The cars of Speed Racer: The Mammoth Car

October 18th, 2011
by JP Trostle

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:

watch?v=RlQoorEmg5o

 


Posted in The cars of Speed Racer | Comments (9)

  • skywatcher says:

    Great glimpse into the craziness of Mammoth Car! I want to see the model your friend puts together! You’d need a 6 foot long table just for that model. And then it couldn’t move.

    • JP Trostle says:

      Alas, the project has been in limbo for quite sometime. But to be fair, I still haven’t figured out how you could put something that big in a game, unless you ran it on the ground outside. If you built it to the spec above in that scale, it would actually be 84″ (over 7 feet long!)

      In the meantime, Hot Wheels DID come out with one of their “Racing Rigs” that looks suspiciously like the Mammoth Car. I’ll let you be the judge: http://imagehost.vendio.com/preview/a/35075466/aview/400485634_tp.jpg

  • David Thiel says:

    Thanks for the link to my old Mammoth Car recap! I’ve read back through your entire series of “Cars of Speed Racer” posts, and am amazed at your ability to identify the various makes and models in all that chaos! I continue to believe that the film was criminally underrated, and it’s nice to see someone taking such a thorough approach to the amazing design work.

  • JP Trostle says:

    Hey thanks (I’m reading thru your reviews now for Max Headroom; they’re amusing and sharp as well.)

    This whole series originally came out of trying to determine which cars from the movie Hot Wheels had produced — and which were still missing. The race scenes flew by so fast (too fast, really) that the only way was to make screen grabs from the DVD. By the time I was done, I’d amassed quite a folder of snapshots.

    By that point I had began finding online interviews with the designers and artists, and realized just how much work had gone into the cars (and how disappointing it was they didn’t get more — or perhaps better — screen time).

  • Oldclaws says:

    I grew up watching things from the 50’s & 60’s one thing I got use to was inconsistency . I notice it everywhere cartoons the most series like Star Trek movies 3rd. Thanks for the info on MC. I noticed at once what they did to it in the movie, coming from a trucker the cartoon stood out under normal road laws lol. Than how they changed Racer X suit. Thanks again for this article.

  • Tex Arcana says:

    The video link is missing.

    Also, didn’t the MC have massive engines in each section; and each segment was capable of being driven independently?

    It honestly makes me think of the Australian road trains, which are mammoth in their own right.

    Great entry, thanks!

  • JP Trostle says:

    Link fixed — thanks.

    Yes, the driver brags that each section of the car had its own engine, and there is one scene of all the segments driving by themselves.

  • Odyssey Slipways says:

    looking at the picture with the Mach 5 just tot he left of the MC with Speed and Trixie standing up looking at the MC, look at the figure’s head in the MC, it’s clearly 2x’s (more like 3x’s) the size of Speed so i would say the MC is out of proportion to the M5 2-3x’s. it would be nice if they dd make things more to scale to one another, but them that would take away from some of the MC’s overpowering appearance.

  • John klenck says:

    I was just a little kid when speed racer came out on afternoon TV. 45 yrs later I still love this cartoon nothing
    geeky about it. The mach 5 sort of resembles a corvette to me. I always thought you could take
    an 80s vet and turn it into a mach 5 easily. A Japanese idea
    of an American sports car nothing but the vet even comes close!

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