The cars of Speed Racer: Type F

Considering that there are TWO Hot Wheels versions of the Type F, it is surprising how little actual screen time the car got in the movie. #33, driven by Sonic “Boom Boom” Renaldi, can be seen at the start of the Grand Prix screeching to stop in an attempt to pin the Mach 6 and take it out of the race. Here you can see a shot of the car on the right hand side of the screen at the beginning of the race.The Zoomishi gets even less screen time than Boom Boom — you can just see the rear bumper of the car on the right hand side of the screen in this screen capture from the start of the Grand Prix:
It is unfortunate, because this is one of the nicer car designs to come out of the Speed Racer universe. The Zoomishi version (again, no indication if the name referred to a driver, sponsor or owner) was one of the harder-to-find 1/64 die-cast toys, but it was worth hunting down. Sonic “Boom Boom” Renaldi made a bigger appearance in the video game tie-in, where his car got a name (Chalk-Head) and an owner (Godelian Autonomics), in addition to the sponsors seen on the vehicle in the movie — Uniron and Pola Cola.

Type F Race Car Numbers sighted: 33, 82

The cars of Speed Racer: Type E

The Type E was a frequently-seen design in the final race of the movie — frequently seen being destroyed that is. A number of versions flash by during the Grand Prix, including the main car, #13, driven by Prince Kabala, who goes out in spectacular fashion after getting smashed by the GRX.

Kabala is notable in that he was a character from the original animated series. He appeared in the infamous “Fire Race” episode, which showed panthers and people being eaten alive by piranhas, and a race against time through the interior of a volcano that leaves almost 100 drivers entombed by the end of the story.Kabala also kept track of the drivers he had killed with a gallery of photos with skulls stamped on those who “would never race again” — as they euphemistically put it. Pretty heady stuff for a kid’s cartoon, and it made a huge impression on this 8-year-old viewer. It must have made an impression on the Wachowski Brothers as well, for in the movie they included the Kabala character and a scene with piranhas in what was clearly a fan shout out to the original episode.

Kabala’s car from the cartoon was released in 1/55 scale by Jada, and the Hot Wheels version of the  T-180 was one of the more common models from the movie line.For the movie, the character was bumped up to the status of Prince, and given an over-the-top jewel-encrusted car. (These closeups were taken from the web site of Phiyen Nguyen, a graphic artist who worked on the film, creating textures for the computer-generated vehicles. More of Prince Kabala’s vehicle, and other car designs from Speed Racer can be seen at his site here)

Type E Race Car Numbers sighted: 13

The cars of Speed Racer: Type D

The Type D is another T-180 that gets very little screen time, in spite of having a “named” driver and a presence in the video game tie-in. A big, blocky monster of a car, the Type D is underwritten by Ekpyrosis/Mutafed, one of the underhanded ‘evil’ corporations in the movie. The main car is driven by Nitro Venderhoss, who can briefly be seen pinning the Mach 6 against the wall at the start of the Grand Prix, seconds before Speed takes out a whole pack of vehicles. Several other Type D’s can be seen during the Grand Prix.The Type D gets a mention in the DVD bonus feature “Supercharged”, where it is one of ten or so vehicles from the movie showcased in a mockumentary (or machumentary, if you will) about the cars of the World Racing League. It did not, however, get a Hot Wheels. A pity, as anything with a skull probably would have sold pretty well.

Type D Race Car Numbers sighted: 31

The cars of Speed Racer: Type C

The Type C race car is another gorgeous space age design — heck, it even looks like a space ship from behind — that got little screen time. At least 3 versions of this T-180 can be seen, including the main car, #33, the 3 Roses. This is the vehicle that takes out the Mach 6 during the Fuji Helexicon with an illegal Spear Hook, crashing in the process.The Hot Wheels version was the single rarest car in the series, available only through a limited edition set exclusive to Target.Several other versions of this T-180 appear briefly in the final race at The Colosseum, and even the refurbished 3 Roses can be seen taking off at the start of the Grand Prix.

Type C Race Car Numbers sighted: 33, 34

The cars of Speed Racer: Type B

Poor Musha Motors … in spite of having one of the more interesting T-180 designs, with decorative samurai woodcut decals, the Type B car got very little screen time. Below you can see the main Musha Motors vehicle, #77, a split-second before Speed destroys it in the final straightaway of the final race.

Several versions can be seen briefly in the final race, but only if you don’t blink. Even Musha’s villanous driver (the Asian guy with spiky white hair) doesn’t get a name, and is labeled only “Yakuza Driver” in the credits. Nice Hot Wheels though.

Type B Race Car Numbers sighted: 77

The cars of Speed Racer: Type A

The Type A was a prevalent vehicle in the movie, getting a lot of screen time — mostly due to it being the car of the Gray Ghost, one of Speed’s rival drivers. This T-180 (the fictional name given to the Formula 1 style cars in the Speed Racer world)  was also made into a full scale mock-up — with real-world sponsors — that appeared at several auto shows.

In the movie, the Type A is manufactured by Écran Établissement. In addition to #23, the Gray Ghost’s car, there are at least 4 other versions of this make that put in brief appearances. #23 was featured in the DVD special feature “Supercharged,” and was one of the vehicles available to players in the video game tie-in.

The Gray Ghost’s T-180 was one of the more common Hot Wheels in the series, and a second, exceedingly rare version of the vehicle was released painted as #22 — the Rude Noodles/Mrs. Oats car (which can be seen ever-so-briefly disintegrating around the Mach 6 on The Drop in the Grand Prix.)Update: Here’s a much better shot of the rare Type A Hot Wheels, courtesy of Available exclusively through a box set at Target, the packaging identified the car as “Masurai” (though whether that was the driver or the corporate owner, it doesn’t say —  there is no indication Masurai is one of the fictional sponsors of the vehicle either, so take your pick.)

Type A Race Car Numbers sighted: 22, 23, 43, 55

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:

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