Mad Max 2 / The Road Warrior Filming Locations
Humungus Machine Crash and Tanker Roll
Late in July 1981, with Mad Max 2 filming nearing completion, it came time for the final climatic stunts of the film - The Humungus Machine Crash, and the Tanker Roll.
The script called for the tanker to crash head on into the Humungus machine, obliterating it. Following this, the tanker was to leave the road, rolling over onto its side, and crashing violently to rest.
An extremely dangerous stunt, never before attempted, and which to this day still has people questioning as to whether or not the tanker was actually manned during the wreck itself. Of course, an unmanned tanker would have never landed quite so precisely, and as per all of the truck stunts seen in the film, the stunt was performed under the control of the precision truck stunt driver, Dennis Williams.
The destruction of the Humungus machine firstly involved setting up the machine itself in a ready to explode state. It was constructed on the road, with the parts loosely wired and tac welded together, ensuring that it would explode into pieces when hit head on by the impact of the truck. For the Mack, all windscreens and glass were removed, and replaced with steel mesh to safely enclose the cabin. This would prevent any parts of the Humungus machine from protruding the cabin and impacting the driver, or from shattering glass throughout the cabin. If you watch carefully in the film itself, you will also clearly see Dennis wearing a full safety helmet.
All set up, the stunt was ready to go, and so Dennis executed it. He held the truck flat stick, as fast as he could take it down that road, ensuring at the impact point that the destruction would be total.
Note the ambulance parked down the road, to the top right of the picture
The Humungus machine destruction went perfectly to plan, obliterating the vehicle and sending debris in all directions. However, the prime mover suffered some damage, including a severed brake line, and the roll over stunt was unable to be completed on the Friday as planned. The debris scattered site was left to stand overnight while the truck was repaired, returning the next day for the final climactic stunt.
One of the fears for the roll over stunt was that the force of the impact would cause the trailer to break its mounting, penetrating through the cabin of the truck itself (noting that the trailer was indeed fully loaded with tonnes of sand - an empty trailer would have been too light, and not behaved correctly on film). To counter the risk of the mount breaking, a steel framework was built at the rear of the cabin, angled up and over, so that should the mount break, the path of the trailer would be deflected upwards instead of directly forwards. The framing can be seen highlighted in the photograph below.
"You don't just go and do 'em willy nilly - they're set up."
Fortunately the framing above was never required, as the mount held firm as the rig slammed into the dirt. Again, Dennis held the tanker as fast as he could go, smoke still belching from the exhausts as he put it over.
Note the tyre to the left of the picture sequence above, exploding under the force of the impact as the truck goes down
As the tanker went over, it was followed closely behind by a safety crew in a dune buggy, on hand immediately should Dennis have required any assistance. An ambulance was once again on standby, along with a helicopter close by. None of this ended up being needed of course, the stunt being executed perfectly to plan.
Dennis Williams (left, as Max) surverys the wreckage
Dennis Williams (Precision Truck Stunts)
describes the tanker stunt (video excerpt taken from the Back
2 The Max documentary, used with permission).