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The Cars of Disney Pixar's Cars 3

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author photo by Joe Tralongo May 2017

The beauty of Disney Pixar's "Cars" franchise is that it draws in people of all ages and interests. But for true fans of all things automotive, there's more to the "Cars" movies than just the entertaining story line and impressive digital animation. Many of the main characters are simply Pixar animators' fabrications that have been done so well we think these folks might have a second career as real car designers. However, for those like us, half the fun of watching the first "Cars" movie was trying to guess which of our 4-wheeled friends inspired the animators. We also like how Pixar gets so many of the details just right -- the sound of the exhaust, the way the body leans in a corner, the Pontiac-looking hood ornament/mountains and the tire-tread vapor trails in the sky. And is that a hint of a supercharger we hear in the new "Cars 3" character Jackson Storm? Clearly, someone has done their homework.

Of course, some of the characters are more obvious than others. Sally Carrera, for example, is clearly a 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera, while Mater is a 1951 International Harvester pickup. Doc Hudson is a 1951 Hudson Hornet, Mack a 1984 Mack Superliner and Ramone a 1959 Chevy Impala. Fillmore is pretty clearly an early 1960s VW microbus, Sarge a Willys MB Jeep and Tex Dinoco a 1975 Cadillac Coupe DeVille with a Texas longhorn treatment. But what about the others? Below is a list of the not-so-obvious Pixar creations, and our guess as to the collage of styling cues from various makes blended together to form one car. Of course, we all know no two people see a tree in the same way, so let us know: What do you see?

Lightning McQueen -- The lead in all three films, Lightning McQueen, is a custom hand-built stock racing car whose design encompasses a number of cars. Although loosely based on the 2002 Dodge Viper GTS, we can see little hints of the Ford GT40 in his front and rear fenders, the C6 Corvette in his profile and the 1995 Mazda RX-7's rounded fender bulges and lower air intake. Later in the film, when McQueen agrees to let the residents of Radiator Springs give him a makeover, he ends up looking like a vintage 1956 Corvette. While many think McQueen is based on the late actor and race-car driver Steve McQueen, he's actually a tribute to the late Pixar animator Glenn McQueen, who passed away in 2002.

Chick Hicks -- Chick is a generic mash-up of a few mid-80s GM intermediate coupes. The long hood and short trunk, squared-off edges and small quarter window are a clear hat tip to the '80-'84 Buick Regal and, by extension, the Grand National, with a little bit of the Chevy Monte Carlo's rear quarter panel thrown in for good measure. The mustache-like grille may have been inspired by the 1980 Mercury Cougar's grille and angled taillight treatment.

Darrell Cartrip -- Voiced by legendary NASCAR and Daytona 500 winner Darrell Waltrip, Cartrip is based on a 1977 Chevy Monte Carlo, as evidenced by the stacked headlights and small fixed window in the B-pillar. Waltrip raced a '77 Monte Carlo in the 1979 NASCAR Cup Series, coming in second place to Richard Petty.

"Cars 2"

Second in the series, we again see a number of familiar cars, only this time with a more European flair. David Hobbscap is clearly a 1963 Jaguar E-Type, while Nigel and Finn McMissile are animated versions of the Aston Martin DB8 and DB5, respectively. Francesco is a generic F1 racing car with Italian racing colors. Of course, the villain in the story is aided by a pair of notorious AMC cars named Grem, a 1972 AMC Gremlin X, and Acer, a 1975 AMC Pacer. The AMC connection can be linked to the James Bond film "The Man with the Golden Gun," which showcased two AMC cars, a Matador and Hornet. Alongside these notables are another series of mash-up cars seemingly concocted from various parts. The fun of it is that there are some real car-guy nods in many of these kids' movie scenes.

Now for the not-so-obvious characters:

Sir Miles Axlerod -- Sir Miles Axlerod, the oil tycoon who has discovered a clean-burning fuel to replace oil, appears to be based on a number of Land Rover models. The overall shape and 2-door configuration is clearly a nod the Defender 90, but with smoother sheet metal. The hood, grille and raised roof (complete with a built-in solar panel) look more like something from the LR4 and Discovery series.

Holley Shiftwell -- Holley appears to be a midengine sports car strongly influenced by the Jaguar XJR-15, but with a rear end that mimics the Jaguar C-X75 concept car. Her headlights are vaguely reminiscent of some Chrysler concepts, and her bulbous fenders might easily have drawn inspiration from a number of concept cars, including the Chrysler Atlantic. Her wheels could easily be an exaggerated version of the stylish turbine fin wheel that adorned the mid-90s Volvo 850.

Rod "Torque" Redline -- For the most part, Rod most resembles a Dodge Challenger, but some have commented there's a hint of Ford Mustang in the hood, grille and headlight treatment. The rear fascia and taillights have a little bit of 1977 Pontiac Firebird, but that might be a stretch.

"Cars 3"

In the upcoming "Cars 3," we've only been given a sneak peek at some of the players. From the teaser trailers, this is what we think we know so far.

Cruz Ramirez -- We see a bit of the first-generation Dodge Charger in her profile, only minus two doors. There are also distinct pieces of the Nissan GT-R in there. Her rear fenders, glass window and tail-end treatment most resemble an Aston Martin, perhaps the Vantage or DB9. Up front, Cruz's headlights appear to be streamlined versions of those from the Ferrari 458 Italia or 488 GTB.

Lightning McQueen -- Lightning gets updated. While retaining the same basic body, Lightning now displays larger graphics and some Nascar-inspired aerodynamic add-ons (like the big rear spoiler bolted to his trunk).

Jackson Storm -- Although he's billed as a "Custom-built Next Gen Piston Cup Racer," Jackson's design seems pretty heavily influenced by the current Corvette Z06, but with sharper edges similar to more exotic supercars like the Acura NSX. There's the slightest hint of the Lexus RC coupe in Jackson's rear side glass (at least as shown in the more detailed trailer rendering). The large blue decal on Jackson's side resembles a modernized version of the hurricane symbol used by the National Weather Service.

Also making a cameo appearance are a group of vintage old-timers who knew Doc Hudson in his glory days. Chris Cooper, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Margo Martindale and veteran racer Junior Johnson lend their voices to Smokey (a hat tip to famed mechanic Smokey Yunick), River Scott (a tribute to Wendell Scott), Louise "Barnstormer Nash" Nash (clearly inspired by the First Lady of Racing Louise Smith) and Junior "Midnight" Moon.

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The Cars of Disney Pixar's Cars 3 - Autotrader