They are fast, their colors range from Antifreeze to Magenta, and they are often collected – they are Hot Wheels toy cars, of course!
The Hot Wheels tradition began in 1968 when Elliot Handler, one of the Mattel founders, set his sights on manufacturing a line of miniature-sized toy muscle cars. The first 16 cars were dubbed the “Sweet Sixteen,” and included the following: Beatnik Bandit, Custom Barracuda, Corvette, Camaro, Cougar, Eldorado, Firebird, Fleetside, Mustang, T-Bird, Volkswagen, Deora, Ford J-Car, Hot Heap, Python and Silhouette. Harry Bentley Bradley contrived eleven of these 16 castings.
Mattel’s mission was to craft a collection of cars that were both fast and eye-catching. Spectraflame paint is a signature feature of die-cast Hot Wheels and has been used to facilitate each car’s flashy look. Another key element to these cars lies in their speediness. In order to allow cars to spin easily and roll on tracks or otherwise without extensive friction, Mattel used lubricated plastic tires on their miniature cars.
If you are an avid Hot Wheels collector or just want to take a trip down memory lane to a time when racing toy cars was a treasured pastime, this Top Ten Hot Wheels List highlights some key cars to consider.
Top Ten Hot Wheels List:
10. Hot Wheels Hummer
The reason Hummers have barreled their way into the Top Ten Hot Wheels list is primarily because of their heftiness. Hummers have long been some of the weightiest toy cars, as they were originally made from metal. As a result, the metal based Hummers go farther when wound up, landing them on the list. Though originally released in 1992 under the name, Hummer, in 1998, the moniker was changed to Humvee. Tan military Hummer/Humvee vehicles were quite common throughout the 1990s, possibly in relation to Operation Desert Storm. Still, one of the most recognizable Hot Wheels Hummer is the 1997 Race Team Series III #1 in Metaflake Blue of the Off Road Saw Blades (ORSB) wheel type. What makes this version so memorable is the Hot Wheels Racing Team deco and the number “1” painted in red on the upper hand side of the Hummer.
9. Fast and Furious Ferrari
Designed by Michael Kolins, the 1996 Ferrari F50 Spider sped onto the scene as part of the 1996 First Editions. The rockin’ red Ferrari was first produced as a convertible and had a Lace Wheel (LW) or Wire Spoke wheel type. Later models came in a metallic purple with black tinted windows, lending an edgier vibe to the Spider. In 1999, the Ferrari F50 Challenge was released with the same casting as the Spider but with a hard top as part of the 1999 Mainline Open Vamp debut series. Today, other hard top Ferraris have been released as part of the Speed Machine series, which features assorted sporting and racing cars. With chrome plastic base color, black interior and chrome rim Open Hole 5-Spoke wheel type, the 2013 Ferrari F50 is just as fast and as ferocious as the 1990s original.
8. Classic Cobra
Devised in 1983 by the late Carroll Hall Shelby, veteran racing driver and automotive designer, along with prolific Hot Wheels designer, Larry Wood, the Classic Cobra was born. This model was also known as the Shelby Cobra 427 S/C. Keeping American racers in mind, the creators decided to concoct an electric blue-hued car with white racing stripes and a Ford V-8 engine to boot. To appeal more to the adult collector crowd, the Real Riders Series was introduced. Seasoned collectors adored the realistic characteristics of the Cobra with Real Rider Wheels, or two-part tires with rubber tread, branded with the word, “Goodyear.”
7. Mighty Maverick
Mattel’s 1970 Mighty Maverick car makes the Top Ten list for its rareness. Originally, the smooth rider was named the “Mad Maverick,” but was quickly changed to “Mighty Maverick” due to Johnny Lightening having a car with the same name. The casting was modeled after the Ford Motor Company’s 1969 Maverick. Aside from the fact that few were produced before production ceased, the thing that makes these cars so valuable is the “Mad Maverick” stamp on the base. Though first released with a protrusive plastic rear wing on the trunk hood, the wing was removed in 1973 and was never re-added. Versions were released in both the United States and Hong Kong, however, both lines exhibited subtle variations. Where the USA featured the car with a thick racing stripe painted down the top and clear windows, Hong Kong showcased a thinner stripe atop the car with blue tinted windows.
6. Hot Rod Street Rodder
The 1976 Street Rodder by Mattel just screams cool, dapper in a black body color with red and yellow flames emblazoned along the side panels of the car. Part of the Flying Colors collection, the car displays a windowless gray frame and gray interior. One of the Street Rodder’s trademark features is its fully exposed front engine, which only serves to amplify the greaser-esque feel of this classically cool hot rod. The Street Rodder was re-cast in the Hot Wheels 2009 lineup, now, looking more realistic than ever before with Preferred Real Series Riders wheels with Red Lines. This time around, the fiery cruiser donned a wider range of more intricately designed tampos than had been offered previously.
