How a race-car-driver-turned-director films car chases using a $130,000 Porsche

The $130,000 custom Porsche used to film high-speed car chases

In his customized Porsche Outlaw that looks like something a 1930s mobster might drive, Rod Emory chases down three-time ALMS GT champion Patrick Long, who's wrangling a 2016 911R, a car Long calls "the most sought after Porsche on the planet."

They whip ferociously along the raceway, their engines revving in time with a suspenseful crescendo of drums. The camera pans out to the arid Mojave desert of Rosamond, California, and then zooms in as the Outlaw nears and catches the 911R, until finally: an explosion.

It feels irrelevant. "We didn't have time to shoot an ending," says Jay Leno, the host of CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage." Of course, he adds, rhetorically, "How do all bad movies end?"

Leno is sitting beside the director of this chase scene, Jeff Zwart. They're in an all-black Porsche Panamera, equipped with a Gemini crane jutting out the back holding a remotely controlled 360-degree camera. The one-of-a-kind car goes for $133,575.

The Porsche Panamera filming the 1955 Porsche Oulaw 365 chase down the 2016 Porsche 911R
Jay Leno's Garage | CNBC

A former race car driver himself, noted for wins at the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb, Zwart is now an established commercial director who shoots videos like this one for companies such as Ford, BMW and, of course, Porsche. He has also consulted on films like Ron Howard's racing biopic, "Rush."

"This is Jeff's version of fun: Managing three drivers in three different cars all at the same time," says Leno, in addition to the guy behind them resembling a WWII gunner controlling the Gemini crane.

That's a lot of to keep track of, and Zwart has to have total awareness to keep everyone safe. He admits that it's easier than it used to be, when directors would have to film standing on the back of a pickup truck with a camera on a tripod.

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In the safety of the Panamera with the Gemini crane at his disposal, he can shoot a scene bit more strategically. Each Porsche only hits 50 or 60 mph, but Zwart makes it seem as if the car is going faster by using fixed objects beside the highway to amplify the speed and, at other times, getting the camera low and shooting upward.

"I don't think people appreciate how much work and effort goes into just putting a short scene together like this one," Leno notes. His team does this one in half a day. Others can take weeks if not months.

But, when done right, that work pays off, and a chase can certainly look convincing. At least Leno thinks so. "It's amazing how a 60-year-old Porsche can outrun a 911R with a professional race car driver," he marvels. "It's unbelievable. That's the miracle of television."

CNBC's "Jay Leno's Garage" airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. EDT.

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Video by Richard Washington