With Fast & Furious about to speed into theatres this Friday, the latest installment of the successful hotrod film franchise is sure to be raising testosterone levels across North America.

But did you know the combination of cars and cinema arguably has a connection to Canada’s first female filmmaker?

While University of Toronto cinema studies professor Bart Testa would surely stop short of directly linking early pioneer Nell Shipman to Fast & Furious, he does point out the early 20th century artist did play a role.

“(Shipman) made a film in which she spent the entire film in an automobile rescuing her boyfriend and so the film was a kind of car chase movie,” says Testa, adding that Shipman may have another association to Fast & Furious. “I understand she actually wrecked three cars making the film.”

There are certainly other early examples that are more obvious influences to the modern use of cars in cinema, the original Fast and the Furious (1955) being the most indisputable. But one cannot overlook the importance of such gems as Bullitt, the original Gone in 60 Seconds and even 1971’s Vanishing Point.

“When you get to (2001’s) The Fast and the Furious … they’re pretty consciously going back to that,” says Testa. “Now they’ve souped it up because they have special effects and the technology of the automobile has expanded — you can do a lot more with cars.”

Although producers of Fast & Furious may be “souping” up for a big box-office take, the automobile industry has been tightening its means in a struggling economy.

With automakers around the globe laying off employees and mothballing their struggling product, it ponders one to consider if the car’s golden days in the cinema aren’t nearing an end as well.

“I think the car films that we’re seeing now, the cars have already moved into the realm of fantasy-after-its-death,” says Testa. “One of the things that the Fast and the Furious is about is that, despite the thuggish manner of Vin Diesel and his buddies in these films, there’s some suggestion that they’re conceptual artists — that the car is already into the realm of art and less the realm of necessity, practicality and the rest of that.”