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‘Star Wars’ Props Made From Car Parts

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Star Wars props recreated at SW Celebration in 2015
The infamous cantina, seen here recreated at Star Wars Celebration in 2015
Photo: William Tung via CC

Star Wars has been a cultural phenomenon for well over four decades, continuing to inspire viewers with its mythic structure and epic stories. A big part of the appeal of Star Wars is the visual design of the world it takes place in. When originally conceived in the mid-1970s, the soon-to-be-beloved galaxy far, far away was a “lived-in” world of grunge and rough-edged technology. Everything looked used, old, and utterly fascinating. As it turns out, plenty of Star Wars props were actually car parts in disguise. Here’s a quick list of some fan-favorites.

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The automobile origins of iconic ‘Star Wars’ props

Creating the iconic imagery of Star Wars isn’t easy. As any Star Wars fan knows, the production of the first film was chaotic, with props being sourced from unusual places. With little time, money, or help from the studio, George Lucas and his crew had to get creative. As a result, many of the 1977 film’s props, weapons, droids, and costumes came from everyday items and machines. Although born of desperation, this idea would go on to become a big part of the visual language of Star Wars. Even today, modern entries in the franchise use “found objects” to create their props. And yes, many of those objects are harvested from cars.

Here are just a few:

The cantina dispensers and IG-88/IG-11: The legendary cantina scene from the original Star Wars is revered for its revolutionary visual design. In addition to the many aliens and creatures that call the bar home, there are plenty of interesting background objects that flesh out the scene. If you look behind the cantina’s bar, you’ll see a series of cylindrical objects hanging from the ceiling. These are the bar’s drink dispensers, but in reality, they’re repurposed engine components manufactured by Rolls-Royce. These background props would go on to have further life in the Star Wars saga, as one would be transformed into the head of the assassin droid IG-88 from The Empire Strikes Back. If he looks familiar, that’s because a second IG model, IG-11, recently played a big role in season one of The Mandalorian.

Rebels and droids: By the time of 1983’s Return of the Jedi, the reuse of old objects and props was common for the series. The special effects crews at Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic were regularly scavenging old car parts to transform into any manner of otherworldly items. If you look closely at the rebel uniforms in the original trilogy’s final installment, you might recognize part of their backpack as a vintage speedometer casing. A different speedometer was also used on several background droids.

Spaceship parts in The Mandalorian: The tradition of using found objects in Star Wars continues to this day. Right now, Disney’s streaming series The Mandalorian is easily the franchise’s most popular venture. In the second episode of the first season, our titular hero finds that a group of pesky Jawas has torn his ship apart for scrap. Eagle-eyed car enthusiasts may spot a few modern fuel-injection rails among the scavenged parts.

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What are some of your favorite found-object Star Wars props? Let us know in the comments below!