DETROIT (TheStreet) -- Fast Five, the latest installment of The Fast and The Furious film franchise, isn't just a statement on American car culture, but a reminder of why your Ford (Stock Quote: F) Fiesta is available in "Lime Squeeze Metallic" paint.
A tribute to all the gearheads and tuners who make 1995 Toyota (Stock Quote: TM) Supras that can dust Ferraris, The Fast and The Furious films were ubiquitous enough to soak their way into nearly every aspect of American auto culture. The namesake first film made $207 million worldwide when it was released in June 2001; follow-up 2 Fast 2 Furious topped that with $236 million in 2003; and the most recent installment, Fast & Furious, outdid them both with a $359 million take in 2009. Even the weakest film in the series, the 2006 Vin Diesel- and Paul Walker-devoid The Fast and The Furious: Tokyo Drift nearly quadrupled its $40 million budget with $158 million in box office revenues.
It's a lot easier to get fired up about turning a 1995 Honda (Stock Quote: HMC) Civic into a big-horsepower beast on a double wishbone suspension when gas prices average $1.53 a gallon, as they did the week the first Fast and the Furious film hit theaters. With average gas prices at $3.88 per gallon and rising as the latest installment hits theaters Friday, furious drivers are somewhat less fast to fork over the cash and play street racer during the morning commute. Auto sales were up 17% last month, but the race for more fuel-efficiency left gas-guzzling performance cars in the dust.