IT'S NOT FAKE: Chevy Really Did Drop This Car Out Of A Plane — Just For Fun

Chevy Sonic

Photo: Chevrolet

Chevrolet recently launched a new small car with economical gas mileage, the Sonic. The car is targeted at young, first-time buyers.Chevy’s ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, was asked to come up with an exciting launch campaign that did not consist of the usual beauty shots of the car driving along a clifftop road. The agency decided to put the car through a series of stunts that young people might do themselves: a parachute drop, a bungee jump, and a skateboard kickflip.

The ads are so spectacular they look too good to be true. And it’s certainly easier to use CGI to animate car stunts than it is to stage them in real life. But the stunts were all real, not faked.

Andrew Bancroft, an associate creative director at Goodby, told us how the agency got those shots.

This early mockup, in which the Sonic went crowd surfing at a punk concert, was rejected.

Here's how Goodby's people began thinking about the campaign in March - April 2011, according to Bancroft:

'This is a first car for a lot of people, for a lot of young people. Because we are focusing on young people we wanted the car to embody that excitement. What are some of the best young and courageous things to do with the actual car? What if the car got to do some crazy, fun courageous things itself? What are some of the most badass situations a car would be in? And what can we pull off? Lets have its first year on the planet be the most fun experience it's ever had.'

An early concept was 'something in the music world,' Bancroft said. 'Wouldn't it be fun if the car could go crowd surfing, with really huge jacked up bodybuilders to lift the car above their heads next to screaming punk fans?'

The idea was rejected: Too dangerous.

A parachute jump, however, seemed like something the agency could pull off. Watch the video and then we'll tell you how it was done.

For the parachute drop, the Sonic was strapped into a frame.

The main problem with dropping a car from a plane and filming it, is how do you make sure the camera crew and the car fall at the same pace?

The car is loaded into a C130.

Goodby hired a team of professional skydivers to manage the drop. The drop location was the Arizona desert, where it's safe enough to drop large objects without fear of hitting anyone.

The moment of truth ... Note that the camera is already on the outer edge of the plane.

The crew filmed from underneath the falling car.


Goodby ended up with an unbroken, three-minute long stretch of footage in which the car appears to be floating gloriously through the Arizona sky.

What could possibly go wrong?

Getting closer ...

But where did the car end up?

Bancroft told us, 'It ended up landing on its wheels. There are hardly any trees out there and it did hit up against this one tree, the only one for miles, so there was some minor altercation there.'

Note that neither the video nor the stills show the car after it landed. It's probably a mystery best left unsolved.

Now for the bungee jump.

First watch the ad, and then we'll reveal how it was done.

Goodby chose Long Beach, Calif., as a good site for dropping a car on an elastic rope.

Bancroft says: 'We employed an expert, a bungee expert who tested the bungee with weights. He used a crane and dropped weights from the same distance, a quarter weight of the car, and used that to calculate how thick the bungee would need to be.'

'None of us knew if the car would hit the ground. It was nerve wracking. What if the car comes smashing down in front of these cameras?'

That pushing system was real.

Just having the car do a bungee jump didn't seem interesting enough. So Goodby came up with the idea of staging a web contest in which people were asked to click on an image of a hand, and the clicks would drive a Rube Goldberg-esque gear system that would slowly push the car off a stack of shipping containers.

Bancroft says, 'It was actual software built by a team of engineers who figured out how to calculate that digital click into the physical world.'

The hand is moved into place behind the car.

After some web banner advertising and a little PR, there was a surge in traffic on the day of the stunt. 'We had a huge spike in clicks sometime in the morning. People could look at the car from different angles while they were clicking, it caught on like wildfire.'

It took about nine hours and 2.5 million clicks for the car to reach the precipice.

Here goes nothing ...


Success! The car dips into the kiddie pool but doesn't crash onto the concrete.

Mission accomplished!

Now for the skateboard kickflip. This composite image shows the spinning jump Goodby wanted the car to do.

Watch the ad and then we'll reveal how it was done.

Rob Dyrdek is strapped in to a reinforced version of the Sonic. The white bars are the roll cage.

In this stunt, Goodby wanted pro-skater Rob Dyrdek to do the kickflip jump over a gigantic skateboard.

There was very little practice.

Only one other stunt driver had done this type of barrel roll before. The crew did a test run 'where they were jumping it into a ton of boxes,' Bancroft said, to make sure the car would land in a predictable way.

But other than that, there was no real run-through.

The obvious question: How is he going to land?

'It was a very tense moment,' Bancroft said.

Fingers crossed!

The car doesn't come down square on its wheels ....

Instead, it lands sideways, burning rubber.

Bancroft: 'It isn't square-on the way you'd see it in the movies. It highlights how real it all was.'

Bancroft: 'You can see that Rob is pretty relieved when it finally lands.'


Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners
Executive Creative Director: Hunter Hindman
Executive Creative Director: Jamie Barrett
Associate Creative Director: Andrew Bancroft
Creative Director: Joakim Borgstrom
Associate Creative Director: Niklas Likja
Producer: Dan Watson

Joe Jennings
Greg Gasson

Bungee Expert:
Ron Jones, Bungee America
Syyn Labs created the digital clicking mechanism and the mechanical gear system that pushed the car.

If your agency has created an awesome ad and you'd like to tell us a behind-the-scenes story, contact jedwards @ businessinsider . com.

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