Part of me still remembers what the Internet’s founders promised: the world’s information at our fingertips, freely available.
These days, once your VPN is activated, you’ve clicked past cookie warnings, pop-up banners, and waited for the advertisements to load first, chances are you’re either getting an AI-generated article, a redirect because the content is gone, or a paywall. At the Internet Movie Cars Database, however, time has stood still (in a good way—unless you’re using a mobile phone).
I first started noticing IMCDb when I was writing the Weird Cars book and writing daily stories, as the IMCDb was sometimes the only place with images (screen captures) of the vehicles I was writing about. Rather than thieving IMCDb photos, I mostly used the site as a reference point for a vehicle I was looking for…and where I might find it.
There’s nothing like it: with more than 1.6 million vehicles named, categorized, and screen captured across 81,000 media sources and counting, IMCDb has become one of the world’s most essential motoring archives.
So whether it’s to find out if the Lamborghini in Rumble in the Bronx is real (it’s not), track down a model of background Volvo seen on Mr. Bean TV series, geek out over a star car in The Fast and the Furious Tokyo Drift or to simply browse a comprehensive list of Japanese concept and race cars from 1960-1995…IMCDb is the place for it.
Michael Banovsky: To start, I wanted to thank you for your work on IMCDB; I am not an active member but have definitely visited the site many (many) times, as when I’m doing photo research, it often appears near the top of results—especially for more obscure vehicles! So thank you.
How did the site originally come about? Can you talk me through the idea for it and the first few months?
Antoine Potten: The idea and the initial site were created by someone in France who posted his project on various forums, to try to find people interested in contributing. As I was one of the most active members (I was watching a lot of movies and series back then), at some point I took over the site as the original creator did not have enough time to continue his project. This occurred relatively quickly, I think it took only a few months for that.
Did you have any help in setting things up / were there other founders / developers in the early days?
I did not write the original code, but I think that most of the current code was rewritten. I did not touch the style much however.
Since then, I was the only one to maintain the site and develop the code. The help was only for the contents, but that's the largest part of the work :)
A friend helped me to set up the server when we moved from shared hosting to dedicated hosting. A few years ago my brother-in-law joined to start a complete rewrite of the site. We went quite far in the project but due to lack of time we never finished it.
We'll try to integrate some of the new features to the current site, and make it evolve in smaller steps.
Which software/web technology is it based on? How has the codebase evolved over the years? What were some milestones?
It is using PHP/MySQL like a lot of small websites, and did not change much except following PHP versions evolution (and fixing bugs found, of course).
“…you can be surprised and find people being fond of any model of car, even for regular models that most of the people would see as boring.”
What’s your biggest challenge in maintaining IMCDb in 2023?
Since a few years mobile navigation has become a big thing, and the site is from a different era :)
That was the main reason for the start of rewriting it, but at some point we'll have to re-do the front-end part to make it better suited to mobile use.
But maintaining the site itself is not much an issue for the moment. I don't have a lot of time for it though, so I just hope that the current structure will stay sufficient for some time for the increase of data added all the time.
If you could get people / contributors to help with the side code, would you want to work with mobile developers? Any specific skills needed?
It is not so easy to split the work between several people. I don't think it would be so easy to have other people involved, as there is already my brother-in-law who is working with me on it.
And as I have to maintain it on the long term and keep the server running, I prefer to know what is in the code, so I have to stay involved directly in it :)
Roughly, how many vehicles are added per week? I noted in the FAQ that “a site like this will never be finished”—how does that affect how you run the website?
In average 2200-2300 per week.
To limit the amount of data added (to keep space for the useful stuff), I tried to limit the amount of the type of entries: avoiding cars not visible enough (even if some members tend to add everything that can be seen, even if far away or blurry), and also limit to mostly movies and TV series, avoiding too many derivatives. We limit the kind of documentaries and reality-TV shows that are allowed.
In average 2200-2300 entries per week are added—has this number gone up over time? Does it keep growing per month?
