Top Five Classic Cartoon Cars

October 08, 2013

If you love classic automobiles, there’s a pretty good chance that your first exposure to how much fun cars can be happened while watching Saturday morning cartoons. The Flintstones “Flintmobile” and George Jetson’s flying car are two that immediately come to mind. But try naming some famous animated automobiles that were actually based on real vehicles. These five picks should get you started. 

1. Speed Racer — Mach 5 

Inspired By: Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, Ford GT40 (MkIV) 

Ferrari Testa Rossa

What Made It Cool: The Mach 5 was a sleek and super fast car that could do just about anything with just a touch of its steering wheel mounted controls. “Speed Racer” debuted in 1967 and never had much of story, but the car could deflect bullets, go underwater, and fly so, you know, who cares. 

2. Transformers/Generation 1 — Bumblebee 

Modeled After: Volkswagen Beetle 

Volkswagen Beetle

What Made It Cool: Before the recent General Motors makeover that turned Otimus Prime’s loyal sidekick into a Camaro, Bumblebee was a tiny yellow Autobot with the altmode of a compact classic that’s hard not to love. The Bumblebee in the original cartoon series was spunky, tough and had the sort of German reliability that made the Volkswagen Beetle a natural choice. 

3. Scooby-Doo: The Mystery Machine 

Modeled After: 1968 Chevrolet Sportvan 108, 1965 Ford Econoline E Series, Volkswagen Bus Type 2 (T1) 

1968 Chevrolet Sportvan 108

What Made It Cool: The Mystery Machine was a kind of animated amalgamation that combined the style characteristics of three of the best-selling vans in the mid-1960s. The psychedelic colors were cool. And nobody could rock an ascot like Fred. But what really made “Scooby-Doo!” so cool basically came down to two words: Teenage rebellion. The show basically featured a bunch of friends who road tripped around to dangerous towns with no adult supervision. Nobody ever had a job, and nobody over the age of 30 — and especially not the police — were ever as smart as the kids. You could never pull that off driving an Oldsmobile. 

4. Inspector Gadget: Gadgetmobile 

Modeled After: Matra Murena 

Matra Murena

What Made It Cool: Inspector Gadget may have been geeky and bumbling, but he drove a pretty cool looking police car. Unlike other animated cars in the ’80s, the accessories in the Gadgetmobile were voice activated (Go, Go Gadget Claw!) and changed with every episode, which meant never a dull moment when he got behind the wheel. 

5. Speed Buggy 

Modeled After: Meyers Manx

Meyers Manx

What Made It Cool: The car spit, sputtered, and sounded as if it suffered from a ripping case of epic flatulence when kicked into high gear. But Speedy had personality (thanks to the inimitable Mel Blanc), a knack for catchphrases (“Roger dodger!”) and may have been the first animated vehicle to love its owners as much as they loved it. 

Have a favorite cartoon car that didn’t make the list? Take a moment to comment below or head on over to the HVA’s Facebook page to tell us about it and see what other members are saying.


  1. Pamela Bowe Seattle, WA

    What about the Nash Metropolitan???

  2. phil knudtson waterford michigan

    How about all the wacky racers there are 10 or 11 of them, also motor mouse and auto cat, and don't forget mr. magoo and his jalopy.

  3. Butch VA Beach, Va.

    Wouldn't the Plymouth Road Runner be one of the most popular cars actually named after one of the most famous cartoons of all time. None of the cars you have listed were ever named or advertised as a cartoon car.

  4. Brannen North Carolina

    I have faint recollections of a red, gullwing-door, flying Camaro from a show called M.A.S.K. Looking back now, it's like they spliced a Camaro and a Bricklin together to get this contraption. Maybe not a top-five contender, but who doesn't want to see a flying 80's Camaro?

  5. scot United States

    ~ Persephone, daughter of Zeus. aka; the Homer. . built by Herb Powell, [Danny Devito]

  6. MikeGulett California

    The Speed Racer Mach 5 actually looks like an AMC AMX/3 not a Testa Rossa.

  7. Alan Pasadena

    What, no Thunderbolt Grease Slapper?

  8. Tom Michigan

    The term "modeled after" is erroneously used throughout this article. The term that should have been used is "looks like." The one exception to this may be Speed Buggy - that one may actually have been modeled after the Meyers Manx. Only the original artist knows for sure.

  9. Rick NYC

    click on this…

  10. Gary Voleshen Hamlin NY

    Everybody knows that Scooby Doo's mystery machine was modeled after the mid 60s Dodge A-100 van. I own a 69 A-100 windowless van in the original desert turquoise color. Whenever I take it out for a ride the little kids in the passing cars yell out " Look , it's Scooby's truck, it's Scooby's truck !! ". You can't fool little kids about this stuff, they would never fall for a Chevy window van with two-tone paint. ... Gary V.