- Indiana Jones: "I'm going after that truck."
- Sallah: "How?"
- Indiana Jones: "I don't know. I'm making this up as I go."
- ―Indiana Jones and Sallah[src]
The Desert Chase occurred in 1936 when Indiana Jones attempted to recover the Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis as they were moving it from the Tanis dig site to Cairo, in order to fly it to Berlin. It ended with Jones reclaiming the Ark, and the deaths of several Nazi soldiers and officers.
After the destruction of the Flying Wing, Colonel Herman Dietrich decided that moving the Ark to Cairo by truck was the next safest option. A convoy was assembled outside Dietrich's command tent to safely transport the Ark to Cairo, consisting of a staff car, an armed troop car, a motorbike and a cargo truck onto which the Ark was loaded. The Arab diggers were displeased with the Ark being loaded up, since it was an extremely important religious artifact, and Nazi soldiers had to fire in the air to prevent the diggers from storming the convoy. Jones, Sallah, and Marion Ravenwood watched the convoy depart from a nearby mound.
Jones instructed Sallah and Ravenwood to meet him in Cairo at Omar's Garage, and get transport to England arranged, while he went after the Ark. Jones acquired an Arabian stallion from the camp and head out after the Nazi convoy, riding past the Arab workers. Cutting across the gullies, he soon caught up with the convoy, and riding down a steep hill, pulled along side the cargo truck.
The gunner in the troop car opened fire, until Jones pulled ahead to the safety of beside the truck. The gunner stopped when his bullets got dangerously close to the soldiers guarding the Ark in the back of the truck. René Belloq, in the lead staff car, watched in shock as Jones leapt from his horse to the side of the truck. Opening the passenger door, Jones reached in and threw out the Nazi soldier sitting on the passenger side, and then tackled the driver. The two men grappled with each while also trying to control the vehicle. A hit on the brakes and the truck decelerated quickly, sliding the Ark forward in the cargo area, and causing Major Gobler's vehicle to rear end the truck. The driver hit the accelerator, pushing the Ark back into its proper place and causing it to knock a soldier out of the back and through the windshield of Gobler's car. Working together to maintain control, the truck veered away from a building under construction, but plowed through much of the scaffolding and ladders, knocking down several Arab construction workers, one of whom landed briefly on the hood of the truck and caught a glimpse of the two men struggling for the steering wheel. After the worker fell off, the driver and Jones shared a laugh of relief before Jones punched him out the driver's door.
Now in control of the truck by himself, Jones rammed it into the front staff car, carrying Dietrich, Belloq, Toht and their Blond Driver. The car was forced off the road, and under a makeshift aqueduct, but quickly recovered and pulled ahead of Jones, who smashed into the aqueduct supports, spilling water over the front of the truck. Heading into a grove of palm trees, Gobler tried to pull along the right side the truck and let his gunner open fire, but Jones saw the car in his mirror and knocked it off course. Gobler's car went off road, but kept driving. The motorcycle at the tail of the convoy tried to pass the truck on the left, but Jones was ready for it, and nudged it into a pool. Both soldiers in the motorcycle got out and watched as Gobler's car pulled back behind Jones, cursing after the truck as well. Gobler pulled alongside again, and his gunner tried to shoot Indy, but the archaeologist shunted the car off the road again. Only this time, however, the car went flying over a large cliff, where Gobler, his gunner, and another officer plummeted over a thousand feet to their deaths.
In the back of the cargo truck, a Nazi soldier ordered four of his men to kill Jones and take control of the truck by climbing along the sides of the truck. Jones saw the men climbing over the side of the truck in his rear-view mirrors and ran through the trees, which knocked off the two men on each side. When the last soldier fell off, he ripped open a hole in the cover of the cargo area. One of the remaining soldiers crawled through the hole and moved up toward the cab, drawing his pistol. This time the soldier shot the archaeologist in the shoulder before Jones could successfully kick him off the side and the truck continued minus its passenger door.
The first soldier, being the last one in the back, took charge. This time, he climbed over the truck and made it to the front, sliding through the driver's window. He punched Jones' bullet wound several times and threw him through the windshield. Jones managed to grab on hood ornament, and after that broke, onto the truck's grill. Dietrich ordered the driver to speed up so that they can ram into each other and squish Jones. Indy climbed under the truck, avoiding a deadly sandwich, and used his whip to allow himself to be dragged behind the truck. Climbing back along the whip, Jones eventually climbed back aboard the truck and reached the cab. Belloq desperately tried to warn the driver of Jones' return but it was no use. Indy beat the sergeant's head against the dashboard and threw him out the front. The driver, now in Jones' former position, tried to hang onto the front grille but luck wasn't with him; the grille broke, and the driver fell off and was promptly flattened (and probably killed) by the truck's back wheels. Now finally in control, Jones then caught up to the staff car, and knocked it off the road and into the dirt. Belloq's driver reversed to get back on the road, but Jones had gotten a sizable headstart.
Reaching Cairo, Jones drove the truck into Omar's Garage, where he was expected. Quickly, Omar and his friends disguised the garage entrance as a fruit market stall, hiding the truck. Dietrich's staff car arrived in the plaza, and looped around the traffic circle, having lost sight of the truck. Two Arabs approached the car and offered to sell melons, and Dietrich, in a rage at losing the Ark, smashed one of the fruits.
- Staff Car (survived intact)
- Cargo truck (survived, but with damage to right side)
- Cargo truck driver (thrown out of truck)
- Cargo truck passenger (thrown out of truck)
- Six Ark guards in back of the truck, with Ark of the Covenant:
- Troop car (destroyed; sent off cliff)
- Motorcycle with sidecar (run off road)
- Indiana Jones, on an Arabian stallion (both survived)
- Arab construction workers
- Arab melon vendors
Behind the scenes
The truck chase is depicted differently in different sources:
- In the novel, script, and comic book the Lieutenant did not appear. Instead Toht rode in his place.
- The sergeant was killed in early versions of the script by 'Shliemman' (the character that would later become Dietrich) who is afraid that if the sergeant kills Jones, then the truck will crash and damage the Ark. The shooting of the sergeant by Dietrich is depicted in the storybook adaptation.
- In the comic book adaptation, there were no soldiers in the back of the truck. Only the driver and the passenger.
- In the film, after Indy jumps off the horse and throws the passenger out, the horse disappears.
- In LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures Indy and Sallah are on top of various trucks fighting soldiers. Indy didn't go horseback, Gobler, his truck, the motorcycle, and the sergeant did not appear.
- In LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues, Indy and Sallah are on horseback and have to hijack the truck by stealing other vehicles. While Gobler is absent, his jeep and many duplicates of it appear, some even with metallic armor, and in addition several other types of truck also appear. After defeating and hijacking the truck in a boss battle, the player must defeat the staff car containing Belloq and Toht.
The scene in which Gobler's car drives off a cliff was an ILM effects shot using a matte painting as the backdrop, and composite shots of a vehicle model and puppets.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark novel (First appearance)
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Raiders of the Lost Ark comic
- Raiders of the Lost Ark storybook
- LEGO Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures (Non-canonical appearance)
- LEGO Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues (Non-canonical appearance)
- From Star Wars To Indiana Jones - The Best of the Lucasfilm Archives
- Indiana Jones: The Ultimate Guide
- Indiana Jones: The Official Magazine 4
- Race for the Stolen Treasure