Speed Racer: History of the REAL Mach 5

Strangely, when I first heard about the Speed Racer movie by the Wachowskis, I was reserved in my anticipation. Then, when I heard it was going to be sporting some serious CGI, I got depressed because I didn't think it would meet my hopes.

However since then I've seen the movie trailers and they're so cool my wife has to bring me down afterwards. It looks like it's going to be true to my memories of the show.

In the upcoming movie version of Speed Racer, the Mach 5 is built by Speed Racer's dad, Pops Racer, and it's got some pretty cool features like the auto jacks and tire belts, just to mention a few.

As far as specs on the Mach 5 go it's been said to have 5,000 horsepower distributed to all four wheels evenly. Whoa... I was really hoping for a little bit more than that. "-)

So that's a bit of info on the movie version of the car, but did you know that there have been a few real Mach 5's built over the years?

Probably the most well known version is the Mach 5 prototype that resides in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles. It was built in 1999 and is very true to the cartoon design. It was used in a national automotive safety tour sponsored by the Child Safety Network and is said to contain a 'mid engine' and *crickets* (whatever those are). It was then put on Ebay where the Petersen Museum bought it for $125k.

After the safety tour prototype was built, someone got the idea to build 100 street legal production 'signature' versions and they were made in 2002, also by the Child Safety Network. They plopped it on a 2001 Corvette chassis with a modified body to resemble the Mach 5. It had a 345 hp power plant and cost about $75k. They're called the signature series because each car was signed by actor Peter Fernandez, the voice of Speed Racer and Racer X in the 1967 version of the franchise. (He's also the writer of the theme song we all know and love.)

With that being said, I recently came across a Road And Track test drive article on the Mach 5 being used in the new movie coming out May 9th. My eyes lit up and I started reading fervently because they had some awesome images of the test drive.

I like the statement the reviewer made in the beginning of his article saying how we'd sit around the TV set, (I was one of them) watching Speed Racer go wheel to wheel with a gang of racing villains who make Tony Stewart look like Tinkerbell. (Some of my NASCAR blog readers would most definitely take issue with that statement!)

The car they tested, the Racer Motors Mach 5 sports an 8.0-liter quad sequential turbocharged V-12 that pumps out 1700 bhp at 8000 rpm and 1400 lb.-ft. of torque at 5500 and it only weighs just over 2400 lbs. on it's 245/40ZR-18 tires. I'd love to take a trip to the grocery store in that!

The question was put out there if this power plant wasn't a little overkill and the response: "The car is supposed to be able to go 300 mph. And this is what's required to get it there." Point made.

You're probably salivating like I was when I was reading this, and the images were just helping my happy state that someone built a car and someone got to drive it. I mean, they've built the Batmobile and the Ghost Busters wagon and so on, so I was eating this up and annoying my wife until I got the part of the "road test" where the author started talking about how he tested the different features of the car like the pneumatic jacks and the jump feature, the tire crampons... and then I knew that I had been had.. like you just now... Have you ever thought you had yourself a winning lottery ticket until you noticed it's the wrong date you're looking up? Yea, that's how I felt, and misery loves company... sorry.

There's a bright side to everything though. While I thought I was getting info on the real Mach 5, in the end, I did get a potentially more complete set of stats for the car from the cartoon just as I had I started out looking for and that's fine by me. Heck, even the pictures of the road test were more special affects, created by Polyphony Digital Inc. I was so disappointed!

But being ever hopeful as I am, I'd like to see another street version of the car, and if this movie is a a hit (as it's expected to be), no doubt some savvy entrepreneur will take on the project. I've been saving my cash just for this kind of "rainy" day! I just gotta come up with a real good explanation for my wife when it shows up in the driveway besides grocery runs! Yeah, I know... I'll have to find my 1/18 scale ERTL diecast - it may be all I have!

A quiz for our readers: Do you know what the M on the hood of the Mach 5 stands for?OK, here's a clue if you need it. But do you know what the G on Speed's shirt in the cartoon stands for?

Speed Racer opens on May 9th!

Sources: Wikipedia; Petersen Automotive Museum; Sussex County Online; AutoBlog Hi-Res Image; Road and Track;

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