a custom Volkswagen from 1968, one of the first Hot Wheels carsElliot Handler, co-founder of Mattel, decided to produce a line of die-cast toy cars for boys. His idea was to capture a portion of the huge market for small car models dominated at that time by the British company Lesney with their Matchbox cars. Although his executives thought it was a bad idea, the cars were a big success. There were sixteen castings released in 1968, eleven of them designed by Harry Bentley Bradley, with the first one produced being a dark blue Custom Camaro. Although Bradley was from the car industry, he had not designed the full-functioning versions of the real cars, except the Dodge Deora concept car, which had been built by Mike and Larry Alexander. Another of his notable designs was the Custom Fleetside, which was based on his own heavily-customized '64 El Camino.

Cars released in 1968
Beatnik Bandit
Custom Barracuda
Custom Camaro
Custom Corvette
Custom Cougar
Custom Eldorado
Custom Firebird
Custom Fleetside
Custom Mustang
Custom T-Bird
Custom Volkswagen (designed by Ira Gilford)
Ford J-Car
Hot Heap
Python (designed by Dean Jeffries, based on Bill Cushenberry's "Cheetah" show car)


Twin Mill from 1969, one of the most recognizable Hot Wheels designsAs it turned out, the Hot Wheels brand was a staggering success. (This accomplishment must be put in its historical perspective: Basically, the series "re-wrote the book" for small die-cast car models from 1968 onwards, forcing the competition at Matchbox and elsewhere to completely rethink their concepts, and to scamper to try to recover lost ground.) Harry Bentley Bradley did not think that would be the case and had quit Mattel to go back to the car industry. When the company asked him back, he recommended a good friend, Ira Gilford. Gilford, who had just left Chrysler, quickly accepted the job of designing the next Hot Wheels models. Some of Hot Wheels' greatest cars, such as the Twin Mill and Splittin' Image, came from Ira Gilford's drawing board.

The success of the 1968 line was solidified and consolidated with the 1969 releases, with which Hot Wheels effectively established itself as the most important brand of small toy car models in the USA.

Cars released in 1969
Brabham Repco F1
Chaparral 2G
Classic '31 Ford Woody
Classic '32 Ford Vicky
Classic '36 Ford Coupe
Classic '57 Bird
Custom Charger
Custom AMX
Custom Continental
Custom Police Cruiser
Ford MK IV
Indy Eagle
Lola GT70
Lotus Turbine
Maserati Mistral
McLaren M6A
Mercedes-Benz 280SL
Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow
Shelby Turbine
Splittin' Image
Turbo fire
Twin Mill
Volkswagen Beach Bomb
1970 was another great year for Hot Wheels. This was also the year that Sizzlers appeared. Howard Rees, who worked with Ira Gilford, was tired of designing cars. He wanted to work on the Major Matt Mason action figure toy line-up. Rees had a good friend by the name of Larry Wood. They had worked together at Ford designing cars. When Wood found out about Hot Wheels at a party Rees was holding, Rees offered Wood the job of designing Hot Wheels. Wood agreed, and by the end of the week, Larry Wood was working at Mattel. His first design would be the Tri-Baby. After 36 years, Larry still works for Hot Wheels.

Another designer, Paul Tam, joined Larry and Ira. Paul's first design for Hot Wheels was the Whip Creamer. Tam continued to work for Mattel until 1973. Among the many futuristic designs Tam thought up for Hot Wheels, some of the collector's favorites include Evil Weevil (a Volkswagen with two engines), Open Fire (an AMC Gremlin with six wheels), Six Shooter (another six wheeled car), and the rare Double Header (co-designed with Larry Wood).

1972 and 1973 marked a slump for Hot Wheels; few new castings were produced, and in 1973 most cars changed from Mattel's in house "Spectraflame™" colors to less-shiny solid enamel colors, which mainline Hot Wheels cars still use today. Due to low sales, and the fact that many of the castings were not re-used in later years, the 1972-3 models are known to be very collectible.

