The various media we consume as children often help shape who we become in adulthood, and many of us owe a debt to Speed Racer for exposing us to cars and racing at an early age. Every afternoon we'd come home to an hourlong block of Speed Racer reruns, and to this day we know the lyrics to the theme song by heart. Sure, the dubbing was awkward, the dialog often super-cheesy, and the animation cruder than we remember, but hearing those blaring horns as the Mach 5 revs its engine at the start of the show still brings a smile to our faces.
We know we're not the only ones with fond memories of the 1960s anime (originally called Mach GoGoGo in Japan), which is why we're so excited that just about the entire series is now available to stream on MotorTrend. Subscribers can binge-watch 50 episodes of the classic cartoon show on the MotorTrend app, or if you just want to revisit specific episodes you loved as a kid, you can do that, too. We're guessing it's been a while since you last saw Speed Racer, so as a refresher, here are our top 10 favorite episodes from the original series.
The Great Plan
We'll start with the very first episode, where we meet Speed Racer (yes, that is his actual name) and his entourage, including Pops Racer (his dad), Trixie (Speed's girlfriend), Sparky (a mechanic), Spritle (Speed's little brother), and Chim-Chim (their pet ape). After test-driving his father's newest race car, the Mach 5, Speed decides to enter it in a $5,000 cash-prize race so Pops can rebuild the car with an even better engine. But unbeknownst to him, the plans for that engine are drawn in invisible ink on the windshield, because where better to hide your top-secret designs than on a very breakable piece of glass? Naturally, the bad guys all want those plans, and Speed is forced to deal with spinning wheel-hub spikes, a dude with a sniper rifle, and countless other dangers in his very first race.
Challenge of the Masked Racer
This is the first appearance of Racer X, who (spoiler alert) is secretly Speed's older brother, Rex, who ran away from home years ago—and by secretly we mean a narrator beats you over the head with that fact every time Racer X is on screen. In addition to meeting Racer X, we also meet his car, a sleek yellow and black speedster called the Shooting Star.
The Most Dangerous Race
This episode is notable for being the first appearance of the Car Acrobatic Team, a group of racers specializing in vehicle acrobatics, which is a thing, obviously. The team is led by a guy named Captain Terror, who employs some, shall we say, unconventional methods to ensure his drivers are the most skilled in the world. The Car Acrobatic Team holds occult rituals that somehow allow them to stack their cars on top of each other while in motion and execute turns and barrel rolls in midair.
Race Against the Mammoth Car
If you hadn't realized by now that this show isn't meant to be taken too seriously, this classic episode should give you a few hints. Speed enters the Mach 5 into the No Limit World Race, along with a team that takes the definition of "no limit" to ridiculous extremes. The Mammoth Car is more a road-going train than it is a car, measuring more than 200 yards long, packing 30,000 hp, and with a top speed of over 500 mph. When Inspector Detector, a recurring character who serves as the show's all-purpose law enforcement officer, informs Speed and his crew that someone in the race is trying to smuggle $50 million in stolen gold bars out of the country, they all wonder who the thieves might be. Hmm, where could you possibly hide that much gold? You'd need, like, a gigantic car of mammoth proportions, right?
In this episode we also get to see Speed use the Mach 5's homing pigeon robot—one of the car's lesser-known gadgets—which deploys from the hood to scout ahead or spy on the competition.
The Fastest Car on Earth
Pops Racer's life before the events of the series was apparently just as interesting, if not more so. From being a former champion wrestler to working as a top designer for a major automaker, Pops has a colorful past that occasionally comes back to haunt him—and in this episode that happens quite literally. When a mysterious car shows up at the test track one day and sets a record lap, Pops thinks he recognizes the sound of the engine and suspects it's one he worked on years ago called the GRX—an engine so powerful that it killed its designer and four other drivers. He goes to the graveyard to see if the engine is still where he buried it (as one does) only to find it missing. Dun-dun-duuun!
Mach 5 vs. Mach 5
A group of criminals builds a copy of the Mach 5 to frame Speed Racer for the theft of a weapon called the Mizmo beam, which they of course stole for themselves for ... reasons. Their actual goal is world domination by means of copied nuclear missiles, but they somehow find time to build a knock-off Mach 5 that has all the same gadgets as the real one plus the ability to fly. So it turns out the Mizmo beam is just some kind of bizarre MacGuffin, though the bad guys do build it into their fake Mach 5 and use it once or twice.
The Desperate Racer
This is the episode many say calls Speed's moral character into question, and yeah, he is kind of a jerk here. But this story arc is about more than just Speed wanting to win a race to deny his rival Hap Hazard the prize money he needs for his terminally ill sister. It's about pineapples—like 90 percent of it. The race is the Southern Hemisphere Pineapple Grand Prix, which requires drivers to grab a pineapple while running to their cars from a Le Mans-style start and keep it with them all the way to the finish line. Of course, some gangsters hid a jewel inside one of them, and they try to get it back throughout the episode.
In the end, it all works out. Speed wins the race, but Chim-Chim steals his pineapple and puts it in Hap Hazard's car, making him the winner. He's awarded the money he needs for his sister's medical treatment along with a 10-year supply of—you guessed it—pineapples. You won't find plotlines like this anywhere else, folks.
Race for Revenge
To this day, an eerie metallic voice crying out "Melange still races" haunts our dreams, and it's all thanks to this episode about a driver and race car seemingly returned from the grave. The X3 Melange was a top-tier race car that competed at Danger Pass 15 years prior to the events of Speed Racer. During the race, the Melange was involved in a crash with three other cars, which resulted in the death of its driver, Flash Marker, and the presumed destruction of the X3. Now, the Melange is back to exact revenge on the ones who caused the crash—but who's driving it? Speed and the gang are on the case.
The Trick Race
The Car Acrobatic Team returns in this episode for a rematch with Speed one year after their defeat in the Big Alpine Race. Speed receives a letter challenging him to a race, and naturally he accepts. But neither party is aware that they are merely pawns in a nefarious secret organization's scheme to eliminate Racer X. By the end of the episode, Speed confronts Racer X and asks him point-blank if he's his brother Rex—to which he replies with a swift punch to the gut, knocking Speed unconscious. Classic move.
Race Around the World
In the final episode of the original series, Speed competes with a woman named Lovelace Goldminter in a race run by her father, and in which the prize for winning is her hand in marriage. Determined to control her own fate, Lovelace enters the Around the World Race along with her guardian, Oscar. Unlike previous episodes where Speed gives little thought to the misfortunes of his rivals, here he's torn between his desire to win and doing the right thing. He helps Lovelace throughout the race, saving her from sharks and giving her a can of his own gasoline. In the end he wins anyway but refuses to take Lovelace as his bride out of respect.
This episode is also great because we get to see Speed race in a number of vehicles besides the Mach 5, including a vintage IndyCar-looking racer, a speedboat, and an airplane.