Headscratchers: Cars

    open/close all folders 

     Cars in General 
  • Ever notice that in Mater's Tall Tales the cars drift with their wheels pointed in the wrong direction. I thought this was kind of odd considering that learning to drift was a MAJOR plot point in the movie.
    • It's Mater. Even if he knows how to drift he probably doesn't think about it as he's doing it, and he's making it up anyway.
  • In Cars, where does the fuel come from? Where did the talking cars come from anyway?
    • If the cars lack manual dexterity and require simplified interfaces to perform most tasks (pumping gas, opening doors, playing video games, etc.) then who built some of the more finely crafted items like trophies or the gas pumps themselves. This troper began to theorize that sapient cars and humans coexisted in the film universe, and that the cars simply ran over all the humans once everything had been built and they were no longer needed.
      • Nah, I'm guessing that the builders of the cars (As well as most carbon-based life, apparently) were wiped out in some sort of apocalypse, but the cars survived and gradually forgot about their old history. Either that, or Cars was created by a bunch of computer animators, if you will, who didn't think things through all the way.
      • That last one is just crazy talk.
      • The movie takes place in the same universe as the short story Trucks.
      • Wait, Trucks by Stephen King? Oh, Crap!
      • The only logical conclusion is that the cars are still imprisoning the humans, and using them as slaves.
      • Then why doesn't Sally have one of them get rid of her Embarrassing Tattoo? It's easy to remove a vinyl decal from a car, after all.
      • Because she's really not embarrassed by it and is just acting that way?
      • Also, it's not a decal: it's pinstriping, which is painted on and top-coated. Removing pinstriping is quite a bit harder.
    • In a world of concrete-ore, asphalt mountains and oil lakes, a comet wiped out the mighty and fierce Trolleysaurus Rex, the Bicyclesaur, and even the peaceful Carrigdons. In the resulting ecological upheaval, the humble little Windups began to slowly evolve into more and more complex creatures, adapting for almost any semi-flat terrain. Over time the Carus Mechanis emerges, an intelligent being capable of changing its environment to suit its needs. From them came hundreds of unique races of Cars, who lived together in towns and cites, carving out their own peculiar society.
      • Best Justifying Edit ever.
      • Dear writers: Make this canon.
      • Already is: did you saw the bugs? And the cows!
      • Wait. So, if the cows...and the cars...what do they breed the cows for? They can't possibly eat them. Can they?
      • Where do you think the gas and oil comes from? What, they dig it out of the ground or something? Don't be silly.
    • In the unreleased "Mater's Tall Tales" short "Backwards to the Forwards", Mater ends up time-travelling to the prehistoric past, where he encounters stone wheels and a few dinosaurs. It's not canonical, but there you go.
    • Or alternatively, the Cars movies are all from some kid's elaborate imagination, a la the beginning of Toy Story 3.
  • Dear Tropers above. Find 2000ADs Alan Moore's Future Shocks, read "And they were all empty". Comic strip explanation from everyone's favourite bearded comics writer!
    • Which probably explains the other question. If vehicles evolved, then why not electronics (as a type of "organism") and thus robotic assembly lines (to build non-electronic and non-sentient machinery like the road paver)?
  • The movies show both gas stations and diners for cars. What's the difference?
    • Motor oil, chassis lube and antifreeze?
    • Maybe gas stations are the car equivalent of a really cheap fast-food place? Except without the cheap part, judging by today's gas prices.
      • Eh. A real-life coupe (such as Sally) can go what, fifteen to twenty miles on three bucks of gasoline as of this writing? A larger vehicle (like Mater), eight to ten? How far do you think you can go on three bucks of American junk food? (okay, I'll do the math for you. this site claims that jogging burns about 105 calories per mile, after making a lot of assumptions. Close enough. A double cheeseburger, large fries, and large soda puts on 1,300 calories, or 13 miles worth of human-fuel. Sounds about right. Flo's is the Radiator Springs equivalent to a Sonic)
    • I'm guessing that Gas stations are a necessity, while Restaurants are more of a luxury (or for formal events, like a date).
    • On the other hand, why is everyone freaked out of Fillmore naturist drinks? Is that gas without led, or drugs?
      • It's probably the Cars' Universe equivalent of Tofu. It sustains as well as normal gas but most don't prefer it.
