Out of respect for Paul Newman, who died in 2008, Doc Hudson Hornet from Cars (2006) is not included in this movie. An early scene implies that Hudson has died. However, Fillmore the Volkswagen van, once voiced by George Carlin, who also died in 2008, appears here, voiced by Lloyd Sherr. Red the fire truck, once voiced by Joe Ranft, who died in 2005, also appears, but doesn't have any dialogue or vocalizations.
FRANCHISE TRADEMARK: The Pizza Planet truck (appears in nearly every Pixar film) appears twice: as a guest on the Tire Talk television show, and as a spectator near the end of the film (while Mater was flying on jetpacks).
Finn McMissile is a hybrid of several cars. The roof-line and doors are from a Volvo P1800, the car used by Sir Roger Moore in The Saint (1962), the grill and fenders are from a BMW 507, and many other elements are from an Aston Martin DB5, James Bond's trademark vehicle. (According to "James Bond Vehicles" by John Cork and Collin Stutz, it never carried missiles, though. The Goldfinger (1964) version had machine guns, where McMissile has his missiles.)
HIDDEN MICKEY: Luigi's family are all variants of the Fiat 500, a popular small car produced in Italy from 1936 through today. The car was nicknamed "Topolino", which is the Italian name for Mickey Mouse. This is why Luigi's uncle is called Uncle Topolino.
After Mater and McQueen are done "cow tipping" the Colossus XXL, you see them drive past the Drive-In. The movie being shown in the Drive-In is "The Incredimobiles", which is the cars version of Pixar's The Incredibles (2004). You see a poster of the movie when Holley Shiftwell and Finn McMissile are in Paris.
Professor Z is a Zündapp Janus, a strange German microcar made by the Zündapp motorcycle company from 1957-1958. The name "Janus" came from the Roman god, based on the unusual design of having the doors at the front and rear, passengers in the rear faced backwards. It had a 250cc engine, with an optimistic top speed of around fifty miles per hour, and, due to the unusual weight configuration, handled very poorly.
The boat in the beginning of the movie, that is transporting Finn McMissile, is an almost exact replica of the "Northwestern" from the Discovery Channel television show Deadliest Catch (2005), and is voiced by the Northwestern's Captain, Sig Hansen. You can even see the blue crest on the front of the boat, with the letters "SH", which are the initials of the boat's first Captain, Sverre Hansen.
The script originally had five races with Paris and Germany, in addition to Tokyo, London, and Porto Corsa. As the story expanded, and became too long during production, the German race was dropped, and the Paris segment was re-worked.
In this film, John Ratzenberger had his fewest lines out of any Pixar movie. His character Mack only had two lines the entire film, being "Oh, these best friend greetings are getting longer every year." and "Oh, those two are perfect for each other."
At one point in the film, Mater is prompted to think of insurance agents, and he sings the State Farm Auto Insurance jingle, with modified lyrics. State Farm Insurance was one of the sponsors for the film, and Pixar created an animated television ad for them.
The race car "Francesco Bernoulli" is based on a modern Formula 1 Grand Prix car, and is named after the Bernoulli principle, which is the basis of the functioning of the aerodynamic wings found on Formula 1 cars such as Francesco. The Bernoulli principle is also the explanation of how automobile carburetors mix air and gasoline. Newer cars use fuel injection rather than the older carburetors.
Rod "Torque" Redline, the American spy, who is supposed to meet Finn McMissile and Holley Shiftwell, is never addressed by name. Neither are Grem (the orange Gremlin) and Acer (the green Pacer), the two main lemons under the employment of Professor Z.
In England, the cars pass under the Admiralty Arch. The Latin motto on the real arch reads: ANNO DECIMO EDWARDI SEPTIMI REGIS VICTORIÆ REGINÆ CIVES GRATISSIMI MDCCCCX which translates as "In the tenth year of King Edward VII, to Queen Victoria, from most grateful citizens, 1910." The same arch in the movie replaces REGINÆ with CORONÆ and CIVES with a word that is obscured by a flag but "AUTO" followed by either "E" or "C", other letters, then "TA" is most likely AUTOCESTA. So, the motto re-translated is now "In the tenth year of King Edward VII, to Crown Victoria, from most grateful highways, 1910." Crown Victoria being a Ford model car.
