- Ramone is a 1959 Chevrolet Impala or Bel Air two door hardtop, a very popular car with the low riders.
- Luigi is a 1959 Fiat 500.
- Guido is an ISO Isetta, a "bubble car" originally designed and built in Italy by ISO; the design was later licensed to BMW and to manufacturers in France and Brazil.
- Mater is a 1951 International Harvester L-170.
- Sally is a 2002 Porsche 911 Carrera (Type 996).
- Mia and Tia are modeled after the first-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata.
- Flo isn't based on any single car but shares elements of the 1951 Buick LeSabre, the 1951 Buick XP-300, and the 1957 Chrysler Dart - all actual show cars. Her appearance closely resembles Al's vehicle in Toy Story 2 (1999).
- Mack is based on a Mack Superliner semi-truck. The character of Mack was originally going to be a Peterbilt, but was changed because John Ratzenberger's father drove a Mack in Chicago. This is referenced during the scene where Lightning exits onto Route 66 trying to catch up to Mack: the battery truck he mistakenly follows says "I ain't no Mack, I'm a Peterbilt!"
- The King is a 1970 Plymouth Superbird, one of Richard Petty's most famous rides. The Superbird was created to get him back into a Plymouth for the 1970 racing season and Petty himself provides the voice. The King's paint scheme is exactly as King Richard's was in the 1970 NASCAR season.
- Mrs. "The King" is a 1974 Chrysler Town and Country station wagon, modeled after the car in which the Pettys drove themselves and their children to the races during the 1970s.
- The car used for Mario Andretti's cameo is the Holman-Moody Ford Fairlane Andretti drove to victory in the 1967 Daytona 500, a race in which Richard Petty was one of the favorites to win. Petty dropped out of the race due to a blown engine.
- The cars that run a sleepy Mac off the road and are later caught speeding are collectively called the Delinquent Road Hazards. Each parodies a different modification style. "Wingo," a 1994 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX, exemplifies flashy non-performance additions often called "ricing". "Boost," a 1994 a Nissan Skyline, is a nitrous oxide street racer. "DJ," a 2004 Scion xB, is a mobile audio platform. "Snot Rod," a 1970 Plymouth Barracuda, is a classic supercharged muscle car.
- Sheriff is a 1949 Mercury Club Coupe.
- Fillmore is a late-1960s Volkswagen Type 2, otherwise known as the Transporter, or "Microbus." It was a very popular vehicle among hippies in the late 1960s and early 1970s, and even made its way into popular culture. It is heavily referenced in the Arlo Guthrie song "Alice's Restaurant Massacree."