‘Cars’ is an incredible animated fantasy film with traces of the real life injected into every little detail of the story. Do you know, what Luigi license plate means, or who was in real life Strip “The King” Weathers?
Some relationships to the reality are pretty straightforward and visible in resemblance of the movie characters with real cars, the famous Route 66, etc. Other relationships are hidden within similarity of the film characters and their voice actors or replication of the real life events.
This film was prized as “one of Pixar’s most imaginative and thoroughly appealing movies ever” and as “a work of American art as classic as it is modern.”
Related merchandise sales are estimated at $5 billion, which is a record for an animated movie. This film also was nominated for two Academy Awards, including Best Animated Feature, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film.
This post is an attempt to highlight some of the real life relationships, which make ‘Cars’ film so remarkable.
Lightning McQueen is the main character of the Cars cartoon and is voiced by actor Owen Wilson.
Lightning McQueen is named after Glenn John McQueen, who was a Pixar animator and died of melanoma in October 2002. Pixar Animation Studios has also plans to open a new studio in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It will be named the Glenn McQueen Pixar Animation Center.
It is also possible that the car shares certain traits with actor and race car driver Steve McQueen.
McQueen’s overall profile was inspired by NASCAR stock racing cars and Le Mans endurance racer, e.g., Lola and Ford GT40.
McQueen’s number, 95, is a reference to the year when Pixar released Toy Story movie.
Strip “The King” Weathers
Strip “The King” Weathers is a Dinoco Blue veteran racecar voiced by NASCAR veteran Richard Petty, who has “The King” nick name as well. He is Dinoco’s “Golden Boy”, having won seven Piston Cups. Richard Petty won the same number of NASCAR Cup Series championships. Dale Earnhardt is the only driver to repeat this record.
Richard Petty has won a record 200 races during his career, winning the Daytona 500 a record seven times, and winning a record 27 races (ten of them consecutively) in the 1967 season alone.
Petty is widely considered one of the greatest NASCAR drivers of all time and is one of the most respected figures in motorsports as a whole.
Strip “The King” Weathers is based on Petty’s 1970 Plymouth Superbird – his number, 43, was also Petty’s racecar number, and the “Dinoco Blue” color is taken from Petty’s Superbird on display at the Richard Petty Museum.
On the final lap of the race, Hicks rams Weathers, sending him into a dangerous rollover crash. This crash reminds Richard Petty’s Daytona 500 spectacular crash in 1988, when his car become airborne and made several flips in the air. Incredible, but Petty walked away with no serious injuries, except for temporary sight loss due to excessive g-forces, after such a dangerous crash.
“Mrs. The King”, the The King’s wife is voiced by Richard Petty’s real-life wife, Lynda Petty. She is modeled after the car (1974 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon) in which the Petty family used to go to Richard’s races during the 1970s.
Tow Mater voiced by Larry the Cable Guy (Daniel Lawrence Whitney) and inspired by a 1951 International Harvester tow truck but bears more of a resemblance to a 1955–56 Chevrolet or GMC.
Doc Hudson is also known as Dr. Hudson or simply Doc. His license plate reads ‘51HHMD‘ as a reference to his year and track number (51), model (Hudson Hornet) and profession (medical doctor)). Doc was once known as the Fabulous Hudson Hornet (#51), one of the most famous race cars to have ever lived; he won three Piston Cups, and still holds the record for most wins in a single season (27, a reference to real-life Hornets winning 27 NASCAR races in 1952)
Doc Hudson is voiced by Paul Newman and Cars was his last non-documentary film. Paul Newman was one of the film screen legends during his prime, but his acting career faded, as he got older, similar to how Doc Hudson’s racing career faded away. Paul Newman was a racing enthusiast and former driver, drew upon his experiences for the grumpy old race car’s personality.
Paul Newman died from lung cancer in September 2008. Pixar decided having Doc Hudson appear in Cars 2 would be inappropriate, and based on a conversation between Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater, Doc passed away prior to the second film.
The car is based on the real-life Fabulous Hudson Hornet in NASCAR competition driven by Herb Thomas and Marshall Teague. Combined with the car’s light weight and low center of gravity, the Hornet allowed Marshall Teague and the other Hudson drivers to dominate various stock car racing series from 1951 through 1954, consistently beating other drivers in cars powered by larger, more modern engines. Marshall Teague and his crew won 27 of 34 events in major stock car events.
Doc’s stickers say ‘Twin H Power‘, which was an optional dealer-installed dual carburetor intake manifold, with twin 1-barrel carburetors and air filters. It was standard on 1952 model Hornets.
Sheriff is voiced by journalist and popular historian of the Western United States Michael Wallis. He has written seventeen books, including Route 66: The Mother Road. His work has also been published extensively in magazines and newspapers, including Time, Life, People, Smithsonian, The New Yorker, and The New York Times.
Sheriff is a 1949 Mercury Club Coupe police car, bearing Carburetor County license plate 001. Sheriff is painted in the classic law enforcement black and white, with a single red light dome, two sirens, and curb feelers.
Wallis’ most recognizable feature is his mustache, and the front grille of his character was designed to resemble his mustache.
Upon catching McQueen Sheriff borrows a line used by actor Joe Higgins, who played a sheriff in early 1970s Dodge commercials: ‘Boy, you’re in a heap of trouble.’
Chick Hicks (voiced by Michael Keaton) is a generic stock 1980s American car, according to Pixar, but strongly resembles a GM G-body, with features from both the Chevrolet Monte Carlo and the Buick Grand National.
Chick’s racing number 86, is a reference to the year 1986, when Pixar Studios were founded.
Rusty and Dusty Rust-eze Owners
The Rust-eze Brothers, Rusty and Dusty, are the spokescars and owners of Rust-Eze. Rusty and Dusty are voiced by real-life brothers Tom Magliozzi and Ray Magliozzi (respectively). They are Peabody Award-winning hosts of National Public Radio’s Car Talk.
Rusty is a 1963 Dodge Dart and Dusty, a 1964 Dodge A100. The 1963 Dodge Dart bears an intentional resemblance to Tom Magliozzi’s green convertible 1963 Dodge Dart, named “The Dartre”, which he mentions often on Car Talk.
Luigi, who was voiced by Tony Shalhoub, is a 1959 Fiat 500 and needless to say, they are both from Italy. Luigi is a Scuderia Ferrari fan, and has followed racing his entire life. His license plate reads ’445-108′, which is the latitude and longitude for the main Ferrari factory in Maranello, Italy.
Luigi owns a tire shop, named Casa Della Tires, which is known for its ‘Leaning Tower of Tires,’ a tower of several tires shaped like the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Few Other Famous Characters
California governor (Hummer) voiced by Arnold Schwarzenegger
Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F430) voiced by Michael Schumacher
Jay Limo (Lincoln Towncar) voiced by Jay Leno
See Wikipedia page for complete list of characters