Rod "Torque" Redline's license plate is a Michigan plate. Michigan is where Detroit is located, home of American automotive manufacturers, including those of Dodge Challenger and Ford Mustang, the two cars that were combined to create Rod. It is also the home state of Bruce Campbell, who provides Rod's voice.
During the end credits, as a map of the U.S. is shown, Pixar's headquarters can be seen in northern California. It can be identified by a sculpture of Pixar's mascot, Luxo, Jr. This sculpture exists at the real building.
FRANCHISE TRADEMARK: The "A113" mark (referring to a CalArts classroom used by many Pixar employees when they were students), which is present in all Pixar movies, is shown as the catalogue number of the engine photograph, when Mater, Finn McMissile, and Holley Shiftwell first watch it on Siddeley. It is also Siddeley's tail number and Mater's license plate.
In Italy, Holly Shiftwell says that they reprogrammed the city's red lights. This is likely an nod to Sir Michael Caine's The Italian Job (1969), in which an Italian city's red lights were reprogrammed, to aid the getaway from a heist. The Italian Job (1969) is known for its iconic car chase using Mini Coopers.
First Pixar follow-up film, where the main protagonist and supporting character switch roles, with Mater taking on the role of the main protagonist in this film. This would also be the case of many follow-up films outside of the Toy Story film franchise.
The plane, on which Lightning and Mater travel, to the first race in Tokyo, is called Everett, and is in the style of a Boeing 747. The first Boeing 747 made was called City of Everett, so this could be a reference to that original plane.
Jeff Gorvette's racing number was originally planned to be "3", but it was changed to "24", to match Jeff Gordon's number. In the final film, there isn't a racer in the World Grand Prix with the number "3".
The ending scene where Mater tells the events of the film to an incredulous crowd is a reference to Mater's Tall Tales (2008), a series in which each episode featured Mater telling Lightning about an incredible job he once had, including matador, professional stunt car, et cetera.
In the beginning, when Finn is spying on the new weapon, if you squint your eyes, you will see it says the camera lens are zoomed in 86 times. This refers to the year Pixar was founded, 1986, and, you can possibly say that it is also a reference to Chick Hicks' number in the first movie.
Is Pixar's second follow-up film where a character is re-cast, which applies to Fillmore. The first time this happened was with Slinky and Andy (the latter for when he's a child at the start of the film) in Toy Story 3 (2010).
Most of the World Grand Prix racers' numbers are probably referencing to the years of previous Pixar films. Raoule CaRoule has the number "6", which probably marks the year the first movie came out, 200. Rip Clutchgoneski has the number, "10", which I bet marks 2010, the year Pixar released Toy Story 3. Speaking of Toy Story, now you can't forget Lightning still has the number "95", which is still referencing to 1995, the year Pixar released the first Toy Story film, and Shu Todoroki has the number "7", which is also probably referencing to 2007, the year Ratatouille came out. Max Schnell has the number "4", which probably references to The Incredibles, which came out in 2004. Also, Francesco has the number "1", which probably references to 2001, the year Monsters, Inc. came out. Carla Veloso has number "8", which probably references to the year WALL-E came out, 2008. Finally, Nigel Gearsley has number "9", which probably references to the year Up came out, 2009.
The only animated film composed by Michael Giacchino to not win or be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, as The Incredibles (2004), Ratatouille (2007), Up (2009), Inside Out (2015), and Zootopia (2016) all won.
When Mater meets Finn, Finn says, "Who are you with, F.B.I., C.I.A.?" You might have heard him say "F.B.I.". This is a reference to a piracy company called F.B.I., or the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Since Paul Newman died before this movie came out, they couldn't include Doc Hudson as one of the characters. But, they did however have pictures of him when Mater and Lightning are looking at the trophies in Doc's office. So, this is the only Cars film that does not have Paul Newman. Because Paul Newman does voice Doc in Cars 3 (2017) in some flashbacks.