Vic Morrow, playing 'Franklin', insisted on a one million dollar life insurance policy before he would film any scenes involving the helicopter, and said that if he wouldn't be insured, he would walk off the picture. His wish was granted, and he very reluctantly agreed to fly in the chopper. When asked why he wanted the policy, Morrow replied "I have always had a premonition that I'll be killed in a helicopter crash!" Of course, on July 23, 1982, Morrow was indeed killed, along with two children, when a helicopter was brought down by special effects explosions, right on top of them while they were filming Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983). Morrow was decapitated by the helicopters main rotor, as was one of the children. The other child was crushed to death. Incidentally, Gary McLarty, the stunt pilot that was flying the helicopter that killed Morrow, also appears in this movie as a State Trooper.
The famous getaway car featured in the film is a 1969 Dodge Charger R/T with a 440 cubic inch V-8 engine. For muscle car buffs, the color of the Charger is Sublime Green. The same color for Plymouth was called Lime Light. The black stripe on the side of the car is NOT a "factory" racing stripe (rather one painted on by the crew), and the wheels are classic "American Racing" brand wheels.
The helicopter that Captain Franklin commandeers is a Bell 206B JetRanger, FAA Registration number N20DB. The aircraft was built in 1973 and owned by Rotorcraft Technologies. This particular helicopter was leased to film and television production companies, and was featured on-camera (with various paint schemes) in The Rockford Files (1974), and as the corporate helicopter in The Towering Inferno (1974). In addition, it was also used as a filming platform for aerial shots in several movies, including Midway (1976). It was involved in a fatal crash in 1984, but is currently registered to fly.
Three Chargers were used in the film; Two 1969 Dodge Chargers (one "R/T" and one coupe), and one 1968 Dodge Charger (coupe). Two of the Chargers were intentionally damaged in the front (after a scene where the Charger collided with the truck), and there is a notable difference in the damage from car to car
Filming started in the fall of 1973 during the time the USA highway markings changed from white to yellow. Whilst most of the roads in California had changed by then, there are several examples of shots where the old system shows in some frames and the new system in others. One chase in particular goes down a road with no markings, yet the new yellow markings are seen out the back of the car window.
Six Dodge Polara 440 V-8 police cars were purchased from the California Highway Patrol for use in the film. Two were 1973 models, the remaining 4 were 1972's. All were destroyed during various jumps, rollovers, and crashes.
A clip of the chase scene in which Mary says, "I think someone's knocking on the door," is played in the 1997 Quentin Tarantino film in which Robert De Niro and Bridget Fonda are watching. Bridget Fonda is the daughter of Dirty Mary Crazy Larry star Peter Fonda.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
The collision with the train at the end of the film was accomplished by rigging an engineless Dodge Charger filled with explosives to a towing cable that was run underneath the train tracks (the cable and pulley are, in fact, visible in the film). The towing cable was hooked up to a pulley system, and then to the train, which pulled the Charger into it. The crash and explosion of the car were actually two separate shots: one was the actual collision with the train accompanied by a small explosion, and the second was a larger explosion of the wrecked Charger staged with the train passing in the background of the shot.