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    

Hot Wheels Redline Olds 442 Apple Green / Emerald Green All Original Very Clean!Louvered Window Custom Mustang Very Rare Excellent Con. 1967 Hot Wheels RedlineHot Wheels Redline Copper Boss Hoss Mustang Blister Pack CardedHot Wheels Redline Olds 442 Magenta1970 Hot Wheels Redline Green Porsche 917 *unopened And Unpunched*Redline Hotwheels Blue Amx2 BpHotwheels 2011 Super Treasure T-hunt $ Nissan Datsun 240z Mint On Short Card Hot Wheels Redline Club Exclusive Rlc 55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser Candy Striper RareVintage 1970 - Mattel - Hot Wheels - 21 Redlines Lot Vintage Hot Wheels Redlines Original Mirror Green Mustang Boss Hoss Near Mint Redline Hot Wheels Bright Chrome-red Custom Charger C9.7In Excel Cond. Lot Of 6 Hot Wheels Redlines- Includes Beach BombHot Wheels Redline Bye Focal Magenta C9 ConditionRare Redline Hot Wheels Alive '55 Flying Colors BlueLot Of 174 Mattel Hot Wheels Redlines For Parts Play Graveyard 60 & 70s VehiclesVintage Hot Pink Custom Charger Redline Hotwheel Diecast CarRare Redline Hot Wheels Blue Cut Off Canyon Van Must SeeHot Wheels Redline Nitty Gritty Kitty Cougar Blister Pack Carded UnpunchedHot Wheels Legends Don Snake Prudhomme Tom Mongoose Mcewen Funny Car Set 1/24 64Hot Wheels Elite Ferrari 288 Gto 1:18Hot Wheels Redline Blue Light My Firebird Blister Pack CardedHot Wheels 2015 Rlc Rewards '66 1966 Super Nova - Real Riders - *pre-sale*Hot Wheels Hwc/rlc Bre Datsun Bluebird 510 - Mint!2007 Hot Wheels Super Treasure HuntVintage 1968 Hot Wheels Redline Custom Corvette Orange Usa Base Hot Wheels Redlines Lot Of 5 Cars (includes Olds 442)Blue Classic Cord Hot Wheels Redline Very Nice Spectra-flame Blue2016 Hot Wheels Super Treasure Hunt '17 Ford GtVintage 1968 - Mattel - Hot Wheels - 6 Redlines Lot Rare Hot Wheels Redline Hot Pink Sugar Caddy OriginalHot Wheels Redline Firebird Unusual Icey Aqua W White Int Us ExcellentHot Wheels Redline Lot, 1968 - 69, Custom Amx, Classic Nomad, Light My FirebirdHot Wheels Loose Redline, Yellow Olds 442, Repro Stripes, M/nm From 1971Hot Wheels Redline 1968 Custom Camaro Green White Interior Hot Wheels Rlc 2010 Blown Delivery First Edition Red Vintage 1985 Hot Wheels Real Riders Stamper 3 PackHot Wheels 2016 Super Treasure Hunt '17 Ford GtHot Wheels Redline Mustang Hk Red W Red Int Open Hood Scoop Near MintHot Wheels Redline Antifreeze Custom Barracuda Near MintHot Wheels * Custom Convoy * Classics Series 5 * Avail. Only Online At Hwc 20092015 Hot Wheels Rlc Rewards '66 Super Nova Spfl Blue Real Riders Pre-sale1:18 Hot Wheels Ferrari F430 Car Model Red ColorFirst Year Original Hot Wheels Redline Lot 1968 Vintage Diecast "sweet 16"Hot Wheels Redline Club Rlc Datsun Bluebird 510 Bre Brock Racing John Morton Lo#Hot Wheels 2016 T.v. Series Batmobile Super Treasure HuntVintage 1971 - Mattel - Hot Wheels - 11 Redlines Lot Hot Wheels Redline Mustang Hk Gold W Brown Int Open Hood Scoop Beautiful1968 Hot Wheels Redline Custom Amx Rose2015 Hot Wheels Rlc Factory Seal Super Treasure Hunt '69 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Vintage Hot Wheels 1960's Redline (18 Cars) Collection Lot Mattel Carrying CaseHot Wheels Redline Camaro Us Red W Dark Int Black Roof C9 Condition1968 Hot Wheels Red Line Custom Mustang, Gold Estate Buy No ReserveHot Wheels Redline 6253 Classic '36 Ford Coupe Near Mint Never Played With!Hot Wheels Wicked Troy Lee Designs Rocket Oil - Rare Limited Edition Only 1,000Hot Wheels 2010 Japan Convention Vw Drag Bus LooseHot Wheels Rrrumblers Rare Yellow Road Hog Motorcycle Bike Carded Blister ! Hot Wheels 5 Bp Flying Colors Real Riders Vetty Funny Mint CarsVintage 1969 - Mattel - Hot Wheels - 12 Redlines Lot Vintage Hot Wheels Redlines Original Brown Custom Volkswagen Vw Bug Near Mint +Hot Wheels 2015 Volkswagen Kool Kombi Super Treasure Hunt W/rr (read)