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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400 Car Owners Display Their Hot Wheels for a CauseKREX News Channel 5, August 30th
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - Over 3,000 people from across Colorado came to the Western Slope Saturday for the 2nd annual Western Colorado Classic Auto Event. 400 specialty autos, trucks, muscle cars and specialty vehicles were on display at Canyon ...Read more
The Hot Wheels Monster Jam Halloween Grave Digger is Coming!The Rock Father, August 28th
With just a hair over two months until the big day, the Halloween news has begun flowing, and tonight I've got details on a cool little item from the Mattel Hot Wheels Monster Jam collection. For the first time ever, there is a Halloween Edition 1:64...Read more
PHOTOS: Hot WheelsMyWebTimes.com, August 24th
Willie Weinreich puts away the cleaner after shining up his 1952 Studebaker at the Seneca Car Show in downtown Seneca Saturday night. Buy this photo · JIM_2661.jpg. Jimmy McCorkle. JIM_2661.jpg. People walk the streets of downtown Seneca Saturday ...Read more
Justin Beiber takes his hot wheels for a spin, almost runs someone overDaily Digest, August 23rd
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The vehicles are consistently among the top five vehicles stolen each year, according to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and its annual “Hot Wheels” report. Last year, 53,995 Accords and 45,001 Civic sedans were stolen. If you just bought a...Read more
Hot Wheels ReportInsurance News Net, August 19th
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) today released its annual Hot Wheels report, which identifies the 10 most stolen vehicles in the United States . The report examines vehicle theft data submitted by law enforcement to the National Crime ...Read more
Homemade hot wheelsStuff.co.nz, August 13th
Men paint a "Batmobile" replica on the outskirts of Shanghai. Li Weilei, the owner of the replica and a local businessman, uses his spare time and money to build replicas like the "Batmobile", Formula One cars and "Transformers" for rent or sale. Li...Read more
Hot wheels, cold cash: Police discover more than $1 million hidden in truck tiresTico Times, August 5th
Costa Rican Drug Control Police (PCD) discovered over $1 million in cold cash hidden in the spare tires of a semitrailer at the northern border town of Peñas Blancas, Guanacaste, on Saturday, Public Security Minister Celso Gamboa said at a press ...Read more