In 1974, Hot Wheels began using the slogan "Flying Colors", and added flashy decals and tampo-printed paint designs, which helped revitalize sales. As with the low-friction wheels in 1968, this innovation was revolutionary in the industry, and — although far less effective in terms of sales impact than in 1968 — was copied by the competition, who did not want to be outmaneuvered again by Mattel product strategists.

In 1977, the Redline Wheel was phased out, with the red lines being erased from the wheels. This cut costs, but also reflected that the red lines popularized during the era of muscle cars and Polyglas tires were no longer current.


Hot Wheels Torino Tornado from 1985 with Hot Ones™ WheelsWhat happened in the 1980s for Hot Wheels sent them in the path of what they are today. In 1981, Hot Ones wheels were introduced, which had gold-painted hubs and thinner axles for speed. Ultra Hots wheels, which looked like the wheels found on a Renault Fuego or a Mazda 626, were introduced in 1984 and had other speed improvements. Hot Wheels started offering models based off of 80's economy cars, like the Pontiac Fiero or Dodge Omni 024. In 1983, A new style of wheel called Real Riders were introduced, which had real rubber tires. Despite the fact that they were very popular, the Real Riders line was short-lived, because of high production costs. In the late 80s, the Blue Card was introduced, which would become the basis of Hot Wheels cars still used today.

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A 1990s Hot Wheels car still in the package.1995 brought a major change to the Hot Wheels line, where the cars were split up into series. One was the 1995 Model Series, which included all of that year's new castings. In 1996, the Model Series was renamed to First Editions. 1995 also saw the introduction of the Treasure Hunt Series (see below). The rest of the series included four cars with paint schemes that followed a theme. For example, the Pearl Driver cars all had pearlescent paint. Sales for the series models soared, causing stores across the nation to have shortages. Several new wheel designs were also introduced.

In 1999 Hot Wheels Racing signed a licensing deal with five Formula 1 teams to manufacture scale model Formula 1 cars.[1]

Treasure Hunts
Main article: Treasure Hunt Series.

A 2005 Mini Cooper Treasure Hunt still in the package.The Treasure Hunt series was introduced in 1995 with 12 cars that were specially detailed and produced in limited numbers. The initial run consisted of 10,000 units worldwide. The Treasure Hunt Series was an instant hit, and as a result, production increased to 25,000 units per car in 1996 and 1997. Starting in 1998, Mattel stopped releasing production numbers of Treasure Hunts.

Treasure Hunt Vehicles are found by the denotion on the package. Usually it will say "Treasure Hunt" or "T-Hunt" in a green bar with a picture of a treasure chest. The cars are decorated with flashy designs and usually have special "rubber" wheels. They have a high price tag when they are first released. The price does typically stabilize once more of the cars are available on the market. Sometimes collectors will see this as the car dropping in price but empirical data strongly states otherwise. Instead, the high prices we see initially are the result of the internet boom. When only a few new Treasure Hunts are available on the market and hundreds of collectors are after it the price will skyrocket. Data collected over the past twelve years actually indicated the price on Treasure Hunts is rising quite well generally. Prices off on the internet are generally much higher than it first appears. Often when collectors quote a value they do not take into account shipping, risk, and inconvenience as all negative factors on the online market.


A new generation of Hot Wheels Designers came in. Eric Tscherne and Fraser Campbell along with former designer Paul Tam's son, Alec Tam, joined the design team. Many still work for Mattel today. Tscherne's Seared Tuner (formerly Sho-Stopper) graced the mainline packaging from 2000 to 2003. The Deora II, one of only two Hot Wheels concept cars ever made into full-size, functional cars, was also released this year.


Hot Wheels First Edition, Shredster.During this year Mattel issued 240 mainline releases consisting of 12 Treasure Hunts, 36 First Editions, 12 Segment Series with 4 cars each, and 144 open stock cars. Popular models that debuted include the Hyper Mite and Fright Bike
For 2002, the mainline the consisted of 12 Treasure Hunts, 42 First Editions, 15 segment series of 4 cars each, and 126 open stock cars. Popular new models included the `68 Cougar and the Nissan Skyline

Hot Wheels celebrated its 35th anniversary with a full-length computer animated Hot Wheels movie called Hot Wheels Highway 35 World Race. This movie tied into the Highway 35 line of cars that featured 35 classic Hot Wheels cars with special graphics and co-molded wheels. Another celebrating moment in the 35th anniversary was the creation of a full-sized model of the Deora II shown at the Hot Wheels Hall of Fame event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, California.

