My fond memories of watching Speed Racer on Channels 32 & 44 in Chicago.

speed racer channel 44
Here is an ad of the afternoon line-up from WSNS-TV Channel 44 in the late 70s.

Hello everyone. Oh boy, where do I start on this one? The animated cartoon series, Speed Racer remains one of the most memorable shows that still stick to everyone’s mind. Even though it merely produced 52 classic episodes, it is still enjoyable and fun to watch for all ages. The show featured a great cast of distinctive characters. The villains in my opinion were always fun to watch.

According to some reliable sources, the show debuted on WFLD-TV Channel 32 in 1969. First, it was on the air twice a day at 12 noon against Bozo’s Circus and at 3:30 in the afternoon. When I lived in the Roseland neighborhood of Chicago in the early 1970s, my parents purchased our first TV set that had a VHF channel. That was the first time we watched TV shows on channels 26, 32, and 44. Every day when my brothers and I came home from school, we waited for Speed Racer to air on at 4 p.m. in the afternoon. After that, one of us changed the channel to Channel 9 and watched Gilligan’s Island.

The characters in Speed Racer are Speed Racer, Trixie, Spritle, Chim Chim, Sparky, Pops Racer, Mom Racer, Racer X, and Inspector Detector. I absolutely love those names. The villains, locations, and the names of the cars that competed in those races were downright hilarious. When I was a kid, I didn’t pay much attention to all that. After watching the show and purchasing the book about the show, it was fascinating and amusing.

The first episode of Speed Racer I ever saw was episode 40 called The Man Behind The Mask. The most hilarious scene in that one was when Pops Racer and Racer X were on their way to rescue Speed and the rest of the gang and they were fighting Megatons’ henchmen. The way they were fighting, the scenes jumping around, and the sound effects were hilarious. My favorite all-time scene of the whole series was in episode 48, The Junk Car Grand Prix. Speed and the gang were captured by Mr. Freeloader. Chim Chim had firecrackers, and Spritle placed the firecrackers in the back pocket of Mr. Freeloader’s pants. They went off and he was running around and Chim Chim was laughing hysterically. I just love that one.

I just love every episode of the show. Everyone says their favorite one was The Mammoth Car. That car was very distinguishable of its size and the noises it made. I loved that as well. The bad guys usually weren’t very smart, and Speed or Racer X always defeated them. The fights in the show were classics. The sounds they made were so funny.

The control panel on the steering wheel of the Mach 5 had six buttons. Each button featured wonderful gadgets that everyone that watched the show over the years have memorized them. Here is the list of them:

Control A: Auto-Jacks. “Releases powerful jacks to boost the car so that Sparky, our mechanic, can quickly make any necessary repairs or adjustments.” Although designed for this practical function, the auto jacks have also been used to “leap” the car short distances at high speeds, as a wedge to prevent the car from toppling over a waterfall, as an alternative braking system, and as a tool to crush cars in a car-wrestling match.

Control B: Belt Tires. “Sprouts special grip tires for traction over any kind of terrain. At the same time, 5,000 horsepower is distributed equally to each wheel by auxiliary engines.” Definition of “any kind of terrain”: firm, icy, or unsteady ground; ocean floor; vertical mountainsides.

Control C: Cutter Blade. “For use traveling over heavily wooded terrain. Powerful rotary saws are protruded from the front of the car to slash and cut any and all obstacles.” The rotary saws have also been used as a means of self-defense.</p>

Control D: Defensor/Deflector. “Releases a powerful deflector which seals the cockpit into an air-conditioned, bullet- and crash-proof, and water-tight chamber. Inside it, I am completely isolated and shielded.” The deflector also protects against sleeping gas.

Control E: Evening Eye. “The control for special illumination which can be traversed singly or in tandem, and which enables me to see much farther and more clearly than with ordinary headlights. It’s invaluable in some weird and dangerous places that I race the Mach 5.” When used with the “nightshades” attached to Speed’s helmet, his vision is enhanced with infrared light.

Control F: Frogger Mode. “Used when the Mach 5 is underwater. First, the cockpit is supplied with oxygen. Then, a periscope is raised to scan the surface of the water. Everything that is seen is relayed down to me by television.” The 100-pound auxiliary supply of oxygen is enough to last for thirty minutes.

Control G: Gizmo (Homing Pigeon Robot). “Releases a homing robot from the front of the car. The homing robot can carry pictures or tape-recorded messages to whomever or whenever I want to send them.” The robot has also carried handwritten messages, X-ray film, rope, and small Egyptian statues. Additionally, it has been used as a means of defense. The bird-like device is operated by a built-in remote control within the cockpit.

Control H: A separate button connected to Control G which sends the robot “home”.


Speed Racer was dropped from Channel 32 in 1974. Don’t recall the exact date. They were complaints from parents and some organizations saying the show was extremely violent. I admit, when I watched the show, some scenes were a little intense for children. It resurfaced on WSNS-TV Channel 44 in 1978 and stayed on the air for about three years. I didn’t hear any complaints about the second time. I don’t remember seeing the show in the 1980s, but MTV aired it in 1993 and it became a smash hit again.

The show was released on DVD in 2003. When I went to Comic-Con in San Diego in 2004, I saw the DVD’s on sale there. I immediately bought it, and I couldn’t wait to come back to Chicago and watch them again. I held on to them until I bought the show on Blu-Ray. The episodes look outstanding. They have a DVD box set of the English and Japanese versions of the show. I am intrigued about that one and I will buy that one someday.

I still watch the show if I am in the mood. If I ever had a craving for any kind of candy, Spritle and Chim Chim would come to mind. Those two can eat anything. Someone on Facebook asked me if I was going to include Prince Planet. I told him I would save that for another story. I promised him I would write about it eventually. So, to end this story here is the theme song of the show. Thank you Pete Kastanes-Admin for Vanished Chicagoland Facebook Page.

Here he comes! Here comes Speed Racer
He’s a demon on wheels!
He’s a demon and he’s gonna be chasin’ after someone
He’s gainin’ on you so you better look alive
He’s busy revin’ up a powerful Mach 5!
And when the odds are against him and there’s
dangerous work to do
You bet your life speed racer
Will see it through.
Go Speed Racer!
Go Speed Racer!
Go Speed Racer goooo!
He’s off and flyin’ as he guns the car around the track
He’s jammin’ down the pedal like he’s never coming back
Adventure’s waitin’ just ahead!
Go Speed Racer!
Go Speed Racer!
Go Speed Racer gooooo!


2 thoughts on “My fond memories of watching Speed Racer on Channels 32 & 44 in Chicago.

  1. “Speed Racer” was the first exposure to anime most of us had. I watched the show in the afternoons, because Cartoon Town came on after it, but I was never a big fan. My brother liked it.

    I notice you didn’t mention the 2008 movie with Emile Hirsch and Christina Ricci. I saw it. It wasn’t worth mentioning…

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