The most daredevil group of daffy drivers to ever whirl their wheels in the Wacky Races!
Competing for the title of the World's Wackiest Racer!
Derived from the live-action comedy film The Great Race, Wacky Races is a Hanna-Barbera cartoon production where drivers in 11 outlandish vehicles compete in absurd cross-country races. Hilarious hijinks ensue, partly due to whatever area they are racing through, but mostly due to the absurd lengths to which one racer (Dick Dastardly, the quintessential Dastardly Whiplash) goes to cheat and sabotage the race, even though these attempts backfire in the end and cause him to always finish in last place (if he even finishes at all).
Hanna-Barbera gave co-credit for it to Heatter-Quigley (the producers of The Hollywood Squares) on CBS Saturday morning in 1968, where Wacky Races marked the end of H-B's Super Hero adventure cycle and a return to slapstick comedy. Heatter-Quigley was to have provided a live game show segment in which children won prizes for predicting the outcome of the races; CBS nixed the plan, but Hanna-Barbera kept Heatter-Quigley in the end credits (even though the end copyright still reads "© 1968 by Hanna-Barbera Productions"). Subsequently, Peggy Charren, head of the organization Action for Children's Television, blackballed the show, charging that it enticed kids to make monetary wagers on the races' outcomes.
Many of the visual gags look suspiciously similar to those in Road Runner cartoons, including the use of painted scenery that people can enter, and fake railroad tracks that suddenly have trains running over them (and Dick Dastardly). Michael Maltese, who wrote just about all of the Chuck Jones Road Runner cartoons, was a writer for Wacky Races.
The six voice actors were Daws Butler, Don Messick, Paul Winchell, Janet Waldo, John Stephenson and Dave Willock as the Narrator. In 1969, Wacky Races was rerun on CBS, along with its two spin-off series: Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop. (All three shows were widely syndicated in the 1970s and '80s.) In 1990, the cartoon was revived as Fender Bender 500, a part of the anthology show Wake, Rattle, and Roll. In this incarnation, only Dastardly and Muttley returned (this time with a Mean Machine expy called the "Dirty Truckster") — the roster was otherwise made up of classic Hanna-Barbera all-star characters like Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound.
A reboot of the series was announced in 2016 and started airing in 2017. Additionally, a new comic book reinterpretation by DC Comics called Wacky Raceland mashes the show up with a Mad Max inspired setting.
Frequent Wacky Races Tropes:
- Dick Dastardly setting a trap for the other racers, and inevitably getting caught in it.
- Alternatively, Dastardly convincing someone he encounters to help him while not making it clear that he’s trying to cheat, and this backfiring on him.
- Muttley snickering when Dastardly's plans backfire.
- The dragon in the belfry of the Creepy Coupe appearing, sometimes to help the Gruesome Twosome.
- Professor Pat Pending changing the shape of his Convert-a-Car, occasionally to directly thwart one of Dastardly’s traps.
- The Red Max flying over the other racers.
- Penelope Pitstop's beauty gadgets, built into her Compact Pussycat. She's also been shown cooking rotisserie chicken and popcorn under the car's hood (using heat from the engine).
- The Ant Hill Mob's getaway power: six pairs of legs protruding from the underside of the Bulletproof Bomb.
- Peter Perfect's Turbo Terrific falling apart, usually after him making a remark on how good, reliable and resilient it is.
- The Slag Brothers somehow boosting the speed of the car by either hitting each other over the head with clubs or hitting the car with clubs.
- Radar displays during the race.
This series provides examples of:
- Abandoned Mine: The Arkansas Chugabug's driver Luke once entered a subway and mistook the tunnel for an abandoned mine.
- Abhorrent Admirer: The episode "The Super Silly Swamp Sprint" had Dick Dastardly's alligator disguise backfire when he got the attention of a smitten female alligator.
- Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal:
- Muttley's only article of clothing is a red collar.
- Blubber Bear wears a blue helmet with goggles and a green scarf.
- Sawtooth wears a yellow helmet with goggles, a yellow scarf, and yellow gloves.
- The Ace: Peter Perfect. Well, he tries to be the best at everything, anyway. Considering how often the Turbo Terrific gets wrecked, he could qualify as a Parody Stu.
- Ace Pilot: The Red Max is a skilled pilot who rids a plane in the Wacky Races.
- Affectionate Parody: The series is one to The Great Race, amping up the slapstick comedy of the original.
- Alcohol Is Gasoline: The Arkansas Chuggabug is a self-propelled moonshine still, so probably.
- All Balloons Have Helium:
- In the "The Great Cold Rush Race", Dastardly inflated an inflatable version of the Mean Machine from inside it to overtake the other cars into first place, but it backfired when Muttley tapped him on the back, inflating Dastardly.
- In "Whizzin' to Washington", Dastardly uses his breath to inflate a giant balloon hoping to send the other cars away by popping it. The balloon floats while Dastardly is inflating it, allowing the cars to pass.
- Alliterative Family: With Spin-Offspring from the Wacky Races Forever pilot, which featured two new Alliterative Name racers known as Parker and Piper Perfect, who were established as being the children of Peter Perfect and Penelope Pitstop.
- Alliterative Name: With the Alliterative Family created by Spin-Offspring from the Wacky Races Forever pilot, which featured two new Alliterative Name racers known as Parker and Piper Perfect, who were established as being the children of Peter Perfect and Penelope Pitstop.
- All-Stereotype Cast: Features a couple of stereotypical cavemen, a Red Baron expy, a couple of army stereotypes, a mob of stereotypical gangsters, a supergenius scientist inventor, a macho hero with Lantern Jaw of Justice, a lazy hillbilly with a pet bear, a stereotype lumberjack with a pet beaver, a Girly Girl obsessed with her looks, a pair of classic monsters, and a Dastardly Whiplash-style villain.
