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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Toyography: Here's Rocket Raccoon's Hot Wheels GUARDIANS OF THE ...The Rock Father, January 24th
Every so often, beyond the normal realm of traditional vehicles, Mattel releases a fresh batch of Hot Wheels "Character Cars" - concept vehicles inspired by a pop culture franchise. In the past, the Character Cars series has seen MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER ...Read more
How Hot Wheels FunctionNational Gazette, January 23rd
Saturday mornings for little ones applied to be sacred. We'd sit on the floor, clutching a cereal bowl, our eyeballs mere inches from the television screen, so close we could see the tiny pixels that produced up the bigger image. Just about every two...Read more
DIY Hot Wheels Drag Race TimerHackaday, January 19th
[Apachexmd] wanted to do something fun for his three-year-old son's birthday party. Knowing how cool race cars are, he opted to build his own Hot Wheels drag race timer. He didn't take the easy way out either. He put both his electronics and 3D...Read more
Autos: Hot wheels in cold DetroitIndianapolis Star, January 16th
Snow and ice threatened, but all was warm inside Detroit's Cobo Hall as automakers put a spotlight on the future. After kicking off by naming the Volkswagen Golf and Ford F-150 North American Car and Truck of the Year, things got really exciting. Here...Read more
California Man Creates Full Sized Hot Wheels!WTVY, Dothan, January 13th
These are among the life-size Hot Wheels vehicles that have come out of Action Vehicle Engineering, a stunt car garage in Chatsworth. Billy Hammon has seen business for character cars spike since he first teamed up with Mattel in 2011, when the El ...Read more
Hot wheels at the Detroit auto showCBS News, January 12th
With the auto industry healthy again, this year's Detroit auto show will be showing off a combination of high gas mileage and high horsepower performance cars. At the North American International Auto Show starting with press previews today, General ...Read more
Local Stunt-Car Garage Making Life-Size Hot WheelsCBS Local, January 9th
CHATSWORTH (CBSLA.com) — A local stunt-car garage is building life-size cars similar to Mattel's Hot Wheels cars that inspired generations of would-be drivers. Billy Hammond's Action Vehicle Engineering in Chatsworth is contracted by Mattel, and many...Read more
Chatsworth stunt car maker builds life-size Hot Wheels for MattelThe Daily Breeze, January 4th
Cars stacked up at Action Vehicle Entertainment, which builds life-size versions of fictional cars, has seen a spike in business, as toy, film and video game producers try to make their fantasies a reality., CA. December 18, 2014. John McCoy — Staff ...Read more