Chace Research insurance investigator Maindrian Pace and his team lead a double life as expert car thieves. When a Colombian drug lord contracts him to steal 48 cars in a week for $400,000, he has secured all but one, a 1971 Mustang Mach I, codenamed Eleanor. After destroying a 1972 Cadillac Fleetwood Eldorado because it was owned by a drug trafficker (and packed to the brim with heroin), Eugene Chace, his business partner/brother-in-law, tips off the police to stakeout the International Tower in Long Beach, location of the final Mustang.
Car Chases ensue.
Gone in 60 Seconds shows examples of the following tropes:
- And Starring: Eleanor.
- As Himself: Parnelli Jones, as well as all the police, emergency responders, and mayor of Carson.
- Badass Driver: Pace, and Hallicki, who did all of the stunts himself, including the 120 foot jump (which actually compressed twelve vertebrae and resulted in a permanent limp).
- Because I'm Good at It: Why the team at Chace Research steal cars.
- Cain and Abel: Pace and Eugene, of the brother-in-law variety.
- Car Chase: While Bullitt is credited with making the trope and Vanishing Point, The French Connection and The Seven-Ups codifying it, this film perfects the Car Chase genre. In fact, clocking in at 40 minutes, this is the single longest chase in cinematic history.
- Cool Car: Made in 1973, virtually all the cars on the market were Cool Cars.
- Et Tu, Brute?: Eugene, Pace's brother-in-law, tipped off the cops about his whereabouts of stealing Eleanor.
- Fingertip Drug Analysis: When the Eldorado comes in with packets of white powder, Atlee stabs one packet with a switchblade and tastes the powder, declaring it to be heroin.
- Hassle-Free Hotwire: How Pace steals Jill's twin. He uses a slide hammer to remove the cover over the ignition cylinder, then sticks a screwdriver in the cylinder to start it (in Real Life, this would only mess up the cylinder and necessitate replacement). He steals a 1969 Rolls Royce later on by attaching another ignition cylinder to some sort of bypass (the model year seems to be deliberate, because all vehicles made for the US starting in the 1970 model year were required to have a steering column lock).
- Hero Antagonist/Punch-Clock Hero: The police, who are only trying to solve a sudden rash of high end car thefts.
- I Call It "Vera": Discussed by Pace and Atlee, then played straight. He gives all 48 cars women's names as codenames.
- Manly Tears: Pace is noticeably choked up when they destroy the Jill, red Challenger R/T.
- Not Cheating Unless You Get Caught: Discussed. The team has an underwriter buy Jill, a wrecked 1970 Dodge Challenger R/T, then steals an identical Challenger and swap out the engine, transmission and VIN placards and sell it to a Chrysler dealership (a very real technique), Atlee explains to The New Guy (doubling as Audience Surrogate) that because there are over two million cars in Los Angeles county alone, the chances of that specific car being being found out by police or insurance companies after undergoing a swap out are 500,000:1."Jill just became a statistic."
- Naturally, they get caught when the insurance underwriter drives by the dealership and sees the wrecked car he just bought, good as new, with the same license plate, forcing Pace to steal it and take it to the wreckers.
- Product Placement: Throughout the film we see many brands, most notably Goodyear Tire, provided by the blimp no less, Arco Gas Stations, and a complete radio ad for the Cal Worthington Ford Dealership.
- Public Secret Message: After stealing the uninsured Mustang, the owner puts an ad in the paper, stating it's uninsured and if returned, no questions would be asked.
- Real Person Cameo: All the police, emergency responders, mayor of Carson, California, were all real. And Parnelli Jones and his Big Oly Bronco (which he still owns and takes to car shows).
- Slo-Mo Big Air: Maindrian drives off a hood that just happened to be placed on two wrecked cars (unrelated to his chase).note This is shown from several angles in slow-motion, then shown at normal speed. You can actually see Eleanor bending on landing.
- That One Case: Eleanor, the only car to give him trouble. After deciding to return one stolen from Harold Smith, an insurance claims adjuster notorious for denying claims (and screwing over more people than Pace's brother-in-law) just to see him weasel his way out of it, he steals an uninsured Mustang that Pumpkin, his fiancée, insists he return. He then steals another Mustang from the International Tower in Long Beach, only for it to be staked out, resulting in a massive police chase.
- The '70s
- Title Drop: On the Goodyear Blimp, no less, advising people to lock their cars or it could be stolen in under a minute.
- Villain Protagonist: Pace, who is, after all, stealing cars, though he does insist on only stealing insured cars so the owners are compensated.