- The Alleged Car: Ironically, Peter Perfect's Turbo Terrific is possibly the most fragile of the racecars, seeing as it falls in a heap at the slightest provocation.
- Alliterative Name: Almost everyone and everything has a name that's an alliteration. Examples include Penelope Pitstop, Peter Perfect, Dick Dastardly, the Turbo Terrific, the Creepy Coupe...
- Alternative Foreign Theme Song: The Japanese version had this.
- Angrish: Muttley tends to grumble incoherently after being at the receiving end of a Dastardly Dope Slap.
- Artistic License – Biology: Muttley has been shown to eat chocolate at least twice on the show. In reality, he would have died between races (chocolate contains a chemical that's poisonous to dogs).
- Balloonacy: It happens to Dick Dastardly in at least two occasions including his own breath instead of helium. One was intentional and the other wasn't.
- Bamboo Technology:
- The Slag Brothers' Bouldermobile is basically a rock on wheels that manages to function the same way as an ordinary car.
- Luke drives in the Arkansas Chug-A-Bug, which uses a stove as its power source.
- Rufus Ruffcut's Buzzwagon is completely made of wood with buzzsaws for wheels.
- Baseball Episode: In "Hot Race to Chillicothe", Dick Dastardly, Muttley, and the Anthill Mob hide out in a baseball stadium and disguise themselves as baseball players to evade a cop. Later in the episode, as Dastardly plays dirty in a game of baseball against the Anthill Mob, Rufus Ruffcut and the Slag Brothers partake in the game to even out the odds.
- Be the Ball: The climax of "By Rollercoaster to Upsan Downs" involves Dastardly losing the basketball he was going to trigger one of his traps with and shaping Muttley into a ball so he can use him instead.
- Becoming the Genie: At the end of "The Dipsy Doodle Desert Derby", Dick Dastardly's genie laffs at his latest misfortune and Dastardly says he'd teach the genie to laff if they switched places. The genie then switches places with Dastardly.
- Behind a Stick: In "Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock", there is a scene where Dastardly and Muttley hide behind a cactus that is much thinner than both of them.
- Berserker Tears: Dick Dastardly sobs like a madman at the end of "Race Rally to Raleigh":Dastardly: (pissed after losing another race) Oh, who wanted to win this old race, anyway? (bursts into teary tantrum) I DID!!! I WANTED TO WIN THE RACE!!! I NEVER GET TO WIN A RACE!!!
- He repeats this exact same line in the ending of the 2000 Wacky Races game twice: first once you win using the Mean Machine in the Dick's Revenge Championship, and then again in the outro movie.
- The Big Race: True to the show's title, the series is always about the characters competing in races.
- Blinding Camera Flash: In one episode, Muttley photographs Penelope Pitstop during the race. Penelope is blinded so severely by the flash that she has to stop driving momentarily.
- Breakout Character: Dick Dastardly And Muttley would star in their own series after Wacky Races. The female racer, Penelope Pitstop, would get her own series as well, with The Ant Hill Mob joining her.
- Bribe Backfire: In "Fast Track to Hackensack", Dick Dastardly changed a speed limit sign from 35 mph to 85 mph. When the Sheriff had the Ant Hill Mob stop, Ring-A-Ding tried to bribe him with a cigar, prompting the Sheriff to say Ring-A-Ding worsened the Mob's case for that.
- Broken Aesop: The infamous ending to the episode "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist" is this, since it attempts to uphold the show's aesop of "Dick Dastardly never wins, because he cheats" by... having the judges literally cheat Dick Dastardly out of a legitimate win. The short explanation is that Dick wins the race by driving crossing the finish line first, but then the judges demand a replay. In the replay footage, Dick is instead shown in the 4th place and extending his nosecone out with a collapsible spring to cross over the finish line first, which the judges rule is worthy of disqualification. The problem is, it's not a Dastardly-exclusive trick; Peter Perfect uses the length of his Turbo Terrific to score on several occasions, and Rufus Ruffcut actually won the race in one episode by extending his neck so as to cross the line with his head first. As the judges didn't have any problem with Peter or Rufus on those occasions, it just comes off as blatant bias against Dick.
- Broken Win/Loss Streak: Subverted with Dick Dastardly who has a perfect 0-34 record in this series. He does get to win in later appearances, though, but usually there’s a catch.
- Cactus Cushion: In "Scout Scatter", a Dick Dastardly scheme involving a catapult and a stick of dynamite sends him flying into a cactus, where Muttley has to pluck thorns out of his butt with a tweezer.Dastardly (to Muttley): And remember...you're not plucking a chicken!
- "Drat and double drat!" for Dick Dastardly; "And the wacky beat goes on" for the Narrator.
- The Latin American Spanish dub has "¡Caracoles!", which was commonly heard in Latin American Spanish dubs of a number of Hanna-Barbera shows at least in the 1960s and 1970s.
- Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Muttley, most notably in "Race to Racine", where he's supposed to sabotage the Ant Hill Mob from within, but ends up sabotaging Dastardly.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Played with. Almost everyone on the show cheats to some extent. However, Dastardly, who is outright malicious about it and deliberately tries to sabotage the other racers, does not prosper.
- Circus Episode: In "Whizzin' to Washington", the Ant Hill Mob elude a motorcycle policeman by posing as a troupe of circus acrobats. Afterward, Dick Dastardly assumes the character of a circus ringmaster and has the mob perform a dangerous high dive.