    • It's a good thing someone finally asked the food question. It's been an issue since Jay Jay The Jet Plane and Thomas the Tank Engine.
      • I alway thought it was obvios; the gas is liquid, so its a DRINK, like coffee or something, and the food is, well food.
  • I can not be the only one bothered by Betsy. Is she a corpse or something?
    • The convention seems to be that if you can't move under your own power, you're not sentient. Hence Mac's trailer doesn't have a mind of its own, nor do the train's cars other than the engine.
      • How do you account for the tractors, then?
      • They can move under their own power, what's the problem?
    • An alternate scene in the first film has Lightning put into a construction machine rather than pulling one after they move his engine over during the night. The rule seems to be that your engine is where your brain is, therefore no engine=no brain. See the entry further down for more details.
  • In a world of sapient vehicles that don't really use "organic" oil, why would they harvest plants? Is it just gardening on a massive scale or do they have an unseen trade agreement with a planet that has a lot of fossil fuel and poor soil?
    • Biofuel?
    • Having just learned that Deadliest Catch's Sig Hansen is cameoing as his own boat, I've got to ask what would vehicles do with crabs? And since bugs are VW Beetles are the "crabs" actually tiny walking tanks?
  • What's the difference between a male and a female car?
    • Two ball bearings and a stick shift? No, the real question is that if you were to make a Cars version of the Edsel...
    • Assuming you mean the long grill? Maybe just a beaked 'mouth' appearance. Or the grill is shifted up with a little artist license.
  • If the engine is the brain, what happens to those cars with the engine in the trunk, like VW Beetle? Do they have their faces in the rear? Do they get mocked by the other cars?
    • Beetles serve in the movie as literal bugs, but Sally is Porsche 911 so she must have her engine in the back and she seems perfectly normal. Besides, according to the car anatomy in the movie, front-engine vehicles would have their brains in their noses, which I don't think is really less weird than having brain in your butt.
    • The whole bit about the brain being in the engine was A) a nightmare and B) discarded so it doesn't matter.
  • Just how exactly can they handle things like books and wrenches with those huge tires of theirs?
    • Pimped-Out Car, with cool arm-like things to manipulate everything? That, or human slaves.
    • I believe they show Luigi using his windshield wipers like arms a few times. And others times they're shown lifting things with their tires, so they may be more adhesive than real world ones.
  • So the F/V Northwestern catches crabs. I'm wondering what vehicles would want with crabs, which are probably also vehicles (probably something like this). I can understand using plants as biofuel, but what would they use "animals" for? Do they suck out their "blood"? Grind them into abrasives? Are the "crabs" in fact sentient blobs of oil? If they were, wouldn't the crab pots look more like devices used to trap oil during the Gulf spill?
    • Perhaps the "crabs" are actually mobile pieces of ore.
    • Or dinky little deep-sea ROVs, which the cars break down for components. Heck, maybe that's where they get those little grippers so many of them use as prosthetic hands.
  • Exactly how does a car 'die'? This has been bothering me ever since I saw the movie. Running out of gas prevents a car from traveling (at least at high speeds), but it's not equivalent to 'starvation' in that the car remains conscious and can still talk, etc (c.f. Lightning in the first film and Miles Axelrod's backstory in the second). Likewise, an engine breaking down doesn't mean the car dies either (as evidenced by Mater towing the one crappy minor character car at least twice in the second film, and Rod saying that a broken engine block 'can be replaced'). Pile-ups and crashes in the races are treated as near-fatal incidents, although no car is actually shown dying because of damage accrued during a race. In the second movie the cars that do die are crushed into a cube (Leland), their engines explode (Rod), or they break into pieces (the car hitting the water after falling off the oil rig); it is also implied that cars can die of 'old age'. Although they are never used to actually destroy a car, blowtorches are used as attempted murder weapons a few times. So there seems to be a spectrum where, at one extreme, mechanical failure (such as engine breakdown) is little more than a minor inconvenience, and at the other end dismemberment is clearly fatal. But between those extremes, what counts as fatal and what doesn't? What does it mean for a car to die of 'old age'? What level of crushing or race damage is sufficient to kill a car? And why can't dead cars be brought back to life, if they're just machines? After all, it's clearly shown that replacement parts are easily obtained, and cars can be upgraded with new components.
