It Seemed Like a Good Idea: Turbo Teen

By Jeff Sparkman

Apr 28, 2009

You know that one guy in school who was popular and had the awesome car? And how you wanted something bad to happen to him? Well, someone sure had it in for high-schooler Brett Matthews.

While driving on a stormy night (in a convertible, mind you), a bolt of lightning forced Brett off the road. He crashed into a top-secret government lab right in the middle of a test and was hit by Dr. Chase's molecular transfer ray, "causing me and my car to become one: the incredible Turbo Teen!"

As a result, Brett morphs into his car whenever he's exposed to high heat. Fortunately, a blast of cold will change him back. Only his best friend, Alex, and his girlfriend, Pattie, know his dual identity.

In yet another example of the networks' estimation of children's intelligence, this gem debuted on ABC in September 1984, following The Mighty Orbots. It had the typical Saturday morning teen adventure plot with liberal splashes of Transformers, Knight Rider, and The Incredible Hulk.

A boy who turns into a car. That's a winning concept if done right. But even as a kid, I didn't understand why the hot and cold instigated Brett's metamorphosis. Then, it just seemed weird and inconvenient.

But now, the whole transformation is a little disturbing. When you watch the change happen (the same sequence was used over and over), you see his hands and feet turn into tires, and then he stretches out. His butt expands and becomes the back end of the car (And really, who didn't feel that way during the first semester of college?). The creepy part is watching his face stretch and distort until it becomes the headlights and grille. He doesn't seem to mind this at all, either.

That's creepy enough.

When you inevitably start wondering what body parts correspond to which car parts, it gets worse. Does that mean his colon prolapses and extends to become the car's tailpipe? So when you see the exhaust cloud, it's...eww. As seen in the opening credits, the car is a stick shift. You do the math on that.

And then his friends (and his dog, of course) ride in him. How is that not awkward, especially post-Taco Bell driving?

Clearly we weren't meant to think this hard about such things. We were just supposed to enjoy the action. In addition to fighting off invasions, thwarting crooks and reverting to human form after a trip through a car wash (no, really), Turbo Teen had to deal with the evil Dark Rider, who drove a monster truck and wanted to discover his secret.

Let me tell you, kids, you haven't seen anything until you see a sequence in which a dog bumps into a kid at a pizza parlor, sending a piece of pizza flying into a teen in a red jacket playing an arcade game, who then turns into a red car. And then he keeps playing the game AS THE CAR, which looks more like he's humping the arcade cabinet, but maybe that's just me. Or my meds.

Did anyone else suffer through this one? Add your own Turbo Teen memories in the comments. And yes, everyone has already thought of making a "junk in the trunk" joke; they just decided not to. Oh, and here's a pro-tip: You might not want to do an image search for "Turbo Teen" while you're at work. And that's one to grow on.

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  • brianhatch737 Mar 28, 2013

    So it DID exist! I couldn't recall if this was a real show or just some fever dream from my childhood.
    Thanks so much for this post, I've been looking for this information for quite some time!

  • LAURAMARIE63 Apr 30, 2009

    I remember this show, never cared for it though.

  • BeachfrontGlass Apr 29, 2009

    I loved that show as a kid... He'd eat some chili and and morph into a sport car... lol whats not to love? All the cartoons were crap back then. Just look at the production values and scripts for shows like Pole Position (based on the Atari video game). The scripts were terrible, but who cares, they were kids shows!!! A 4 yr old can't understand what good writing is. Now we have shows like Avatar and ExoSquad to compete against. Big shoes indeed.

  • Gotal_LCP Apr 29, 2009

    It really sounds like a Knight Rider rip-off.

  • pgsuperfan Apr 29, 2009

    Sounds like a throw back to the 1950's