In an interview with Newsweek, Quentin Tarantino stated he came up with the idea of "Death Proof" when he was talking to a friend about buying a car. Tarantino wanted to buy a Volvo because he "didn't want to die in some auto accident like the one in Pulp Fiction (1994)". In regards to the safety of the car, his friend had said, "Well, you could take any car and give it to a stunt team, and for $10,000 or $15,000, they can death-proof it for you." The "death proof" phrase had stuck to Tarantino after that.
In an interview, Quentin Tarantino said that the version of "Down in Mexico" heard in 'Death Proof' was likely the rarest recording in his entire collection. When he was working at a stag theater in his teens, he showed the record to the projectionist, another record collector, who immediately pointed out the words "Newly Recorded" on the record's label. Tarantino said this version soon became one of his favorite tracks of all time.
The juke-box (named AMi, pronounced "Amy"), is Quentin Tarantino's own. It was trucked to Austin to be used in the film in its very own rig. The list of songs on it was also hand-written by Tarantino. One of the songs is "You Never Can Tell" by Chuck Berry, the song that Mia and Vincent dance to in Pulp Fiction (1994).
Jack Burton's tank top (white tank top with a Japanese Rising Sun and a Samurai) from Big Trouble in Little China (1986) can be seen hung up on the wall of the bar where the first segment of the film takes place. It is right above Jungle Julie,slightly to the right of the AMi Jukebox.
In the car scene with Abernathy, Kim, Lee, and Zoe, the girls are discussing men they have had relationships with on a movie set they work on. In the scene, Kim (Tracie Thoms) mentions that Lee (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has a relationship with a man known as "The Rock" on the crew of the film set. When Zoë Bell asks if it's the actual actor Dwayne Johnson, Lee explains that it's actually just an electrician named Bruce who looks like "The Rock". In the closing credits of Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), in the grips section, one of the names of the grips is Bruce Del Castillo, nicknamed "The Rock" in the credits.
According to Tarantino Universe aficionados, this is the third appearance of "Jungle" Julia, The first was as Unruly Julie in My Best Friend's Birthday (1987), mentioned as a rival D.J. to Clarence, and the second was as Wayne Gale's assistant in Natural Born Killers (1994).
The 1970 Dodge Challenger driven by the girls has door frames. The original 1970 model Challenger did not have door frames. The crew most likely added the door frames for the "ship's mast" stunt to be possible.
In a 2012 directors round-table conducted by The Hollywood Reporter, Quentin Tarantino said "'Death Proof' has got to be the worst movie I ever did." It is important to note, that he was saying "it has to be the worst movie I make." Not saying that it was a bad movie, but that it is the worst on his filmography.
"The poem that Jungle Julia has her listeners recite to Butterfly is an excerpt of the poem "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" by Robert Frost. It's also a reference to the '70s thriller Telefon (1977), in which the poem was used as a posthypnotic signal to activate Russian sleeper agents.
The complete list of songs contained in the jukebox is as follows: 01. Isaac Hayes - "Theme from Shaft" / "Ellie's Love Theme" (from Shaft (1971)); 02. Barry White - "You're My First, My Last, My Everything" / "Can't Get Enough"; 03. Bob Dylan - "George Jackson (Acoustic)" / "George Jackson (Big Band)"; 04. Stevie Wonder - "Lately" / "If It's Magic"; 05. The Chi-Lites - "Have You Seen Her" / "Oh Girl"; 06. The THP Orchestra - "Theme from S.W.A.T., Pt. 1" / "Oh Girl"; 07. Stevie Wonder - "I Ain't Gonna Stand for It" / "Knocks Me off My Feet"; 08. Bloodstone - "Natural High" / "This Thing is Heavy" ("Natural High" is heard in Jackie Brown (1997)); 09. Don McLean - "American Pie, Pt. 1" / "American Pie, Pt. 2"; 10. Sweet - "Little Willy" / "Man from Mecca"; 11. The