The "get-out-of-jail-free card" that Goose gives the triker was an on-set joke. Because of the limited budget, the biker gang was an actual biker gang (the Vigilantes), and they had to ride to the set each day in-costume; often with their prop weapons displayed. Since the production company expected them to be pulled over by the local police, each was given a letter explaining the film's peculiar requirements, and asking for law-enforcement's understanding & cooperation.
Mel Gibson didn't go to the audition for this film to read for a part, he actually went along with a friend who was auditioning. But because he had been in a bar fight the night before and his head looked like "a black and blue pumpkin" (his words), he was told he could come back and audition in three week's time because "we need freaks!". He did return in three weeks' time, wasn't recognized (because his injuries had healed well), and was asked to read for a part.
The blue van that was wrecked in the film's opening chase had the engine removed and was pushed into the path of the oncoming cars by off-camera assistants. The lack of the engine's weight caused the van to spin uncontrollably, adding to the spectacular crash.
George Miller paid a truck driver $50 to run over the bike at the final scene. However, the truck driver didn't want to damage his rig; thus the crew had to install a shield painted to look like the front of the rig.
Before the film was released in the United States, distributor American International Pictures overdubbed the actors' speaking voices. The 2002 special edition DVD release was the first US DVD to feature the original Australian language track.
Because of the tight budget, actual decommissioned police cars were used in the film. Only Steve Bisley (Goose) was wearing real leathers. All the other police officers were wearing vinyl costumes. The motorcycles, all late model demonstration units, were donated by Kawasaki. Many of the bikers kept them after the shooting was completed.
The first scene shot was that of Johnny breaking the chain on the overpass phone. He appears hurried not only because of the storyline, but also because the film company didn't have permission to shoot on that overpass.
The car that Max drives (a black "Pursuit Special"; the phrase "last of the V8 interceptors" was not used until Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)) is a production car, the Ford "XB Falcon Coupe", sold in Australia from December 1973 until August 1976. The car in the film had a standard 351 cubic inch (5.75 litre) V8 motor.
The Nightrider's spectacular crash was the result of a military booster rocket being installed in the back of the car. It went out of control, missed the target fuel tanker, and veered off into the field where it chased the film crew for 1/4 mile. The on-camera explosion was a later re-creation using a safer towed car.
Goose's motorcycle is a 1977 Kawasaki Z1000, but the metal "Kawasaki" badge has been removed from the gas tank and replaced with a decal that reads "Kwaka" - clearly visible on the Blu-ray version at 0:40:50.
Evidently the knees of the vinyl MFP trousers were a weak point. In various shots, characters can be seen with trouser legs split horizontally at the knee. For example, Roop atop the bunker; Max's left knee during the fight with Johnny; and Max's right knee after he gets shot. In the opening scene, a shot of Charlie shows that his knee has been mended.
Only two original Interceptors were used in the Mad Max movies. The one that was used in Mad Max (1979) was modified and reused in all of the interior and close up car shots in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981). After filming was over, this Interceptor was bought and restored by Bob Forsenko and was on display in the "Cars of the Stars Motor Museum" in England. The Cars of the Stars Motor Museum was in the English town of Keswick, Cumbria, and included a collection of celebrity television and film vehicles. On 8 May 2011, the attraction closed, with a message on the museum website stating "...check the website for details of the relocation of the vehicles to a new location shortly..." As of December 2011, all the cars have been sold, except for the original Only Fools and Horses.... (1981) Reliant van. Another car was built for the chase scenes in the second movie but that one was destroyed when the script required it to be pushed off the road and blown up. The wreckage used to be viewable at Broken Hill, Australia but due to thefts it can't be found there any longer. The Planet Hollywood Interceptor is a replica and was never used in any of the films.
Although it is now referred to as an (or "the") Interceptor, Max's black car is technically a Pursuit Special. It was referred to as "the last of the V8 interceptors" in Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), but never actually named in Mad Max (1979). The MFP dispatcher says over the radio, after Max takes the car, "Code unspecified. We have a 'query/locate' on a black Pursuit Special: Unauthorized use by a Main Force officer. This is designated as a potential Code 3 Red Alert."
Frankie J. Holden stated in an interview that he auditioned for the role of Jim Goose while he was an unknown actor, but thinks that he did not get the role because director George Miller did not take too kindly to Holden's criticism of the script when they chatted after his audition.
The film's post-production was done at Kennedy's house, with Wilson and Kennedy editing the film in Byron Kennedy's bedroom on a home-built editing machine that Kennedy's father, an engineer, had designed for them. Wilson and Kennedy also edited the sound there.
The stolen interceptor driven by the Nightrider in the opening scenes is another production vehicle; it is a "HQ Holden Monaro", which was sold in Australia in the early 70's with a variety of motors including large capacity V8's. Also, the other police vehicles in the movie were sedan versions of the XB, although one was the previous model "XA". They also had 351 cubic inch motors and are a common car on Australian roads.
Max's yellow Interceptor was a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan (previously, a Melbourne police car) with a 351ci Cleveland V8 engine and many other modifications. The Big Bopper, driven by Roop and Charlie, was also a 1974 Ford Falcon XB sedan, but was powered by a 302ci Cleveland V8. The March Hare, driven by Sarse and Scuttle, was an in-line-six-powered 1972 Ford Falcon XA sedan (this car was formerly a Melbourne taxi cab). The most memorable car, Max's black Pursuit Special - frequently designated a (V8) Interceptor based on a mechanic's quote in Mad Max 2 - was a limited GT351 version of a 1973 Ford XB Falcon Hardtop (sold in Australia from December 1973 to August 1976) which was primarily modified by Murray Smith, Peter Arcadipane and Ray Beckerley. After filming was over, this Interceptor was bought and restored by Bob Forsenko, and is currently on display in the Cars of the Stars Motor Museum in Cumbria, England. The Nightrider's vehicle, another Pursuit Special, was a 1972 Holden HQ LS Monaro coupe. The car driven by the civilian couple that is destroyed by the bikers is a 1959 Chevrolet Impala sedan. Of the motorcycles that appear in the film, 14 were donated by Kawasaki and were driven by a local Victorian motorcycle gang, the Vigilantes, who appeared as members of Toecutter's gang. By the end of filming, fourteen vehicles had been destroyed in the chase and crash scenes, including the director's personal Mazda Bongo (the small, blue van that spins uncontrollably after being struck by the Big Bopper in the film's opening chase).
Originally, there was a scene near the ending where Max is resting next to the river taking care of his knee wound before going after Johnny the Boy. Although this scene was deleted from this movie, part of it (Max turning around with shotgun in his hand) can be seen in opening montage of second movie.
The white 1961 Ford Falcon station wagon seen at the diner and outside Goose's apartment (where Johnny the Boy was hiding) was privately owned by one of the production crew who later sold the car after the film's release.
Miller's past as a doctor is referenced in St George's hospital which features in the film. Mad Max Rockatansky is named for 19th-century pathologist Carl von Rokitansky, originator of the Rokitansky procedure, the most common method for removal of the internal organs in an autopsy.
The trivia item below may give away important plot points.
Mad Max (1979) was banned in New Zealand for the scene when Goose is burned alive inside of his vehicle. It mirrored an incident with a real gang not long before the film came out. It was later shown in NZ in 1983 after the huge success of the sequel, but only as long as it had an 18 certificate.