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The cars behind ‘Cars’

Walt Disney’s “Cars” rolls into theaters on June 9.
Walt Disney’s “Cars” rolls into theaters on June 9.Pixar
/ Source: BusinessWeek Online

The animated film “Cars,” which Walt Disney will release on June 9, grew from a cross-country trip Pixar creative guru John Lasseter took a few summers back with his wife and kids.

For Lasseter, raised in car-crazed Southern California, it was a trip back through his youth when muscle cars and VW bugs competed for his attention with comic books and afternoon cartoon shows.

It was also great fodder for the man who created such Pixar classics as “Toy Story” and A “Bug's Life.”

The movie's lead is Lightning McQueen, a hot-shot race car who dreams of the fame and money that will come from becoming the youngest car to win the Piston Cup Championship.

Lightning McQueen is one of a few characters based on a generic car. But as seen by Pixar's army of computer graphic artists, his co-stars take on unique personalities based on the special characteristics of speed, style, and attitude that the cars they're based on were designed to give their owners.


A super-fast flash in the pan, the Hudson was only produced for seven years. But the car, produced initially by the Hudson Motor Company of Detroit, was a 27-time winner on the NASCAR tour in 1952. The car was re-styled into a more conservative version as Hudson Motor's factory closed in 1954 and the car was made by the newly formed American Motors. By 1958, production ceased and American Motors focused on its other models.

In its day, the Hudson may have been the scourge of the race track, but in the movie Cars, Doc Hudson is anything but a speedy character. A car with a mysterious past, Doc Hudson —with crystal blue “eyes,” naturally — keeps to himself and is the town doctor, (running the local mechanic shop). Doc has no patience for the town's own hot shot racing car, Lightning McQueen, “played” by Owen Wilson. And in the end, Doc teaches Lightning McQueen a lesson in speed and character.


The quintessential symbol of big bucks, the sleek air-cooled Porsche 911 was launched in 1963 and continues to be a strong selling car despite prices that run nearly $100,000. The Porsche, designed by German racing buff Ferdinand Porsche, dates back to 1938. The first model to be sold to the public, the 356 in 1948, gave way to the 911, which had a stronger six-cylinder engine that became a star of the racetrack circuit.

Porsche cars, including later models, dominated the Le Mans racing series for years. Sally is anything but a thrill-seeking rally racer in Cars, however. A beautiful blue Porsche who was tired of California's "fast land," Sally is a charming lawyer who wants to put the town of Radiator Springs "back on the map." On the side, she also runs the Cozy Cone Motel, which tries to lure tourists with its own unique collection of — you guessed it — caution-cone collectibles.