Die cast model of a 1:18 Formula 1 car. This is a Ferrari F2005 model driven by Michael Schumacher in the 2005 seasonAlso in commemoration of Hot Wheels' 35th anniversary, recording artist and Hot Wheels supporter Rick Tippe was commissioned by Mattel to write a song about Hot Wheels. CD singles featuring the song were given out in grab bags at the 35th Anniversary Convention in California.
In 2004, Hot Wheels unveiled their "Hot 100" line, comprised of 100 new models. These new models included cartoonish vehicles such as the 'Tooned (vehicles based on the larger Hot Tunerz line of Hot Wheels created by Eric Tscherne[citation needed]), Blings (boxy bodies and big wheels), Hardnoze (enlarged fronts), Crooze (stretched out bodies), and Fatbax (super-wide back tires and short bodies). These vehicles did not sell as well as Mattel expected, and many could still be found in stores throughout 2005. Mattel also released 2004 First Editions cars with unpainted Zamac bodies. They were sold through Toys 'R' Us and were made in limited numbers.

In 2005, Hot Wheels continued with new "extreme" castings for the 2nd year, debuting 40 distorted cars, in addition to 20 "Realistix" models. The rest of the line included the standard 12 Treasure Hunts, 10 Track Aces, 50 Segment Series Cars, and 50 Open Stock Models. Four Volkswagen "Mystery Cars" were offered as a special mail-in promo. Each Mystery Car came with a special voucher. Upon collection of all 4 vouchers, one was able to send away for a special 13th Treasure Hunt, a VW Drag Bus.

Hot Wheels also unveiled its new "Faster than Ever" line of cars, which had special nickel-plated axles, along with bronze-colored Open-Hole 5 Spoke wheels. These adjustments reduce friction dramatically, resulting in cars that are "Faster than Ever." The first run of these cars were available for a limited time only, from the beginning of October towards the end of November 2005.

Also, the continuation of the movie Hot Wheels Highway 35 World Race called Hot Wheels Acceleracers was created, taking place two years after Vert Wheeler won the World Race. It is featured in four movies and many short segments where the drivers (old ones, gangs, like Teku, Metal Maniacs, the evil Racing Drones, and the stealthy Silencerz). All of the shorts and previews of the movies were placed on a temporary website that was deleted shortly after the last movie.


A 2006 Sema Edition CivicSi sporting the special Dropstars logo.The 2006 releases consisted of 38 First Editions (all realistically proportioned), 12 Treasure Hunts, 12 Track Aces, 60 Segment Series, 96 Open Stock Models and 5 Mystery Cars. Some limited editions produced in 2006 include a Honda Civic Si sporting a Dropstars logo that was only available at the 2005 SEMA convention and the CUL8R with Faster Than Ever (FTE) wheels which was only available by mail. 2006 is also the year that Sizzlers were re-released

Mattel is planning to release 36 New Models (formerly First Editions), 12 Treasure Hunts (with a hard-to-find regular version and even rarer "super" version of each),[2] 12 Teams of 4 cars each (formerly Segment Series), 24 Code Cars (codes imprinted on underside of the car that can be used to unlock web content), 12 Track Stars (formerly Track Aces), 24 Mystery Cars (packaged on a card with a blacked-out blister, so the buyer cannot see which car is inside without opening it), and 24 All Stars (formerly Open Stock). In late 2006, a new package design for 2007 was released. Some 2006 cars and all 2007 cars released so far are packaged on a blister card with the new design.

