Here are the first of the common “street car” designs from the Speed Racer movie, a pair of tricked out and tattooed roadsters that have a big scene in the Casa Cristo cross country rally. Driven by a couple of vixens from Flying Foxes Freight, the team is hired as headhunters to take out Speed Racer.The two Type Ls are armed with an elaborate tire shredder (or, as described in the DVD bonus feature, “a telescoping carbon-fiber Christmas tree chop-bit with a reticulating U-joint”), and covered with Vargas-inspired pin-up girls.With its hot pink chassis, striking decals and candy-apple wheels, the “Delilah” — as the vehicle is frequently identified on toys and games — seemed tailor-made for Hot Wheels. Unfortunately, even though Mattel created intricate tampos for many Speed Racer cars, they dropped the ball on Delilah, declining to produce a car with pin-up girls on it. (What, too sexy for the kids? Did they see the movie?)Although the Flying Foxes are soon knocked out of the Casa Cristo, Delilah reappears as a driver in the videogame, with a Type G T-180 players can race.
The next two vehicle models show up all-too-briefly, but as they appear together, I’m posting them here as one entry. Type J & K designs are prominent in the Fuji race, where both blow up in spectacular fashion on the skyscraper-sized loop.The low-slung Type J almost looks like a modern Formula 1 racer, albiet without the large wing in the rear. Instead, it has a second pair of shark fins that mirror the pair in the front of the vehicle.Here you can see Type J passing above Taejo Togokahn’s T-180, and below is a screenshot of one from the final Grand Prix, with a better view of the rear fins.The Type K car is the opposite of the low-profile J, with a triple jet engine and beefy wing in the back. While it didn’t have a name or number, the main K car was distinctive in that its driver didn’t wear a helmet, but instead took to the track wearing a cowboy hat. Yippee-kay-aye, mother—Neither the J nor K T-180s were made into toys. A pity considering the K car is a really smart-looking vehicle that got more screen time than some makes that did appear in the line of Speed Racer Hot Wheels.
Taejo Togokahn’s sporty street car puts in a big appearance in the Casa Cristo, the grueling cross-country race that is the centerpiece of the movie. As part of the convoluted plot to expose the fixed outcomes of the World Racing League (WRL), Taejo agrees to turn over damaging evidence to the authorities if Racer X and Speed join his team and help him win the Casa Cristo. Dubbed the “Hangul” — the name of the Korean alphabet — in both video game and press releases, the car’s name is never mentioned in the movie, though Togokahn Motors can be seen printed in both English and Hangul on both this vehicle and the T-180. As Taejo was played by Korean pop star Rain, this was clearly part of the effort to promote the film internationally.Taejo’s Street Car was a common toy tie-in and produced in a number of sizes: the 1/64 scale Hot Wheels can be seen here, and above is the much larger “battle morph” version. (Photo courtesy of the Speed Racer Wiki.) By the way, while the name is correct on the car itself, Mattel ended up misspelling “Togokahn” on most of its toy packaging, switching the a and h. Details, people, details!
While several full-scale prop vehicles were built for filming Speed Racer (notably the Mach 5), the Type H has the distinction of being the only actual functioning race car to come out of the movie. A fully operational prototype of the T-180 was created for real-world sponsor Petrobras, the biggest company in Brazil, and the 8th largest oil company in the world. Here are a series of shots from Brazilian website Omelete, along with a video detailing the step by step creation of the vehicle:
While the Petrobras car was created solely for promotional purposes (targeting the race-happy Brazilians and their passion for all things Formula 1 … or so the film producers hoped), it was barely seen in the final cut of Speed Racer. What did put in an appearance was the version driven by main character Taejo Togokahn (the images here, once again, from the web site of Phiyen Nguyen).This T-180 shows up once, in the Fuji Helexicon race, destroying a number of cars in spectacular fashion — before spectacularly crashing itself, exploding in mid-air. Several other Type H makes can be seen during the final Grand Prix at The Colosseum, and the Togokahn Motors car is also one of the cars showcased in the DVD extra “Supercharged.”Unfortunately for die-cast collectors, no Hot Wheels version of the vehicle was ever created — especially curious, considering plastic toys of the T-180 were made for McDonald’s Happy Meals, General Mills breakfast cereal promos, and, oddest of all, a tiny set of ear tanglers. (That’s right, you can get an earring of Taejo’s race car, but not a Hot Wheels. Go figure.)
