The cars of Speed Racer: Type T

OK, let’s get this out of the way up front: for me, the two-minute scene with the crazy-ass vikings of Team Thor-Axine is the highlight of Speed Racer, and perfectly encapsulates the over-the-top absurdity and creativity of the movie as a whole. It’s a pity they get knocked out of the Casa Cristo race when they do — I really wanted to see more of them. Hell, I could have watched a whole movie built around these ridiculous characters and their bad-ass cars.Yes, it is entirely possible that more than a few minutes of their antics would have been overkill — witness how the scene-chomping Snake Oiler wears out his welcome long before he disappears over a cliff — but it is also true that many of the draggier parts of the film could have benefited from the sheer manic verve we get from this trio of hedonistic barbarians in their only appearance.What isn’t open to debate is the uniqueness of the vehicle. Of all the designs to come out of the movie, the Thor-Axine car is the most original. Even more amazing, its look was created and approved in a couple of hours. In an interview, CGI artist Michael Meyers said, “a few [cars] I totally made up on the spot with no drawings whatsoever. The most notable of these is … the ‘Viking Car’ in Casa Cristo race. I was inspired by a picture I found of ‘Thor’s Hammer’ while Googling anything I could find about Vikings that might give me something to work with. I literally designed that entire car in about 2 hours on my last day in Berlin.”The cars of Thor-Axine (yes, pronounced like the drug Thorazine, another questionable choice of pun by the writers of what was ostensibly a kid’s movie) also had the most preposterous and amusing of the illegal weapons on display, including a massive hammer, gigantic flailing balls (helllo, metaphor) and a bee hive catapult.A bee hive catapult!While lacking both the exact shape and rough-hewn filigree of the original, the Hot Wheels version was nonetheless a fun addition to the collection (it’s hard not to think of Mattel’s lawyers looking at the design with all its sharp points and shuddering). To gain a further appreciation for the battle axe/long boat look of the car, check out this 360˚ rotatable rendering on VRMag — the Virtual Reality Magazine — in an online article from 2008.Alas, the crazy-ass vikings of Team Thor-Axine are soon dispatched by Speed and Racer X, never to be seen again.

Type M Race Car Numbers: 63, 65, 67

The cars of Speed Racer: Type S

Our next vehicle gets the award for the most promoted car from the movie with the least amount of screen time. Snake Oiler’s T-180 is a stunning piece of machinery that looks like a cross between a rattlesnake and a jet. The car is front and center in the movie trailers, and multiple versions made it onto toy shelves.In fact, Mattel made a big deal out of how accurate their Hot Wheels designs reflected the movie cars — using the Hydra Cell T-180 as their example — and, indeed, the paint job on this die cast is gorgeous. Apparently a lot of time was spent transferring the CGI files to the toy maker’s specs so the tampo was just so.Unfortunately, as anyone who’s seen Speed Racer knows, Snake Oiler and his stunning T-180 are taken out of the race a few seconds after they are introduced in the opening scene at Thunderdome Thunderhead, never to be seen again.Although, you gotta love Snake’s slack-jawed expression when it happens…None of which takes away from the unique design of the vehicle (shown here with the original from the cartoon and the Hydra-cell street car, the Type O). The Type S is one of the T-180s that can be driven in the Speed Racer video game — where it is named “The Hydrophiidae” — and you can still find plenty of copies of the Hot Wheels version on eBay.

The cars of Speed Racer: Type R

Behold the rarest of the rare, the sasquatch of Speed Racer cars, the Type R, a vehicle which flashes by so quickly it may as well not even exist at all. In fact, you are looking at the only two known shots of this mystery car, as it can only be seen in freeze frame right at the start of the Casa Cristo. And even these blurry, grainy images are a guess. Is it another variation of the Type Q, but with sweeping ’50s era tailfins? Or is it supposed to be a variation of the Mach 5, with its 3-pronged nose? Or maybe its a mashup of all of them, along with a stubby Type L engine intake directly behind the driver. Who knows. Considering you can only see the design if you hit pause at the exact right moment, you have to wonder why they even bothered.

The cars of Speed Racer: Type Q

It is disappointing that Speed Racer didn’t do better at the box office for many reasons, the least of which is that its lack of success meant no additional waves of Hot Wheels would be forthcoming. Which means that one of the most interesting and original vehicle designs from the film will never make it to toy shelves.The Type Q — a beefy, aggressive single-seat racer reminiscent of the Le Mans prototype — can be seen in both stages of the Casa Cristo, and came in two different versions: one with an exposed air intake and one with the engine cowling in place (the better to hide illegal weapons, it turns out).The Type Q is notable in that it is probably the only on-screen fatality in a script that went out of its way to show that driving at insanely high speeds is really just a safe family outing. The hapless driver in question is one hit by Snake Oiler’s snake-a-pult, and is last seen careening over a cliff without his ‘safety egg’ deploying. While the execs at Warner apparently wanted a movie that wouldn’t give the kiddies nightmares, the directors managed to sneak in a clear homage to the flying wreckage and fireball o’ death the original cartoon was unafraid to show.Of course, you could argue the driver had it coming. In this screen shot from the Muqranna, you can see the white & green Type Q has a skull for a bumper. A skull. Even in the candy-coated world of Speed Racer, karma is a bitch.