Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. are two of the biggest stars of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the MCU). What’s more, the two actors have something of a bromance in real life. Recently, Downey Jr. in fact gave his co-star a particularly extravagant gift; and if you look closely it actually has a subtle Avengers theme.
Evans and Downey Jr. first worked together on The Avengers. They’ve subsequently appeared on screen alongside one another a further five times – and it seems that the two actors have formed a strong bond over the years. It all could have been very different, though, as Evans was initially reluctant to take on the role of Steve Rogers and his superhero alter ego, Captain America.
Evans in fact turned down the role of Captain America twice. Marvel continued to pursue him, however, and he took the topic up with those who were closest to him. Then Downey Jr. gave him a call, and it was this conversation that proved to be critical in convincing the younger actor to change his mind.
Having now played Captain America for just under a decade, it’s fair to say that the role has made Evans a Hollywood superstar. Meanwhile, over the course of 11 big-screen appearances, Evans has endeared himself to a generation of moviegoers and become a mainstay of the Marvel movie franchise. The latest instalment, however – Avengers: Endgame – may very well be his final turn as the superhero.
Downey Jr. is also reported to be leaving his role in the MCU. That didn’t diminish his warm feelings for his co-star, though. “At the root of it, [Evans] has true humility,” Downey Jr. told The Hollywood Reporter in March 2019. “I think it’s the reason he was able to come to the front and be our team leader in The Avengers.”
While Downey Jr. is happy to be called the MCU’s progenitor, as its first star, he in fact credits Evans with making The Avengers truly gel. The older star has been very open about how much he enjoyed the experience of making the movies, as well. “I’ve had some of my greatest moments of gratitude when [Evans] was looking at me in my suit, and I was looking at him in his suit, and we’re just like, ‘Jesus, is this still working? How lucky are we?’”
More than that, though, the two seem to have a great friendship. “I’ve been in hundreds of scenes with this guy,” Downey Jr. told The Hollywood Reporter. “Nobody laughs more than him. Sometimes he makes me self-conscious, like, ‘Should I be more fun?’… And I’ve also seen him, over the last 10 years, go from being someone who had laughably real social anxiety to someone who has grown more and more comfortable in their own skin.”
Captain America is not the first Marvel character that Evans has played on the silver screen, though. In fact, in 2005 he played the Human Torch in the Fantastic Four, a role which he reprised in 2007’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Now, with his part in The Avengers seemingly over, Evans has said that he will be pursuing other projects.
Aside from his superstar status, Evans also has a great deal to be thankful to Marvel Studios for. According to Forbes, Evans was the tenth highest paid actor of 2018, earning no less than $34 million, most of which was earned through his work with Marvel. He has also received other rewards, though, including a number of high-profile friendships earned through the franchise.
Downey Jr. also featured on the Forbes list as one of Hollywood’s best-paid stars. In fact, in 2018 he came in at number three and took home an incredible $81 million, largely for his portrayal of Iron Man in the MCU. And that was on top of the fact that the role had previously seen him take first place on the list, from 2012 to 2015.
Fame was nothing new for Downey Jr., though. In fact he has now been a major Hollywood star for some 30 years. His most significant roles, on a long list of credits, have included playing Charlie Chaplin in 1992’s Chaplin, Wayne Gale in 1994’s Natural Born Killers and Paul Avery in 2007’s Zodiac.
Indeed, Downey Jr. has appeared alongside many of the great stars of our time; and he’s been nominated for an Academy Award on two occasions. The first time around saw him put forward for Best Actor in a Leading Role for Chaplin. The second instance, meanwhile, was for a much more light-hearted part, playing method actor Kirk Lazarus in the 2009 comedy Tropic Thunder – which saw him nominated as Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Downey Jr. has also had his fair share of problems, though. He was arrested on a number of occasions between 1996 and 2001, and he publicly battled addiction issues through the early part of his career. The star has reported that he has been drug-free since 2003, though – and he names his wife Susan as being a driving force behind his recovery.
And Downey Jr. has enjoyed a number of high-profile relationships over the years. He went out with Sarah Jessica Parker from 1984 to 1991, and he has been a close friend of Mel Gibson since the pair starred in Air America. Gibson was even selected by Downey Jr. to present him with an award at the 25th American Cinematheque Awards in 2011.
The years haven’t changed things, though, and Downey Jr. has continued to forge celebrity friendships. Which brings us to his co-star, Chris Evans. After starring in Marvel’s 2012 superhero team-up, The Avengers, the two would go on to appear opposite one another in 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, 2016’s Captain America: Civil War and the Avengers’ two-part finale, Infinity War and Endgame.
And by all accounts, the two get on famously – and they seem to have a great deal of respect for one another. That’s not to say that there are no surprises, however. Indeed, one day on set, Downey Jr. had something in store for Evans that his co-star could never have expected.
Evans first had an idea that Downey Jr. had something in mind when he noticed some unusual behavior. The older actor kept bringing cars to Evans’ attention and asking him his opinion of them. But the Evans’ couldn’t immediately imagine where these comments were going.
“In my head, I’m like, ‘Is this guy going to give me a car?’” Evans said when he appeared on Jay Leno’s Garage in August 2018. “‘There’s no way he’s going to do this.’” The star had a big surprise in store for him, though – and soon everything would begin to add up.
Indeed, his suspicions had been absolutely on the mark. “Sure enough, I showed up on set one day and [the car] was there,” Evans explained. And the gift was something that would have impressed even the most dedicated automobile aficionado. This roadster was anything but a modern-day supercar, though.
Instead, much like Captain America himself, it was a U.S. classic that had seemingly been frozen in time: a 1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS. But that wasn’t all. The details of how the car was sourced – and how it was customized – speak to just how special a gift it really was.
