Back in 2006 when the first film of Disney-Pixar’s Cars trilogy was released, Lightning McQueen showed the world that you don’t have to be a real vehicle to become one of the most famous cars in the world. In fact, as we’ll discuss below, the animated protagonist brings together features from multiple cars. And while the RX-7 isn’t necessarily among them, an amateur drifter from New Zealand set out to change this, giving his Mazda a Lightning McQueen makeover.
Being a third-generation Mazda RX-7, this JDM coupe was already used to having all eyes on it. However, once owner Luke Mckinnon gave it the said Cars look last year, the level of attention the brap-brap machine gets is unprecedented.
To start with, the FD-gen RX-7 sports a Pandem Rocket Bunny widebody. But you’ll be forgiven for having a hard time focusing on the JDM overfenders due to the presence of the famous fictional livery. Of course, the windscreen sticker makes life a bit harder for the driver, but it seems like the man has been drifting just fine in this manner.
The Mazda still has its turbocharged twin-rotor 13B motor, albeit with the unit presumably having been modded to cope with the prolonged stress of sideways laps—as enticing as Wankel motors sound, their Apex seals are notorious for their issues, so the kind of heavy-foot driving required to pull massive slip angles doesn’t exactly help.
And the mean transmission sound awaiting you in the first part of the drifting video below indicates that the sequential transmission of the RWD toy works with straight-cut gears.
The usual drifting hardware has been added to the vehicle, with the bits ranging from the high-angle steering to the roll cage that’s present in case the hydraulic handbrake corrections are not enough in extreme scenarios.
Is there any bit of Mazda in the real Lightning McQueen?
Returning to the vehicles that make up Lightning McQueen, one can easily notice the NASCAR connection and perhaps the Chevrolet Corvette in there. And while no Mazda DNA seems to be present, the main machine of the movie trilogy that reached more than $1 billion altogether had plenty of other muses.
You see, as DriveTribe’s Mike Fernie explains in the YouTube video at the bottom of the story, which also features a James May “evaluation” of the toy, Chevrolet was initially involved with Cars (those were the days of the C6). However, since the collaboration didn’t pan out, the initial design was tweaked to include multiple references.
So, in addition to stock car racing, Lightning McQueen was also modeled after the Le Mans hero that is the 1960s Ford GT40 (at the rear), while also borrowing bits from a Lola prototype racer at the front. And since we mentioned James Way, we’ll tell you that he’s the one who pointed out the 911 similarities for the greenhouse.
Oh, and if you zoom in on one of the pics in the gallery below, you’ll notice that the actual name sitting on the Mazda RX-7 is Lightning Mckinnon (for obvious reasons).