- Mater: "My name's Mater!"
Lightning McQueen: "Mater?"
Mater: "Yeah, like "tuh-mater", but without the tuh!"
- —Mater introduces himself to Lightning McQueen
Sir Tow Mater, better known as simply Tow Mater or Mater, is the tritagonist in Cars and the main protagonist in Cars 2. He also appears in his very own short series Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales as the protagonist. His model is a 1951 Haulital Hook'em tow truck (or an International Harvester boom truck). His best friend is Lightning McQueen. Mater also likes to go Tractor Tippin' at night, as it's his favorite hobby. Mater's catchphrases are: "Dad gum!", "If I'm lyin', I'm cryin'!", and "Git-R-Done!" (his voice actor, Larry the Cable Guy's signature phrase).
"Mater's lived in Radiator Springs his whole life. In his younger days, he used to be a real handful around town, playing pranks on everyone, tippin' tractors, saying inappropriate things at the wrong time, but luckily he's matured a lot since then."
"Mater's a good ol' boy with a big heart and the only tow truck in Radiator Springs. He runs Tow Mater Towing & Salvage and manages the local impound lot. Though a little rusty, he has the quickest towrope in Carburetor County and is always the first to lend a helping hand. Mater sees the bright side of any situation. He's the heart and soul of Radiator Springs, and he doesn't have a mean bolt in his chassis."
"Keep an eye on Mater, he tends to take things a little too literally."
Mater is a friendly tow truck with buckteeth. He speaks with a thick Southern accent with a dash of hillbilly twang and frequently uses incorrect syntax.
Mater runs Tow Mater Towing & Salvage. Mater is one of the first to befriend and support Lightning throughout his adventure in Radiator Springs. During the film, Mater shows Lightning how to do Tractor Tippin' and how to drive backwards without crashing by using rearview mirrors, which Lightning uses to counter Chick Hicks' dirty racing in the Piston Cup race. In the end, Lightning gives Mater an opportunity to fly in a Dinoco helicopter like he always wanted, saying to Sally that Mater is his new best friend.
Mater is also capable of racing, as well as being the (self-proclaimed) world's best backwards driver. He attributes his skill to his rear-view mirrors and his own philosophy: "Don't need to know where I'm going, just need to know where I've been."
Mater and the Ghostlight
One night, Mater plays a series of scary pranks on his friends until a blue light begins to haunt him. Mater's final prank is his most successful: Lightning sees a tow hook hanging from behind a stack of cans and, assuming that Mater is hiding behind it, approaches to foil the prank. Mater then jumps off of the roof of Flo's café, screaming behind Lightning, who then is startled and knocks over the pile of cans, revealing that the hook was actually from the sign of Mater's place of business, thus a decoy. Everyone starts to laugh at Lightning for falling for such a trick, and Mater says that Lightning looks like he's seen "the Ghostlight".
Sheriff tells Mater not to mock the Ghostlight, a character of urban legend amongst the cars. The Ghostlight is a glowing orb of blue, translucent light that haunts Radiator Springs, and hates nothing more than the sound of clanking metal -- a sound frequently made by Mater's rickety shell. Sheriff continues to tell the story of a young couple lost in the area, whose only remains were "two out-of-state license plates". He then concludes with an overly cheerful "Well, g'night!". The population of Radiator Springs then leaves within seconds, leaving a very nervous Mater all by himself in the dark.
As he reaches his garage, he is frightened by what he thought was a monster, but just a couple of junk put together. He then loses his only headlight as he enters his garage. He is then frightened by a "lightning bug" (a tiny flying Volkswagen Beetle with bright headlights). As he relaxes, a bright blue glow suddenly appears behind Mater and he goes into a blind panic, driving around in a frenzy, first going along the main road, then going through the tractor field (past Frank), then around Willy's Butte, and doing a lock-strafe move after that, until he is exhausted. However, the Ghostlight was revealed to be a glowing blue lantern to Mater's towing cable hung up by Lightning and Guido.
