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In the classic Sam Raimi epic Evil Dead: Army of Darkness, the hero Ash uses a high school chemistry book, a medieval alchemical lab, the contents of his trunk, and his trusty 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88 to create a mobile death wagon.

Assuming Ash is a natural mechanical genius (which is a given considering the earlier modifications he made to his chain saw), and granting him a reasonable amount of time (I don't recall if a specific period of time was defined in the movie between the time he started preparing and the actual attack), is it even remotely plausible to add a whirling blade of death to the engine of a car?

  • 1
    sounds like a good mythbusters episode. Build the death wagon using only medieval implements.
    – Doug T.
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 14:52
  • 1
    They did much crazier things than that on this show: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scrapheap_Challenge. But then, they had an entire junkyard of stuff to work with. Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 14:54
  • 1
    Must watch this movie now....
    – AncientSwordRage
    Commented Jan 24, 2012 at 15:53

3 Answers 3


(Edit: as ridiculous as this sounds I only just realized how old this question was. At any rate it caught my interest and since I found the existing answer a bit light on details I decided to add my own. Hopefully I haven't violated any prohibitions on grave robbery.)

The car in question, a 1973 Oldsmobile Delta 88, came in two different variants as far as power plants are concerned. There was a 350 cubic inch (5.7 liter) v-8 that output approximately 150 horsepower at the rear wheels and a larger 455 cubic inch (7.5 liter) v-8 that output approximately 250 horsepower at the rear wheels. Source.

Although I couldn't find a definitive source online, I think it is fair to assume that Ash would have had the larger 455 cubic inch variant, if for no other reason than that the movie is an exercise in extremes and Ash is the embodiment of extravagant insanity / awesomeness. It only makes sense he would have the most badass version of the car available.

For their gigantic size these engines didn't put out a huge amount of horsepower compared to comparable modern engines. For instance a 350 cubic inch crate engine from an online performance dealer like Jeggs can output 400 horsepower (at the crank) easily.

A big part of this has to due with the fact that the Oldsmobile engines were never really designed to output huge amounts of horsepower, but were intended to produce massive torque instead. This means that the engines had relatively low compression ratios and could therefore be considered slightly "de-tuned" by modern standards, adding to their longevity and reliability. And due to these engines' giant internals this rotational energy was available at very low RPMs. See this article for more information. They were typically paired with similarly robust automatic transmissions in the General Motors "Turbo-Hydramatic" family.

What this adds up to is a vehicle that had gobs of torque available from the first touch of the gas pedal, had a reliable and durable power-train, and got tremendously poor fuel efficiency. If this is starting to remind you of something other than a car, that's a good thing: it has specifications that are strikingly similar to those of an old farm tractor.

Looking at the car from this angle, it becomes easy to think about Ash's death-blade enhanced 88 as a type of souped-up lawnmower, albeit one with a larger and much more dangerously-oriented cutting blade and reduced mobility over rough terrain.

So over all I would conclude that yes, the Olds 88 is a perfectly serviceable platform for a death-wagon buildup. And to answer the question directly: the engine in question was particularly well-suited for the type of modifications Ash made, including the death blade. It was generally very durable and also torque-happy on the low end of the RPM spectrum, and would have taken well to the work of chopping zombies in half. The only way Ash could have done better would have been with a big, diesel-powered truck or an actual farm tractor. But at that point why not just give him an Abrams?

  • I'll happily accept and upvote a much more complete answer 3, 4, or even 10 years after the fact. Thanks much for this well-written and informative post!
    – Beofett
    Commented Aug 24, 2015 at 16:48
  • Given that the question is about a movie where the hero fights horses of undead, thread necromancy seems strikingly appropriate to me.
    – Paul
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 5:52
  • Sounds legit... Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 8:45

If I remember right the main construction of the "blades of death" was made of wood. So wooden cogwheels are absolutely possible and were known already in the middle ages. A gear of leather belts is quite easily made, too. Taking the power from some revolving part of the engine (e.g. the generator) wouldn't be too hard. Ash also demonstrated by creating his mechanical metal hand that he is capable of shaping metal in these circumstances. All this, plus a lot of helping hands from the castle, make it plausible for him to be able to modify the car.


This link comes up on a Google search, so I figure that it is relative to state that the Deathcoaster does not run on the car's engine. You may not notice it since the scene focuses on the front of the car, but there is a steam engine mounted on the back of the car as noted in the script:


The stripped chaise of the Delta 88 Oldsmobile. A steam engine is mounted to its center to power the craft . At the front and rear are spinning, helicopter-like rotor bl ades.

Reference: http://www.bookofthedead.ws/website/army_of_darkness_synopsis.html

  • 1
    Sure, but is it plausible?
    – Adamant
    Commented Jan 1, 2017 at 7:13

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