Let's rank all 11 cars from the 'Wacky Races' cartoon
Dastardly, Penelope, Lazy Luke, Peter Perfect — who did you root for in this Saturday morning classic?
Images: Warner Bros. Television
Everything old is new again. The latest grist for the revival mill is Hanna-Barbera cartoons. This summer, DC Comics is revamping the beloved brands Scooby Doo, The Flintstones and Jonny Quest for a new generation. Oh, and Wacky Races. Who didn't love that Cannonball Run–like contest of colorful characters?
Only now, Wacky Races have become Wacky Raceland, a postapocalyptic battle inspired by Mad Max, which in fact features automobile designs by Mark Sexton of Mad Max: Fury Road. That means that Dirk Dastardly and Muttley now look like this.
The original toon lasted a mere 17 episodes between 1968 and 1969, but the gloriously goofy grand prix ran for years in reruns. They were a staple of Saturday morning cartoons. But how well do you remember the 11 contestants and rides?
Here are the vehicles and drivers of Wacky Races, ranked very subjectively.
1. Dick Dastardly and Muttley in the Mean Machine
It was hard not to root for the villains. For starters, their purple dart looked a bit like a Batmobile. The Mean Machine moved like lightning with its rear rockets. Sure, they cheated all the time, but they never won. The ne'er-do-wells never even crossed the finish line in the top three. "Curses, foiled again!" But who could resist Muttley's evil snickering and Dirk's mustache twirling?
2. Penelope Pitstop in the Compact Pussycat
Voiced by Janet Waldo, also known as Judy Jetson and Josie of the Pussycats, zipped around in a pink beauty parlor, which is rather disappointing for the only female in the race. Still, she was a star who got her own spinoff the following year, The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, opposite Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
3. The Slag Brothers in the Boulder Mobile
Rockin' along in their big chunk of granite, the shaggy Slag Brothers would inspire Captain Caveman, who came along almost a decade later. The duo also had a taloned Pteranodon on their side.
4. Lazy Luke and Blubber Bear in the Arkansas Chuggabug
The bumpkin's coal-fuled hot-rod jalopy brought to mind The Beverly Hillbillies, though we bet Jed could not steer with his feet while asleep. Fun fact: John Stephenson, who voiced both Luke and Blubber, appeared as an actor on MeTV shows I Love Lucy, Bonanza, Perry Mason, F Troop, Gomer Pyle, Hogan's Heroes and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Oh, and The Beverly Hillbillies, naturally.
5. Professor Pat Pending in the Convert-a-Car
With his boat-like mobile, Pat Pending reminded us of another Professor — the one from Gilligan's Island. Only this brainiac would have likely escaped the island with his numerous gadgets. His Convert-a-Car had the niftiest tricks up its sleeve.
6. The Gruesome Twosome in the Creepy Coupe
Straddling the line between good and evil, Little Gruesome and Big Gruesome were homages to horror icons Peter Lorre and Boris Karloff. You can bet Svengoolie was pulling for this hearse.
7. Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly in the Army Surplus Special
Sure, the characters may be a knockoff of Beetle Baily — or Gomer Pyle and Sgt. Carter — but, c'mon, they drive a freaking tank.
8. The Ant Hill Mob in the Bulletproof Bomb
Thanks to these pint-sized mobsters, millions of kids indirectly became familiar with Edward G. Robinson, the clear inspiration for Clyde, the leader of the Ant Hill Mob. The tommy gun toters also made the leap to The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
9. Rufus Ruffcut and Sawtooth in the Buzzwagon
Overlooked amongst the man-and-beast teams, the burly Rufus and his trusty beaver, Sawtooth, did have a buzzing car made with saws.
10. The Red Max in the Crimson Haybaler
Frankly, Red Max seemed rather superfluous. Dirk Dastardly was in many ways inspired by the villainous barons of the air. He never seemed to get as much screen time, though his Haybaler did win in a photo finish in the first Wacky Race, "See-Saw to Arkansas."
11. Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific
The joke was, of course, that he was far from perfect, expecially his car, which often ran into mechanical trouble — or fell apart. Still, this studly do-right managed to end up tied for the most wins on the series. His persona and dragster just seem a little too bland. This is Wacky Races after all.