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.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

DFW Elite Toy Museum

DFW Elite Toy Museum

Ron Sturgeon's excellent gallery of fancy model cars and other vehicles. Nice high resolution shots with classy mus… [read review or visit site]

The Show Room

The Show Room

This gallery at Dave's Show Rod Rally features model show rods from 1960 to 2001. Favorites include the 1958 Thunde… [read review or visit site]

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Vintage Mattel Hot Wheels Redline 1967 Htf Aqua "custom Camaro" With BadgeHot Wheels Mattel 1995 Treasure Hunt '67 Camaro #3 Limited Edition Of 10,000Hot Wheels Redline Yellow - Light Green Olds 442 See Pictures For ConditionHot Wheels Redline Red/maroon Boss Hoss Mustang Spoiler On Blister Card Mint!!Hot Wheels Redline Custom Camaro Antifreeze Usa Tinted Windows No Black Roof! Hot Wheels Redlines — '71 Olds 442Hot Wheels Redline Beach Bomb In Unpunched Blister Pack. Light Purple. Sharp!Vintage 1970 Hot Wheels Redline Bye-focal Light Green Hk Base Hotwheels Redline 24 Car Filler Lot+collectors Case-mustang/spoilers/rrrumblers!Hot Wheels Military Rods '83 Silverado1970 Original Hot Wheels Redline Bright Electric Blue Seasider In Bp FleetsideHuge Hot Wheels Datsun Bluebird 510 Wagon Lot. Boulevard, Super Th Hunt, KmartVintage Mattel Hot Wheels Redline 1969 "king 'kuda" Hong Kong Red With BadgeHot Wheels Rlc '55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Candy Striper Hard To Find No Reserve!Hot Wheels Nissan Skyline Gt-r R34 Lot Of 8, First Edition, Zamac, Fast FuriousVintage Mattel Hot Wheels Redline 1969 "ferrari 312p" U.s Hot PinkHot Wheels Boulevard Rare '71 Datsun Bluebird 510 Wagon & Nissan Skyline 2000gtxVintage 1968 Hot Wheels Redline Classic '36 Ford Coupe Yellow Usa Base Rare Hot Wheels Red Line Flying Colors Neet Streeter Mint On Unpunched CardHot Wheels Vintage France French Cube Jewel Cards X8 Job Lot Monza Citation EtcVintage 1969 Hot Wheels Redline Police Cruiser White/dark Interior Hk BaseHot Wheels Redline Classic Nomad Creamy Pink On Blister Card Mint!!1:18 Hotwheels Elite Ferrari F430 Scuderia. Super Rare 60th Anniversary Edition!Hot Wheels Hwc Rlc Redline Club Datsun Bluebird 510 BreRare Magenta 1968 Red Lines Hot Wheels Custom Volkswagen Us N, Mint Blister Vintage Mattel Hot Wheels Redline 1967 "custom Cougar" Olive Green GreenRedline Hot Wheels Custom Mustang Blue Hot Wheels 2012 Ferrari 599xx Super Treasure HuntHot Wheels Mooneyes 2012 Japan Convention Vw Drag BusHot Wheels Ferrari 599xx Super Treasure Hunt With Bonus RegularHot Wheels Real Riders, Rare Red 3-window '34 With Gyw, Mal. Base, Moc From 1985Hot Wheels Mattel Vintage Bw Blackwall France 3 Steering Rigs Lorry Truck CabsVintage 1969 Hot Wheels Redline Heavy Chevy Hk Base NrHot Wheels Red Line Ferrari 512s Rare Pink Color Near Mint CarLot Of 7 Old Vintage Hot Wheels Farbs Redlines Lot Of 58 Vintage Hot Wheels Some Redline 60's 70's HotwheelsCustom Volkswagen Orange Beautiful Shiny Color! Hot Wheels Redline White IntVintage 1970 Mattel Red Line Hot Wheels Amx 2 NmHot Wheels Redline Red Boss Hoss Minty To Mint RareHot Wheels * Rlc * '55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser * Candy Striper * Vhtf * Awesome *Vintage 1970 Mattel Red Line Hot Wheels Evil Weevil NmVintage 1968 Hot Wheels Redline Classic '36 Ford Coupe Gold Usa Base Vintage Hot Wheels Redlines Original Brown Custom Volkswagen Vw Bug Nice Hot Wheels Nissan Skyline - RedHot Wheels Hwc Rlc Redline Club 2012 Super Treasure Hunt Set Ferrari 599xx 1971 Original Hot Wheels Redline Deep Magenta Bye Focal Super Clean Double Shot!Vintage 1969 Hot Wheels Redline Maserati Mistral Aqua Hk Base Hotwheels Treasure Hunt Lot + 5 Super Treasure HuntVintage Mattel Hot Wheels Redline 1969 "light-my-firebird" Copper / OrangeHot Wheels 2010 Japan Convention Set ⭐ Vw Drag Bus & 65 Volkswagen Fastback 1500Hot Wheels 2016 Car Culture Trucks - Djf77-956c - Pre-order Full SetVintage 1970 Hot Wheels Redline T-4-2 Aqua Hk Base Hard To FindVintage Hot Wheels Redline Custom Camaro Usa 1967Vintage Mattel Hot Wheels Redline 1968 "'57 - 'bird Classic" Orange With Badge2015 Hot Wheels Super Treasure Hunt Set With Ferrari 599xx ThHot Wheels Redline Light Ice Blue Custom Barracuda Near MintHot Wheels Redline Rl Hybrid Scarce Very Gloss Aqua Custom Camaro White Int NmHot Wheels Toy Fair Porsche 934 Turbo Rsr In Gold Spectraflame & Real RidersHot Wheels 2016 Super Treasure Hunt '10 Pro Stock Camaro Variation Roll Cage Bar1:18 Hotwheels Elite Ferrari 458 Italia Coupe. Black / Red Interior.