The short ends with Mater finally collapsing on the road with the rest of the folks surrounding him, revealing the joke to him as retribution for the pranks he did to them. The credits roll and after them, there is a closing shot where the frightened Mater finds he has a huge construction vehicle behind him, snarling and carrying the license plate "Banshee." However, Mater doesn't realize who it is and warns it of the Screamin' Banshee before driving off, bidding the Banshee good night.
Cars Toons: Mater's Tall Tales
Mater is now the protagonist in his own TV series.
Each tale begins with Mater telling a story of something he has done in the past (such as him once being a firefighter, a drift racer, a rockstar, an astronaut, etc.).
In the story, Mater finds himself in an inescapable predicament. When Lightning questions Mater over whether the events in the story actually occurred, Mater responds, "Don't you remember? You was there, too!", in which Lightning sometimes responds with "What?" or "Huh?", and continues the story including Lightning's sudden participation.
The cartoons end with Mater leaving the scene, often followed by characters or references to the story that was being told, putting up a possibility that the story might be real.
In the series' shorts, Mater tells about his past jobs. His jobs included:
- Daredevil (Mater the Greater)
- Fire Truck (Rescue Squad Mater)
- Doctor (Rescue Squad Mater)
- Racer in Tokyo (Tokyo Mater)
- UFO (Unidentified Flying Mater)
- Bulldozer Fighter (El Materdor)
- Private Eye (Mater Private Eye)
- Auto-naut (Moon Mater)
- Monster Truck Wrestler (Monster Truck Mater)
- Rock Star (Heavy Metal Mater)
- Plane/Falcon Hawk (Air Mater)
- Time Traveler (Time Travel Mater)
Mater returns as the protagonist.
In the now popular tourist destination of Radiator Springs, the rusty old tow truck Mater has a number of roles, including proprietor of Tow Mater Towing and Salvage, grand storyteller and the heart and soul of the town. But Mater’s favorite title is best friend to Lightning McQueen. Mater values each and every dent he’s earned on his escapades with Lightning over the years, and anxiously awaits further fun with his friend when Lightning returns with his latest Piston Cup.
Cheerful, honest and loyal to a fault, Mater rushes to his best friend’s defense when Francesco Bernoulli began insulting McQueen on live television. When Mater calls the Mel Dorado show to defend his friend's honor, the more Mater talked, the more Francesco mocked, which ultimately lands the off-duty Lightning in an international racing exhibition: the World Grand Prix. When Lightning invites Mater to come along as a member of his pit crew, Mater leaves Carburetor County for the first time ever.
Not long after their arrival in Tokyo, Mater learns that the world outside of Radiator Springs is decidedly different and its newfangled ways may take some getting used to. While collecting drinks for McQueen, Mater mistakes wasabi for pistachio ice cream and takes an entire box-full, only to get a flavour blast from it. His mouth on fire, Mater desperately drove up the waterfall on stage where Miles Axlerod was introducing McQueen to wash out the taste. He then noticed an oil leak between him and Axlerod and everyone assumes Mater did it. Despite his protests that he didn't leak, McQueen sends him away to the bathroom to clean up.
Entering the bathroom stall, Mater get comically tortured by a Japanese washing contraption, unaware of a fight between an American secret agent and two Lemon cars, Acer and Grem, outside. By the time he gets out, the American agent secretly slips a device underneath his bumper. The device's GPS results in British agent Holley Shiftwell mistaking Mater for a spy. After answering her countersign correcting, Mater starts babbling on before mistakenly assuming that Holley wanted to ask him out on a date and agreed to meet the next day. He then returned to his friends to tell him of this development, but Guido doesn't believe him. He then tries calling out to Holley but she ignores him and drives away.
The next day, Mater advises McQueen during the race, enabling him to get ahead of Francesco. Unknown to Mater, the Lemons assumed he was a spy too and were covertly closing in on him. Holley taps into his headset, giving him directions to avoid the Lemons. Mater followed blindly, assuming he was being guided to his date. He later mishears Holley, turning towards a ruckus instead of away from it. He soon witnesses Finn McMissile fights off the Lemons, which he assumes to be a live karate demonstration. Finn then vanishes, while Holley tells Mater that it's too dangerous to rendezvous and promises to be in touch.
