The Speed Racer cartoon was known for a lot of crazy, silly, over-the-top stuff, but in all its 52 episodes, nothing was crazier, sillier or more over the top than the Mammoth Car, a 600-foot-long, 2-storey tall monster truck that (spoiler alert!) turned out to be made of solid gold. Other than the Car Acrobatic Team, the Mammoth Car is probably the best known of Speed’s many opponents and — even though it’s a vehicle — is practically a personality in its own right. (In fact, my brother finally admitted to me a few years ago he wasn’t really a Speed Racer fan — he just liked the Mammoth Car.)The insanely large “race car” put in its only appearance in the 2-part episode “Race Against the Mammoth Car” (naturally), when Speed enters the Mach 5 into the “No Limit World Race” and discovers the owners of the Mammoth Car have taken the rules quite literally. The vehicle is also armed with banks of machine guns, an army of goons on motorcycles, and is suspected of being used to smuggle $50 million in stolen gold out of the country. (You don’t say.)However, the purloined bullion is not found aboard and the race is allowed to begin. In short order, the Mammoth Car derails a train, smashes all the competition except the Mach 5, and proceeds to level an entire forest in its demonic pursuit of Speed and Trixie. In the end, Spridle and Chim-Chim’s shenanigans cause the monster vehicle to crash and burn, revealing the Mammoth Car wasn’t smuggling the stolen gold, but was built out of the stolen gold. (Yeah, wrap your head around that one for a minute.) For a complete rundown of the bug-nuts plot, you could check out the episode guide here, but I recommend David Thiel’s brief and funny synopsis here.
Regardless of the absurdity of it all, the Mammoth Car had a real menace to it, thanks in no small part to the glowering design of its cab and the Godzilla-like howl it made whenever it bore down on the Mach 5. Also, did we mention it was several football fields long?The Mammoth Car clearly left an impression on the Wachowskis, and while they didn’t include a train-length race car in their live-action Speed Racer, they did pay homage to it in a midnight chase scene between Racer X and mob boss Cruncher Block. Cruncher Block (the same villain who owned the Mammoth Car in the cartoon) apparently planned all his dirty deeds from a mobile headquarters in a heavily armed 18-wheeler that recalled the animated original. Though the new version only had one trailer instead of 10, it came with plenty of machine gun slots on the side and even had a mammoth rocket launcher on the front to add to its bad attitude.Here’s probably the cleanest view you’ll get of the Mobile HQ design — from a concept by Tani Kunitake — but really, this bad apple needs to be menacingly lit under a night sky to get the full effect. Still, while a clever tip of the hat, without the insane length it isn’t quite the Mammoth Car.
So — just how big WAS the Mammoth Car? While several characters mention it is “over” 200-yards long, images from the cartoon are all over the place. Forced perspective (and, let’s admit it, many amusingly inconsistent renderings) make the vehicle seem impossibly gigantic at times, but there is enough visual evidence to determine exactly how large “mammoth” is in this case.There is a single cell painting of the car’s profile the animators pan over during the inspection scene that has enough data points to figure out its true size.Based on the assumption that Inspector Detector and all the race officials were 6-feet tall, then the Mammoth car is 17′-18′ high, and 18′ wide. The cab is 45′ long. While the other cars in the train appear to be slightly less long, there is also the articulating connectors between each trailer to consider, so let’s say 45′ each.
If this seems excessively geeky, I originally figured out these measurements for a friend looking to build a 1/64 scale model of the vehicles and … yeah, okay, that is pretty geeky…
As there are 10 sections, that means the Mammoth Car (as shown here circling in for the kill on the Mach 5) could only be 450 feet (or 150 yards) long at most.Which is still pretty damn big, when you think about it.
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P.S — BONUS MATERIAL! (If only to ensure that this is — appropriately — the longest entry.) While looking for a good sampling the MC’s roar, I came across this youtube nugget. It certainly goes a long way to explaining the continuing popularity of the Mammoth Car: