Great Characters Wiki
Speed. I am speed.
―Lightning ready to race

Lightning McQueen is a famous, stock race car. He is the overall main protagonist of Disney/Pixar's Cars franchise. He is the main protagonist of Cars, the deuteragonist of Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales and Cars 2, the main protagonist of Tales from Radiator Springs, and the main protagonist of Cars 3.

Why He Rocks

  1. First and most importantly. Lightning has insane character development. He starts off as an overconfident and selfish car who takes wanting to win too seriously that he is friendless. Later on, he becomes more sympathetic, friendly, and understanding during his stay at Radiator Springs and meeting some new friends along the way including his best friend Tow Mater.
    • It's been noticeable that because of this, he regrets doing bad things all thanks to this experience.
    • Even he still learns from later movies like most notably in Cars 3 since it was a lot better than Cars 2 in terms of reception. Cars 3 had McQueen learn that he can't be faster than Jackson Storm, but he can be smarter than him.
  2. The scene where he helps The King (who suffered from a car crash) get to the finish line for a respectable finish was nothing short of touching. What's interesting is that Lightning accepted his loss and was still offered to be the mascot of Dinoco despite Lightning losing. Though he didn't want to be Dinoco's new mascot as he decides to complete his contract with Rust-eze.
  3. He has helped Radiator Springs become popular again just by simply setting up a headquarter in Radiator Springs. Thanks to him as the place is a historical tourist attraction.
  4. He has a running gag in Mater's Tall Tales where every time Lightning refuses to believe Mater's stories, he denies that it's true only for Mater to mention that he was there. In fact, Lighting's placement in the story is pretty funny.
  5. He remains likable throughout the franchise, even Cars 2, the only mediocre film of the series.
  6. Cars 3 gives Lighting a bigger role (as in the main character) much like in the first Cars movie after being a side character in Cars 2. In that movie, Lighting also goes into a massive step in his characterization where he went from a famous race car to a struggling veteran because of the new generation of race cars that perform much better than his kind.
  7. The car crash scene from Cars 3 that he suffered from is so emotional that many would believe that his car crash is one of the darkest moments in the series. Boy, does that make the viewer feel sorry for him despite being a fictional car.
  8. Lightning started to teach Cruz Ramirez ever since they both met. Sure, they are different cars as Cruz is a new-generation racer, but Lightning still wanted to teach Cruz even if he has to train. It gets better at the end of the film.
  9. One of the interesting things about Lighting is that his main stories teach viewers that you don't always win in life and friendship is more important than winning. In the first film, Lighting helped out The King even if it cost him winning the Piston Cup. In Cars 3, Lighting let Cruz finish the race for him (though both Lightning and Cruz share the win as both were on the same team). With that said, he's unique among other Pixar protagonist due to his role.
  10. He strives to be the best at what he does as a racer.
  11. One unique thing about him is that in the main movies, he always changes his appearance due to his customizations as a car. If you are an engineer who loves to see the vehicles in terms of model type, paint jobs, color schemes, etc, you gonna love the fact that he changes appearance most of the time. Even if he changes his appearance, he still a likable character who stays true to his origins. The main movies of course are a good example of this given the fact that they are the main series.
  12. He has a good talent at being the race car that he is today. Yes, even practices as well even though he can outrace each and every of his sport colleagues with little to no effort. That's how humble he is now.
  13. His heartwarming relationship with Sally Carrera.

Bad Qualities

  1. While he’s still likable in Cars 2, he isn't used as much as Mater. Which is ironic, since Lightning is the main character of the franchise.
  2. The first movie starts him off as a selfish car before he got character development.
  3. He can still be selfish sometimes even after the first film like when he got mad at Mater when he lost the race in the 2nd film, and even yells at Cruz for having to protect her in a Demolition Derby in the 3rd film.


  • Lightning was originally intended to be based on an updated Corvette design but was changed to a stock car model due to the plot changing.
  • His design is based on used elements from GT40s and Chargers, among many other models to suit his personality and role.
  • His number was going to be 57 which was a reference to John Lasseter's birth year.
  • Athletic figures such as boxer Muhammad Ali and football quarterback Joe Namath were looked to during the development of McQueen's personality, as well as popular musician Kid Rock, in order to create a cocky-but-likable character. Additionally, Michael Jordan was also looked to by the designers, due to his unique style of playing his sport.
  • The number 95 on his car is a reference to the year 1995 which was the same year that Pixar's first feature-length film Toy Story was released.
  • Lightning's last name "McQueen" is a reference to Glenn McQueen, a supervising animator at Pixar who passed away in 2002.
  • In the first official teaser trailer of Cars 2, for unknown reasons, Lightning McQueen has on his Rust-eze customization, which never appeared in the sequel. It may be because the new paint job was not finalized at the time of the release of the teaser trailer.
    • Likewise, in the first teaser trailer for Cars 3, McQueen is sporting the original Rust-eze logo when he crashes, unlike the final film with the same scene. His first paint job in the film likely wasn't finalized either at the time of the trailer's release.
  • In the first film, Lightning's back bumper is yellow. This follows NASCAR's tradition of putting yellow rookie stripes on rookie drivers' cars.
  • Early concept arts suggest that he was originally blue, not red.
  • Gave us some memes like "I Decide when I'm Done", Kerchoo, "I Am Speed", and Lightning's car crash.