Cars in Cartoons: The Most Memorable Animated Rides

From the rustic alleys of classic cartoons to the high-tech realism of contemporary animation, the most famous cartoon cars are forever etched on our memories, enigmatic emblems of a simpler time. But what are the most iconic cartoon cars? Let’s take a nostalgic trip down Animation Alley and find out!

Automotive History
13 September 2023

The most famous cars from cartoons are more than mere means of transport. They’re animated marvels that truly captivated the hearts of youngsters across the globe!

While most kids didn’t know the difference between a Porsche 911 and a Ferrari Testarossa and didn’t care, many still knew the intricate details of what the Mystery Machine was and how to drive Fred Flintstone’s Cavemobile!

So it’s fair to say that kids love cars in cartoons, but beyond the cool gadgets and the dazzling speed and zany characters, it’s the fun element – the often hilarious, sometimes heartwarming, interplay between character and car – which makes these animated rides truly unforgettable.

Here are some of the most famous cartoon cars that even some grown-ups may still be watching today!

Lightning McQueen | Cars

Lightning McQueen from Cars (Credit: E. Charbonneau via Getty Images)

The hotshot rookie is the coolest car in the Cars cartoons! Although the Piston Cup-winning superstar isn’t based on a specific real-life car, it’s been noted that Lightning McQueen has some similarities to the Mazda MX-5, the Dodge Viper or the C6 Chevy Corvette. The #95 stock car is a larger-than-life character who starts out shouty but soon realises that life is all about the journey! One modern misconception about one of the most memorable cartoon cars of them all is that it wasn’t named after famous speed fanatic and super-cool actor Steve McQueen, but after one of Pixar’s animators, Glenn McQueen, who died in 2002.

George Jetson’s Flying Car | The Jetsons

The Jetsons (Credit: Hulton Archive via Getty Images)

In the world of iconic cartoon cars, has there ever been another that got stopped for doing 2,500 mph in a 1,250 mph zone? But it’s not just the astonishing speed that makes George Jetson’s flying car one of the most famous cars from cartoons. It’s the fact that the brilliant bubbletop, created in the early 1960s as a wildly optimistic view of future technology, neatly folds into a briefcase when George gets to the office!

The Cavemobile | The Flintstones

The vehicle used in the 1994 movie "The Flintstones" (Credit: George Rose via Getty Images)

It had no doors, no suspension, no engine and a frame made of sticks. It ran on foot power using two stone rollers. Yet despite its prehistoric-ness, the Cavemobile – sometimes called the Flintmobile – is one of those cars in cartoons that everyone wanted to drive! Fred, Wilma, Pebbles and pet dinosaur Dino hot-footing it to the Bedrock Drive-In Theater is one of the most enduring cartoon memories of them all. Yabba dabba doo!

Wacky Racers | Wacky Races

Real-life version of Penelope Pitstop from Wacky Races (Credit: Michael Cole via Getty Images)

Inspired by the 1965 film The Great Race starring Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Natalie Wood, Wacky Races features some of the most famous cartoon cars ever, all competing to become the World’s Wackiest Racer! Hard to believe for such a famous cartoon, the seventeen episodes originally ran for just four months between September 1968 and January 1969. True to the name, the cars and the characters are wonderfully wacky! Here are the cars, the drivers and a fantastic fact about each one.

  • Boulder Mobile | Slag Brothers | Could be rebuilt from rock
  • Creepy Coupe | The Gruesome Twosome | Dragon power gave it a rocket boost
  • Convert-a-Car | Professor Pat Pending | Could transform into anything
  • Crimson Haybaler | The Red Max | A car/plane hybrid that could fly
  • Compact Pussycat | Penelope Pitstop | Equipped with a beauty salon
  • Army Surplus Special | Sergeant Blast & Private Meekly | Armoured car/tank hybrid
  • Bulletproof Bomb | The Ant Hill Mob | Flintstone-esque running power
  • Arkansas Chuggabug | Lazy Luke & Blubber Bear | Steam-powered from an old boiler
  • Turbo Terrific | Peter Perfect | A very high-tech racing car that falls to pieces
  • Buzz Wagon | Rufus Ruffcut & Sawtooth | A wooden car with saw blades
  • Mean Machine | Dick Dastardly & Muttley | Rocket-powered with concealed weapons

The Wacky Racers are definitely some of the most iconic cartoon cars!

The Bumblebee | Transformers

Bumblebee (Credit: Franziska Krug via Getty Images)

Transformers is often seen as one of the coolest cartoons ever – and cool cartoons need cool cars! Bumblebee, in its car form an original Volkswagen Beetle, was one of the most recognisable cars in cartoons, not to mention one of the friendliest and most likeable!

The Mystery Machine | Scooby Doo

A replica of the Mystery Machine (Credit: Paul Zimmerman via Getty Images)

The Mystery Machine is probably one of the most famous cartoon cars to ever appear on TV screens. Mystery, Inc. members Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby Doo went everywhere in their psychedelic, flower-power van as the super-cool teen sleuths unmasked pseudo-supernatural baddies who would have got away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky kids! Possibly modelled on the Chevrolet Sportvan or the Dodge A100 panel vans from the 1960s, the Mystery Machine is one of the memorable cartoon cars ever!

Cars in Cartoons: A Lifelong Love Affair

The Flintstones (Credit: LMPC via Getty Images)

The most famous and iconic cartoon cars manage to hit the perfect sweet spot between nostalgia, imagination and design. Some of them are fast, some transform into robots, some are armed with dragons and some are beaten-up old vans that break down at the most inopportune times!

These famous cars from cartoons have driven straight into the tapestry of animated storytelling. Whether evoking happy memories, symbolising eras gone by, or igniting the thrill of adventure, these memorable cartoon cars remind many people of a time when the boundary between reality and animation blurred, if only for a few moments.


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