At RideLust, we’re all big fans of cartoons. So we decided to have some fun and put together this list of the most incredible cartoon cars of all time. The reason we use the term “incredible” here is that some of the items on this list wouldn’t be classified as “great” or “amazing” - some of them are incredible for other reasons (i.e. they are obnoxious, or major FAILs compared to the show they were featured in).
With that brief introduction, let’s raise a toast to the great memories of cartoon past…
Cartoon: Super Friends
Although Batman’s Batmobile went through more design changes then Michael Jackson (yeah, I went there) the most impressive of all the (animated) Batmobiles was the winged, wheeled avenger seen in the Super Friends cartoon. Like all the Batmobile models before it, the Super Friends Batmobile came heavily equipped with several on-board computers and a military-grade weapons artillery rivaled in coolness only by the machine-gun equipped Jeep in the The Rat Patrol.
Cartoon: The Tick
Unlike many of his superhero, comic book brethren, The Tick takes a much more environmentally, realistic approach to crime-fighting by carpooling whenever evil is afoot. Watch the video above to see The Tick use a rare moment of quiet in The Tick Mobile to explain in his own words why the superhero car is just as important as the superhero himself. Honk if you love justice!
Cartoon: Scooby Doo
As a kid I loved Scooby-Doo, but I was always mildly annoyed by the fact that Fred never seemed good for much other than making sure his ascot was always perfectly tied. My irritation with Fred as an efficient sleuth was also eased, however, when I realized that Fred was actually an integral part of Scooby’s gang. Since I suspect Shaggy was always high, without Freddy, the iconic Mystery Machine would never leave the garage, and thus it would never have become a vehicle famous for transporting the likes of everyone from the Harlem Globe Trotters to Sonny and Cher (yeah, I watched a lot of Scooby Doo).
Cartoon: Speed Racer
Although the company that oversaw the production of Speed Racer made a valiant effort to include a viable storyline in every episode, the plot was almost always the same. Inevitably, some evil force would attempt to squelch Speed Racer’s dream of, well, racing, and in order to thwart the ne’er do wells, Speed Racer would be forced to engage in an action-packed, high-intensity car race. Fortunately, the under 12 audience didn’t really care if episode 12 was not immediately distinguishable from episodes 13-86, we just wanted to see Speed Racer take the Mach-go through the jaws of animated hell again and again and again.
Comic: Wonder Woman
Despite her superior ability to fight crime and still be home in time to cook dinner for Superman, Wonder Woman was still plagued by the human inability that prevents women from driving with any sort of skill. Thus, seeking to avoid the nightmarish traffic female drivers in a hurry are wont to cause, Wonder Woman’s creators at DC Comics equipped her with the Invisible Jetplane. Acknowledging that a jetplane (even an invisible one) would be difficult to park when Wonder Woman ran to pick up the Super Friends’ dry cleaning, the Invisible Plane was also given the impressive ability to morph into whichever type of transportation Wonder Woman desired, be it a motorcycle, a submarine, or a minivan. Over the years Wonder Woman’s powers evolved to eventually include the ability to fly and the Invisible Plane began to appear less and less in the storyline.
Cartoon: Inspector Gadget
For an incredibly accident prone police detective that was probably the subject of many an internal investigation, Inspector Gadget still somehow managed to score the coolest cruiser on the force: the Gadgetmobile. The Gadgetmobile was essentially your run of the mill, totally awesome crime-fighting vehicle and as such, included the quintessential bad-guy-banishing features like a smoke screen, ejector seat, glue rockets (which were exactly what they sound like), and the Gadget Claw. All of the Gadgetmobile’s accessories (as well as the Gadgetmobile itself) could be immediately readied for use with a simple cry from the Inspector of “Go-Go Gadget [insert accessory here].” Despite Inspector Gadget’s status as the Steve Urkel of Special Ops, Inspector Gadget was still a huge favorite among elementary aged children, even if for no other reason than the extremely hilarious schoolyard chant in inspired: “Do-do-do-do-do, inspect my gad-get, do-do-do-do-do-do-doooo.”
