Route 66 News

How “Cars” changed the life of the Midpoint Cafe’s owner

The 2006 Disney-Pixar film “Cars” profoundly changed the life of the Midpoint Cafe‘s former owner, the Orange County Register said in a report about the Cars Land theme park opening this week.

The first few paragraphs:

Fran Houser will never forget the day when the Cadillacs with the steer horns attached to their hoods pulled up outside her sleepy café and about 15 people popped out taking photos, talking about the sign out front and the curve of the rooftop.

Among the tourists dropping in unannounced that 2006 day was film director and Pixar visionary John Lasseter.

Life would never be the same at Midpoint Café in small-town Adrian, Texas – where the population was 300 and shrinking. Houser’s 1928 café along historic Route 66 is widely cited as the inspiration behind the roadside stop known as Flo’s V8 Café, a neon palace and a centerpiece of the imaginary Radiator Springs in Disney Pixar’s “Cars” movie.

I’m pretty sure the writer got it wrong on the year Lasseter showed up at the restaurant. It would have been several years before, about 2000 or 2001. The movie “Cars” was already finished by 2006.

More from the story:

Houser and her Midpoint Café are just two of the many real-life people and places that inspired characters or scenes in the movie. Lasseter mentioned many of them in the credits of the film and in subsequent interviews, bringing them instant fame.

There’s author Michael Wallis, who wrote the authoritative Route 66 history, “The Mother Road.” Lasseter called upon him to lead the team on a tour of the historic road and, impressed by his baritone voice, gave him a role in the movie as the sheriff.

Sally the Porsche, voiced by Bonnie Hunt in the film, is based on Dawn Welch, the owner of Rock Café in Stroud, Okla.

And Fillmore, the hippie VW van voiced by George Carlin, is said to be based on Bob Waldmire. But Waldmire, who died three years after the movie’s release, refused to be acknowledged in official credits – the strict vegetarian said he objected to “Cars” toys being included in McDonald’s kids’ hamburger meals.

“The entire film is full of symbolism for those of us who know Route 66,” Houser said. “Like when Lighting McQueen gets caught in the barbed wire, we know it’s a reference to the (Devil’s Rope) barbed-wire museum in McLean, Texas.”

More about the real-life Route 66 inspirations for “Cars” can be found here.

This report isn’t news to folks who’ve visited with Houser at her restaurant in recent years. It’s a tale that she’s often told. But it reiterates the big impact that “Cars” has made on the Mother Road.

Houser retired a few months ago, but still lives in Adrian and plans to open a western-wear shop in an old gas station next to the Midpoint. Dennis Purschwitz purchased the Midpoint in March, and the restaurant continue to serve up great grub as usual, including its famous pies.


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