Mater then returns to the pit, only to learn that while he was talking to Holley, McQueen was hearing him too, assuming he was shouting nonsense. He blames Mater "accidentally" messing up the racecar's moves and causing him to lose the first race. Mater was hurt by his best friend's rejection and writes a farewell note to his friends before deciding to go home. At Tokyo airport, Finn disguises himself as airport security and lures Mater to a lounge, where he inquires which American intelligence agency he was affiliated with. Mater claimed to be "triple-A affiliated" and started boasting that he knew some karate. Finn then detects Acer and Grem closing in on them and drags Mater outside. Mater assumed he was getting first class service and was completely oblivious the danger.
Once aboard the spy jet Siddeley, Mater figures out that Finn and Holley are spies as they extract data from the device embedded on him, which had information on the Lemon boss, showing a picture of an engine. He identifies it as "the worst engine ever made" but had no clues as to the identity of the car it belonged to. However, he did point out that the mystery car made use of replacement parts that were factory original and wouldn't be found on open markets. Grateful for Mater's insight, Finn offered to set up an informal taskforce. Though reluctant, Mater agreed to help out the spies when Finn assured him that he would be helping him. Mater then tried pointing out that he's "just a tow truck" but Finn doesn't take him seriously.
Mater joined Finn and Holley as they meet with Finn's black market contact, Tomber. Tomber informed them that the car to whom the engine belonged to only did business over the phone, buying numerous parts to maintain his engine, making Mater suspect that the mystery car was a Lemon. He explained the nature of Lemons to Finn and identified Gremlins, Pacers, Hugos and Trunkovs as Lemons. Finn takes it from there that the Lemon families were taking orders from the car behind this engine. Tomber reveals that the Lemons were hosting a secret meeting in Porto Corsa, Italy, which is also where the second race will take place, and the Lemon boss will most likely be there.
While taking Stephenson to Italy, Finn and Holley install a holographic cloaking device onto Mater's roof light and has him disguise himself as a Lemon tow truck named Ivan. Mater then objects to buffing his dents to ensure a foolproof disguise, declaring their worth of his moments with McQueen. The spies realize he was talking seriously about being friends with McQueen and Finn tells him that friendships are dangerous in spy work. Mater again tries to tell them the truth again but they assume he was joking.
Upon arriving Porto Corsa, Mater begins to have second-thoughts about the missions, but Finn tells him to keep up his "act" of playing "the idiot tow truck." These words deeply affect Mater, but he had no time to reflect, as Holley had lured away and tazed Ivan, prompting him to take the blue tow truck's place. As he is towing Victor Hugo through the casino, he nearly blows his cover by directly talking to Holley over the radio and reading his HUD on Alexander Hugo's wanted status and nicknames. Upon arriving at the Lemon meeting, Mater takes to the sidelines as the Lemon boss calls the meetings via video. Mater soon discovers the Lemon plot, revealing that the Lemons were sabotaging the race by igniting the Allinol in the racecars' tanks. As Finn and Holley are captured, Mater watches Axlerod on TV declaring a suspension of Allinol for the final race in London. However, McQueen announces that he will use Allinol for the race and admits how guilty he feels over his fight with Mater. The Lemon boss then calls the meeting, ordering Professor Z to kill McQueen and fully discredit Allinol. Mater then accidentally breaks his hologram disguise and allowing the Lemons to identify him, but the tow truck escapes after tearing up the place with his gatling gun and activates his parachute and flies off to warn McQueen about the Lemons' evil plot only to be captured and sent to London (the final race's setting) where he, along with Finn and Holley are all tied to the gears of Big Bentley to be crushed to death. Mater then confesses to Finn and Holley that he's not a spy and this time they believe him.
