Cars (2006): A Partial Portrait of Changing America

I never had a favorite movie when people would ask me. I just didn’t care that much. I told people it was National Treasure 2 just to to be annoying. I don’t have a favorite director, but recently, it hit me: my favorite movie of all time is Cars - the American computer-animated comedy-adventure film from 2006.


Spoilers Ahead: It’s about this race car named Lightning McQueen, who’s this up and coming kid who is really good. In Florida, he ties with three other more experienced cars for The Piston Cup. The tie breaker will be in California. Anyway so he pushes too hard and ends up stuck in the once booming, now almost abandoned Radiator Springs, right on the mother road, Route 66. In this town, a lot of Lightning McQueen being “better than this stupid town” but the part that he didn’t expect is Doc Hudson, the town’s doctor, judge, and really patriarch.


I like Doc Hudson the most. Before he was in Radiator Springs, he was The Fabulous Hudson Hornet, a legendary race car. He’s spent decades running away from the racing world, when one day, Lightning McQueen brings the world to him and he has to face his past. That’s one of my favorite parts about Cars - the American computer-animated comedy-adventure film from 2006.



Hudson Hornet in Sonoma, California. Vehicle displays the #51 of Newman's Cars character Doc Hudson. (Photo By Jim Heaphy)

The history of Route 66, cars, and NASCAR is carefully integrated into the visuals and the story. In the 50s, when the Hudson Hornet was manufactured, it was the one of the best cars on the track. This ties into the part of the movie that pulls at my heartstrings the most - this abandoned Route 66 town.

In this clip, Sally Carrera expresses how much she wishes she could have seen Radiator Springs in its heyday.


This clip shows how Radiator Springs was so excited for the interstate - they thought it would bring customers and boost their town even more, but what ended up happening was everyone passed it by in favor of speeding up their drive. As the character Sally Carrera explains to Lightning McQueen: “Cars didn't drive on it to make great time. They drove on it to have a great time.”


For me, this aspect of the movie has never been about wanting to get the 50s and all of it's values back. I obviously don't want that, for many reasons. I've always seen it as a very visual example of how times change, and things that were once great, can turn into seemingly nothing. In the movie, Route 66, Radiator Springs, along with Doc Hudson, are all once iconic, now representations of a different, changing America.


Route 66 is a piece of history that I greatly respect, and a lot of my influence has to do with Cars - the American computer-animated comedy-adventure film from 2006. In the end, Lighting McQueen learns a lesson from Doc Hudson when Hicks, and more experienced (old!) racer who is about to retire, gets into a catastrophic accident. Lightning McQueen gives up winning the Piston Cup in order to help Hicks finish his last race. Thus, his time in Radiator Springs taught him more about racing than he thought he had to learn. Furthermore, Radiator Springs gets put back on the map as Lightning McQueen announces it will be the location of his headquarters.

My point is that the story is satisfying and that's great, but what Cars - the American computer-animated comedy-adventure film from 2006 makes me think about is more than wishing I could have seen Route 66 in it's heyday. I love that this movie makes me think about whether or not we should preserve these towns like Radiator Springs that still exist today, or move forward and adapt to the changes that come with time.


Either way, I recently watched this movie again, an then watched the deleted scene/ director's commentary version, and cried for probably 40% of the movie both times. It truly is a gem, and partially a portrait of an exciting part of American History, which is so up my alley.


That's a little bit on why Cars (2006) is my favorite movie of all time.

© 2020 Hannah Ponder