- Comic-Book Adaptation: Seven issues by Gold Key Comics (issue #1 came out in May 1969; issue 2 didn't come out until November 1970, two months after CBS canceled the show), plus an appearance in Golden Comics Digest #2 and Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #5. Also two issues by Archie Comics and a few by DC Comics. In the Gold Key issues, the cars are shown running from left to right, whereas they go right to left on the TV show. Also, a running gag on some stories loosely adapted from TV episodes has Penelope Pitstop managing to eliminate Peter Perfect and Red Max by getting them to fight over her. Peter's car in the Gold Key series was called the Varoom Roadster (its working name) and the Ant Hill Mob's car was the Roaring Plenty (identified in the show as such once).
- Among stories in the Gold Key issues that were adapted from TV episodes:
- #1 - "Wrong Track Mind" (from "Why Oh Why Wyoming"), "Super Silly Swamp Sprint," and "Whizzin' to Washington."
- #2 - "Wide Open Races" (from "Idaho-A-Go-Go"), "Real Gone Ape," "Mish Mash Missouri Dash."
- #3 - "It's Go-Go to Kokomo" (very loosely from "Eeny Miney Missouri Go!"), "Race Rally To Raleigh" (adapted from "By Rollercoaster to Upsan Downs"). The issue's second story—"Free Wheeling To Wheeling"—was an original story even though "Wheeling" was a TV episode with a different storyline. Similarly, "Raleigh" was a TV episode with a different storyline as well.
- #4 - "Beat The Clock Through Yellowrock" (the TV episode used "To Yellowrock"). The second story was an original, "Follow Through to Yoo-Hoo," which does crib a gag from "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist."
- #5 - "The Zippy Mississippi Race" and "Wrong Lumber Race." The first story was "Wacky Race to Ballpoint, Penn.," but it was unrelated to the TV episode "Ballpoint, Penn. Or Bust!"
- #6 - "The Baja Ha-Ha Race" and "The Speedy Arkansas Travelers" (the TV episode used the singular).
- Issue #7 featured two stories that were not episode adaptations, "The Scavenger Scramble" and "The San Diego Go-Go." In the second story, Dastardly uses a "time treadmill" to send the racers back to the days of the Aztecs. Sarge and Meekly unwittingly help Spanish conquistadors raid an Aztec village for their gold caches.
- Golden Comics Digest #7 featured "The Last Lap Laugh," an original story. Penelope wins by using a giant powder puff to push Dastardly out of the way.
- Hanna-Barbera Fun-In #5 featured a one-pager of Dastardly winning a race. He pushes the out-of-gas Mean Machine across the finish line after Muttley bails on him.
- Among stories in the Gold Key issues that were adapted from TV episodes:
- Construction Vehicle Rampage: In "Free Wheeling to Wheeling", Dick Dastardly uses abandoned construction vehicles to impede the other racers.
- Contemporary Caveman: The Slag Brothers are a pair of hairy cavemen who have somehow made it to modern times. Their design was recycled for Captain Caveman (except there was only one of him).
- Cool Car: All eleven of the racers have impressive cars.
- Damsel in Distress: Penelope Pitstop finds herself in trouble quite often - a woman whose catchphrase is "Hay-elp! ''HAY-elp!''"
- Dastardly Whiplash: Dick Dastardly is, of course,one of the Trope Namers.
- Deliberately Jumping the Gun: There is often a racer, usually Dick Dastardly (of course) either starting the race before the opening shot or trying to do so.Dick: It's the racer's edge, you know!
- Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The Trope Namer. In many cases, Dick Dastardly might actually win a race if he wasn't so insistent on setting traps to sabotage the other racers (which always end up backfiring on him).
- In most episodes it could be argued that he got that all-important lead not by having the fastest car or sabotaging the other racers, but by taking a short cut on the non-linear route. He'd technically still be in last place, but could place his traps ahead of all the other cars. When they were out of the race, he could return via his shortcut and drive the route properly. But there are also several races that are straight marathons, where that wouldn't work, meaning that he is able to take the lead by way of the Mean Machine being a much faster car than the other ones, AND HE STILL CHEATS!
- Averted by the Ant Hill Mob in "Free Wheeling to Wheeling" (which does win them the race):Clyde: We'll never win at this rate unless we—
Ring-A-Ding: Cheat! Right, boss?
Clyde: Wrong!! Unless we lighten the load, you dum-dum!
Ring-A-Ding: *as the Mob tosses out stolen money, machine guns, etc.* Who says it pays to win? There goes our ill-gotten gains!
- Lampshaded in the Wacky Races comic book story "Follow Through to Yoo-Hoo" (Gold Key #4, August 1971). All the racers use a book called "How to Win a Race by Hook or Crook," written by Dick Dastardly himself.
- The unaired pilot for the revival Wacky Races Forever makes it a certainty. Dastardly (presumably the son of the original) is instructed by a figure in the employ of Peter Perfect (whose son Parker is racing) to just win the race, and he's a yard shy of the finish line, which Muttley points out. Dastardly bonks him on the head and firmly states, "No, Muttley, we can't win fairly. We are villains...ergo, we have to cheat!!"
- Dick Dastardly the pilot and grandfather to the contemporary Dick Dastardly even lampshades this right in front of his grandson's face. He's got a sizable lead...just cross the friggin' finish line! But, nooooo...as the token villain, he just has to pull a dirty trick that will not work.
- One episode features a genie who has to grant Dastardly's wishes. Instead of merely wishing for a victory, he keeps trying to use the wishes to get rid of the other racers.
- Dub Name Change: The show had its name changed to Fartdårarna (literally meaning The Speed Freaks) in the Swedish dub. Also several characters had their names changed as well in order to keep their punny names. Dick Dastardly for instance became Urban Usling.note Interestingly, he kept his English name for Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
- Dudley Do-Right Stops to Help: Peter Perfect often stops to do a good deed or help someone in need in almost every episode. This cost him the race at least once as he screeched to a halt just before the finish line to avoid running over a cat that had wandered onto the track. It did earn him a new cat, though. Also, Professor Pat Pending frequently stops and uses his car's inventions to help others.
