Best Cartoon Cars of All Time – Our Top 5 List
Figuring out the best cartoon cars of all time isn’t easy! Many of us grew up in the 70s watching Saturday morning cartoons in our PJs, smackin’ on Fruit Loops, Cap’n Crunch and Count Chocula. Three-channel TV sets (well, 4 if you include PBS) were all we had back then. With so little programming, whatever was on the tube was gospel. Some of us were forced to watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and (gasp) Lawrence Welk with the folks but Saturday morning was all about the ‘toons. Mom and dad were still asleep and we had the living room to ourselves. We saddled up with pillows for a 3-hour marathon. It was awesome baby! We especially enjoyed the cartoon cars.
Here are our picks for the best cartoon cars of all time.
1. The Mystery Machine
Driven by a hippy accompanied by his best friend, who’s a dog that talks, this custom van cruised around solving mysteries with the munchies… It’s simply genius. The Mystery Machine’s makeup blends 60s era Econo vans together in flowered, summer of Love-style livery. First aired in 1969, it’s clear script writers Joe Ruby and Ken Spears gave artist/character designer Iwao Takamoto directions to make the ‘Machine a reflection of psychedelic culture.
Shaggy Rogers (voiced by the late Casey Kasem) and Scooby-Doo (voiced by Don Messick) pimped all over town in the van, but on most episodes of this hit 1970s Saturday morning cartoon, they were accompanied by fellow cast members Fred Jones, Daphne Blake, Velma Dinkley and Scrappy-Doo.
A functional vehicle, the Mystery Machine had the uncanny ability to adapt to any given situation and included conveniently-packed items that might be needed in any given situation; ladder, lanterns, and ropes etc.
Now we have the munchies. ZOIKS!
2. Mach 5 Speed Racer
Some of the best old school television characters came out of Japan. Speed Racer’s Mach 5 stands tall as our second favorite cartoon car of all time. Originally titled Mach GoGoGo, Speed Racer’s Mach 5 was first created and designed by anime pioneer Tatsuo Yoshida (1932–1977) as a manga series.
Speeding around chasing bad guys with his sidekick Chim, Speed had himself a powerful and stylish hot rod. Unlike the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine, the Mach 5 had a V8 with loud pipes, stoking our childhood imaginations. Clearly influenced by the LeMans racers of its era, the Mach 5 most likely derived its name from thoughts of hypersonic speeds. This little jingle made us crack up.
“Here he comes, here comes Speed Racer he’s a demon on wheels…he’s a demon and he’s gonna be chasin’ after someone…he’s gainin’ on you so you better look alive…he’s busy revvin’ up the powerful Mach 5! GO SPEED RACER GOOOOOOHHHH!
3. Fred’s Footmobile
Unlike the top 2 best cartoon cars, Fred Flinstone’s Footmobile was seen in prime time on ABC. The wildly popular Hanna-Barbera cartoon ran on ABC in a prime time slot from September 30, 1960, to April 1, 1966. In subsequent years the time slot moved around but the popularity of the show lasted decades.
Even famed customizer George Barris thought highly of Fred’s Footmobile. Barris made a life-size version of the foot-powered, log-sided, rock-wheeled runner for the silver screen Flintstone’s Movie which hit theaters in 1994 starring John Goodman as Fred, Rick Moranis as Barney and Rosie O’Donnell as Betty Rubble, all helping to bring these cartoon cars to life.
Ok – So maybe it’s not the most practical transportation you could engineer, but hey, just imagine how ripped your legs and core would be after powering this bad boy around town for a couple weeks!
4. The Mean Machine
Who could forget the “Whacky Races” and Mean Machine driven by Dick Dastardly and his sidekick Mutley and their cheating ways? A cool cartoon and even cooler characters made up this late 60s Hannah-Barbera classic! We gotta tell you though… we were always confused why Dick and Mutley, who were in the lead, would actually stop to cheat when they were actually winning the race???
The Wacky Races was a series of car competitions in which 11 racers sped around locations throughout North America. The rules were extremely lax allowing for almost any vehicle design, power system and a wide range of tactics like combat and shortcuts. Despite those loose rules, it still wasn’t good enough for Dick and Mutley.
The series was originally inspired by the 1965 slapstick comedy film The Great Race starring Jack Lemon and Tony Curtis.
5. Lightning McQueen
C’mon – who doesn’t love the ultimate underdog story of a hero turned zero only to make a comeback for the ages? It’s the American story – just like Rocky, Rudy and Major League! And the ride in Disneyland is off the hook!
Of course Lightning McQueen is one of the best cartoon cars of Pixar’s hit movie franchise (now in its 3rd sequel). The storyline is one all of us gearheads can relate to. Trying to win the Piston Cup against The King and Chick Hicks, McQueen accidentally damages the road of the small town Radiator Springs and is sentenced to repair it. McQueen has to work hard and finds friendship and love in the simple locals, changing its values during his stay in the small town and becoming a true winner.
Plus, when we published the best cartoon cars list internally, none of the millennials in the office knew who any of the top 4 on this list were… WTF? So for all you under 25-ers out there… Lightning McQueen’s for you!