'Dragon Ball' Creator (and Gearhead) Akira Toriyama Dead at 68

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'Dragon Ball' Creator/Gearhead Akira Toriyama DiesRICHARD A. BROOKS - Getty Images

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  • Akira Toriyama, the creator of the iconic Dragon Ball manga, died on March 1 at the age of 68.

  • Besides his work in manga and video games, Toriyama was also passionate about cars and motorcycles and expressed it in his works.

  • He leaves behind a legacy of imaginatively drawn cars, bikes, and other wheeled vehicles.

I remember wishing I could go Super Saiyan. I remember trying to shoot Kamehameha waves. Yet even if you never rushed home after school to catch Dragon Ball Z on Toonami, you've likely felt Akira Toriyama's influence. Beyond the countless people and works inspired by Dr. Slump and Dragon Ball, there are innumerable more touched by his character designs in beloved video games like Chrono Trigger and the Dragon Quest series. But it's not just for those reasons that we were saddened to hear of Toriyama's passing last week at age 68. It’s also because the Japanese manga creator was a fellow gearhead.

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The creator in his younger days.STR - Getty Images

Besides inking fight scenes, Toriyama also sketched some amazing machines. And in addition to robots, planes, and tanks, he had a keen eye for motorcycles and cars. For instance (and these references are for fans only), the car Bulma is driving when she meets Goku bears a strong resemblance to a Renault 5 Turbo. King Kai's red ride looks an awful lot like a shrunken-down Chevrolet Bel Air.

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But that's just scratching the surface. Suzuki Jimnys, Triumph roadsters, classic Fiat Abarths, vintage 911s, and even a Mercedes-based pickup truck have all graced Toriyama's pages. You can find art of characters riding bikes seemingly styled like the Moto Guzzi V8 racer and Vespa scooter. Toriyama even made a Formula 1–inspired manga, Battleman, after meeting Ayrton Senna and drew Goku and his friends and family wheeling Senna's McLaren race car.

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Toriyama's more fantastical creations show clear real-world wheeled inspiration as well. One of his flying-car designs, for example, sports a hood and front end remarkably like that of a Porsche 356. Another looks more than a bit like a Jaguar E-type; yet another wears a 246 Dino's greenhouse and curved fenders. Some are even realistic enough to cross over from page to reality. Remember Bulma's iconic spherical Capsule 9 motorcycle? A Barcelona-based shop made a real-life electric version.

Akira Toriyama lived the gearhead life in his day-to-day, too. Old photos show him riding a Vespa-like bike as well as a BMW Isetta. And he apparently had a real fondness for the Autobianchi A112 Abarth. He reportedly used some of the money he made from Dr. Slump sales to buy one of the little Italian hot hatches.

In a statement released on March 8, Toriyama's studio confirmed that he was enthusiastically working on several projects at the time of his death. Only some, such as the anime Dragon Ball Daima and Sand Land video game, have been announced. Even so, it's impossible to know what else the beloved artist could've gifted the world. But it's clear that he left a lasting impact on art and pop culture that will ripple out for years to come.

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