Anyone who knows my dad isn’t surprised that I would grow up liking cars. His nickname, Bondo, is an immediate give away to the kind of car guy he is. He could see the beauty in any old rust heap needing a bit of love to get it back on the road. There were always stacks of car magazines in corners of the house and my dinner time chore was to fetch my dad from the garage so he would eat something.
In spite of all of his influence, the very first car I remember getting excited about was the Mach 5. I was probably only four or five when I first saw Speed Racer on TV but I remember the magic that Speed, Trixie, Racer X, Chim-Chim, Spritle and Pops would bring into my living room in those rare mornings I would catch the show.
As an adult collector, I have focused more than a little of my attention on the collection of reproductions of the Mach 5 in various scales. Thanks to the Wachoski Brothers releasing a live action version of Speed Racer in 2008, it became easy to track down a number of the model cars I had been missing. It was also thanks to the theatrical version of Speed Racer that I started paying attention to some of the subtle details in all toy cars.
The 1:18 scale model from Ertl is the closest to the car seen in the TV series. I’ve had arguments with people whether the bottom half of the car should be blue or not. My belief is that the blue hue seen in the opening credits of the show was shadowing meant to show the curvature of the car while others believe the car is meant to be two toned. There are versions of the Ertl kit painted both plain white and with the blue lower half to please all collectors. All the other details, from engine placement to the shape of the fins to the number of holes on the wheels and the placement of the robot hawk are all in line with the classic cartoon.
My guess is that the movie version of the car is more consistently represented because of licensing deals and the studio providing detailed photos of the movie car for reproduction purposes. At first glance, the easiest difference between the movie version and the cartoon version to spot is the shape of the tail fins. The cartoon version features delta shaped fins that resemble cars of the 50s while the movie version has notched fins similar to the ones found on an F-15 Eagle.
Looking more closely we can see the front of the car has flattened a bit in the movie version with the hood being a bit less extreme than the cartoon version. Rumor has it the shape of the Mach 5 was inspired by the 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, one of the most beautiful cars ever made. The extended wheel covers that house the glass-covered lights and the head rest of the Ferrari are both echoed in the shape of the Mach 5.
Collecting the Mach 5 also taught me the importance of having the right wheels on a car. The correct wheels should have six holes around the wheel with what appears to be a classic knock off style lug holding the wheel on. I wish I knew why it is that the designers at Jada Toys insist on putting blinged out low profile wheels on almost every toy car they make. Do they think it looks better? Is it just easier or do they think that people aren’t looking? It really is a shame because the folks that sculpt the car bodies do a great job capturing the spirit of the vehicle.
I know there are models out there still waiting for me to discover them. I hope you enjoy these photos of some of the models from my collection. I’ve included the statue of Speed Racer as a size reference.
For people wanting to add a little Mach 5 goodness into their lives, I recommend building the following paper model from Shinya Papercraft. He’s separated the model into three pages and a separate download for the instructions. For such a good looking model, it’s relatively easy to build. Here are the direct links for PAGE 1, PAGE 2, PAGE 3 and the instructions.