Cars Origins are a series of novels related to the Cars franchise, which are released to tie in with the release of Cars 3. As what the title says, each book focuses on one specific character and tells about their origin, showing the viewer how they came to be, via a long flashback sequence throughout the book.
The first book in the series, Struck By Lightning, which focuses on our hero Lightning McQueen, was published on May 2, 2017. The second, Storm Chasing, focusing on the mean rookie Jackson Storm, was released on July 4, 2017. The third, Cruz Control, which focuses on Cruz Ramirez, was released on January 2, 2018.
Cars Origins provides examples of:
- Character Narrator: Each book's flashback sequence is narrated by the character who is being focused on. The exception is Storm Chasing, where Ray Reverham narrates instead.
- Framing Device/Flashback: The events are told via flashback by the character the book is focusing on.
- On the Next: At the end of each book is a teaser of the next book in the series.
- Origins Episode: As what the title of the series suggests.
- 13 Is Unlucky: Lightning's second suggestion at what his number will be is 13.
- Big "NO!": In the past, Lightning (as Monty) screams this the moment his back tire flies off as part of Carl's betrayal. In the present, Lightning, Sarge and Fillmore scream this in unison when they think Mater went back to the campsite without them.
- Big "WHAT?!": By Lightning in the second flashback when Coach assigns 95 as his number.
- Big "YES!": Lightning shouts it at the end when he hears from Harv that the race is back on.
- Boarding School: Fast Track Racing Academy, the boarding school that Lightning attends to become a racer.
- The Bus Came Back: Harv, Lightning's unseen agent from the first film, returns in this book with a much larger role and more friendlier personality.
- Cosmic Deadline: Lightning's origin story was already over after the third flashback. The final two flashbacks focus on his struggle to get used to having a pit crew following his Character Development.
- Covers Always Lie: Despite Lightning's Cars 3 design appearing on the cover, he is shown in his original Cars 1 design throughout the story, before he got his actual working headlights.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Carl betrays Lightning, causing him to eventually develop into an unfriendly, arrogant tyrant who only cared about winning and himself. His original hauler before Mack was an accident-prone hauler named Snyder who transported him via a cover-up tarp. He also kept getting de-routed and Lightning is forced to stay awake to help him. As a result, he was known as a fast starter, but a slow finisher. It got better by the time he became part of Team Rust-eze.
- Disappeared Dad/Missing Mom: Lightning's family members were not brought up once throughout the story, not even his parents. The flashback starts at the part where he arrives at racing school.
- Downer Beginning: Subverted. The book begins with Lightning preparing for the next big race, only to hear from Harv that it's canceled due to a hailstorm. Fortunately, Mater manages to cure him by inviting him on an annual camping trip along with Sarge and Fillmore.
- FaceHeel Turn/Start of Darkness: Getting betrayed by Carl caused Lightning to snap and become the rude, arrogant one-man show we knew in the first film.
- Fish out of Water: How Lightning felt upon arriving at Fast Track Academy and when he first joined his racing team for the sponsorship deal.
- Freudian Excuse: The reason Lightning was arrogant and self-centered at the beginning of the franchise is revealed here. During the last race of the semester, his friend Carl tricked him into thinking his lug nuts were loose, when really his pitties removed them on purpose so Carl could win and earn a sponsorship deal for himself. As a result, Lightning changed; he avoided his classmates, considering them enemies on the track as he continued his studies, vowing to himself to never trust anyone.
- Given Name Reveal: Lightning's original name was Monty.
- Ironic Echo: When Lightning gets his catchphrase "Ka-chow", Harv questions what it is and Lightning explains it's the sound of lightning striking, only for Harv to correct him stating that lightning doesn't make any noise and it's really the sound of thunder. Later when joining the Rust-Eze team, Rusty and Dusty repeat those exact words.
- I Work Alone: Lightning becomes this following Carl's betrayal, eventually leading to It's All About Me.
- Jaw Drop: Mater, Sarge and Fillmore all do one in unison when Lightning reveals his birth name.
- Karma Houdini: Carl betrays Lightning by having his pitties remove the lugnuts of his rear left tire instead of tighten them, which is a result of cheating, yet he is never caught for it.
- Lucky Seven: Lightning's first suggestion at what his number will be is 7.
- The illustrations of the Framing Device depict Lightning before he got his real working headlights, and the text states Lightning is getting used to pit crews, suggesting it takes place between the events of Cars: The Video Game and Cars 2.
- The last two flashbacks take place during the epilogue of the first film and the finale of the first video game, respectively.
- Never Say "Die": Upon receiving the number 95, one of the cars on Lightning's team states the previous car that had the number is "up in that big wrecking yard in the sky."
- Oh, Crap!: Lightning's reaction upon learning from Harv that the race was canceled.
- Rags to Riches: The flashbacks focus on Lightnings progression from a racing trainee to Piston Cup rookie and superstar.
- Switching P.O.V.: The Framing Device is told in third-person, but when the story switches to the flashbacks the narration changes to first-person as Lightning narrates.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Lightning and Carl were the best of friends throughout their time at Fast Track Academy, but Carl betrays him in the final race of the semester by having his pitties remove Lightning's lugnuts on purpose, costing them their friendship.
- Wham Line:
Lightning: You cant count on anyone.
- After Carls betrayal, Lightning becomes so upset that he snaps and undergoes a Start of Darkness:
Lightning: My original name was Monty McQueen.
- And earlier, in the present, Lightning gives a huge reveal that not only surprises his friends, but the reader as well:
- Character Narrator: The events are told from the perspective of Ray Reverham, Jackson's crew chief.
- Hidden Depths: Jackson is revealed to be a gamer.
- Midquel: The Framing Device is set inside the timeline of Cars 3, following Jackson's victory at the Copper Canyon Speedway.
- Villain Episode: Generally this book focuses on Jackson Storm, the main racing antagonist of Cars 3.