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.
Top Five Classic Cartoon Cars
1. Speed Racer — Mach 5
Inspired By: Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, Ford GT40 (MkIV)
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
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)
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
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
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.