Movie and television cars are big business, and The Fast and The Furious franchise is no different, having spawned lookalikes galore after each of its three previous instalments.

Things are a little different in the fourth film which opens this Friday. The flashy, overwrought, hyper-tuned import cars that served as stars are there, but there’s greater focus on more subtly modified American muscle cars and pickup trucks. Even the flick’s name has been pared back to a simple Fast & Furious, doing away with the excess numbers and definitive articles.

But that’s not to say that the vehicles are less impressive than before.

Fans of the series will still have the Nissan Skyline R34, and a brand-new Subaru WRX STI, driven by star Paul Walker’s character, but majority of the action is devoted to older lovelies like the 1970 Dodge Challenger and two versions of the 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle that Vin Diesel drove in the original movie.

“Reading the script, it was obvious this was going to be bigger than Tokyo Drift,” said Dennis McCarthy, car co-ordinator for the third and the current The Fast and The Furious films, in an interview with online car magazine Edmunds Inside Line.

“And a lot more of them were going to be ‘specialty cars’ that we’d have to build ourselves.”

One new favourite includes the 1987 Buick Grand National, which Diesel uses during a heist scene. In fact, one of the seven replicas built for the film has its body mounted backwards on the frame so that it could be driven ‘in reverse’ at high speeds.

Among other eye-catchers are the Chevrolet trucks built for the heist scene, especially a copper-coloured 1967 version.

In fact, that’s how most of the movie cars look and feel: Subtle, purposeful, and bereft of much decoration. Flat paints are in, big wings and spangly paint jobs are almost definitely out.

Most of the inspiration for these new rides come from some pretty famous vehicles that make “guest appearances” in the movie. The “Big Red” 1969 Chevrolet Camaro that started the “Pro Touring” style in the late ’80s; the 1,500-horsepower “F-Bomb” 1973 Chevrolet Camaro project car from Hot Rod magazine; and the 1978 Year One “Bandit” Trans Am, which evokes Burt Reynolds’ black-and-gold Pontiac from the Smokey and the Bandit movies, are all given plenty of screen time.

And what about the risk of damaging such rare beauties?

Well, for “star” vehicles, up to six or seven replicas were built of each, and most were destroyed in filming. Meaning some fairly rare vehicles, like the aforementioned Grand Nationals, were sacrificed on the moviemaking altar to the dismay of auto-enthusiasts everywhere.

Take heart, though, in knowing that virtually none of the vehicles built for the movie feature have what’s assumed to be “under the hood.”

Most of the understudies were created with much more basic engines and transmissions, meaning they were much less valuable.