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The Real-Life Places Along Route 66 From Disney’s Cars 

Have you ever wondered about the real-life places along Route 66 that served as inspiration for the Disney movie Cars and Disney California Adventure’s Cars Land? If you’ve never traveled Route 66, you may not know that almost everything and everyone in “Radiator Springs” is based on somewhere or someone along The Mother Road. Since I love both Route 66 and Disneyland, I thought I would put together a photo gallery comparing the real-life places along Route 66  and Cars.

The Real Life Places Along Route 66 From Disney’s Cars 

When the Pixar team was making the movie Cars, they took two creative road trips along Route 66 lead by Route 66 historian Michael Wallis, also known as the Sheriff in Radiator Springs.  Real motels, restaurants, and buildings of Route 66 served as inspiration for the Pixar team as they were creating Radiator Springs and the different characters in the movie Cars.

Let’s compare them all below! Warning – it’s a LOT of photos! 

Sally’s Cozy Cone Motel

First up? My favorite! Sally’s Cozy Cone Motel! It’s genius! The orange-cone shaped single standing motel rooms in Cars are based on the many teepee-shaped structures found along the Mother Road. 

The Cozy Cone Motel in Radiator Springs is a composite of the Wigwam Motels in both Holbrook, Arizona and Rialto, California, the Blue Swallow Motel’s beautiful sign and office as well as their individual drive-in garages in Tucumcari, New Mexico, and I see a bit of the Munger Moss Motel’s beautiful neon sign, the Kozy Corner Trailer Park (in name and Tiki head shape) in there, too! And, of course, the Cozy Dog Drive-in in name.

Here’s the Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, Arizona:

And the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico:

I totally see the Munger Moss sign as inspiration for the Cozy Cone Motel neon sign! Do you see it, too?

The Kozy Corner Trailer Park in Arizona:

And the Cozy Dog Drive-In in Springfield, Illinois:

Ramone’s Body Shop

Next up? Another crown jewel of the Mother Road, Ramone’s Body Shop in Cars and its real-life Route 66 inspiration, the U-Drop Inn from Shamrock, Texas!

Here’s Ramone’s in Cars Land at California Adventure:


And here’s the U-Drop Inn in Shamrock, Texas:

Notice the old tow truck parked outside which bears a strong resemblance to Tow Mater!  

Flo’s V8 Cafe

I think the crown jewel of Disney California Adventures’ Cars Land is Flo’s V8 Cafe.

While they look nothing alike, Flo’s is based on the Midpoint Cafe, the halfway point along Route 66 located in Adrian, Texas. Fran House, the owner of the Midpoint Cafe from 1990 to 2012, was the character inspiration for Flo. Even their famous “Ugly Crust Pies” made it onto the menu at Flo’s in Cars Land at one point, although, I ordered a milkshake the last time we were there and they have, unfortunately, since been removed from the menu.

Here’s the Midpoint Cafe:

And this is my absolute favorite photo from our Route 66 road trip. There’s a little stand set up in front of this sign so you can use the timer function and take a “selfie.” Well, my husband suggested we stand on the bench behind the sign, so he stood up there while I set up my camera and when it started counting down, I quickly ran up to stand behind the sign and quickly realized I was too short.

The inside of Flo’s V8 Cafe: 

The inside of the Midpoint Cafe and a slice of “Ugly Crust Pie:”

Radiator Springs Curios

Lizzie’s Radiator Springs Curios in Cars is based on a composite of the Hackberry General Store, the Sandhills Curiosity Shop, and I’d argue even Delgadillo’s Snow Cap and Seligman Sundries in Seligman, Arizona. 

Here’s Radiator Springs Curios in Cars Land:

The Sandhills Curiosity Shop in Erick, Oklahoma:


Delgadillo’s Snow Cap in Seligman, Arizona:

Seligman Sundries down the street from Delgadillo’s Snow Cap in Seligman, Arizona:

And unfortunately, I don’t have a photo of the Hackberry General Store, but I do have a photo of a photo of it with “Lizzie” out front (right next to a photo of the Bob Waldmire and his van, the inspiration for Fillmore) in the top right corner in the photo below:

Here It Is Sign

The “Here It Is” sign next to the Radiator Springs Curios shop in Cars and Cars Land is based on the “Here It Is” sign outside of the Jackrabbit Trading Post in Joseph City, Arizona. 

Fillmore’s Taste-In

Fillmore’s Taste-In geodesic dome is a composite of a few of the domes found along Route 66 including the Meteor City Trading Post dome and Ortega’s Indian Market.