    • I think a car dies when it gets broken beyond repair (or at leat when repair would require making an entirely new car). The one's crushed into a cube, that can't be repaired, the other's engine explodes that can't be repaired, and the one breaks into several pieces and the other pieces probably sunk to the bottom of the ocean, that can't be repaired. And I'm not sure but if I remember correctly they never said Doc died of old age...
    • My guess is, cars "die of old age" when their batteries go flat. Non-rechargeable, non-interchangeable batteries... welp, nothing's perfect.
  • At one point, Lightning wonders why he's being shot at. I wonder how the Hell he even knows what a gun is if nobody in the world has fingers, much less why Lightning would first think "gun" and not "backfiring", which is what's actually happening.
    • Explained in Cars 2. Weapons are mounted as prosthetics.
      • Or built into them like the fighter planes in Planes.
  • Why don't they ever show any children (who would all probably be portrayed as little kiddie-cars) in this universe? Is it because they are all too young to drive?
    • A few children are seen occasionally.
      • they did, in the first (i think) race sequence of the first movie. she was sitting in the stands, with her parents and has a die cast. i think her name was Polly or somethink.
    • A picture of a car family is visible in the pub near the end of the second film.
  • What happens if Sally and Lightning wanna have a baby?...you know...cars Can't Have Sex, Ever. Maybe they'd have to go through something like the car delivery stork?
    • There are mentions of various types of car or of engine parts being manufactured in the second movie, so it's likely that young cars are assembled in factories, then adopted out to couples that want to raise them.
    • Well, first the female lays a clutch of eggs, and then...
  • If all animals here are vehicles, then what do all of the other animals besides cattle and insects look like as vehicles?
    • According to that insurance commercial, at least some of them (pets) look like toy cars, planes and trains.
    • Some model-plane "pigeons" appear in the Paris scenes from the second film.
  • All of the characters' windows are completely opaque, and there are no convertibles in this world (their roof are all down). What the heck is inside their windows?
    • The corpses of ancient drivers?
    • This concept art shows that cars have "innards" inside their windows.
    • What concept art?
    • The salescar from the second film which had headlight-eyes had an empty compartment behind her windshield, like a Real Life car. The angle wasn't right to tell if she had seats in there or not, though.
  • So, cars eat not only fuel, but also metal and "human" foods like fruits, vegetables, and meat. Where does their "meat" come from, if all animals are also vehicles? Are their meat products also made from metal?
  • ''Tokyo Mater'' apparantly featured the automobile equivalent of nudity, where Kabuto will actually strip any car that challenges him to a race and loses of their modifications, and in the end Kabuto as a result of him losing his own race becomes naked himself. How the heck do you strip a car naked?
    • Strip off all the paint, maybe?
  • What do the cars use for money? And where do they keep it? Do they carry around some kind of physical currency in their trunks, thus explaining how Lightning was able to buy stuff from the residents of Radiator Springs in the first film?
  • Who the heck is the Mayor of this town? Seriously this is a question I've had ever since I saw the movie. Is it Doc? He's dead now so not anymore. Sally? Mater? Lizzie? She may be the wife of the town's founder but she's pretty forgetful. I mean she didn't even know Lightning left to race! So who runs Radiator Springs?

     Cars 1 
  • Why is it that, at the end of the race, Lightning didn't win, then drive back to get the King so he would finish the race at 3rd?
    • Because he didn't want King to suffer the same fate as Doc Hudson and the desire to prevent that became more important than winning the race.
    • More specifically, it was his selflessness in helping the retiring racer finish his last race, despite the other car cheating, even when it was obvious that Lightning had all but won. It just underlines how much of a jerk that other car was, and how much Lightning had evolved through the movie.
    • And the resulting Pyrrhic Victory (for Hicks) and sense that Lightning has lost the race but won something far more important, makes for a more interesting ending than the other way.
    • on the Animators commentary Chick Hicks was originally disqualified before it got changed.
    • If a car is wrecked and everyone finishes in front of that car, that car gets a DNF (did not finish), but if a wrecked car finishes ahead of a non-wrecked car they all get credit for finishing?
      • There were only three cars in the tie-breaking race. And Lightning pushed the other car over the line, so this would probably be the only case in which that could happen.
    • This bugged this troper too, because since King couldn't win in first anyway, was there any difference in 2nd or 3rd? Lightning really could have won, than turned around and pushed King through the line. That way Chick loses, Lightning wins, and King still finishes his race with dignity.
