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Pixar’s 2006 animated film Cars features talking cars modeled after real-life ones. For instance, the main character, Lightning McQueen, is based on a stock race car that incorporates design cues from the Corvette C1 and Corvette C6 and is based on Gen4 NASCAR vehicles. 

Another main character, Mater, is voiced by Larry the Cable guy with his unmistakable southern accent. In the movie, Mater is a tow truck. However, that’s not where the inspiration for his body style came from. Let’s look at what vehicle Mater was based on.

Radiator Springs comes to the big screen

Tow Mater from the 'Cars' movies.
Tow Mater from the ‘Cars’ movies. | Getty Images

Cars is an animated Disney and Pixar film that mainly takes place in Radiator Springs, Colorado, a fictional town. The main character is a race car named Lightning McQueen who finds himself stranded and in trouble with the law, so he has to stay in town for community service. He soon warms up to the locals and befriends a tow truck named Tow Mater, or Mater for short, an easy-going, buck-toothed character who also loves to tell stories. 

McQueen finds himself wanting to stay in Radiator Springs even after his community service is over. However, being found by his entourage, he is forced to leave Radiator Springs to compete in a race. At the race, he begins to fall behind but is inspired when he discovers his new friends from Radiator Springs have come to help him. Although he doesn’t win the race due to some dirty tricks from the competition, he has gained some new friends through his adventure. 

Mater isn’t what you think he is

Mater is referred to as a tow truck in the film, but he is a 1951 International boom truck, not a tow truck. According to Route 66 News, the extra-long boom was used to lift equipment out of the lead-mine shafts. Specifically, it was based on a truck one of the writers spotted along the historic Route 66 in Galena, Kansas. 

Writer Joe Ranft spotted the truck and decided to base Mater’s character on it. Ranft imbued Mater with the warmth and sense of humor the character is loved for. Unfortunately, Ranft died before he saw his creation come to life on the big screen.

A replica of Mater is selling for $50,000

According to The Drive, a replica of Mater is listed on Facebook Marketplace for a hefty $50,000. The seller says that the sales price does not reflect the time and money it took to create the replica. It is a 1955 GMC tow truck, not the International boom truck that inspired the creation of Mater. 

According to the seller, the truck is in good working condition and primarily used for parade appearances. Last year, the engine was rebuilt, and a DVD player with speakers was added, allowing Mater’s voice to be played as it rolls down the street. A professional artist painted the truck, creating the character’s eyes as a unique windshield film. 

This isn’t the only replica of Mater. A 1957 Chevy tow truck was transformed into the movie character in 2018 by a shop in Jacksonville, North Carolina. Along with the character Cruz and Lightning McQueen from the third installment of the Cars series, it is one of three tributes the shop has put together in their honor.

Cars has been so popular among fans that there is even a replica of Radiator Springs at the Disney California Adventure Park in Anaheim, California. Fans can cruise through the fictional town on the ride Radiator Springs Racers and see Mater and McQueen as well as other beloved characters from the film.


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