- Dope Slap: Dick often slaps Muttley whenever he does something dumb.
- Drives Like Crazy: They're called wacky racers for a reason. Luke sleeping behind the wheel and Penelope doing her make-up or even showering while racing are some of the milder stunts they pull.
- Elongating Arm Gag: On at least one occasion, Dastardly has stretched his arm to abnormal lengths to hit Muttley for snickering at him.
- Emergency Cargo Dump: In "Free Wheeling to Wheeling", the Anthill Mob speeds their car, the Bullet-Proof Bomb, up by tossing their ill-gotten gains (stolen money, machine guns, etc) out of it. They win the race as a result.
- Even Evil Has Standards:
- In "Scout Scatter", the Ant Hill Mob didn't hesitate before risking themselves to save a boy scout from a waterfall even if it meant increasing the chances the sheriff would catch up with them. (They escaped.)
- Toyed with. In the comic book story "The Scavenger Scramble," the last item on the racers' list is a parking ticket. Dick Dastardly parks the Mean Machine at the red curb in front of a police station, but the police coming out seem more interested in Dastardly's Cool Car than in enforcing any traffic laws. Dastardly loses his cool and demands a parking ticket.
- Exact Words: In "Eeny Miney, Missouri Go!", when Dastardly gets trapped on top of a whale spouting water, he yells at Muttley to "Do something! Anything!" Muttley responds by doing a simple tap dance, which DOES fulfill the "anything" part to the word... but not what Dastardly intended, which was to save him somehow.
- Expy: Dick Dastardly is based on the character of Professor Fate from the film The Great Race, although his visual appearance is based on the British comedic villain actor Terry-Thomas. Who played a character going to Dastardly-esque levels of villainy to win the rally in Monte Carlo Or Bust which was released a year after Wacky Races was first broadcast.
- Eyebrow Waggle: Muttley. Dick Dastardly does this at the end of "See Saw To Arkansas" when he stops his car just short of the finish line so he can pose for the photo finish.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Dick Dastardly's car is much, much faster than the other racers, and would win if he followed the rules. Yet, he cheats and fails every time at it, and loses, often coming to a stop right before the finish line to watch everyone else pass it.
- Femme Fatale: Downplayed with Penelope, although in the Gold Key Comics she could eliminate Peter Perfect and Red Max by getting them to fight over her.Peter: You know what my mother told me when I was but a lad?
Red Max: I can guess! "Beware of slick chicks in pink convertibles!"
- The Fool: If you drove a car by reclining, sleeping and steering with your feet, you would drive about a hundred yards or so before crashing into something. Luke, however, does not need to worry about that. Although Blubber Bear does plenty of worrying for him.
- Foreshadowing: In a couple of episodes, Clyde calls Ring-A-Ding "Dum-dum." That would become Ring-A-Ding's name when the Ant Hill Mob appeared on The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
- Four-Fingered Hands: There is a mix of four-fingered and five-fingered hands. Most of the characters have four fingers while others switched between four and five. Penelope consistently has five fingers due to her relatively realistic design.
- Fragile Speedster: While Dastardly's Mean Machine is the fastest of the racers, it balances this out with its apparently poor structural integrity. Expect it to get wrecked at least Once per Episode.
- Freeze Ray: Near the end of "Why Oh Why Wyoming", Professor Pat Pending uses one to freeze the Creepy Coupe when their dragon breathes fire as a means of propulsion. This resulted in the Creepy Coupe using the ice block they get trapped in to slip into the lead and win the race.
- Freudian Excuse: In "Super Silly Swamp Sprint," Dick Dastardly laments that he became a bad guy because the other racers forced him to be one.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Penelope wields one in "Idaho a Go Go".
- Gadgeteer Genius: Pat Pending is a genius inventor who drives the Convert-A-Car, a vehicle that can turn into anything that can give him an advantage in the race.
- Generation Xerox: In the Wacky Races Forever pilot, Peter and Penelope's children, Parker and Piper, are racing in vehicles strongly resembling those of their parents.
- Genie in a Bottle: In one episode, Dick Dastardly finds a bottle with a genie and becomes the genie's master. As the Trope Namer for Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat, he never seems to realize he can easily wish to win the race.
- Goggles Do Nothing: Peter Perfect, Penelope Pitstop, Sawtooth, Blubber Bear, and Dick Dastardly all have headgear with goggles that never cover their eyes. Red Max occasionally will have his goggles over his eyes.
- Gone Swimming, Clothes Stolen: In "Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock", a group of bear cubs steal the clothes of to the Ant Hill Mob while they're swimming in their underwear.
- Goo Goo Getup: In "Hot Race to Chillicothe", Dastardly disguises Muttley in a pink bonnet and jumper and has him crawl across the road as part of his plan to stop the Wacky Racers on a bridge tied to a blimp so he can send them away on it.
- Gratuitous French: "Pierre Nodoyuna" (Dick Dastardly) in the Latin-American Spanish dub occasionally uses various French words and phrases such as "monsieur" and "mon ami".
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: in an extreme example of Gravitational Cognizance, the Army Surplus Special drives of a cliff, but cannot fall until Sergeant Blast has completed a detailed mathematical analysis which concludes that a tank cannot be supported by thin air.
- Greek Chorus: The race announcer acted as one of these.
- Hammered into the Ground: In "Real Gone Ape", the circus ape beats Peter Perfect into the ground.