Cartoon: The Thundercats
Ironically enough, Lion-O’s “Thundercat-mobile” made this list not because it was incredibly impressive, but rather because it wasn’t. For those of you who are old enough to remember, like every other action-packed cartoon airing at the time, Thundercats spawned its own line of action figures. Unfortunately, for whatever reason the marketing department in charge of the official Thundercats vehicle was asleep at their post, because Lion-O’s super-powered racer had about as much commercial appeal as the county school bus. Even though the Thundercats’ massive metal tank looked like it was prepared to wage serious war, it never really did much more than drive the Thundercats from point A to point B (though I do recall it made an occasional u-turn, and it did prove to have an impressively tight turning ratio). In spite of the fact that it was thoroughly unexciting, however, I still remember roughly 50% of the Talbot Park Day School kindergarten class carried a Thundercats tank-shaped thermos…go figure.
Cartoon: G.I. Joe
As far as badass quotient is concerned, the only fictional character that can even stand in G.I. Joe’s shadow is Captain America, but even the Cap’ wore a unitard. In addition to the fact that G.I. Joe was a superhero without the benefit of super powers, he also appeared to purchase his clothing from the J.C. Penny casual men’s section rather than from where all the other superhero’s apparently shop at, “Big Gay Al’s Costume Emporium.” G.I. Joe is/was a realistic hero and the fact that he was limited by the same laws of physics as his fans were made him wildly popular. In keeping with the humanistic theme, G.I. Joe’s official Jeep also spawned a legion of followers for the simple fact that all the stunts it performed on screen, it was more than capable of performing in reality as well (I mean for crying out loud, it’s a Jeep, even Chuck Norris bows his head in reverence).
Oh right, as if this one needs any explaining. To summarize, this is how awesome the Transformers were: your sister has an old picture of you wearing nothing but Optimus Prime-themed tighty whities and a t-shirt that reads “More than meets the eye,” and you don’t even care when she shows it to your girlfriends.
Cartoon: Wacky Races
Inspired by the 1965 film The Great Race, the Wacky Races cartoon was essentially an animated, G-rated version of The Gumball Rally. It was a short-lived series with only 17 episodes produced with each episode featuring two separate races and the campy hi-jinks of the 23 different racers. There were 11 race cars total, and each racing team was competing against each other in pursuit of the ultimate prize, the title of “World’s Wackiest Racer.” Shying away from the typical cartoon formula, what made Wacky Races so notable was the fact that the “evil” racers were often the stars of the show, and even inspired their own spin-offs later on.
The plot of the cartoon Jem essentially revolved around a popstar singer, Jem, and her band, the Holograms. It was kind of like a less-slutty precursor to the Bratz musicals Nickelodeon occasionally airs today, only with significantly less blatant marketing. The typical Jem episode usually involved Jem and the Holograms competing in some manner of musical contest against their arch-rivals, the Misfits (no relation to Glen Danzig’s little freak show), and the band-on-band sabotage that inevitably ensued. Although the Misfits were supposed to be loathed by the Jem fan base, it was incredibly difficult to feign hatred for them. Not only the Misfits rock way harder then Jem and the Holograms, but they were also prone to making their grand entrance on guitar-shaped motorcycles. Hardcore chicks on hardcore bikes, what’s not to love?
Cartoon: Mr. Magoo
An oldie but goodie, most of us probably missed Mr. Magoo the first time it came around in 1949. In fact, most of us probably missed it altogether unless we had incredibly nostalgic parents who turned us on to silver screen gold mines likes Gilligan’s Island and CHiPS. Although Mr.Magoo wasn’t a cartoon that could hold our undivided attention for quite as long as the current weekend morning lineup, we did kind of get a kick out of him. In addition to the campy mischief the bumbling Magoo was prone to inspire, it was also a rare treat for us kids to have the opportunity to watch a grown-up get into more trouble tying his shoes then we did during an entire period of recess.
M.A.S.K. Mobile Armed Strike Kommand
M.A.S.K. was another one of those cartoons that sprung immediately sprung up in the ’80’s after the Federal Trade Commission deregulated children’s television in 1984 - so you know it was good. Specifically targeting American children who couldn’t wait to beg their parents for more toys, the Japanese creators of M.A.S.K did very little to disguise their obvious intent to duplicate the astronomical commercial success of the Transformers action figures. Even as a members of the non-discriminatory 12-and-under crowd, however, most kids were quick to pick up on the knock-off nature of M.A.S.K.. Despite a keen intuition that told us M.A.S.K. was really no different then our beloved Transformers, we remained enraptured just the same. I mean really, blatant market manipulation aside - can anyone among us offer a valid argument solidly refuting the badass factor of the red Chevy Camaro G3 Thunderhawk? Yes, I thought not…
Cartoon: Speed Buggy
The Speed Buggy cartoon was basically the best of two entertainment worlds: Scooby-Doo and Herbie The Love Bug. Centered around the crime-solving talking car, Speed Buggy, the cartoon itself was, quite simply, the animated version of every unrealistic quality children were prone to give their toys (::holds toy Speed Buggy upright on rear axles, bounces it up and down:: “Beep-beep! I’m here, Malibu Barbie! Don’t you shed one more tear, you just hop in and we’ll get right to work solving the case of the Haunted Dreamhouse!”
