What Car Is Lightning McQueen Based on From the ‘Cars’ Movies?

Pixar’s Cars is one of the most beloved animated movies. The story follows Lightning McQueen, a cocky red race car who learns the true meaning of friendship and family. If you’ve seen the film and love cars, you might’ve asked yourself this question before. What kind of car is Lightning McQueen? Let’s take a look at this iconic movie car

Lightning McQueen is not the car you might think he is

What car is Lightning McQueen based on?
Lightning McQueen | Eric Charbonneau/WireImage

There’s been plenty of speculation about the car that inspired Lightning McQueen. Some observers have suggested he’s based on a Subaru BRZ or Mazda MX-5 Miata. In 2020, at the annual Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, Arizona, a Lightning McQueen replica was made from a 2006 Mazda RX8. However, it was not drivable due to the windshield decals, but it sold for $9,350, KTAR News reported.

The truth is Lightning McQueen is a composite of two Chevrolet Corvette generations. His headlights are modeled after those on the Corvette C1, and his taillights loosely copy those on the 2004 Corvette C6. He even has an air intake similar to the ones on both models.

Jay Shuster and Doug Frankel, two lead designers for the Cars movies, created Lightning McQueen, a modified Piston Cup racer. They took inspiration from various vehicles, including hot rods, modern-day NASCAR models, and even vintage muscle cars. They combined these elements to create a unique design that was familiar and stylish. 

For instance, the headlights on Lightning McQueen are inspired by those found on classic American hot rods, while his front end is reminiscent of vintage muscle cars. In addition, his body shape takes cues from real-life NASCAR racecars. All of these design elements blend to make Lightning McQueen an iconic character.

So it’s no wonder many people believe he’s based on various cars. He’s a combination of several models.

What about Lightning McQueen’s best friend, Mater? 

Lightning McQueen’s rusty sidekick, Mater, helps the red racer understand the importance of friendship. Pixar’s animators designed Mater as a 1951 International Harvester boom truck. However, they tweaked his design to fit the movie. His design was reportedly inspired, in part, by an old tow truck owned by a Pixar employee. Mater’s design was also inspired by a truck one of the writers spotted while driving on the historic Route 66 in Galena, Kansas.

Thus, Mater sports unique features — such as dual exhaust pipes and custom rims — that you won’t find on any other tow truck. But the inspiration behind his buck-toothed smile and superb storytelling skills is anyone’s guess. 

Will there be another ‘Cars’ sequel?

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There are three Cars movies, starting with the original, released in 2006. Cars 2 came out in 2011, followed by Cars 3 in 2017. Disney CEO Bob Iger has not confirmed if there are plans for another sequel, Hollywood Life reports.

However, fans can check out the Disney+ series Cars on the Road. It follows Lightning McQueen, Mater, and the rest of the Radiator Springs crew as they travel across America, meeting new friends along the way.