- Half-Witted Hillbilly: In "Mish Mash Missouri Dash", Dick Dastardly encounters one of these hillbillies, who has such a short attention span that he doesn't resist when Dick yanks off his hat and beard for a quick disguise. The show also regularly featured Lazy Luke, the hillbilly driver of the Arkansas Chuggabug. The hillbilly Dastardly encountered in "Mish Mash Missouri Dash" was Luke's cousin and Luke exposes Dastardly's disguise, resulting in the hillbilly shooting at the Mean Machine until it fell apart just short of the finish line ("That lowdown cheatin' varmint ain't no kin of ours!")
- Have a Gay Old Time: In "Speeding for Smogland", it's revealed that Penelope's car has a vibrating seat. At the time (and in the implication of the dialogue) it was a crank health fad, but nowadays it has differently funny implications when you see a young woman flick a switch on her dashboard marked "VIBRATOR".
- Hayseed Name: Lazy Luke, driver of the Arkansas Chuggabug.
- His Own Worst Enemy: Dick Dastardly would easily win all the races if he just stopped cheating. While his cheats always backfire, if he actually stopped cheating the episode would end in one minute at most.
- Honour Before Reason: Peter Perfect tends to help out anyone who's been sabotaged. Especially Penelope.
- He even helps Dastardly in "The Super Silly Swamp Sprint," albeit after pulling him and Muttley out of the alligator-filled swamp, Peter throws them and their car in the back of the pack (after which they are catapulted from a tree into the front).
- Hopping Machine: One of the Convert-A-Car's alternate forms uses 'Pogo Power'.
- Idiot Ball: Everyone would make an uncharacteristically stupid decision every now and then, especially if it would get a laugh.
- Ill-Timed Sneeze: In the comic book variation of "Free Wheeling to Wheeling", the racers have to tread carefully in a canyon where delicately balanced boulders are set so Dastardly sends Muttley up in the air with a canister of pepper to sprinkle on the racers so they'll sneeze and trigger the boulders. But Muttley drops the pepper on Dastardly and...well, you can guess what happens.
- Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain: Dick Dastardly is technically the bad guy of the cartoon, but all he does is unsuccessfully try to win the race by cheating, and quite a few of his failures are hard not to pity.
- Injun Country: The setting for the episode "Why Oh Why Wyoming", where the racers encounter Chief Crazy Buffalo.
- Insult Misfire: From this exchange at the start of "Rhode Island Road Race":Narrator: Leading the pack is Dick Dastardly, the Dracula of the drag strip.
Dick: I resent that remark.
Narrator: But do you deny it?
Dick: No, I just resent it!
- Interactive Narrator: Quite so, one of the Ur Examples in Western Animation. The characters often respond to the narrator's statements..
- Inventional Wisdom: All of the vehicles have features that no sane person would ever include in a car, such as the Compact Pussycat's automatic personal grooming facilities. But, then again, no one ever accused the Wacky Racers of being sane.
- I Would Say If I Could Say: Done by one of the ghosts in "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist": "I'd be bored out of my skull … if I had a skull."
- Just Eat Gilligan: Just Race Fairly: Dick Dastardly would have won a race had he not stopped to cheat every few seconds.
- He tried to do that in "Whizzin' to Washington." See Team Rocket Wins below to see why he lost anyway.
- Kite Riding: In "Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock", a ranger at Yellowrock Park stops each visiting car to check for bears that hide in them to try to sneak out into the city. When Dick Dastardly finds out about this, he tricks the ranger into thinking that Blubber Bear, Lazy Luke's sidekick, is one of the park's bears, despite Luke trying to tell him otherwise. To get Blubber out of the park without the ranger noticing him, Luke ties one end of a rope to the Arkansas Chug-a-bug and the other end around Blubber while the latter holds a kite. As Luke pulls Blubber along, Blubber stays in the air just long enough to avoid being noticed by the ranger.
- Lantern Jaw of Justice: Peter Perfect is a good guy with a large chin.
- Leitmotif: Dick Dastardly had a very prominent theme, which played in pretty much every episode whenever he pulled a trick on the other racers. Penelope Pitstop also had a far less played motif as well.
- Limited Wardrobe: Everyone wears the same clothes all the time.
- Literal-Minded: Numerous examples (in the interest of wordplay).
- At least one example cost a racer first place; in "By Rollercoaster to Upsan Downs", when Sgt. Blast told Pvt. Meekley to "head for that finish line, and step on it", Meekley hurried to the finish line on foot and planted his foot firmly on the line. He then had to watch as Red Max, the Slag Brothers, and Lazy Luke and Blubber crossed the line in their cars and took the top three spots.
- Muttley was also prone to this from time to time; when Dick Dastardly is trapped on the spray from a whale's blowhole in "Eeny Miney, Missouri Go!", he tells Muttley, "Do something! Anything!" Whereupon Muttley does a tap dance... which does qualify as doing something, just not something relevant.
- Mad Scientist: Professor Pat Pending is a relatively mild version of this. He isn't exactly insane, but his inventions and the transformations done by his Convert-A-Car leave little doubt that he's a little odd.
- Mascot Villain: Dick Dastardly and Muttley are the bad guys and easily the most iconic characters of the show, eventually getting a spinoff in the form of Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
- Mass "Oh, Crap!": In "Ballpoint Penn", this is the racers' reaction when they hear Dastardly and his police siren. Each have their own Oh, Crap! reaction to it:Private Meekly: Did you hear that, Sarge?
Sergeant Blast: Yeah, Meekly. It looks like a court-martial for us.Luke: It's the revenuers, Blubber!
Blubber: (terrified whimpering)Penelope: Oh, dear. I do hope the traffic judge is friendly.
Peter: Don't you worry none, Pretty Penny. My uncle's a notary public.Red Max: I'm not worried. I'm a flyer with friends in high places.Clyde: Remember our alibi, youse mugs: We was at the movies when the bank was robbed.Professor Pat Pending: I'll invent a good excuse. Like "we're in a race". By George, we are in a race!Big Gruesome: Here comes the fuzz!