Cartoon: Biker Mice From Mars
For all those of you aged 25 years and up, unless you had a younger sibling you probably missed the Saturday morning delight that was Biker Mice From Mars. It originally aired in 1993 and followed the same anthropomorphic crime-fighting rubric that had been established by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The only remaining survivors of there Mars-based culture of Motorsports enthusiasts, Biker Mice Throttle, Modo, and Vinnie are charged with saving Chicago (and the rest of Earth) from the evil Plutarkians. The entire plot of the show was heavily based around the motorcycle culture, so not only was there an abundance of gratuitous chase and/or stunt scenes, but you also got the benefit of the ubiquitous hot female mechanic, Charlene “Charley” Davidson (get it?).
Cartoon: Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors
Kids like Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors so much primarily because it was just one giant 30-minute long commercial for cool toys, literally. Created by Mattel as a support vehicle (groan) for their toy line “Wheeled Warriors”, the plot for Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors was basically identical to that of M.A.S.K., only there was even less of a story line. Since boys (and at least one girl) aged 2-10 years don’t tend to make for the most discerning audience, the show ended after running from Setp-December 1985 (as planned) and was abandoned by Mattel marketing so abruptly, it didn’t even bother to air a season finale. While Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors definitely didn’t achieve the inonic status that Transformers did, it still provided rides like “Battle Base” (pictured above) that were just as cool as Optimus Prime.
Cartoon: C.O.P.S. (Central Organization of Police Specialists)
Set in the year 2020, the cartoon C.O.P.S. only ran from 1988-89 but despite its brief run it, still managed to provide us with some of the most legendary crime fighting action vehicles of the generation. Pictured above in the lower left, The Ironsides was the official tactical assault vehicle of the C.O.P.S. unit, and was usually driven by rookie officer Hardtop, a guy who a had a crush on a network new anchor and was afraid of heights. Directly opposite The Ironsides is the Bluestreak Motorcycle. Riden by C.O.P.S. member “Highway”, a former patrolman with the San Francisco, CA Highway Patrol, the Bluestreak Motorcycle was a super-performance machine that occasionally possessed the ability to fly (depending on whether you were watching C.O.P.S. in the U.S. or in Britain). It was also perhaps the gayest thing since spandex.
Cartoon: The Ambiguously Gay Duo
TV Funhouse’s Ambiguously Gay Duo is as crime fighting cartoon as interpreted by guys who grew watching the same Saturday morning specials you did, and you also like you did, began to suspect that something was just off with the hero/sidekick relationship. Of course you don’t devote entire mornings to watching cartoons anymore (though only because your girlfriend insists on dragging you to these excruciatingly boring yard sales - but I mean what are you gonna do? She’s great in the sack…), but you do still make time for the Ambiguously Gay Duo. Not only is it vaguely nostalgic, but it also provides some validation for those many sleepless nights you spent as a kid, wrestling with the inner suspicion that despite his awesome crime fighting powers, Batman was still kind of a fruitcake.
Cartoon: Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs
Calvary Command was Earth’s law enforcement arm dispatched to space in to maintain law and order in the final frontier. The Star Sheriffs were a branch of the Calvary Command, charged with battling the Command’s most formidable foe, the Outriders. The Outriders were non-human, and were thus impossible to defeat without the Saber Rider and the Star Sheriff’s secret weapon, the Ramrod Equalizer Unit. Usually referred to by the Star Sheriff’s as simply “Ramrod”, Ramrod was a specially designed craft that could transform from a space ship to a galactic crime-fighting robot in order to battle the Outsiders on equal terms.
Comic: Captain America
In stark contrast to many super heros that have reigned the animated world, Captain America is a superhero that does not have the benefit of any super powers, but he did have a super badass bike. Customized especially for Captain America by S.H.I.E.L.D. (originally stood for Supreme Headquarters, International Espionage, Law-Enforcement Division; currently stands for Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division), the official Captain America Harley Davidson became so wildly popular as a symbol of red-blooded Americans, it very nearly eclipsed the famous G.I. Joe Jeep.