Out of respect for Paul Newman, who died in 2008, Doc Hudson Hornet from Cars (2006) is not included in Cars 2 (2011). An early scene implies that Hudson has died. However, Fillmore the VW 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.
SERIES TRADEMARK: The Pizza Planet truck (appears in every Pixar film) appears twice: as a guest on the Tire Talk TV show and as a spectator near the end of the film (while Mater was flying on jet packs).
Finn McMissile is a hybrid of several cars. The roof-line and doors are from a Volvo P1800, the car used by James Bond actor Roger Moore in the 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 1936-1955. 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". You see a movie 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 50MPH 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 TV show "Deadliest Catch," 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.
When Mater is trying to drive away from McQueen while driving backwards, Darrell Cartrip mentions "He's got to be the best backwards driver in the world!" Mater had made this claim himself in the first Cars (2006) movie.
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 reworked.
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.
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'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.
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.
SERIES 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 catalog 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.
During the end credits, as a map of the US is shown, Pixar's headquarters can be seen in northern California. It can be identified by a sculpture of Pixar's mascot, Luxo Jr. (1986). This sculpture actually exists at the real building.
The plane that Lightning and Mater travel on for 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 possibly be a reference to that original plane.
In Italy, Holly Shiftwell says that they reprogrammed the city's red lights. This is likely an nod to Michael Caine's The Italian Job in which an Italian city's red lights were reprogrammed to aid the getaway from a heist. The Italian Job is known for its iconic car chase using Mini Coopers.