- The Mafia: The Ant Hill Mob are a group of mobsters.
- Meaningless Villain Victory: The big prize in "The Scavenger Scramble" comic book story is announced as a big purse (normally a substantial cash award). Dick Dastardly wins and gets the prize—a big flowery ladies' purse.
- Military Mashup Machine: Three cars come to mind:
- Sergeant Blast and Private Meekly's Army Surplus Special is a combination of a halftrack, tank, and Model T with a pair of bazookas strapped to the sides as impromptu rocket boosters.
- The Red Max's Crimson Haybaler is essentially a WWI biplane with wheels, complete with a machine gun.
- To a lesser extent but still obvious is Dick Dastardly's own Mean Machine which looks like a combination of a MiG-21 fighter jet, a rocket, a race car, and some sort of predatory fish.
- Motionless Chin: Like many Hanna-Barbera cartoons, the characters' mouths move independently of their chins when they talk.
- Dastardly's chin does move in profile shots when he talks.
- Nervous Wreck: Blubber Bear is endlessly worried about things going bad for him and Luke.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- Dick Dastardly was based on Terry-Thomas; Clyde, on Edward G. Robinson in Little Caesar, and Red Max, on the World War I pilot Max Immelmann.
- "Free Wheeling to Wheeling" may indicate that Clyde was based on Clyde Barrow of Bonnie & Clyde fame:Clyde: All right, you mugs...everybody out and push!
Ring-A-Ding: Aw, gee Clyde. Do we gotta?
Clyde: Maybe you'd rather I should tell Bonnie on you?
- Big Gruesome talks like Boris Karloff, while Little Gruesome's voice is an imitation of Peter Lorre.
- No Fourth Wall: Zig-zagged throughout the series as many of the drivers look to the camera and converse with the show's announcer. Most notably in "The Wrong Lumber Race" when Dastardly tries to take over:Dastardly: And now the Double-O moves up into third position, and it's gaining on one, and-Announcer: Hold it, hold it, I'll do the talking here, Dastardly. You do the driving!
- The Notable Numeral: The Gruesome Twosome.
- Non-Fatal Explosions: Occasionally, cars will blow up without causing any harm to the driver, the other racers, or anyone else who happened to be nearby.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Rufus Ruffcut has Sawtooth (a beaver), Luke has Blubber Bear, and Dick Dastardly has Muttley (a dog).
- Opening Narration: A very lengthy one introducing all the racers and their vehicles.
- Outside Ride: When Dick Dastardly decides to impersonate a wild west outlaw who looks like him, he has some scenes where he rides his car while Muttley drives it.
- Painted Tunnel, Real Train:
- In one episode, Dick Dastardly tries this trick to waylay an approaching Peter Perfect. Not only does Peter drive into the picture without ill effect, but a bus then drives out of it and runs over the apoplectic Dastardly.
- One episode included an aquatic variation. Dastardly asked a genie to make a river to block the other racers, which the genie obliges by making a mirage. Peter Perfect realizes it as such, and tells other racers to just imagine there’s a bridge. After they cross, Dastardly drives up to the river, and ends up falling in despite it being a mirage.
- "By Rollercoaster to Upsan Downs" provides an inversion; When Dastardly gets ahead of the other racers, he paints a canyon over the road and has Muttley place a "STOP BRIDGE OUT" sign near it. The other racers drive over the canyon unharmed, but when Dastardly chases after them, he falls into the canyon.
- In a comic book story, Dick theorizes that the others can cross the painted tunnel because they don't know it's not real and, he and Muttley can cross it as well if they believe it's real. They test the theory and fail, prompting Dick to blame Muttley for not believing. As part of a new attempt, Dick has Muttley hypnotizing him into believing the tunnel is real and it fails because Muttley gave the wrong hypnotic command.
- Pepper Sneeze: In "Idaho A-Go-Go ", Luke is in the lead, and asks Blubber Bear to make him a parsnip sandwich with extra pepper for their victory. Blubber creates a huge cloud of pepper which causes him to sneeze the Arkansas Chug-a-Bug backwards and into the racers behind them.
- Percussive Maintenance: The Bouldermobile. At one point the car pulls out its own club and hits back just before completely falling apart.
- Prison Episode: In "Fast Track to Hackensack", Dastardly sets a trap for the other racers in Hackensack, New Jersey by vandalizing a speed limit sign from 35 miles per hour to 85. This results in the Anthill Mob being arrested by the Sheriff and thrown in his jail. After Ring-A-Ding tries many unsuccessful attempts to bust him and the rest of the Anthill Mob out, Clyde explains to the Sheriff that they're competitors in the Wacky Race. As the Wacky Race is the Sheriff's favorite sport, this convinces him to give them an escort to the finish line, where they win first place. Dastardly is about to win, but the Sheriff arrests him for shooting at him and resisting arrest.
- Puddle-Covering Chivalry: In "The Baja Ha-Ha Race", Penelope Pitstop comes to a giant mud puddle that would sink her car if she tried driving over it. When Peter Perfect catches up to her, he puts his coat over the puddle so she can drive her car over it. Penelope drives over the coat and ends up sinking into the puddle.
- Punny Name: The destination cities of some of the races include Ballpoint, Penn.; Deepinaharta, Texas; and Wotwill, Delaware.
- Red-plica Baron: The Red Max and his car, the Crimson Haybaler, are based on the Red Baron and his plane.
- Red Riding Hood Replica: In "Idaho A-Go-Go", Dastardly set up a trap where he disguised himself as Red Riding Hood to stop the other racers. It worked well- that is, until the actual Big Bad Wolf showed up.
