Mater and Lightning are in front of a clock tower, watching it. The minute hand moves ahead one minute and Mater freaks out because he was scared of time traveling. Lightning tells Mater that just because the clock moves doesn't mean they're time traveling. Mater then says he knows more about time traveling and starts telling his story.
It started when Mater was driving in a thunderstorm. He gets struck by lightning, and Sheriff, witnessing the incident, rushes to him, asking if he is okay and telling him he shouldn't be out in the storm. Mater checks to see if he is working. While checking to see if he can drive backwards, he enters a time portal and travels back in time.
Mater winds up at Radiator Springs. He looks around and sees Sheriff. He asks Sheriff what happened, but Sheriff, who apparently has never seen Mater before, insults Mater, saying he looks like a wreck and telling him to take a bath. This leaves Mater confused, leading him to believe "somethin' ain't right." Just then, a blue-colored Mater comes up and greets the present-day Mater, who is surprised to see his past self. He says to the blue Mater that he looks like he rolled out of the factory in 1955. The blue Mater confirms this information and says the year is 1955, causing the present-day Mater to freak out, drive backwards into the time portal, and travel back in time again.
There, he finds two cars sitting at a spring. He refers to them as old timers and asks them where he is. One of the cars, Lizzie, turns around and feels insulted. Then the other car, Stanley, politely tells Mater that they were filling up their radiators at the spring. Mater mishears him, thinking he said Radiator Springs. This immediately inspires Stanley to name the town Radiator Springs (established 1925). Mater freaks out, realizing he is time traveling.
He drives backwards into the time portal and time travels to Ancient Rome. When Mater ends up there, he crashes into a bunch of chariots, who are having a battle. The chariots chase Mater, and Mater freaks out while still driving backwards.
He goes into the time portal and ends up in primeval times. Mater drives around, getting used to the place. He sees colorful flowers, an oil puddle, which is really a tar pit, and some living wheels made of stone. Mater tries talking to the wheels when suddenly, out of the tar pit comes an actual dinosaur, a sauropod, (because, of course, Dinoco had to have been named after something) causing Mater to freak out. The wheels run away just before another dinosaur, a T-Rex, shows up. It grabs Mater and throws him up into the air, and because Mater is flying backwards, he goes into the time portal and time travels again.
After time traveling, Mater falls and sees flying cars, realizing he has gone into the future. A flying tow truck with buck teeth catches Mater in the middle of a futuristic city.
Lightning, listening to Mater's story, says there's no way he traveled through time. Mater then suggests that Lightning was there too, but instead of the story continuing with Lightning now in it, a time portal appears behind Lightning, and another Mater comes out (it's unknown if that Mater was from the past or future). Mater #2 freaks out, and so does Lightning. Mater #2 flies into the air, and goes into a time portal, causing Lightning to freak out and drive away. Mater looks at the clock tower. It ticks another minute, so he freaks out and drives away.
Scott Morse, story artist of the episode, said that the present story was "an early pitch", a "first pass.", that was done in three or four days, to present the idea. However, it was abandoned, and no further development was made.
The episode was presented in the supplementary material of the Blu-ray/DVD release of Cars Toon: Mater's Tall Tales.
- When Mater is in 1955, it can be seen that Luigi's Casa Della Tires used to be Lou's House of Tires.
- It is suggested that Radiator Springs was founded in 1925; however, it was already established that Stanley founded the town in May 9, 1909. Furthermore, Lizzie would not be able to meet Stanley until 1927.
- The reason there are actual dinosaurs in this episode is that Dinoco had to have been named after something.
- Backwards to the Forwards is as a parody of Back to the Future, to which it makes numerous allusions:
- Mater gets his ability to travel time after being hit by lightning, which is reminiscent of how the DeLorean "time machine" succeeds to get back to the future by being hit by lightning.
- At the end of the episode, the time-travelling Mater can fly and has retractable wheels, exactly like the DeLorean "time machine".
- Additionally, the classic clock that Lightning and Mater look at is made as the one that plays an important role in Back to the Future.
- The history of the world of Cars that this tall tale would have proposed appears to be in contradiction with John Lasseter's view of it. When asked of what the dinosaurs would look like in a car's world, he answered : "in the mythology of the Cars world, the living creatures are vehicles of some kind, and so it's like with dinosaurs. I always imagined it would be some kind of dinosaur-like car or vehicle, something like that." Additionally, in Cars 2, all old monuments, paintings, and statues —which are supposed to have been made way before the 20th century— depict actual cars (but no chariots), which suggests that the inhabitants of the time were also cars.
- The Cars Toons episode, Time Travel Mater appears to be the final version of this deleted episode.
- The stone wheels represent cavemen.