      • Because that would've been a shallow victory.
      • Could it also be an allusion to An Officer and a Gentleman? Remember when Zack Mayo sacrificed his time over the assault course in order to help Seeger deal with the wall and thus qualify? As in "YOU WANT JETS?..."
      • The way I see it, Lightning HAD to not win the race. He needed to show that he understood that some things are more important than winning, and finishing the race in first and then helping the King, while it still would have been nice, would have made the gesture less significant. By sacrificing the win, he was able to be a hero and show Chick's true colors (if they weren't obvious enough already) in one fell swoop. He had to sacrifice the win in order for his gesture to mean anything.
    • Once you cross the finish line, you are not allowed to go back on racetrack. That would be in the rules to prevent blocking. On the other hand, physical contact is obviously not against the rules, and they probably never made a rule about reversing. If McQueen had crossed the finish line, he wouldn't have been able to do what he did.
  • The homologation rules for the Piston Cup must be a hell of a lot looser than the stock car series that it's based on. How else could you explain why a Plymouth Superbird is taking on a 1980s Buick, which is taking on the love child of a stock car and a Group 5 sports car? Actually, how did Lightning McQueen manage to get homologated at all? He's clearly not based on a production car model, even as a silhouette version.
    • They had to put a variety of cars in there somehow. Besides, I always thought McQueen looked a little like a Corvette, but different enough that they didn't have to acquire the Chevy license.
  • What exactly does Dinoco do? I have theories but a confirmation would be nice.
    • They're a gas company, and an Fictional Counterpart of Texaco.
      • Judging by how some cars have Dinoco gas or oil barrels strapped on like those canned soft drink hats in real life, I think Dinoco would be a bit more like Cocoa-Cola or Pepsi to the cars.
    • There was a Dinoco gas station in the first Toy Story (that was where Buzz Lightyear beat up Woody, and caused both of them to get separated from Andy). I would assume their logo is a reference to the Sinclair company.
  • Towards the end, Chuck blows one of Lightning's tires and only gets a yellow flag. This is bad enough, Lightning beats the pace car out of the pits. Unless the rules are different in this movie, you're not allowed to overtake the pace car.
    • He didn't "overtake" the pace car, he just happened to get back onto the track before he could be lapped.
      • He didn't happen to get back on the track before the pace car, He was hurrying in order to get back on the track ahead of the pace car. If he'd entered the track after it passed the exit from the pits, he'd have been considered an entire extra lap behind.
  • Lightning McQueen is NEVER GIVEN THE CHANCE to contact his agent or lawyer's office to have the legal matter sorted out. This is a gross miscarriage of the justice system, especially considering the judge wants him gone.
    • That's assuming that the legal system has exactly the same rules as Real Life, since auto racing clearly doesn't, there's no basis for that assumption.
    • He does get a chance, at his trial, when he's asked where his lawyer is, but he pretty much brushes it off with "Pfft. I dunno, Tahiti maybe, he's got a time share there." Not really a big chance, it's true, but he was given the chance and blew it off.
  • "Like tuh-mater, but without the 'tuh'." How would they know what tomatoes are? What use are fruit and vegetables to vehicles?
    • Biofuel?
    • Tomatoes are great for throwing at Jerk Ass winners, as Chick found out at the end of the first movie.
    • This troper always assumed he was referring to his company, which IIRC is named "Tow Mater."
    • You saw that organic food is still grown in this world, since Mack passed a field of corn on the way to California. It wouldn't be a far stretch to assume they all know what tomatoes are.
    • If their world has been devoid of organic animals for long enough, the plants might well have evolved to use machines as their pollinators and seed-dispersers instead. Fruits and flowers could be producing fuel as bait for mechanical "animals" instead of sugars and starches for organic ones. That would explain why Mater could chow down on wasabi in the second film, and find it unbearably "spicy": it probably contained an octane mix that was a lot more volatile than his system could process, forcing him to slurp a nice tankfull of Allinol to settle his gut. (What, did you think that fountain on stage was flowing with water?)
  • Sally's Embarrassing Tattoo overlaps with Fridge Logic if you've ever peeled something like that off a car. (hint: adhesive-backed vinyl decal...)
    • OR, it might've been sprayed-on. Which would still be Fridge Logic considering there's a paint-shop across the street from her motel.
    • Plus the whole "no hands" thing.
