Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Mach 5: could it work?




I was thinking about the Mach 5 today.

I do that; consider seemingly random things while approaching an especially disgusting task in my day job.  Today it was the Mach 5 that entered my heat oppressed brain.  For those of you who don't know, the Mach 5 is the race car that Speed drives in the classic anime series, Speed Racer.  As a pleasant and distracting mental exercise, I wondered if an actual "real-life" version of the Mach 5 could be built, complete with all the tricked out gizmos.  I tried to remember the car's distinctive technological features:

-Auto jacks.  They would raise the car so that Sparky the mechanic would have access to the undercarriage.  They'd also allow the car to jump short distances and even served as emergency brakes.  Crucial when you're skidding towards a waterfall.

-Belt tires.  Special grips unfold and encase the tires, helping the Speed and the Mach 5 cross treacherous terrain, such as a pesky ice floe or an inconvenient mountainside.

-Massive saw blades.  These rotary blades would pop out the front and allow Speed to cut his way through an entire forest.

-Deflector.  A bubble that seals the cockpit.  The shield is bulletproof, airtight, etc.

-Evening Eye.  Headlight beams that afford greater lengths of visibility.

-Homing robot.  A bird-shaped robot that can recon an area and send live footage back to the Mach 5.

-Frogger mode.  Rigs the car for underwater travel, complete with periscope and oxygen supply to the cockpit.  

I did a bit of searching to see what the science of all this would be like.  The auto jacks would be easy and ditto for the deflector.  In that latter case, there are all kinds of car windows that are made of bullet-proof polymers.  The actual body of the car could have an armored Kevlar weave to it.  Evening Eye is no problem with simple nightvision.  Might even add in augmented reality features, just to trick it out.  The homing robot would be a mini UAV remote controlled from inside the car. Myriad example of those around these days.
After that it gets dicey.  I have no idea how the crampon belt tires would work.  Maybe if they were made of the same fibrous material that allows someone to stick to a wall?  Nah, useless in this case.  "Frogger mode" is pretty much out of the question I would say.  The engine would have to be electric in order to work underwater and I can't imagine the oxygen supply lasting all that long.  I know there have been efforts to build underwater cars before, but I don't think any of them have panned out...yet.  Then there are the saws.  Zircon blades would work, but there's no way Speed could cut down trees as fast as he did in the cartoon.  And that's probably because it's a cartoon.

After a little more digging, I found that an actual Mach 5 was built, complete with the saw blades.  You can read about it here.

So in the end, I'd have to say that the real mystery would have to be the Mach 5's trunk.  A) Why does a race car have a trunk and B) why the hell doesn't Speed always check it for Spritle and Chim Chim?  You'd think they would have inculcated Speed to that caper.  Then again, you would've thought he'd figure out Racer X was his brother by episode 3, but that light bulb took a few seasons to go on.

Which reminds me, please enjoy my favorite clip ever from Speed Racer:



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