Because there aren’t enough Inception trailer mashups out there (there really aren’t — a year later and this is a meme that keeps on giving). Plus, Speed Racer works so much better as a fever dream, dontcha think?
What’s fascinating is how well the two different trailers matched up. I had to do very little actual editing to make the mashup click. If nothing else, it shows that the people who make trailers for movies really have their craft down to a solid formula these days.
In the world of Speed Racer, there are few cars more famous than the GRX. In the big screen adaption, the GRX is the latest, greatest design from villainous corporation Royalton Industries. Driven by Jack “Cannonball” Taylor, the GRX is supposed to win the Grand Prix in a fixed race, until Speed upsets the status quo, wrecking the Royalton T-180 and exposing the duplicity.
In the original series, GRX actually referred to an engine model in “The Fastest Car on Earth.” In the two-part episode (which you can watchhere), the motor proved too powerful and fast for any driver to handle. Having killed several racers, the engine was buried in a graveyard, only to be dug up by an evil racing syndicate who had the good taste to put it into a bitchin’ bullet-shaped concept car. The lure of a shot at driving the Fastest Car on the Planet proves too much for any driver, and everyone — including Speed — chases after the vehicle. Unfortunately, the downside to the GRX is a driver can’t handle the extreme speeds without first being exposed to an aerosol amphetamine. Of course, our hero attempts to drive the hyped-up GRX without snorting the speed (just say no to drugs, kids!), and finds his life in danger as the hypervelocity of the motor cause him to hallucinate and go bat-shit crazy. Fortunately, Speed’s family eventually comes through, saving Speed from himself and the GRX, and an important lesson is learned by all (except, umm, for the drivers that died.)The sleek Japanese design of the GRX (as in Britain, the steering wheel is on the right-hand side of the car in Japan) proved popular with model makers, and many die-cast and plastic versions have been made, both of the anime and live-action vehicle. Here you can see the original and the update side-by-side in 1/64 scale.The concept for the movie GRX was created by comic book artist Geof Darrow, and further developed by CGI Modeling Supervisor Michael Meyers. In an online interview, Meyers said, “The GRX illustration was really nuts. Geof is amazing, but if you have ever seen any of his drawings, his stuff is really challenging to bring to life to say the least. Sort of like trying to build an M.C. Escher piece.”As the GRX is Speed’s last big rival, it gets plenty of screen time in the epic showdown before it crashes and burns. One thing which isn’t apparent in the final cut (though it can be seen below in this CGI conceptual still from Meyers) is one of the many little inside jokes the script writers and designers worked into the film: in this case, the Royalton logo is trademarked with another Royalton logo for its registered ®. (One wonders if the designers continued to add ever-smaller ®’s ad infinitum to the renderings, even knowing they would never be seen.)
Poor Gearbox. Not only does Kellie “Gearbox” Kalinkov have the gaudiest car in the Speed Racer universe (and that’s saying a lot), she is literally knocked out of the park by Speed in the big finale. (#91 is the T-180 that is sent flying off the track and into the giant TV screen during the Grand Prix.)To add insult to injury, Kellie Kalinkov is the one character played by an actual professional race car driver — Indy 500 veteran Milka Duno — who missed at least one race to appear in the movie in what amounted to about 20 seconds of screen time.In addition, her car was the single ugliest Hot Wheels from the series. Compare the colorful design above with the unfortunate die-cast release below:Several Type Gs show up briefly in the film (here you can see #73 on the left after it unsuccessfully attempts to ram the Mach 6 at the start of the Grand Prix), but the model makes a much bigger appearance in the Videogame, where players can also unlock a T-180 version of Flying Foxes Freight’s Delilah (a driver that has a bigger role in the Casa Cristo rally; see, Type L.)
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.
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)