The abandoned Meteor City Trading Post dome:

Bob Waldmire, the character inspiration for Fillmore, painted a mural at the Meteor City Trading Post years ago, but it’s unfortunately gone now.  You can see a bit of it still in the photo above – the part right below the dome that reads “Save a Landmark.” Irony can be such a bitch.

Waldmire was known as the resident traveling artist of the Mother Road. He drove a modified 1972 orange Volkswagon Microbus. His father owned the Cozy-Dog Drive-In and when we stopped at the Cozy Dog Drive-In along our road trip, a woman came outside while I was taking photos and told us to come inside and check out all the memorabilia and meet everyone. She turned out to be a customer and a member of a ham radio club who regularly meets up at the Cozy Dog Drive-In for coffee. 

Here’s another dome at a gas station in Meteor City – this one has the more geometric shape like Fillmore’s Taste-In dome:

And here’s the abandoned Ortega’s Indian Market in Lupton, Arizona:

Sarge’s Surplus

Sarge’s Surplus – there isn’t a surplus store like Sarge’s on Route 66, but I did see a beautiful Surplus sign along Route 66 in Pasadena, CA just the other day!

Vintage “Surplus” sign along Route 66 in Pasadena, California:

Cadillac Range

The Cadillac Range of mountains in Radiator Springs is based on the Cadillac Ranch art installation just outside of Amarillo, Texas. And I would argue it has some inspiration from the beautiful colors of the Painted Desert in the Petrified Forest National Park as well. 

Here’s the Cadillac Range in Cars Land:

And the Cadillac Ranch art installation outside of Amarillo, Texas:

And the Painted Desert in the Petrified Forest National Park:

Casa Della Tire’s Leaning Tower of Tires

Casa Della Tire’s Leaning Tower of Tires is based on the Leaning Water Tower in Groom, Texas.

Ghost Walls

Radiator Springs has several “ghost” wall murals just like several found along Route 66.

And one of the ghost walls along the Route:

The Wheel Well Motel

The Wheel Well Motel in the Cars movie has some inspiration in the Wagon Wheel Motel as well as the Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post near Lupton, Arizona. And the Chief Yellowhorse Trading Post serves as inspiration for the loading area of the Radiator Springs’ racing ride in Cars Land (which I don’t have a photo of yet). 

Radiator Springs Drive-In

The Radiator Springs Drive-In Theatre in Cars is based on the beautiful Route 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, Missouri. 

Windy Road

When Sally and Lightning McQueen go off for a little joy ride through the Cadillac Range, we see all the twists and turns of the road which seems to be inspired by the beautiful Sitgreaves Pass just outside of Oatman, Arizona.

Character Inspiration

And the different Cars characters are also based upon real-life cars and people found along Route 66 and the movie has inspired some places to turn their cars into Cars characters! 

Roaming Tractors

The tractors that get loose and roam around in Radiator Springs are based on the wild roaming donkeys of Oatman, Arizona.

Tow Mater

In Galena, Kansas, a Pixar team member saw this 1951 International boom truck at the service station (then known as 4 Women on the Route since it was owned by four ladies but is now known as Cars on the Route) and Tow Mater was born!

Dinoco Owner

And the Dinoco owner car is based on the Big Texan Cars mounted with longhorn steer horns. 

And here are a few things that are found in Cars Land only but are based on real-life Route 66 things:

Rust-Eze Sequential Signs

The sequential Rust-eze signs along the road just outside of the Radiator Springs’ Racers ride are based on the sequential Burma Shave Signs found at several places along Route 66.

The Amazing Oil Bottle House in the Radiator Springs Racers ride line is based on a composite of the bottle walls found in Tinker Town on the way to Santa Fe or Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch in Oro Grande, California. 

I can’t find my photo of the Amazing Oil Bottle House – sorry – I’ll have to grab one the next time I’m at California Adventure. 

Neon Lights

And perhaps my favorite part of both Cars Land and Route 66 – when the beautiful neon lights turn on at night! 

In the Cars movie, Lightning McQueen has all the other characters fix up the neon in Radiator Springs and then surprises Sally one evening and has them all turn on so the cars can cruise Route 66 while listening to Sh’Boom – Life Could Be a Dream

Here’s all of the beautiful neon lights lit up at Cars Land.

My favorite place to watch the lights come on in Cars Land is while sipping a glass of wine at the upstairs Alfresco Tasting Bar.

And, here are some of my favorite neon lights from along Route 66:

Did I miss anything? What’s your favorite Route 66-inspired location or character from Cars?

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