- Revival: A made-for-TV movie, Around the World With the Wacky Racers, was planned for 1988 (as part of the Hanna-Barbera Superstars 10 line of TV cartoon movies) but it was never carried out. The 1990 segment Fender Bender 500 (part of the series Wake, Rattle and Roll) is considered a revival of Wacky Races merely because it has Dastardly and Muttley in it- though this time their opponents are other Hanna-Barbera characters like Yogi Bear and Huckleberry Hound. Also, Wacky Races Forever, an unsold pilot for Cartoon Network featuring the son and daughter of Peter and Penelope (who got married), as well as Pat Pending (who, it seems, went gleefully insane, and who now seems willing to use attack abilities), the Slag Brothers, now having grown mustaches and driving a souped-up version of the Bouldermobile, and a cute vampire girl and her companion subbing for the Gruesome Twosome.
- Rock Beats Laser: The Slag Brothers are a pair of cartoon cavemen driving "The Boulder Mobile", which is literally a hollowed-out rock on a primitive wooden carriage that mostly relies on one or both brothers to pound away at the rear of The Alleged Car with their clubs to grant it motive force. Despite this, they not only manage to successfully compete in a race that includes actual (if fantastical) race cars and even a converted airplane, if you use the official NASCAR race scoring formula, they technically won the Wacky Races, since they tend to most consistently finish the race in 2nd or 3rd place, as well as a few 1st place finishes under their pelts. 2nd and 3rd place by those same qualifiers are the Ant Hill Mob and Penelope Pitstop, respectively, who are actually two of the four individuals who most frequently came in first.
- If you just count the winner as "the racer who came in first the most consistently", then Luke & Blubber Bear also count, since their steam-powered Arkansas Chugga-bug came in 1st place 4 times, matching up with the far more advanced Bullet Proof Bomb (Ant Hill Mob), Compact Pussycat (Penelope Perfect) and Turbo Terrific (Peter Perfect). Ironically, by the official NASCAR race scoring formula, the Arkansas Chugga-bug comes in dead last, since, outside of those four first place finishes, it tends to consistently be one of the last cars across the finish line. Not counting Dick Dastardly, of course.
- If you count just the number of wins overall, just behind the Slag Brothers is Rufus Roughcut's Buzzwagon, which is literally a cart made of rough-hewn wood that rolls along on four buzzsaws. Like the Boulder Mobile, the Buzzwagon consistently places 2nd to 3rd place, with at least a few 1st place wins under its own belt.
- Rod And Reel Repurposed: At the end of "The Super Silly Swamp Sprint", Lazy Luke pulls out a fishing pole and uses its hook to latch onto the finish line. He reels it in and wins the race as a result.
- Rhymes on a Dime: Some episode titles fall into this: "See Saw to Arkansas," "Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock," "Idaho A-Go-Go," and "Mish Mash Missouri Dash."
- Road Runner vs. Coyote: Follows the standard plot of the antagonist's efforts to defeat the hero(es) always being doomed to failure. Dick Dastardly never wins any of the races no matter what he does to put the other racers out of action.
- Scary Teeth: Dick Dastardly and Viceroy are depicted with nasty-looking teeth in the Wacky Races Forever pilot.
- Scavenger Hunt: Gold Key Comics issue #7, "The Scavenger Scramble," had the racers looking for the following items: a "real gone" muffler, a drop of dirty motor oil on the driver's right palm, a strip of torn-off tire tread, and a parking ticket, with a big purse (usually a substantial cash prize) at stake. Penelope is first to finish but is disqualified because the muffler she obtained was a colorful scarf, not a beat-up exhaust pipe as per rules. That gave Dick Dastardly the victory and the prize: a big flowery ladies' purse.
- Sergeant Rock: Sergeant Blast calls the shots in the Army Surplus Special and is never soft on Private Meekley.
- Ship Tease: There's quite a few moments between Peter and Penelope implying a relationship, including one episode where Dastardly and Muttley lure them into a cake factory and they wind up wearing wedding outfits. If you think the Forever pilot is canon, then they become an Official Couple and have children.
- At the end of "Eeny, Miny Missouri Go!", the Mean Machine is reduced to a set of rotatory wings and a rope. When Dastardly and Muttley are seen using them, the Narrator asks "Is that a bird? Is that a plane?" before realizing it's Dastardly.
- One for the 2020's game. One of the pieces is A.C.M.E. Laboratory. The image is lifted straight from Pinky and the Brain.
- Signature Team Transport: Every vehicle is one for its respective owner(s). They're all extremely representative of their pilots' personality.
- Silly Spook: "Creepy Trip to Lemon Twist" has a pair of goofy ghosts in the abandoned saloon.
- The Smurfette Principle: Penelope Pitstop is the only woman among the racers. Iwao Takamoto said in a bonus feature on the Wacky Races DVD set that Penelope's creation was an afterthought, when he and Jerry Eisenberg noticed that all the racers to that point were male.
- South of the Border: "The Baja-Ha-Ha Race".
- Speech-Impaired Animal: Muttley and Blubber Bear don't talk much.
- Spin-Offspring: The Wacky Races Forever pilot featured two new racers known as Parker and Piper Perfect, who were established as being the children of Peter Perfect and Penelope Pitstop.
- Stealth Insult: This exchange from the comic book adaptation of "Mish Mash Missouri Dash": (Gold Key #2, Feb. 1971):Narrator: Let's face it, Dick. You're just a born loser. You've got nothing.
Muttley: Snaffacrassin Frassin...(translated: "What do you mean 'nothing'? He's got me, hasn't he?")
Dick: That's exactly what the man meant!
- Stock Footage: Some drivers' dashboards are recycled to cut animation costs.
- Team Rocket Wins: Although Dastardly and Muttley never won a race in the original series (not even on a technicality) they'll still get an outcome they're pleased with.
- A few episodes of the Fender Bender 500 had them win for once. Even they were surprised.