Mater then learns from Grem and Acer, two of the Lemons inside the clock tower that they have installed a bomb in Lightning McQueen's pit that will kill McQueen upon his arrival (due to their EMP cannon being disabled as a result of Sarge switching the Allinol with Fillmore's fuel). As soon as the Lemons had left, Mater activated his gatling guns to cut through the ropes binding him and races to the track to warn McQueen about the bomb. But when he gets there, Finn calls him on the radio, revealing that the Lemons tricked him, and that the bomb in question was instead inside Mater's air filter! As McQueen returns to the pit and spots Mater, the latter desperately drives backwards to avoid killing his friend, but McQueen chases after him. Mater's attempts to warn about the bomb go misunderstood. As McQueen grabs his hook, Mater accidentally activates his rockets, sending them blasting out of range of Professor Z's detonator. When they come to a stop, Holley reveals the bomb to McQueen as Finn arrives with a captive Zundapp. The Professor admits that the bomb is voice activated, but neglected to mention that it could only be disarmed by the one who activated it under Mater attempts to deactivate it himself, starting a five minute timer. Holley threatens Zundapp, only to learn that he wasn't the one who armed the bomb, shaving off another minute. After Holley tazes Zundapp, the foursome are surrounded by the Lemons, intending to watch the bomb go off. Mater attempts to reason with them, stating that he understands what it's like to be ridiculed but becoming rich and powerful beyond their wildest dreams isn't going to make them feel better. When that failed, the Radiator Springs townsfolk come to their rescue. In the subsequent fight, Mater defends McQueen against the Lemons with his karate.
Guido then attempted to remove the bomb off Mater but none of his wrenches fit the bolts that hold it in place. With only two and half minutes left, Mater has an epiphany, but he hesitates to act on it, as he acknowledges to McQueen that they aren't in Radiator Springs. However, with some encouragement from his best friend, Mater proceeds to drag his friend all the way to Buckingham Palace, where he tells everyone that he knows who was sabotaging the race. But when he takes a moment to respectfully bow to the Queen, everyone spots the bomb and go into a panic. Finn intervenes before the royal guard could open fire, informing them that they can't disarm the bomb, and orders Mater to stand down. After remarking that that London is nothing like home, he is soon reminded by McQueen to get back on topic. He then accuses Axlerod of being the head Lemon. His reasoning was that the bolts on the bomb are the same ones from the Lemon engine on Holley's photo; he also realized that Axlerod didn't convert from a combustion engine to an electric one, hence how he leaked oil back in Japan, and he'd probably still have it under his hood. Though Finn and Holley were a bit skeptical, Mater stated that Axlerod wanted Allinol discredited to turn the world against alternative fuels and back to using oil, so he could profit off the huge untapped oil field Finn found. With his bomb only down to the last ten seconds, Axlerod, realizing that his villainy has been exposed and fearing for his life, is immediately forced to deactivate the bomb and is then arrested on the spot. Just right as the police is about to take Axlerod away, Mater opens the Lemon's hood revealing the exact same engine as seen in Holley's photos. As Axlerod was left aghast at how a tow truck figured him out, McQueen tells Mater that he's coming to all his races.
Subsequently, The Queen knights Mater for his bravery. Afterwards, Mater and his friends return to Radiator Springs, where he tells everyone of his adventure. Though Van doesn't believe a word of it, Finn and Holley show up to prove it. Mater then introduces Finn to everyone but Holley cuts him off, announcing herself as Mater's girlfriend (to Guido's shock). Mater was then pleased to see that Holley receives a dent from their London adventure and decide to emulate him by keeping it.
While watching the unofficial Radiator Springs Grand Prix, Finn and Holley reveal that they want to recruit Mater for another mission, but he declines, preferring to stay home. The spy cars respect his decision. Holley promises to come back and take him out for their first date and Finn offers to give Mater any favour he asks. Mater cashes in on that favour as he receives his rockets back and joins the race.
During the credits, Mater joins McQueen on a world tour before eventually coming home.
Mater is a friendly, loyal, silly, dim-witted, and goofy tow truck, but he also has a vast knowledge of all car parts considering his job of towing and salvaging, which proves to be useful in exposing Miles Axlerod as the one behind the conspiracy to sabotage the World Grand Prix.