    • You can write 3 movie scripts worth of text on the sheer amount of fridge logic required for this movie to work, but it still manages to be tons of fun to watch.
  • Why are the champion racer and his wife called Mr. and Mrs. "The King"? Isn't that just a title? His name is Strip Weathers, so why not call him Mr. Weathers?
    • "The King" is likely a nickname, and thus how he's known to the rest of the world, so that's what people call him, especially big fans like Lightning.
      • And the only one in the movie who called his wife "Mrs. The King" was Mater, who is... well, Mater.
  • When Mac and Lightning are on their way to Cali, they get passed by a minivan with a mattress on the top. What use would cars have for mattresses?
    • To keep their human slaves cozy?
    • Maybe motorcycles and mopeds use them when their tires are sore after a long day and they need a little lie-down.
  • How did McQueen replace all the broken neon in Radiator Springs? I'm pretty sure he didn't bring it with him and I didn't see a neon store in town. If he ordered it from out of town he must not have told anyone who he was, since it takes a call from Doc to bring all the reporters to town. And where was Sally while they replaced all the neon anyway? If she were up at the Wheel Well she would have seen them at work, since you can see the whole town from up there.
    • The neon lights are never stated to be broken; a few times you can see Sally turning on the neon sign at the Cozy Cone. Most likely, they just never turned the lights on because no one passes through anymore.
      • Sally says "You fixed their neon", implying that he fixed their neon.
      • Maybe he just replaced the fuses?
      • Actually, this troper always heard it as "They fixed their neon", implying that McQueen just gave them the idea and/or helped a bit.
  • How Does Chick get away with being such a vicious driver? After all, deliberately causing wrecks is a serious offense in normal racing where cars are not sentient living beings. In the Cars universe, it could easily fall under the heading of attempted murder. Given that he is shown as deliberately causing wrecks all the time, he's probably totaled numerous cars over the course of his career, which is probably the in-universe equivalent of murder. He even gets away clean for a blatant attempt to outright murder The King in the final race, which should have gotten him disqualified at the very least.
    • I've wondered that too, even though I love Chick. I never understood either why he seemingly waited for the King's final race to 'attempt to murder' him. You bring up a very good, very humourous point.
    • Having seen the movie again, it looks like Chick was simply pushed over the Moral Event Horizon after he and The King were passed by McQueen. It's not that Chick wanted to murder The King, but he didn't want to come in third in the biggest race in history.
      "I am not comin'in behind you again, old man!"
  • I just noticed, before the final race, When Chick is flashing his little metallic C in Lightning's face, why is the reflected C not backwards?!
  • Can't believe this isn't here already, but... Luigi says that Lightning is his first real customer in years, and every implication is given that the same goes for the rest of the town too... how the hell are any of them still in business?
    • The townspeople keep each other in business, and perhaps once in a while some nostalgic guy rolls through and buys something from them.
  • Sally argues that they should make Lightning fix the road because if he doesn't no one will be able to get to the stores and everyone will go out of business. But repairing the road takes multiple days, and absolutely no one has trouble getting around at all. In fact, everyone presumably just used this broken road to get to the court house. It'd probably need to be fixed eventually, if only for convenience sake, but it's obviously not the urgent thing she makes it out to be. Yeah, she just really wanted to make him fix it, but she couldn't come up with any argument that made a modicum of sense?
    • The broken state of the road might not stop the locals from getting around, but it'll make it a hell of a lot less likely for tourists to come by if the road is in that kind of shape. Given the choice, would you rather walk along a smooth sidewalk, or one that's chopped up with concrete jutting out at weird angles and holes all over it?
      • But, it's kind of implied most of the tourists are there as a stop before a larger destination (presumably, if people went there to go there, the building of the interstate wouldn't have mattered). They don't have a choice; the road leads to their destination, they either use it or don't reach the destination. And large chunks of the plot hinge on there not being many tourists to begin with ("Travelers? What travelers?"). And the two we do see during the days this film takes place over don't even mention the road. And it's not like they can't get the thing repaired without him there; let him go and make him pay the expenses to get it professionally rebuilt (it's heavily implied he has the money), it'd probably take less time than making one guy who has no idea what he's doing do it.
  • Why is such a big deal made about Lightning leaving the town to go to the race? He can come back later, can't he?
    • He probably would've been swept back up in the limelight and forget all about them.