Isley Brothers - "Take Me to the Next Phase, Pt. 1" / "Take Me to the Next Phase, Pt. 2"; 12. The Miracles - "Love Machine, Pt. 1" / "Love Machine, Pt. 2"; 13. Bob Dylan - "Subterranean Homesick Blues" / "She Belongs to Me"; 14. Honey Cone - "Stick Up" / "V.I.P."; 15. Earth Wind & Fire - "Shining Star" / "Yearning, Learning"; 16. Amii Stewart - "Knock on Wood" / "When You Are Beautiful"; 17. Honey Cone - "Want Ads" / "We Belong Together"; 18. Kool & The Gang - "Hollywood Swinging" / "Jungle Boogie" ("Jungle Boogie" is heard in Pulp Fiction (1994)); 19. Bob Dylan - "Band of the Hand" / "Theme from Joe's Death" (from Band of the Hand (1986)); 20. Sweet - "Wig-Wam-Bam" / "New York Connection"; 21. Friends of Distinction - "Grazing in the Grass" / "I Really Hope You Do"; 22. Marvin Gaye - ":Trouble Man" / "Don't Mess With Mr. T "(from Trouble Man (1972)); 23. Bob Dylan - "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again" / "Rita May"; 24. Pacific Gas & Electric - "Are You Ready?" / "Staggolee"; 25. Donna Summer - "Love to Love you Baby" / "Need-A-Man Blues"; 26. Michael Zager Band - "Let's All Chant" / "Love Express"; 27. Santa Esmeralda - "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" / "You're My Everything" ("Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" is heard in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)); 28. Jigsaw - "Sky High" / "Brand New Love Affair"; 29. George Baker Selection - "Little Green Bag" / "Pretty Little Dreamer" ("Little Green Bag" is heard in Reservoir Dogs (1992)); 30. Sweet - "Blockbuster" / "Need a Lot of Lovin'"; 31. Eddie Floyd - "Good Love, Bad Love" / "Things Get Better"; 32. Joe Tex - "The Love You Save" / "If Sugar Was as Sweet as You"; 33. Bob Dylan - "Gotta Serve Somebody (Long Version)" / "Gotta Serve Somebody (Short Version)"; 34. Dick Dale - "Misirlou" / "Eight Till Midnight" ("Miserlou" is heard in Pulp Fiction (1994)); 35. Lee Williams - "They Told a Lie" / "I'm Tore Up"; 36. William Bell - "Formula of Love" / "You Don't Miss Your Water"; 37. Dinah Washington - "Mad About the Boy" / "Stormy Weather"; 38. The Box Tops - "Cry Like a Baby" / "The Door You Closed to Me"; 39. The Checkmates Ltd. - "Black Pearl" / "Lazy Susan"; 40. Sweet - "Fox on the Run" / "Miss Demeanor"; 41. The Delfonics - "Didn't I (Blow Your Mind This Time)" / "La-La Means I Love You" ("Didn't I" is heard in Jackie Brown (1997)); 42. Brothers Johnson - "Get the Funk Outta Ma Face" / "Tomorrow"; 43. Bob Dylan - "Hurricane, Pt. 1" / "Hurricane, Pt. 2"; 44. ABBA - "Waterloo" / "Watch Out"; 45. 'T. Rex (I)' - "Jeepster" / "Life's a Gas"; 46. Melanie - "What Have They Done to My Song Ma?" / "Ruby Tuesday"; 47. George Frayne - "Hot Rod Lincoln" / "Beat Me Daddy Eight to the Bar"; 48. Robert Mitchum - "The Ballad of Thunder Road" / "The Tip of My Fingers" ("Ballad" is the theme from Thunder Road (1958)); 49. Dean Martin - "Rio Bravo" / "My Rifle My Pony and Me" (From Rio Bravo (1959)); 50. Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich - "Hold Tight" / "You Know What I Want".
In the second segment of Death Proof (2007), the yellow car with the black stripes the girls drive has a license plate that reads "Brand X", this is a reference to Brand X Action Specialists, the stunt company of Quentin Tarantino's stunt coordinator Jeffrey J. Dashnaw.
When Kim, Zoe and Abby are in the Challenger, ready to go on their "test drive", they pull up by Lee and Kim says, "Hey good looking, we'll be back to pick YOU up later!" This was a line in a commercial for a cheesy Ronco product, Mr. Microphone, in the '70s. It was used again in a 1990s episode of The Simpsons (1989).
At the beginning, Vanessa Ferlito's character is drinking from a soda cup. The restaurant on the cup is the same Mexican restaurant (Acuna Boys) that is advertised during the transition between Planet Terror (2007) and Death Proof (2007) in the original Grindhouse (2007). The Acuna boys are also mentioned in Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), said to be a gang made up of the children of Esteban Vihaio's prostitutes.