- Zero to 60: 10 seconds
- Engine: V-8 with two-barrel carburetor
- Horsepower: 200
- Top speed: 90 mph
Weaponry and Gadgets
In Cars 2, since Mater plays a role in a spy affair, he is added several gadgets, however not as spectacular as those of Finn McMissile or Holley Shiftwell. Since Mater is not familiar with his gadgets, they are activated by voice commands.
- Deployable Gatling guns: One on each side. Deployed when Mater uses his catchphrase "Dad-gum."
- Twin rockets: Give Mater a powerful boost, and can serve to direct himself when gliding.
- Deployable paraglider: Of an orange color, it permits Mater to glide in the air. When used with his rockets, this gadget permits Mater to direct himself more precisely.
- Deployable holographic disguise emitter: Disguised as the flashing light on the roof. The device instantaneously makes a disguise all around Mater, and may even simulate supplementary volume or hide some.
- Heads-up Display: Installed into his eyes, Mater's HUD allows him to predict the probabilities of a casino's games and identify criminal cars' names, nicknames and wanted status. This display is completely invisible from the outside.
At the end of Cars 2, it appears Mater was removed of all his gadgets. However, he obtained the favor to keep his twin rockets.
- Mater's license plate is A113, a recurring joke in Pixar films.
- Mater, along with other countless versions of him, have been released in the Cars, Cars Toons and Cars 2 Die-Cast Lines.
- Mater and Ivan are the only characters in Cars 2 that are tow trucks.
- During the credits' roll of Cars 2, Mater's passport scrolls past. His birth date is listed on it. It turns out to be the same as John Lasseter’s: January 12, 1957.
- During the last section of the World Grand Prix, Mater is described as the World's greatest backwards driver.
- It is revealed in Time Travel Mater that he always cries at weddings.
- In the credits, it is shown that he is knighted on Tuesday, July 15, 2011. However, July 15, 2011, was not on Tuesday in real life, it was on Friday.
- In the subtitles for the audio commentary on Cars 2, John Lasseter describes Mater with "two miniguns" but the subtitles say "two many guns".
- Head of story and co-director Joe Ranft got the inspiration of Mater after seeing an old abandoned rusty tow truck during a research trip to Route 66. The character was named after and partly based on Douglas "Mater" Keever, a racing fan the Pixar team met during their research trips, and also draws inspiration from several other people the team encountered.
- In Spanish and Portuguese, he is called "Mate".
- In French, he is called "Martin".
- In Polish, Mater is called "Złomek" (z-wom-eh-k).
- In German, he is called "Hook".
- In Dutch, he is called "Takel".
- In Italian, he is called "Cricchetto".
- In Swedish, he is called "Bärgarn".
- In Japanese, he is called "メーター" (me-ta-).
- In Mandarin (Taiwan), he is called "拖線".
- In Mandarin (China), he is called "板牙".
- In Cantonese, he is called "哨牙嘜".
- In Danish, he is called "Bumle".
- "Dad gum!"
"I am happier than a tornado in a trailer park!"
"Fuh - un!"
"That's funny right there!"
- —Some of Mater's catchphrases.
- Mater: "What's your name?"
Lightning McQueen: "You don't know my name?"
Mater: "Uhh- No, I know your name. Is your name Mater too?"
- —Mater and Lightning McQueen introducing each other.
- Lightning: "I'm a precision instrument of speed and aerodynamics."
Mater: "You hurt your what?"
- —Mater and Lightning McQueen speaking to each other whilst McQueen fixes the road.
- "I didn't get to say goodbye to him."
- —Mater is sad to see McQueen go.
From Cars 2
- "Mater -Tow Mater, that's who -is here to help you!"
- —His first line in the sequel.
- "Whatever you do, do not eat the free pistachio ice cream! It has turned! (the word "turned" echoed)"
- —Mater after he drank from the fountain to cool down his mouth from the wasabi.
- "McQueen, they're gonna kill you!"
- —Mater tries to warn McQueen about the lemons.
- "What's everybody on the wrong side of the road for?"
- —Mater driving in London.
- "Don't you remember? You was there too!"
- —Mater's famous line in Cars Toons.