David Salvaggio is the Vice President and lead builder of SpeedKore, a custom car builder that can be found in Grafton, Wisconsin. In an appearance on Jay Leno’s Garage, he explained how the project had come together. Downey Jr. had initially been looking for a first-generation Camaro and had originally set his sights on a 1969 model. However, he ultimately ended up acquiring a ’67. His objective had always been clear, though.
“The whole goal of this vehicle was to give it to Chris Evans as a gift in the end,” explained Salvaggio. And what a gift it was. In fact, entirely aside from being a sleek, customized classic, the vehicle came with a price tag that would leave most people speechless.
On the open market, the price of a used 1967 Camaro isn’t too extraordinary in the grand scheme of things. Most would reportedly attract offers of something in the region of $20,000. This car, though – with its custom design and special features – was something special and would fetch much, much more than that.
Indeed, a true valuation of the vehicle would need to reflect all the customization work required by Downey Jr.’s spec, as well as the significant amount of labor that went into the project. “Just the cost of the wheels, suspension, engine, seats, supercharger and gauges alone would be around $33,000,” vehicle research firm Edmunds told CNBC.
And given these impressive numbers, the car’s true value could very feasibly be over six figures, according to Edmunds. But that’s not the end of it. SpeedKore, the company responsible for the build, told CNBC that the final price of the car was closer to $275,000. This was mostly down to the high-end parts that were used to put the vehicle together but also the extensive work that the job required.
Of course, to a super-rich Hollywood actor, this may not really represent that much of an investment. But the cost of the car doesn’t tell the whole story of how much time and effort Downey Jr. put into getting the perfect gift for his friend. Indeed, Salvaggio revealed to Leno that the Iron Man-star had requested a number of personal touches for the Camaro.
“Robert got really involved on the build,” Salvaggio explained. “He really liked the ’67 because of the vent windows and a couple of other things that made the ’67 unique. And then, actually, we got some choice colors and leathers. Robert was really digging into it.”
Indeed, it’s clear that Downey Jr. took a lot of time and effort on every detail of the vehicle. So, one can only imagine the impression that this would all have made on Evans. “Was Chris surprised by this?” Leno asks Salvaggio. “Did he have any idea this was coming?”
It would seem that the gift in fact arrived as a complete surprise. “Yeah, they did the third Avengers movie that came out, [and] Robert had it shipped to Atlanta where they were filming and gave it to Chris as a gift on set,” Salvaggio explained. And it made a major impression.
“When Evans saw it, he loved it,” Salvaggio recalled. “He loved the color. That was kind of the design in Robert’s mind. So, going back to Robert, he’s super creative, and he’s really good with colors and putting everything together.” Evans wasn’t necessarily a motorhead, though. “It’s funny because Chris wasn’t really a car guy, per se,” Salvaggio said. “He had been doing acting since 18, you know, he’d been really studying the craft, but like all boys, we dream of cars.”
The interior of the vehicle features coffee brown and distressed leather. In fact the team at SpeedKore compared the tone to Indiana Jones’ jacket. “Chris Evans, in the first <i>Avengers</i> movie, had a leather jacket that was very similar to that distressed [look], and we kind of copied that technique for the interior,” Salvaggio told Leno.
The car also came in a unique color – called grigio verde by the car’s makers, or gray-green in Italian. “We called it ‘melted army-man’ green because we knew the car was going to Chris,” Salvaggio explained. And despite having initial doubts about the color, Silvaggio was pleased with the end result. Captain America surely has military fighting spirit flowing through his veins. What color could be better for the man who plays him?
And delving deeper into the car, there are many more impressive features. Indeed, under the hood, there’s a Chevrolet LS3 crate engine supplemented by a Whipple 2.9-liter supercharger. It’s clear that this car has some serious power behind it. “Oh, you could get into trouble real quick with this,” Leno says while taking the car out for a test drive.
The car wasn’t a gift that would go straight into a garage, either. “Chris drives it on the East Coast, and I think he drives it three, four or five times a week,” Salvaggio told Leno. “He really puts the miles on it.” So, this is a car that’s certainly not just there to be looked at.
Evans himself appeared on the episode of Jay Leno’s Garage, showing off the car in all its glory. And the star clearly seemed proud of the stunning gift from his friend and colleague. But that wasn’t all. There were a couple of additional touches to the vehicle, though, that make a subtle nod to the two stars’ shared history. And Avengers fans will no doubt be delighted to learn about them.
Indeed, when the driver opens their door, they are met with a steering wheel which has Captain America’s shield emblazoned in its center. This is perhaps the defining symbol of the character; and its placement puts it right in the hands of the driver, without detracting from the stylish cool of the classic car.
The second nod is a little harder to find but is an even more direct reference. In fact, inside the passenger’s glove compartment, there is a plaque which identifies the car as a “Steve Rogers Special Edition” – referring to the real name of Evans’ character in the Avengers movies. It’s another great touch that Downey Jr. put in place – and a further sign that he sees the younger actor as a real-life Captain America.
And the Camaro is a long way from Evans’ first car, which was apparently a Mazda Protege. It no doubt did the job required at the time – but it would be hard to imagine Captain America driving the sensible family compact. The Camaro, however, seems like a more fitting tribute to the character and the superstar actor who played him.
And as far as gifts go, it really does take some beating. As one YouTube commenter noted, “The video really shows how much this truly is a gift of love, not just a rich guy showing off with an expensive splurge. [It] shows what a special guy Chris Evans is, too, to inspire such amazing expressions of love from everyone that knows him.”
So, although it appears that Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr. won’t be appearing in any more Marvel movies for the time being, the two actors seem destined to continue their friendship offscreen. One can only imagine how Evans will return the favor when Downey Jr.’s birthday comes around. But, in the meantime, the real-life Captain America is surely driving off into the sunset.