Cars the Movie and Route 66

Our family is super excited that the Cars 3 movie is out at the movie theaters. Yours, too?

We have been long-time fans of this movie series, especially the first movie. We have enjoyed Cars for years, but now that we have spent some time driving parts of old historic Route 66, it holds an extra special place in our hearts.

Our children enjoyed watching "Cars the Movie" before we stopped for a visit to Cars on the Route in Kansas.
Tow Mater from the Cars movie was inspired by a 1951 International Boom Truck currently on display in Galena, Kansas.

Did you know that many of the places and characters featured in Cars are inspired by real people and places along the Mother Road?

  • Tow Mater was inspired by a restored 1951 International Boom Truck on display in Galena, Kansas. (Source) And, it is said that Tow Mater’s skill of driving backwards amazingly well is in tribute to Dean “Crazy Legs” Walker. Walker is well-known on the route for his ability to twist his feet completely backwards. (Source)
  • The Sherriff is voiced by a true Route 66 expert named Michael Wallis. Wallis authored multiple books about Route 66 and a book titled The Art of “Cars” (Affiliate Link). He also served as a guide for the movie crew as they conducted research for the movie. (Source)
  • The Cozy Cone hotel in the movie also derives its inspiration from places along the real Route 66. The hotel itself closely resembles the famous WigWam Motels that can still be found along the route. Its sign is a throwback to the iconic neon sign at a real motel called Blue Swallow Motel. (Source)
  • Much of the movie scenery is obviously inspired by real life places along the route as well. There is a mountain range in the movie that resembles the real-life Cadillac Ranch found in Amarillo, Texas. And of course, the movie featured a “here it is” sign; the infamous “here it is” sign from the Jackrabbit Trading Post which travelers has associated with the Mother Road for decades. For more examples, check out this Guide to Route 66 for Cars Fans offered on historic66.com .

Cars played an important role in our major 15-day road trip out west a couple of years ago. While researching before our trip, I ran across this Route 66 News article, and I knew that I had to incorporate a few things from the Cars movie into our trip. I purchased the Cars movie on DVD (Affiliate Link) and packed it away for the trip.

Cars played an important role in our major 15-day road trip out west.

On the first day of our westward adventure, we just drove and drove. So that was a perfect opportunity to pull out the Cars DVD. The children were excited to have a movie to help them pass the time. Plus, they loved the story and characters!  (Bonus: Cars is one of the few animated kid movies that my husband and I don’t mind watching/listening to.)

Over the next few days, we saw several sights that could be directly related back to the movie.

Cars on the Route is a remodeled gas station with a mining boom truck (like Tow Mater) on display.
Cars on the Route is a remodeled gas station with a mining boom truck (like Tow Mater) on display.
  • We stopped at Cars on the Route in Galena, Kansas. Formerly known as 4 Women on the Route, this remodeled Kan-O-Tex gas station displays the mining boom truck that inspired Tow Mater’s character. Also on display, there is a fire truck that resembles Red from the movie and an old tow truck they have lovingly named Tow Tater. Cars on the Route sells sandwiches, snacks, antiques, and souvenirs. The service station was closed when we were in the area so we just wandered the grounds and snapped a few pictures.
Meet Tow Tater who is currently on display at Cars on the Route.
Meet Tow Tater who is currently on display at Cars on the Route.
  • We drove by the majestic Tucumcari Mountain; it looks a lot like the mountain near Radiator Springs in the movie.
In the Cars movie, there is a mountain range shaped just like these Cadillacs half-buried in the ground in Amarillo, Texas.
In the Cars movie, there is a mountain range shaped just like these Cadillacs half-buried in the ground in Amarillo, Texas.
  • We stopped at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, Texas. As mentioned earlier, there is a mountain range in the movie that closely resembles this iconic Route 66 stop. Our children loved this stop on our trip. They were delighted to be a part of this constantly changing piece of art.
Route 66 once went right through the Painted Desert in Arizona.
Route 66 once went right through the Painted Desert in Arizona.
  • At Petrified Forest National Park and Painted Dessert, we saw where old Route 66 had once passed right through the park.  The children found this really exciting. If they had not seen the movie, I doubt that they would have been too impressed by this.
This winding stretch of old Route 66 leads to Oatman, Arizona. It features some crazy turns and amazing views.
This winding stretch of old Route 66 leads to Oatman, Arizona. It features some crazy turns and amazing views.
  • Oatman, Arizona reminded us a lot of the movie in a couple of ways. You have to drive along old Route 66 to get to Oatman, and this section of road is very curvy. It reminded us of the beautiful winding roads that Lightning McQueen travels when he goes for a drive with Sally. And then, the little town itself reminds me a lot of Radiator Springs with its narrow road and rows of quirky shops.

The Mother Road is filled with curiosities that will pique anyone’s interest. But by tying our travels in with the Cars movie, our children were fully invested in the trip. They viewed the movie several times during the first half of the trip, and it was fun to watch them make connections between the movie and the sights we saw during our travels.

So yes, the Cars movie is very special to us. We are looking forward to revisiting Lightning, Mater, Sally and other favorite characters this week at the theaters when we go to see Cars 3.

Do you love the Cars movie, too? Will you be going to see Cars 3 at the theaters?

See how Cars the Movie helped my children better appreciate our road trip on the Mother Road.

Want to hear more about our amazing road trip? This post is part of our Westward Wanderings series – a multi-part series featuring details and pictures from each stop along our 15-day journey. Here are links to our other posts:

  • Preparing for the Road Trips of Our Dreams – Learn about how we prepared for our 15-day road trip with kids.
  • Cars the Movie and Route 66 – See how Cars the movie enhanced our family’s travel experiences.
  • Road Trip Rainbows – Rainbows became an unexpected recurring theme throughout our 15-day road trip.
  • Road Trip: Passing Through the OK – We were pleasantly surprised at how much fun we had passing through Oklahoma. COMING SOON!
  • And several more posts on the way!
Watch for other posts from our Westward Wanderings series. This multi-part series will feature details and pictures from each stop along our 15-day journey.
Watch for other posts from our Westward Wanderings series. This multi-part series will feature details and pictures from each stop along our 15-day journey.

As always, any opinions stated in this post are completely my own. Additionally, this post may contain a few Amazon affiliate links. If you make a purchase through the provided Amazon links, I receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). So thanks for supporting my blogging habit!

2 comments

Please Share Your Thoughts