The '80s was full of pop cultural milestones. The decade featured the birth of music videos and video games, and the hip-hop scene was finally beginning to gain traction. One element of the '80s which we're sure stuck with you--assuming you were already alive then--was the unforgettable cartoon programming. Remember Saturday Fun Machine?
Sure, most of the cartoon series may have just been toy ads with a plot--cheesy as hell by today’s standards--but to anyone who grew up back then, they were a way of life. Those cartoon characters were as much a part of '80s kids as anything back then. Here, then, are our picks for the decade’s 10 best cartoon vehicles.
Gadget Mobile (Inspector Gadget). The Gadget Mobile is capable of transforming into either a van or a police car (which closely resembled a 1983 Toyota Supra). The vehicle had add-ons such as a retractable claw with which Gadget could grab things, and a laughing gas emitted from the vehicle among others. Did we mention it could fly? Now that’s what you call versatility! Go, go, Gadget!
Optimus Prime (Transformers). The most popular Transformer of them all, Optimus Prime was the coolest-looking truck '80s cartoon TV had to offer. Peter Cullen, who provided the iconic voice behind Optimus, had no idea just how popular the leader of the Autobots was until he read angry fan mail after the character’s death. Producers eventually brought Optimus back, and he’s still as big a character even today, thanks to the recent Transformer live-action films.
Ecto-1 (The Real Ghostbusters). Unlike the other entries on this list, the Ecto-1 was a humble vehicle used for storing gear and getting from point A to B. A few episodes featured add-ons and modifications such as the ability to detect supernatural entities, emit a smoke screen, and other gadgets. No need to transform into a robot or deploy laser cannons. Just the sound of that unmistakable siren was enough to get '80s kids excited for another episode.
ThunderTank (ThunderCats). The ThunderTank made its debut way back in the original series’ second episode, after Panthros had built it from the remnants of their wrecked spaceship. It wasn’t fast, but it sure did pack a lot of firepower for a vehicle that looked as tacky as it did.
Turtle Van (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Also known as the Party Wagon, this was the Turtles’ primary ground transport. It was originally the van of one of the Turtles’ early adversaries, Baxter Stockman, which Donatello converted into an armored vehicle. The ride stuck with the Turtles through thick and thin throughout the entirety of the cartoon’s run, and was a popular toy back then.
Cobra HISS Tank (G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero). The HISS Tank, or Cobra High Speed Sentry, was the staple of Cobra’s armored ground attack force. It featured two mounted cannons for both anti-personnel and anti-armor purposes. The versatile vehicle was quick, and easily adapted to different warfare environments, be it urban, jungle or open desert. The tank had different variants, including a model that spewed out chemical waste.
Attak Trak (He-Man And The Masters Of The Universe). It may not have been pretty, but at the time, this thing was considered a beast. The Attak Trak’s paper-clip-like wheels (treads?) might look ridiculous, but they could climb over nearly anything. Its dorsal-mounted dual turrets are extremely accurate as well. This baby foiled innumerable Skeletor attempts at conquering Castle Grayskull.
M.A.S.K. Rhino (M.A.S.K.). The acronym stood for Mobile Armored Strike Kommand. This was a popular but short-lived '80s cartoon series focused on vehicular combat. Bruce Sato was the group’s second-in-command, and his ground vehicle of choice was the Rhino, a red six-wheeler freight truck capable of firing from its mounted turrets, launching long-range ballistic missiles, and splitting into two, providing M.A.S.K. team members with a faster, more agile four-wheel jeep.
Voltron’s feet (Voltron: Defender Of The Universe). We wish we could pick the entire Voltron Vehicle Force--after all, only Voltron as a whole could use the Blazing Sword. But we’ll have to go with Voltron’s feet because of their out-of-this-world suspension. They carried the combined weight of the rest of the team’s vehicles, as well as the fate of the universe.
The Cloud Mobile (The Care Bears). This was the Care Bear transportation of choice in the Kingdom of Caring. The vehicle was light as a feather, and was powered by the most inexpensive fuel of all--love!