When Mattel launched Hot Wheels in 1968, its biggest diecast-metal-car competitor was Matchbox, whose Models of Yesteryear line featured a 1911 Model T Ford and 1906 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. It was a bit quaint compared to the original 16 Hot Wheels cars, which focused on American muscle cars of the day (Camaros, Mustangs, T-Birds, etc.) as well as hot rods, the most famous of which was the Beatnik Bandit by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth.
In addition to being contemporary, Hot Wheels cars were also fast, thanks to their tiny torsion-bar suspensions and low-friction wheel bearings. Hot Wheels also had candy-colored Spectraflame paint jobs (colors ranged from Aqua to Purple to Hot Pink) and “redline” wheels, so named for the red stripe painted on the tires.
The first Hot Wheels car was a Chevy Camaro, which like the other 1968 Hot Wheels was manufactured in the United States. Other cars in the Sweet 16 included a Cougar, a VW Bug with an engine poking through the hood, and a surfboard-toting Dodge Deora concept pickup, which “Motor Trend” once described as “the world’s coolest skateboard.”
In 1969, Ira Gilford joined the Hot Wheels design team and designed two of the company's most famous original cars: the Twinmill, which featured an exposed engine behind each front wheel, and the Splittin’ Image, which resembled two single-passenger pods with an engine and exhaust pipes running between them.
Another collectible car from 1969 is the Beach Bomb, which was a VW Bus with exterior compartments on each side for carrying surfboards. Early prototypes of the beach bomb had surfboards loading in from the rear of the van—an example of this highly collectible vintage Hot Wheel, of which only 22 are known to exist, can be found in the Peterson Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.
The next two years saw almost 100 new cars released, including the Light My Firebird, whose name was a play on the popular Doors song from 1967. Mattel also added two important product lines, the Heavyweights and the Sizzlers. Heavyweights, as its name implied, featured cement mixers, fire trucks, and other large vehicles. The Sizzlers featured a custom-made General Electric Ni-Cad battery that could be charged in 90 seconds at a Juice Machine or Power Pit.
By 1972, all Hot Wheels vehicles were made in Hong Kong to keep prices low and meet the high demand. Snake and Mongoose rear-engine dragsters were issued in what was an otherwise...
The following year, production levels and model introductions were back up and Sizzlers tires were retooled as Fat Daddy racing slicks. Because new Sizzlers were not offered again until 1976, these Hot Wheels from 1973 are particularly collectible. Models and colors to look for include the green Fire Works and Hiway Hauler, as well as the yellow or red Ram Rocket.
One of the most sought-after vintage Hot Wheels spinoffs from 1973 was the Revvers line, which lasted for just one year. Designed for off-track use, the 10 Revvers models were powered by a rubber band. Among the most prized models and colors are the lemon yellow Burnin’ Box, any color of Jettin’ Vette (although dark blue is the Holy Grail), and the Revvers camper set, which included a station wagon and camper trailer.
The Flying Colors line dominated 1974 and 1975, and the Super Streets and Super Chromes were popular in 1975 and ’76. But Mattel dropped the trademark redline wheel from all Hot Wheels in 1977, bringing an end to the vintage era of this most popular of all toy cars.
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Recent News: Hot Wheels
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Find your old Hot Wheels: New 'turbo roundabout' coming to EdmontonEdmonton Journal, April 25th
EDMONTON - Love them or hate them, more traffic circles are coming to city streets. Traffic planners have concept designs finalized for a “turbo roundabout,” a new design first used in The Netherlands that forces drivers in the outside lane to exit at...Read more
Utah boy with love for Hot Wheels to get own car designKSL.com, April 24th
AMERICAN FORK — We first told you about Ethan Carnesecca when he was sick in the hospital. His mom says his love of Hot Wheels cars helped him pull through. Ethan is back home now in American Fork with a basement full of donated Hot Wheels...Read more
Ford sets world record for biggest Hot Wheels track loopAutoblog (blog), April 24th
Take Your Child to Work Day looks like a pretty amazing experience for a child if their parent works at Ford. For the recent event, workers at the Blue Oval set up the world's largest Hot Wheels track loop in the atrium of the company's Research and...Read more
AutoMatters+: Hot Wheels Car Design at Star Wars CelebrationDel Mar Times, April 22nd
Matt Brutocao (Hot Wheels marketing) introduced this panel by telling us some amazing statistics: “Hot Wheels is actually the No. 1 toy in the world based on units sold. The average boy in the U.S. owns 50 Hot Wheels cars. Globally, about 10 Hot Wheels...Read more
Mattel needs to reinvent Barbie and Hot Wheels: Can you help?Christian Science Monitor, April 18th
The company said they will focus on re-imagining its Barbie, Fisher-Price, and Hot Wheels brands in time for this year's holiday season. Individuals whose ideas are selected will also participate in the product-development process. Other companies have ...Read more
Hospitalized Boy Receives Dozens of Hot Wheels Cars from Around the WorldPeople Magazine, April 17th
John Lambert, a friend of the Carnesecca family, is a fellow Hot Wheels fanatic and creator of the diecast car enthusiast blog Lamley Group. When Lambert heard about his little buddy's health problems, he wrote a post about Ethan and his love for Hot...Read more
Sick Utah Toddler Receives Hot Wheels Cars From Strangers WorldwideABC News, April 15th
Three-year-old Ethan Carnesecca has been battling pneumonia for almost a month now. Besides hospital visits from mom, dad and his four older siblings, there's something else that puts a smile on Ethan's face: Hot Wheels cars. "He's been in a lot of...Read more
'Pawn Stars:' See a Hot Wheels car worth more than a Porsche - AOL.comAOL News, April 3rd
In the Hot Wheels market, there's nothing close to this. I mean, this is the holy grail of Hot Wheels. This is what everybody goes after. This is the rarest, and this is in the best condition. And that's why it goes for $100,000," said toy expert...Read more