From Anime To The Big Screen, This Incredible Race Car Came Alive
What American, or Japanese, child has not seen the beloved cartoon Speed Racer? Brainchild of animation legend Tatsuo Yoshida, the the original Japanese-language anime was entitle Mach GoGoGo and had 53 episodes. Some never released.
Speed’s car, the Mach 5, was an “open formula” racer, with a 5,000 horse power engine, and a top speed of 300 mph. It featured seven race-specific special mechanisms, triggered from lettered buttons on the steering wheel. These competition tools included Auto Jack, which thrust the car off the ground, leaping over the competition, Belt Tires, with special clampon grips, Cutter Blades, that projected from the front of the car, a Deflector, which sealed the cockpit with bullet-proof capabilities, Evening Eye, was special yellow illumination for greater visibility, Frogger Mode, let the Mach 5 dive under water, Go Homing Robot, which was a robot bird that could carry things from the car to the garage.
It was the only officially licensed Mach 5 in the world that was built to the Speed Racer cartoon Mach 5 specifications. It includes a wrap-around windshield, cartoon body lines, working saw blades, working periscope, and special illumination headlights. It is a fully functioning, street legal car that has been driven at speeds as high as 180 mph.
The Real Mach 5 was built exclusively for Len Mosco by California custom car fabricator, Mark Towle and was signed by the voice talent of the original cartoon series including Peter Fernandez, who was the voice of Speed Racer and Racer X.
Based on a Corvette LT1, it was stripped down to the frame, drive train, and doors. All of the body panels were made with custom molded fiberglass, by hand, which shaved 1,000 lbs. off the stock Corvette weight, and yielded a power-to-weight ratio Corvette drivers could only dream of.
At $72,000 A Mark Towle Mach 5 is not only authentic in design, it features many show-inspired gadgets. The buzzsaw arms work fiendishly well. The homing pigeon (drone) flies via remote-control. There is also a pop-up periscope, that is a disguised functioning rear-view camera.
Now building replicas regularly, for the right price, Towle will add additional features, like a fully-enclosed bubble top, retractable wings, and even jacker arms to ‘lift’ the car off the ground, (but not jump capable… yet.) Each Mach 5 produced is unique. Some have radios, some do not. Some have white instrument dials, while others have black. These are true replicas, with no cheap plastic anything.
The original Mach 5 resides in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California.
On a side note, the recent live-action Wachowski Bros.’ Speed Racer film also had a ‘real’ Mach 5, although it had no engine. But, it did have the signature seven-button steering wheel, which also sadly, did nothing. Functionally, all the car could do was roll forward and backward. So, for the movie scenes featuring the car, instead of being driven on pavement, it was hung from a crane and had its effects added in with CGI computer-generated graphics. Tsk, tsk, tsk.
Below is the account of creating The Real Mach 5, as told by owner Len Mosco:
“My son Lenny actually came up with the idea. He was 15 at the time and we were, and still are, huge animation, anime and cartoon fans. He knew I always talked about my childhood love for the cartoon Speed Racer. I always explained how I simply couldn’t wait to come home from school and watch it on TV. I used to sit there watching, mesmerized by all the action and cars that were in the cartoon series. I used to imagine myself sitting in the most awesome car in the world… The Mach 5. Could you imagine what it would be like to actually drive it?
We were looking for a project car to either build or have built together, father and son. My son said, “Dad, why don’t you build The Mach 5?” I sat there a second and said, “The Mach 5, how?” That was it. He put a spark in me so I began to do some intense research.
I discovered that at the time, the brand rights to the Speed Racer animation was owned by a company called, Speed Racer Enterprises, out of California. With further research I found out who the only person in the world was that had actually designed a working, real life Mach 5 from the original animation and had the authorization to build the Speed Racer Mach 5. It was custom car builder and fabricator, Mark Towle. I reached out to Mark and his associate Kory and we discussed this amazing build.
I had seen Mark’s work on other custom and movie cars and I was excited that he was the one who would be building The Mach 5 for me. Mark and Kory connected me with the president of Speed Racer Enterprises, James Rocknowski. I then contacted James Rocknowski with an idea. I thought it would be great to offer The Mach 5 as the official promotional car of Speed Racer Enterprises. This would allow us to show The Mach 5 around the country to the literally millions of fans that know and love the Speed Racer cartoon series and The Mach 5. James loved the idea and thus The Real Mach 5 became the official promotional car of Speed Racer Enterprises. James and I have since become good friends.
Mark Towle did an amazing job on the build of The Real Mach 5. It took approximately one year to build and Mark designed The Real Mach 5 as the first Mach 5 ever built with the wrap around windshield and body lines of the Mach 5 from the original cartoon series of the late 60’s. Mark also built The Real Mach 5 with working saw blades, a working periscope, special illuminating headlights and a custom designed steering wheel with all the gadget buttons from the original cartoon.”
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