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Wacky Races

The Hanna-Barbera cartoon series, Wacky Races, is one of the most memorable TV shows of the 1960s - thanks to its parade of crazy cars and equally zany drivers. The animated comedy series, first broadcast in 1968, features 11 different cars competing for the title, the World's Wackiest Racer.
Loosely based on the famous 1965 motor racing film, The Great Race, a slapstick comedy starring Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood and Jack Lemmon, the inspiration for The Great Race was the real-life New York to Paris Race of 1908 - an international race that holds the record for the longest motorsport event ever staged.



New York to Paris

The real race was an early automobile competition when drivers attempted to travel from New York to Paris in the rather primitive cars of the era. Six teams started out on the 3,000-mile race, but only three of them finished. The American team, in their 1907 Thomas Flyer, eventually won.

Beginning in Times Square on 12th February 1908, six teams were included in the 169-day race, representing four countries - the United States, France, Germany and Italy.

The German team drove a Protos, the Italians competed in a Zust, the Americans drove the Thomas Flyer and the three separate French teams drove a Motobloc, a De Dion-Bouton and a Sizaire-Naudin respectively.

The movie, The Great Race, cost $12 million to make (equivalent to $95.40 million in today’s money), making it the most expensive comedy in history at the time. It was only loosely based on the real race and the characters in the film were fictional.

The bad guy, Professor Fate, played by Lemmon, was a melodramatic villain, who always wore a black top hat and sported a twirling black moustache, in the style of the comedy villains in silent films. He pitted his wits against the hero, Leslie Gallant III, played by Tony Curtis, who was handsome and dashing.


Wacky Races

The weird and wonderful collection of animated contestants in Wacky Races were competing in an "anything goes" race to win the title. As well as racing in their bizarre cars, they also spent a lot of time sabotaging their fellow contestants' automobiles.

Dick Dastardly and his sidekick, Muttley the dog, are the main characters in the cartoon. Dastardly was the villain of the piece, but he wasn't based on Lemmon's character, Professor Fate. He was reportedly based on the English actor Terry Thomas's iconic "cad" persona from a number of his movies.

It was difficult not to root for Dastardly and Muttley, even though they were the "bad guys". They drove the Mean Machine, a bright purple car with a dart-like nose that resembled the Batmobile. It raced along the track like greased lightning, as it had super-powered rear rockets.

Although they cheated continually, they never won. They never even crossed the finish line in the top three. Dastardly's familiar lament of, "Curses, foiled again!" combined with Muttley's evil sniggering, made them a highly entertaining duo!



Best of the rest

Although Dastardly and Muttley were the undoubted stars of Wacky Races, their fellow competitors were an amusing mix of characters and crazy cars.
Glamorous Penelope Pitstop, dressed all in pink with long blonde hair, driving the pink and yellow Compact Pussycat sports car, was the only female in the race, which was a little disappointing! She spun around in what resembled a mobile beauty salon.

The cavemen, the Slag Brothers, drove a Boulder Mobile, which looked like a giant chunk of granite. The two super-hairy brothers would zoom along, waving their primitive clubs. They inspired a cartoon called Captain Caveman, which was made almost ten years later.

Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear drove the Arkansas Chuggabug, an old jalopy reminiscent of the wagon used by the Beverly Hillbillies. Luke drove it with his feet while sitting in a rocking chair!

Both characters were voiced by the actor John Stephenson, who had roles in top shows such as I Love Lucy, The Man from UNCLE and Perry Mason. He also had a few guest roles in the Beverly Hillbillies over the years.

No-one can forget the Ant Hill Mob in their Bulletproof Bomb - a car full of tiny mobsters. Their leader, Clyde, resembled a cross between actor Edward G Robinson and the real 1930s gang leader Clyde Barrow, who went on a crime spree across the US with his girlfriend, Bonnie Parker.

The funny thing was that the Ant Hill Mob actually ran along, carrying their huge car, as you could see their tiny little legs pelting long underneath! Only Clyde, the driver, was actually transported sitting in the vehicle.

Wacky Races ran until January 1969 and it was then syndicated from 1976 to 1982. Its most recent distributor was Warner Bros in 1996. The series was released on DVD in 2001.

Some of the Wacky Races' characters appeared in a spin-off series, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, released on CBS in September 1969. It was loosely based on the 1965 film, Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, starring James Fox and Terry Thomas, about the early pioneers of aviation.

Whatever type of car you drive, Coruba provides a range of top-quality vehicle rubber matting to help prevent wear and tear. Please contact us for more details.

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