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Nissan Andy answer to a Hollywood mogul's prayer; Car dealer gave top studio expert advice.

Byline: Claire Tolley

WHEN Hollywood moguls were seeking expert help for boy racer movie The Fast and the Furious 2, there was only one man for the job - St Helens Nissan dealer Andy Middlehurst.

His staff were on 24-hour standby to fly to the United States when filming began at the end of last year. Movie giant Universal Studios called on Mr Middlehurst as the only supplier of top-of-the-range Nissan Skyline racing cars outside Japan - and the only Englishspeaking source.

Soon a steady stream of parts were being jetted out to Florida as stunt men did their worst with the three cars on set.

But when it came to the crunch, with a Skyline due to be catapulted 100ft into the air, the professionals needed a little extra help.

Mr Middlehurst, 40, knows the car inside out after hurtling around the Nrburgring in Germany, two feet off a wall at 160mph during safety testing.

The father-of-three last night said: ``At one point, I was going to fly out to the United States for a week but I didn't have the time.

``We had all the stunt men phoning me up on the weekend asking about what would happen to the car with the leap they were doing.

``We gave them a few tips about weight distribution and car control because it's a four-wheel drive. ``We've also been supplying replacement body panels for a stunt they were doing smashing the cars into parking meters and lots of brake pads because of all the handbrake turns.''

Fast and the Furious 2, starring Paul Walker, is the sequel to the surprise box office hit from 2001 set in the street car racing underworld of Los Angeles. The new film is based in Miami, Florida. The main star of the original film, Vin Diesel, is not in the sequel after asking for $20m to reprise his character.

But the pounds 50,000 Skyline, Japan's equivalent of the Aston Martin which can reach speeds of 180mph, will have a starring role.

Halfway through filming, Mr Middlehurst got an urgent call from film executives in the US.

He added: ``Obviously they had to land the car involved in the stunt and it was going to be destroyed so they needed another car.

``We got one x -rayed at Heathrow and flown out to Florida within four days.

``I'm not sure whether they have blown up our car or used ours to replace it.

``The key thing was to get it out there. One time they rang us up and asked for some brake parts on a Friday. Then it turned out they needed them in Florida by Saturday morning. The executive had to get hold of Fed-Ex, fly to their depot and search though all the parcels to find them.

``Money wasn't too much of an issue but time was. Apparently the set was costing $300,000 a day.

``They are supposed to credit us at the end of the film because we gave them so much help.''

Mr Middlehurst has been racing cars for more than 20 years, including a stint as works driver for Nissan in the British Touring Car Championship.

The dealership was chosen by Nissan to be their only Skyline supplier outside of Japan because of Mr Middlehurst's racing involvement with the manufacturer in the mid-1990s. The company's profile is now set to rocket thanks to their role in the upcoming film.

A spokeswoman for United International Pictures said: ``UIP is delighted that a UK dealer, Andy Middlehurst, has been able to work with Universal Studios on The Fast and the Furious 2. His assistance has been greatly appreciated.''

THE Fast and the Furious 2 is still in production and is due out on June 6.

CAPTION(S):

Q MOVIE; STARS: Paul Walker, top, stars in the new film,; centre, with technical help from Nissan expert Andy Middlehurst,; above
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Jan 25, 2003
Words:647
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