Wheels of Terror (1990) – ripper car movies

Evil waits. With the motor running


Los Angeles single mum Laura (Joanna Cassidy) and her teenage daughter Stephanie (Marcie Leeds) decide to leave their big-city life behind and make a fresh start in the small town of Copper Valley, Arizona. The pair quickly settle into their new digs, with Stephanie making new friends and Laura scoring a job as a local school bus driver, so all seems well.

First published in the January 2024 issue of Street Machine

However, a human of the worst kind has taken to abducting and assaulting young local girls, leaving Copper Valley residents on edge. Amazingly, only Laura seems to have noticed the filthy, black-primered third-gen Dodge Charger – in desperate need of a dingle hone and a set of rings – slinking suspiciously around the school and generally standing out like a fluorescent pair of dog’s balls.

She raises her concerns with the local – albeit useless – Detective Drummond (Arlen Dean Snyder), who is shocked to learn of the existence of such a vehicle in his town and proceeds to put out an APB to intercept it. Unfortunately, the mystery Charger driver has taken a shine to Stephanie and has firmly set their sights on her as their next victim.

When the engine in Laura’s Chevy school bus shits itself, sleazy mechanic Luis (Carlos Cervantes) drops in a hotted-up race engine temporarily to keep the bus on the road for its school route commitments. This proves to be extremely fortuitous, because when Stephanie is inevitably kidnapped by the Charger driver, it is seriously on for young and old as Laura wrings the neck of her newly powerful bus in a desperate attempt to chase down the Dodge and retrieve her daughter – hopefully in one piece.

The ensuing 34-minute car chase is Wheels of Terror’s ace in the hole, featuring some glorious stunts and effects worthy of any 1980s action flick. The only real downsides are the whining kids on the school bus and the overuse of slow motion, which becomes tedious.

VERDICT: 2.5/5

Clearly drawing inspiration from more well-known killer-car flicks like Duel and The Car, Wheels of Terror is an unashamedly B-grade, made-for-TV affair, which makes the effort that’s gone into the chase scenes all the more impressive.

After all, the acting is pretty average, the storyline very basic, and there are some seriously dumb moments that will leave you wondering how they made the final edit, but it’s all worth sticking with to get to the climactic car-chase action.


  • 1974 Dodge Charger
  • 1982 Chevrolet G30 Busette
  • 1968 Ford Mustang
  • 1978 Kawasaki KZ1000
  • 1977 Chevrolet C30
  • 1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer


  • Joanna Cassidy
  • Marcie Leeds
  • Carlos Cervantes
  • Arlen Dean Snyder
  • Jon Conrad Pochron
  • Kirk Nelson
  • Henry Max Kendrick


Christopher Cain


A lengthy car chase includes crashes, jumps and even sideways bus action against a backdrop of dust and mega-fireballs.


A bus driver’s daughter is hunted by a psychopath in a menacing Dodge Charger, forcing her to pull out all the stops to save her girl from probable death.


YouTube, DVD


The Charger’s evil visage was achieved simply by pushing down the top section of the wraparound front bumper. I almost want to buy one just to do this!