The front plate on Stuntman Mike's '70 Nova has the same characters as the 68 Fastback Mustang driven by Steve McQueen in Bullitt (1968) (JJZ109) as a Texas plate rather than a California one. The wheels on Stuntman Mike's '69 Charger are the same American Racing vectors used on the General Lee in The Dukes of Hazzard (1979), also a '69 Charger.
The yellow Mustang from the second segment is labeled "Lil' Pussy Wagon", a reference to the Pussy Wagon in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003), which is stolen by the Bride from Buck, who had just let Jasper (the same character who sells the white Dodge in this film) molest her.
There was originally to be a scene near the beginning where Jungle Julia and her friends hang out in her apartment. In the excised scene, Jungle Julia dances on her coffee table while holding the jacket for The Cars album "Candy-O".
The opening production company logo used is from Dimension Pictures which was a theatrical distributor of grind-house and exploitation films of the 1970s. Dimension Pictures is not associated with Dimension Films however, which actually distributed 'Death Proof'.
At one point, Sheriff McGraw refers to Stuntman Mike as "Frankenstein." This may have been a reference to the Roger Corman film Death Race 2000 (1975), where the protagonist, a race-car driver named Frankenstein, was played by David Carradine, who also starred in Quentin Tarantino's "Kill Bill" films.
The drive-in theater advertisement sign that Stuntman Mike crashes into during the final car chase scene lists the Australian horror classic Wolf Creek (2005), one of Quentin Tarantino's favorite horror films. In fact when production of Death Proof was in its early stages, Tarantino briefly considered the main actor of Wolf Creek, John Jarratt, to star as Stuntman Mike.
Stuntman Mike's second vehicle is a 1969 Dodge Charger, the same model car in "Bullitt" which has one of the most iconic car chases in history, chasing down a Mustang (in both movies). The Mustang in Death Proof is a 1973 Mustang, which is the same model as im the original Gone in Sixty Seconds, another iconic car chase movie and of course the Challenger is like the one from Vanishing Point.
Quentin Tarantino: [burger] Stuntman Mike asks Jungle Julia about having a billboard "near Big Kahuna Burger", a fictitious brand used by Tarantino in his movies. She then replies, "I got one there, too, Zatoichi". This is a reference to the famous Japanese blind samurai character who has appeared in several films and TV series - Tarantino is a big fan of the franchise.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
At one point, Pam (Rose McGowan) calls the other girls "double-fucks." This came from an incident on the Planet Terror (2007) set where Rose was trying to get in character for the scene where her character wakes up and realizes her leg has been torn off by zombies, but Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez kept peeking into the room and teasing her as she tried to get appropriately emotional. Annoyed, she called them "double-fucks" and told them to get out, and Quentin liked it so much that he added it to his script.
A scene was cut showing Stuntman Mike masturbating in his flipped-over car after the first car crash. It was deemed unnecessary since the following scene would have Texas Ranger Earl McGraw hypothesize to his son that Stuntman Mike's acts were murders of a sexual nature.
During the first crash, the four girls are listening to Dave Dee Dozy Beaky Mick and Tich. In 1960, Eddie Cochran was killed in England when he was thrown through the wind-shield of a taxi which had hit a light pole. A young police cadet at the station responsible for the investigation taught himself to play guitar with Cochran's impounded Gretsch from the wrecked car. His name was David Harman, later to become Dave Dee.
Based on the two-disc Special Edition D.V.D., from the time the girls' Challenger initially takes off, to where Stuntman Mike's Charger Rolls over thus ending the chase, the total elapsed time of the chase sequence is 20 minutes, 11 seconds.
In the extended version, there is a scene where Stuntman Mike fondles Abernathy's feet while she is asleep in the car and Lee isn't paying attention. When she wakes up from it, he pretends he just touched them by accident as he was walking by going to his car. Later when he attacks the girls driving the challenger, this explains how Abernathy is the only person who recognizes him from earlier.
Originally the first crash in the film was to take place on an overpass, and after the cars hit they were to fall off and land on a highway. Another car going 80 M.P.H. was to crash into them once they reached the highway, resulting in another female victim.