Sure, the designers in Detroit can dream up some pretty wicked metal from time to time, but they can’t hold a candle to the imagination of the animating wizards who brought us these pen-and-ink creations:
The Mach 5 — Possibly the most awesome cartoon car ever, this Japanimation vehicle (seen above) first fired up in 1967 and sported a special steering wheel that activated canyon-jumping jacks, special grip tires, nose-mounted rotary saws, a watertight canopy (and onboard oxygen supply and periscope for operating underwater), infrared headlights, and a drone-like homing robot shaped like a pigeon. The Mach 5 was pure Japanese badass at its best.
The Homer — Only a mind as special as Homer Simpson’s could dream up this monstrosity. With a bowling trophy hood ornament, a separate passenger dome for noisy kids, and cup holders big enough for the largest Squishee, what’s not to love about Homer’s ridiculously awesome namesake ride? Admit it—you secretly want one.
The Mystery Machine — OK, maybe it couldn’t talk or jump over canyons, but this psychedelic van was the ultimate home base for Scooby-Doo and those meddlesome kids from Mystery, Inc. who always managed to pull the costume mask off the bad guy’s head just in the nick of time. Heck, this Scooby snack-filled van even managed to give the occasional lift to the Harlem Globetrotters and Sonny and Cher!
The Flintsone’s Footmobile — First airing in 1960, Fred Flintstone’s family hauler may have seen a few miles by now, but it’s the ultimate in zero-emission green transportation—wood side rails, stone drums for wheels and an animal hide top. And who needs horsepower! This beauty was people-powered by foot propulsion.
The Jetson’s Flying Car — File this one in the “Promised Future We Never Got” file, the flying bubble-top four-seater first launched in 1962 in Hanna-Barbara’s The Jetsons, and talk about convenience! Not only was the car outfitted with ejectable hovering seats that delivered your passengers directly to their destination, but the entire car could fold up into a briefcase!
The Canyonero — If the Homer wasn’t enough, fans of The Simpsons can always turn to the clown-endorsed Canyonero. Twelve yards long and two lanes wide, the Canyonero smells like a steak and seats thirty-five and was a “squirrel-squishin’, deer smackin’ driving machine.” Sounds like an animated Hummer H1. Just sayin’.
Speed Buggy — The fiberglass-bodied Speed Buggy was like the love child of the Mystery Machine and Herbie the Love Bug. Capable of solving crime and talking in his own unique engine-esque dialect, Speed Buggy delivered his human sidekicks Tinker, Mark and Debbie to all sorts of hijinks. (Cue the laugh track and the mid-70s animated mayhem.)
Ninja Turtle Party Wagon — If six-foot-tall walking, talking turtles radioactive weren’t weird enough, imagine them driving a tricked-out crime-fighting van that included a turtle-launching catapult platform, scads of electronics for the heroes in a half-shell to track the evil Shredder, and a pair of giant bad guy-ending guns.
Optimus Prime — He’s part Kenworth K100 cab-over semi, part sentient robot, and completely awesome. Spawned from the Hasbro Transformers toyline, Optimus made his cartoon debut in 1984 long before Michael Bay got the chance to decimate the franchise cinematically. Sure, the rest of the Autobots were pretty cool, but none matched Optimus.
The Gadgetmobile — For an incredibly accident-prone police detective, Inspector Gadget still somehow managed to score the coolest cruiser on the force: the Gadgetmobile. Outfitted with everything from a smoke screen to an ejector seat to glue rockets (yes, glue rockets), the Gadgetmobile more than once saved the Inspector’s mechanized bacon from the evil plans of Dr. Claw.