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Home > Speed Racer > He’s Busy Revving Up The Powerful Mach 5!

He’s Busy Revving Up The Powerful Mach 5!

April 14th, 2008

No discussion of Speed Racer could be complete, or even begin, without a close-up look at the Mach 5, the real ultimate driving machine. (Does a BMW come with rotary saws? I think not.)

While its slick, futuristic styling certain appealed to young viewers, what really fired our imaginations was that steering wheel with those mysterious, lettered buttons. The only time we ever got a full rundown on their functions was at the start of the second episode of the series.

Control A activated the Auto Jacks. As the name implied, they were originally intended to lift the Mach 5 so that Sparky, the Racer family’s mechanic (seen above) could quickly make repairs. More commonly, however, they were used to jump over things: other cars, lava flows and bottomless chasms.

Control B was for the grip tires, a set of belts that wrapped around the wheels for extra traction. Meanwhile, auxiliary engines provided an additional 5,000 horsepower.

Control C caused a pair of rotary saws to extend from the front of the car. Intended to clear obstacles, they could also be deployed as anti-vehicular weapons. Mostly, they were used to cut trees.

Even back in the day, I found it just a little hard to swallow that the Mach 5 could tear through a forest at 200 MPH as if the trees weren’t there. Even if they magically fell to the side in time, there were still all those stumps. Must’ve played hell with the shocks.

Control D activated a deflector bubble straight out of James Bond’s Q Branch. Airtight and impervious to bullets, it was good to have just in case someone had a submachine gun. Which they usually did.

Control E turned on special headlights which could independently swivel, and which provided night vision when used with Speed’s driving helmet.

Control F was used when the Mach 5 was underwater, which happened more often than you might think. An oxygen supply fed the watertight bubble, while a periscope extended to the surface. A dashboard TV screen allowed Speed to view above water. I don’t believe it came with Mapquest.

Control G launched a homing robot from the Mach 5’s hood. In the days before cell phones, it was used to carry messages and even small objects to the Racer family.

An additional control panel near the gearshift then opened. A small joystick could steer the pigeon-shaped device if, for example, one wanted to disarm someone carrying a submachine gun. It also revealed Control H, which automatically sent the robot home.

Now, perhaps it’s just me, but as an adult I can see at least one small flaw in this control scheme. The big, central button–the one that’s easiest to find and press in a split-second emergency–isn’t for the auto jacks, which Speed used pretty much all the time, but rather for the damned homing robot. I can imagine that there were many instances of premature ejection.

So, there you have it, the Mach 5! Stay tuned for more vehicular insanity!

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