The cars of Speed Racer

A recent post over at io9 on sci-fi movie flops mentioned the big screen Speed Racer as one of the all-time money losers in Hollywood history — which, alas, is true — but also kicked off a defense of the 2008 release as, well, not a bad film. One of the things that made the movie shine were the numerous and stunningly original car designs created for the racing scenes.

As part of my creation of Speed Rally (and tracking all of the Hot Wheels released in conjunction with the film), I cataloged every vehicle in the movie — even those that were on the screen for less than 2 seconds. While this might seem excessively geeky, it is also an showcase of the work that went into the creation of the cars by dozens of artists. Due to the frenetic speed of the action, many of these designs flashed by too quickly to be seen, much less appreciated.

Unfortunately, due to the cinematic crater left behind by the Brothers Warner and Wachowski, the film quickly disappeared, the toy line did poorly, and these brilliant designs were buried. (One of the saddest things I saw online was a plea by a graphic designer who had worked on the movie for months, and was seeking a single rare Hot Wheels of the car he had created for Speed Racer — even after all his hard work, the execs at Warner Bros. had stiffed him when it came to getting him a token of his effort.)

Anyway, here is the first of several posts looking at the cars of Speed Racer:

If anything, the original Speed Racer cartoon had a love of cars. It incorporated dozens of vehicle designs into its 52 episodes, some based on real-world race cars, some utterly fabricated. The 2008 live-action adaption ramped up the concept and presented dozens of new and unique designs in its 2-hour running time. A few are showcased, but most flash by in a few seconds. That’s a pity because there are some beautiful wheels in this movie — some of which are actual race car designs, currently being test for future tracks.

After a review of the Speed Racer DVD, and double checking all the frames I captured, I was able to identify 30 unique racing car designs in the movie. While only few have an official name, in order to catalog them I sorted them all into a set of classes. Over the next few weeks months or so, I’ll be looking at all of these vehicles in detail.

[UPDATED Sept. 2011 … I was working off an old list when I started this project. Here’s the final version]:

Type A — Common T-180 (Example: #23 Grey Ghost Race Car)
Type B — Uncommon T-180 (Example: Musha Motors Race Car)
Type C — Uncommon T-180 (Example: 3 Roses Car)
Type D* — Uncommon T-180 (Example: Nitro Venderhoss)
Type E — Common T-180 (Example: Prince Kabala Race Car)
Type F — Common T-180 (Example: Sonic “Boom Boom” Renaldi)
Type G — Uncommon T-180 (Example: Kellie “Gearbox” Kalinkov)
GRX — Unique T-180
Type H* — Common T-180 (Example: Taejo Togokhan Race Car)
Hangul — Unique Street Car
Type I — All unique, individual vehicles will have their own entries
Type J* — Uncommon T-180
Type K* — Uncommon T-180
Type L — Common Street Car (Example: Delila, Flying Foxes Freight)
Mach 4 — Unique early T-180
Mammoth Car — Unique
Type N*— Uncommon Street Car (Example: Semper Fi-ber)
Type O — Common Street Car (Example: Snake Oiler Street Car)
Type P* — Common Street Car (Example: Juicy Drop Pop)
Pitter Pat* — Unique T-180
Type Q* — Common Street Car (Seen flying thru a guard rail after the hapless driver is hit by Snake Oiler’s Snake-a-pault)
Type R* — Rare Street Car (Can only be seen during freeze frame in the Casa Cristo)
Snake Oiler — Unique T-180
Type T — Uncommon Street Car (Example: Thor-Axine Street Car)
Type U, V, W* — Rare early T-180s (These are all seen very briefly chasing Rex Racer in flashback.)
Racer X — Unique T-180
Shooting Star — Unique Street Car
Mach 6 — Unique T-180
Mach 5 — Unique Street Car

*Missing from Hot Wheels line. Therefore, due to the failure of the movie and overstaturation of the Hot Wheels line, we will never see the 11 remaining makes of cars from the movie that aren’t already out there now.


2 thoughts on “The cars of Speed Racer

  1. I absolutely love your website.. I’ve actually been paying close attention to the cars in the movie and I’m even designing some of my own designs… Do you happen to know the website of the graphic designer that you mentioned in the second paragraph?


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