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Retro Motors Feature – Cartoon Vehicles

Firstly, I apologise for the wait for this installment of Retro Motors. As it happens I have been shoveling money like coal into a furnace into my 944, which has meant that my life has turned into the cycle of work, sleep, repeat, whilst stealing

Firstly, I apologise for the wait for this installment of Retro Motors. As it happens I have been shoveling money like coal into a furnace into my 944, which has meant that my life has turned into the cycle of work, sleep, repeat, whilst stealing food like some kind of countryside based Aladdin. Eating badly and spending a lot of time indoors doing sweet FA, reminds me of the carefree time of my youth when I used to watch hours of cartoons on terrestrial and cable TV.

This months Retro Motors looks back at some of the best cartoon vehicles. Again the 80’s and early 90’s were the host to an abundance of all action vehicular combat based cartoons; ranging from the absolutely absurd, to some of the finest animated work to date. Taking a look over what people consider “The best cartoons” today, it’s clear to see that we have moved away from the more classic storytelling and instead opted for balls out, physiologically unsettling and surreal. Back then it was good vs evil, David vs Goliath, man vs machine- or a mix of all three. Not only did the majority of these cartoons tell of a great adventure or explore some primal instincts but they also looked damn cool.

A group I wholeheartedly feel should exist in real life is M.A.S.K (Mobile Armoured Strike Command). If money were no object I’d mobilise a team akin to M.A.S.K and chase ivory poachers with a flying Camaro that shoots rockets. People like Elon Musk think they’re doing the world a favour by producing silent cars and an underground tunnel, but I feel if I was wealthy enough, people would much rather watch a live feed of me in a flying Camaro bombing Japanese whaling boats.


No list of the coolest cartoon vehicles could end without mentioning Transformers, although my favourite robot was not only a bad guy but was never a vehicle in the first place. Sound wave, for me, always stood out for the fact he decided to talk through a vocoder and his arsenal consisted of a massive cannon and weaponised cassette tapes.

Yet no other cartoon character made such an impact on me than Optimus Prime. I seem to remember entering a Video Nest here in the UK and choosing a film for Friday night with my dad. From Thundercats to HE MAN, Jason and the Wheeled Warriors to Teenage Mutant Ninja turtles. What could go wrong with a full feature length film about these mighty metal heros? Optimus Prime could go wrong, that’s what.

Optimus Prime

There are some people who still believe that certain human beings, deceased yet period correct, still wander the earth as ghosts. It is believed that certain spectral entities come back with such tasks as moving trinkets, walking without purpose or simply switching on and off the lights. They may be one of the most underwhelming myths of the natural world but the Ghostbusters on the other hand are real and the film is a masterpiece. The Real Ghostbusters was the name of the animated series and what a series it was- exploring further into the characters whilst retaining all the fun and bizarre ghost stories of New York City.

Ecto 1 is a Cadillac- in case you didn’t know. Miller-Meteor, the famous coach builder, designed and manufactured modified versions for businesses who required a classy looking vehicle as big a boat. It had been used as an ambulance-come-hearse in some states of America and became infamous when it starred in the Ghostbusters film. The unforgettable wail of the siren and the bright colour scheme are as iconic as that silver car from Back To The Future.

Ecto 1

The best Batmobile has been and gone when Michael Keaton drove it back in 1989. Long, black, sleek and sexy, complete with mounted guns, turbine and armour plating. Since then the Batmobile has gone from looking like it runs the city, to something that looks like Super-Goth is trying to compensate.

A little later in 1992 Batman the animated series was launched. A beautifully animated, well scripted; timeless, moving comic, also featuring its very own Batmobile. In keeping with the gothic art deco style of the series, the Batmobile of this era is a brutal looking, four wheeled slab of a car. Housing what appears to be a monstrous V12 and with all the essential gadgets like teargas, bullet proof armour and missiles. The dark deco style was inspired by Tim Burton’s work and in my opinion deserves a live action version someday, if only to see the car for real.

The Batmobile

Not exactly a cartoon, more like an animated schizophrenic episode- Akira is an extraordinary masterpiece of technical ability, eccentric storytelling and cult imagery. Any New Retro Wave fan will tell you, the Neo-Tokyo setting is an unnerving mix of real world imagery and sci-fi elements that blend in such a brutal way, it’s going to leave a mark.

My lasting memory of the film however was not the face melting fight sequences but the bike. Kaneda is a young teen with a bad attitude. He’s also the leader of a biker gang who take no shit when it comes to the open road. His chosen chariot is renowned even before you get to see it. Rumour has it this thing was a 200mph, electronically driven sports bike. Whatever it is, it’s one of the coolest animated vehicles to date. Some die hard fans of the franchise have spent thousands creating exact replicas. It has even inspired Honda to create something that closely resembles Shotaro Kaneda’s iron horse.

Kaneda’s bike

These vehicles were at first animated, then became toys and now in some cases would become a reality. I may not be able to have my very own Batmobile but I’ve always thought cars and bikes bring adventure and can become a very real emotional attachment. I hope that even with the decline of fossil fuel burning vehicles, we could see a revival of memorable characters and and equally as memorable vehicular concepts.





Review overview


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