5. Surfs Up Dodge Deora
Released in 1968 as a member of the “Original Sixteen” Hot Wheels cars, the Dodge Deora makes the list for being a unique surfboard-carrying pickup truck. Mike and Larry Alexander’s 1964 Deora concept car was the life sized inspiration for this Hot Wheels mini-Deora. Recognized for having two detachable surfboards (one red and one yellow) carried in the bed of the pickup truck, this car had a remarkably carefree air about it. The quirky Hot Wheels truck is one of the only models to have all four of its tires be Redline tires. At the start of the new millennium, this truck received an upgrade with the introduction of the Deora II, which featured a more contemporary-looking body style.
4. Spoiler Alert: King ‘Kuda
The King ‘Kuda emerged in 1970 as the first car in the Spoilers debut series lineup, and later a revamped version of the car resurfaced in HotWheelsCollectors.com Series 1 in 2002. Not only does the name, King ‘Kuda, pack a powerful punch, but so does the physical design. The original clutch ‘Kuda was drenched in Spectraflame Dark Blue paint, donning a white interior with light blue tinted windows. Aesthetics in mind, the most jaw dropping aspect about this car lies in its fully exposed exterior front engine.
3. Show Stopping Seared Tuner
Originally introduced in the 2000 First Editions series under the name, “Sho-Stopper,” this car, later renamed to the “Seared Tuner,” is certainly an eye-catcher. Mattel made a move toward the future with the addition of this model, marrying modern features with classic design. The Tuner dons the Hot Wheels logo underneath the C-pillar, near the rear window, which is tinted. One of this car’s fastest and most furious features lies in its wheels. The classic Chrome type PR-5 wheel makes the Seared Tuner a classic collector’s item, and this wheel type is still commonly used today.
2. The HydraRacer
Hot Wheels miniature cars have been treasured children’s toys since their debut in 1968. One aficionado is Chase Malackowski, who has been collecting Hot Wheels toys since he was a toddler. At seven-years-old, Chase was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and his leg was amputated below the knee. As an avid Hot Wheels enthusiast and collector of more than 2,000 of the model vehicles, Chase was a keynote speaker at the 2009 National Hot Wheels Collectors Convention where he showcased the Hot Wheels car he designed himself through the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Designer Larry Wood helped make the birth of the HydraRacer possible. Similar in look and feel to the H-24 prototype, the car has a sleekness to it that is only complemented by the steel blue body paint and red racing number. Chase says he created the non-for-profit organization, Wheels for a Wish with a clear goal in mind, “ to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation through donation and resale of Hot Wheels Redline cars,” which are collectable cars produced from 1968 to 1975.
1. Custom Camaro
Being the very first Hot Wheels car ever released as part of the 1968 “Sweet Sixteen,” the Custom Camaro cruises its way into the in first-place position on the Top Ten Hot Wheels cars list. Aside from being the first to pave the way in a long line of Hot Wheels cars, the Custom Camaro is noteworthy because of its wide array of variations. It has even been intimated that this model has more deviations than any other Hot Wheels car. As with many of the cars in the Hot Wheels collection, the Camaro has differing features in Hong Kong versus the United States. The first car design featured in the United States had a dark Spectraflame blue body color with a jet-black rooftop, Redline or Red Stripe (Type 1) wheels and clear windows. In Hong Kong, the Camaro debuted with the same Spectraflame blue body and the same roof color, but traded in clear windows for blue tinted ones and blue interior coloring. In terms of casting, the USA did not include door-lines, whereas the Hong Kong version of the same toy vehicle did.
Children are not the only ones infatuated with these miniature race cars. Adults are just as enthusiastic about their Hot Wheels collections, and often have the money to channel their affection for these toy cars into a very expensive hobby. Some of these Hot Wheels cars have been made into actual life-sized vehicles.
Unveiled in 2001, the first life-sized Hot Wheels inspired car was the “Twin Mill.” First envisioned in 1968 by Ira Gilford, the toy model served as the vision for a real life race car that produces upward of 1400 horsepower. This car is most noted for its matching, “twin” block engines, which add an upgraded performance aspect to the car.
The toy version of the Deora II was the creation of designer Nathan Proch, which was turned into a real life version of the car by Chip Foose. Talk show host, Jay Leno had the privilege of driving the car to the Hot Wheels Hall of Fame induction at the Peterson Automotive Museum in California in 2003. The Deora II has a futuristic sense about it due to the deep metallic purple color and aqua blue racing Hot Wheels logo emblazoned in flames décor.
Further, the Bone Shaker is another Hot Wheels toy gone life-sized. With its metal base, Chrome interior coloring and 5-Spoke tires, the 2006 Bone Shaker is quite the popular car. But it is the black and silver coloring with a white skull and crossbones tampo that really sets this model apart from the rest. To bring this bone shaking car to life, the car was replicated with the same intimidating skull front grill and fiery red and yellow flames covering the cabin as in the toy version.
For some adult collectors, this automotive-related hobby can become quite pricey. One rare model car, the 1969 Pink Rear-Loading Volkswagen Beach Bomb prototype was sold for more than $75 thousand at the 25th Annual Hot Wheels Collectors Convention in Los Angeles, California. Some large collections are valued at a price of more than $1 million.
Forty-five years since the “Original Sixteen” were released, more than four billion Hot Wheels cars have been created. Whether you are a Custom Camaro type of person or more of a King ‘Kuda fan, there really is something for everyone in the Hot Wheels collections.