

By Andrew Frastaci

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