A Journey Down the Toy Aisle: Hot Wheels
by Justin Keys (@mrjroc83)
“Vroom! Vroom! Screech!” were the noises I would make aloud as I played with my toy cars. Come on now, surely you can recall making engine noises as you played with toy cars when you were young. From cars and trucks to tractors and rescue vehicles to concept cars, and even motorcycles, we all, at one time, played with such toys. One manufacturer made all of the above and then some. That manufacture was Mattel and the brand was Hot Wheels.
Hot Wheels hit the scene in 1968, 1/64th scale toy cars that resembled the muscle cars of the era along with concept cars that were designed in house in El Segundo, CA. Mainly for show, some of the concept designs were later turned into real working cars, but Hot Wheels has sold more than all of the auto manufactures combined, nevermind they aren’t real cars. In fact, according to Mattel, eight Hot Wheels are sold every second! Top that, Mr. Used Car Salesman!
For me, personally, I can recall seeing my first Hot Wheel at the very young age of two or three years old. I remember going straight to the toy aisle and spending most of my time looking at three different toys: Legos, Micro Machines and Hot Wheels. Having been raised in a lower middle-class family at the time, the price of a Hot Wheel was more acceptable to my mom. As kids normally do, I pulled the trick of presenting a more expensive toy with a Hot Wheel as a substitute. Needless to say, a $0.64 – 0.89 Hot Wheel would win almost every time, and sometimes I could get more than one! Oh, the joy I would get from opening–ripping–up the packaging…Endless hours of imagining car chases, races and adventures would come from playing with these die-cast toys.
When I turned ten, I learned of another side to toys: collecting. I would research the value of Hot Wheels by going to local stores and trading events (the internet wasn’t useful yet). From that point on, I would buy two of the same car, one for play and one for keeping in the package. I discovered Hot Wheels had different lines and variations to each model. Some of the cars had color-changing paint (it would change when you dipped the car into warm water or cold water), and there was a “California Dreamin'” line, which was one of my favorites. The cars had special paints schemes and included stickers you could use to customize your toy car. (My favorite was the Sol-Aire CX4 with the opening engine compartment, which I still have.) In 1995, things really changed, the “Treasure Hunt” line came out. Treasure Hunts were Hot Wheels cars with real rubber tires (trust me, it was a big deal), cool paint jobs, and were limited to 10,000 or less. I tried my hardest to find one, only to learn that some adult collectors would buy Hot Wheels by the case or come early in the morning and beat me to the treasure.
As I grew up, I slowed down on collecting Hot Wheels, however, I believe that I have over 500 of these toys still in the package and more of them mint on card, or “MOC,” as a collector would say. I still enjoy looking at them as I pass through the toy aisles in the stores, it never gets old. I now have a nephew and a niece, both of them two years old, and both into Hot Wheels. Hmm, I wonder why…
Leffingwell, Randy (2003). Hot Wheels: 35 Years of Speed, Power, Performance, and Attitude. Motorbooks International