- In the Dreamcast version, going through the rigamarole of tasks necessary to unlock Dastardly is worth it just to win a race as him and listen to the narrator's either disgusted or bewildered reaction.
- In the comic books, Dick won twice ("The Scavenger Scramble," Gold Key #7; "Trek to Tanzania," Archie Comics #1), but in each case there was a catch to the victory.
- Lampshaded and subverted in "Whizzin' to Washington," in which Dastardly passes everyone en route to finish first without cheating only to suddenly stop:Announcer: The Double Zero has yet to cross the finish line. What happened, Dick?
Dastardly: I stopped to give somebody my autograph.
Announcer: You're kidding. Who would want your autograph?
Dastardly: [pointing to Muttley, who holds a note pad with Dastardly's autograph] Him!
- "See-Saw to Arkansas" had a similar lampshading/subversion; on the home stretch, Dick Dastardly is dead level with Red Max, the Gruesome Twosome, and Rufus Ruffcut, and the announcer declares that they will need a photo finish - a declaration which gets Dastardly's attention. When the photograph is taken, Red Max, the Gruesome Twosome and Rufus Ruffcut are shown to have taken first, second and third, respectively... while the Mean Machine has stopped just short of the finish line, and Dick Dastardly and Muttley are posing next to it. The announcer declares Dastardly a big ham, to which Dastardly and Muttley chuckle.
- Dick and Muttley are about to cross the finish line first in "Speeding For Smogland", but it wouldn't count—due to a multi-car collision that catapults three other drivers from the vehicles, they wind up in the Arkansas Chuggabug. The narrator tells Dick and Muttley that crossing the finish line in the wrong car constitutes a disqualification.
- Thememobile: All of the cars are themed on their drivers. The lumberjack drives a car with buzzsaw wheels, The Mafia drive a 1920s sedan, etc.
- Thin Chin of Sin: Dick Dastardly has a pronounced chin that reaches almost as far forward as his nose. This is the villain with the fastest car in the Wacky Races yet never wins because Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat.
- Those Magnificent Flying Machines: Most notably Red Max and his Crimson Haybailer, also Professor Pat Pending and his Convert-a-Car and the Gruesome Twosome's Creepy Coupe. On occasion, the other cars will take flight as well.
- Transforming Mecha: Professor Pat Pending's Convert-a-Car can turn into anything.
- The Trickster: Dick Dastardly. Sure, he can win the race by playing fair, but he insists playing the race his way. Of course he loses, but he keeps coming back for more. "The Super Silly Swamp Sprint" has Dastardly saying the other racers forced him to be a bad guy in a clear case of Crocodile Tears, as he adds: "I don't want to use those destructive machines but they leave me with no other choice."
- Two Men, One Dress: One of Dastardly's traps in "Idaho A-Go-Go" involves him setting up a fake cattle crossing. He disguises himself and Muttley as a cow, with him in front, and Muttley in the rear. The two end up getting mistaken for a real cow by a bull and chased away by said bull, costing them the race.
- Underwear Swimsuit: In "Beat the Clock to Yellow Rock", a ranger at Yellowrock Park stops each passing car to check for bears that hide in them to try to sneak out into the city. As this happens, The Anthill Mob decide to pass the time by swimming in a nearby pond, so they strip down to their underwear. While this happens, a group of bear cubs steal the Mob's clothes to disguise themselves so they can sneak out of the park. The ranger catches onto them, and as he leads them away, the Mob chases after them, telling them to come back with their clothes.
- Unspoken Plan Guarantee: Dick Dastardly's plans to hinder the other racers only worked out (temporarily) on the very rare occasions when he didn't explain them out loud beforehand.
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: Part of one place took place in a medium-sized city. A police officer is keeping watch on a corner when the Gruesome Twosome happens to pass by, with their dragon poking its head, wings, and tail out of its hiding spot. The police officer's only response was a simple "Hmmm....".
- Vehicular Sabotage: Messing up the other racers' vehicles is a standard Dick Dastardly tactic in the Wacky Races, to try to get a leg up on the competition.
- Villain Protagonist: Dick Dastardly is the most prominent racer in the series and the one most likely to cheat.
- Wacky Racing: This show is the Trope Namer. The premise of the series is that it's a racing event where everyone's cars have gadgets and gimmicks they use to try and win the race.
- Weaponized Car: Most of the male racers have some kind of combat capability. (Examples include a cannon, buzzsaws, a dragon...)
- Peter Perfect in the Turbo Terrific (number 9) was completely unarmed. Maybe that's why he wound up being the Butt-Monkey so often...
- What Does This Button Do?: Penelope Pitstop asks herself this while she's in the Army Surplus Special's turret in "Race Rally to Raleigh", before activating the cannon.
- Wiper Start: In "Race Rally to Raleigh", Sergeant Blast ends up in the Compact Pussycat [Penelope Pitstop's car]. Trying to stop it, he activates the controls that apply face powder and lipstick. Granted, these are not standard controls in a car, but it does raise the question of why he thought the brakes would be activated by a button on the dashboard. Meanwhile, over in the Army Surplus Special, Penelope winds up firing the cannon.
- Wrench Whack: In one occasion, Muttley covers his head with a bucket under the belief that Dick Dastardly will hit him bare-handed (if the gloves he wears don't count) as usual but Dastardly uses a wrench instead.
- You Didn't Ask: In "Baja-Ha-Ha Race", the Mean Machine gets stuck in mud until a donkey pulls it out. To make sure his rivals won't be as lucky, Dick Dastardly buys the donkey. When Penelope Pitstop gets stuck, the seller calls another donkey to pull her car. Dastardly protests that the seller didn't say he had another donkey and the seller replies that Dastardly didn't ask and he has several donkeys.