It was around 2000 5-6 years ago, 1600 10 years ago, 1200 15 years ago. It is difficult to really give a trend on a short term, as it varies from one month to another.
Average on last 12 months was 2500, which is higher than the years before, so it increases.
Do you consider it a forum? Community? A database?
A little of all, I guess :)
I see it something working a little like Wikipedia even if the data is not as freely editable as in Wikipedia.
Have there been any interesting long-term trends in the types of vehicles shown or the types of content (movies/TV) where people find interesting vehicles?
Movies with car action is of course one of the bases of the site, and those that attract a lot of visitors.
But I also sometimes noticed a peak of visitors on a particular page when a car is well featured in a TV series, or for the new big movie releases.
Some car models also have more enthusiasts than others. But you can be surprised and find people being fond of any model of car, even for regular models that most of the people would see as boring.
There are some car models that you see as being recurring, of course the Ford Crown Victoria and other taxi/police models in US movies. There was also a trend a few years ago for bad guys in series/movies to use Jaguar XJ40 as these were being cheap to destroy but still have some style.
On that point, Hollywood as a bad habit of giving to the hero a cool classic muscle car, and find a reason for destroying it at some point. One of the most common victim for that is the Chevrolet Chevelle, take this article for example.
It is often quite painful for many car enthusiasts to watch classic cars being destroyed (or cars becoming rarer/classics but still cheap), where they could use any recent car.
Animation movies/series tend to attract younger members, which are not always the easiest to identify since the makers of these movies often just take inspiration in real models.
Do you think IMCDB encourages people to watch more movies?
Possibly, yes. That was one of the original ideas of the site: if someone likes a model of car, he/she can find movies where the car was featured.
I discovered myself some movies via the site.
As one of the more active members back in the day, what originally kept you contributing to IMCDB? What kept your interest up? (Why invest so much time?)
I had a lot of free time, and I found that fun to do. I was watching a lot of movies then later a lot of series, so I had a lot of contents for the site.
Also, when I discovered the site, I liked the idea because it is something that I already searched previously, but the only similar content I found were individual sites about a specific movie or a car model, but not a site with all at the same place.
When you watch movies for the first time, are you looking more at the actors or the cars?
Sometimes I was watching a movie just because it seemed to have interesting contents for the site :)
You said: “It is often quite painful for many car enthusiasts to watch classic cars being destroyed (or cars becoming rarer/classics but still cheap), where they could use any recent car.” Indeed! This happened recently with someone who I follow on Twitter, Jim Magill:
Antoine: Exactly, these cars have a low value, but it is sad to see one destroyed when it is in good shape.
Fortunately there are often cases where the car looks good on screen, but was actually just an old rusty car that was quickly freshen up, e.g. this recent case in "Alice in Borderland". Still sad, but at least these weren't in pristine state, maybe not even so easily repairable.
You mention that you discovered movies because of the site—do any of those come to mind?
I recently noticed this series, Hello Tomorrow! via the site. No idea if it is good, but I was curious to watch it seeing the pictures of the cars. I don't recall other examples though.
As the site was gaining momentum, what gave you hope for its continued success? Are hosting fees covered by advertising or can people / members / supporters donate $ to help IMCDB?
The advertising is paying the hosting without issue currently, so the best way for people to help the site is by contributing to it. Identifying vehicles with detail (not just model, but also year range) and spotting inconsistencies in the listings is probably the most needed work.
Do you have a dream sponsor / advertiser for the site?
It would be nice if ads were more directly related to the subject, so for example when a new movie is released, or for new car models, running an ad campaign about that rather than having "generic" ads on the site. On the other hand, it is also more work to manage these.
Thanks again to Antoine for his time in answering my questions. Want to know more? Visit the IMCDb Help / FAQ page for further details—there are still more than 63,000 unidentified vehicles(!!), so don’t hesitate to sign up and help fill in the knowledge base if you’re able to.
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