Fans of the popular TV show “Better Call Saul,” which is a prequel to “Breaking Bad,” can’t help but notice the beat-up old car that James McGill, the main character and con man, drives. A yellow Suzuki Esteem with paint and doors that don’t match, lots of dents and scratches, and a putt-putt engine that needs to be started repeatedly. The car says, “I’m a loser!” It’s impossible to miss.
But it’s a chrysalis and goes well with “Slippin’ Jimmy” before McGill turns into Saul Goodman, a successful but dishonest lawyer in Breaking Bad who defends drug dealers in Albuquerque. Then he switches to a “Lawyer Up” license plate-covered pearl white Cadillac De Ville.
Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, who made the show, are “very involved” in choosing the vehicles, right down to the color, says Milliken, who has worked in similar roles on shows like Breaking Bad Lonesome Dove, Dallas, and a lot of other shows.
You might see a Chevy Camaro from the 1970s on the road today, but Javelins are a rare breed of the muscle car. In the movie BCS, for example, Nacho drives a gorgeous red 1973 Javelin with white racing stripes. It was made for only a few years by American Motors, the troubled fourth U.S. car company (think Gremlin and Pacer). Chrysler bought AMC because it wanted to get its hands on the Jeep line, which is now very popular and profitable.
What’s up with Nacho’s Javelin? He is a middle-level thug who is on his way up. He works for Hector Salamanca, who is a drug kingpin. But Nacho is also a rare, thoughtful criminal who isn’t sure how he feels about his role in the gang and thinks of leaving the “life.”
On the other hand, Lalo, played by Hector’s nephew Eduardo Salamanca. A passionate and enterprising protector of the family’s rights to land. He drives a friendly 1970 Chevy Monte Carlo that is green.
Most people don’t think of the Monte Carlo as a classic muscle car. Detroit first marketed it as a step up in luxury from the Camaro. But Lalo knows a lot about cars and has turned them into a fast ones. Lalo, like his car, has a thin mask of fake civility that hides a lot of power and danger. Milliken says that Lalo can get anything he wants in life and likes muscle cars.
Lalo races his Monte Carlo fast around a dirt track while Nacho watches and probably wonders how he can leave the Salamancas without getting himself and his straight-arrow father killed by the gang in revenge.
Next is Mike Erhmantrout, a fixer for hire and a former corrupt Philadelphia police officer with a guilt complex. Because he killed his son, who was also a police officer, back East. He moved from Philadelphia to New Mexico and now drives a 1988 Chrysler 5th Avenue. A boxy, unremarkable car that suits him. It’s friendly but nothing special, and it doesn’t stand out because it’s brown and solid, almost like Mike.
Last but not least is the 1998 racing green Jaguar XJ8 that belongs to Howard Hamelin. The head of the law firm Hamelin Hamelin McGill, where Jimmy used to work. (Remember that BCS took place in 2002 and 2003.) His brother Charles McGill and Howard’s father started it.
Howard’s attitude is just like the accent of the British luxury car. He’s not a very good lawyer, but he dresses well, even if he always wears the same things. He’s also good at making connections and keeping clients happy. The way he dresses and how friendly he makes him seem charming.