Through the years, Hot Wheels cars have been collected mostly by children, but in the last ten years there has been an increase in the number of adult collectors. Mattel estimates that 41 million children grew up playing with the toys, the average collector has over 1,550 cars, and children between the ages of 5 and 15 have an average of 41 cars. Most believe the collecting craze started with the Treasure Hunts in 1995. Mike Strauss has been widely hailed as the father of Hot Wheels collecting; he has organized two collectors' events each year in some form since 1986. The first event was the Annual Hot Wheels Collectors Convention, normally held each year in the fall. The convention occurred in various locations around the country until 2001, when the first Annual Hot Wheels Collectors Nationals was put together. Since then, the Conventions are held each year in southern California. The Hot Wheels Collectors Nationals rotate among cities outside of California during the spring. Mike has also published the quarterly Hot Wheels Newsletter since 1986 and was one of the first to unite collectors all over the world. Mike also writes the Tomart's Guide To Hot Wheels, a book listing history, car descriptions and values. It is used by almost every collector to learn more about the hobby and their collection.

In 2001, Mattel saw how much collecting was affecting their sales and put together HotWheelsCollectors.com as an online way to unite collectors by offering limited edition cars, information about upcoming releases and events, as well as chat and trade boards. Each year, they sell memberships to the Redline Club, which gives members the opportunity to order additional limited edition cars, as well as access to areas of the site with information such as sneak previews of new cars.

There are hundreds, probably thousands, of web pages dedicated to Hot Wheels collecting. People are collecting everything from only new castings to only Redlines and everything in between. Most collectors have a love for cars, and since none of us can afford all of the old cars (and even if we could, we wouldn’t have enough space to store them), Hot Wheels fill that void. For the most part it is a relatively inexpensive hobby, when compared with coin collecting, stamp collecting or Barbie collecting, with mainline cars costing about $1 (USD). The price has not changed much in almost 40 years.

Hot Wheels Classics

2005 Hot Wheels Series 1 Classics car still in packageThe Hot Wheels Classics line was an immediate hit with enthusiasts everywhere, particularly collectors who had observed the decline in standards that accompanied forty years of keeping the cars at one dollar. Series 1 from 2005 consisted of 25 models, each with all-metal body and chassis, decked out with Spectraflame paint, in packages similar to those used from 1968-1972. Each car had a retail price of about three dollars (USD). Each of the 25 cars were released with 7 or 8 different colors. There were also track sets in similarly-retro packaging, and 1:18 scale Hot Wheels Classics. The Classics version of the Purple Passion was released with Real Riders tires at the San Diego Comic Con. Mattel also produced a Classics Olds 442 in Spectraflame blue for the 2005 Toy Fair. In 2006, Series 2 consisted of 30 models including the '67 Camaro Convertible and Mustang Mach 1.

In 2007, a Series 3 line of Classics was introduced, containing 30 classics in what is expected to be multiple colors of each car
Special Model Lines
Hot Wheels has also released slightly larger, more detailed models, such as the Dropstars line (a model line of "blinged" cars). Also in this larger scale are the HIN (Hot Import Nights), G-Machines and Customs lines. These lines were introduced in 2004-2005.

Other larger lines from Hot Wheels include: Sizzlers, XV Racers, Hot Tunerz and Stockerz.

Hot Wheels has produced many replica scale models in the industry standard 1/43rd, 1/24th and 1/18th scales. In 2004 They released a 1/12th scale replica of the C6Corvette

Notable models

Special 13th Treasure Hunt VW Drag BusVW Drag Bus
The VW Drag Bus was first offered as a 1996 First Edition, and is the heaviest Hot Wheels model made to date. It has a flip up body, big engine, and is extremely popular with collectors. Speculation was that because of its higher cost and huge popularity, Mattel moved the VW Drag Bus from regular production to a limited edition only product.
Go Kart
The lightest Hot Wheels casting to date. Its only plastic parts are the wheels and seat. It was introduced in 1998.
Rear-loading Volkswagen Beach Bomb
The rear-loading Volkswagen Beach Bomb had 2 surfboards sticking out of the back window. The casting proved to be too thin to run through the "Supercharger" track accessory and was subsequently redesigned with the surf boards moved to new side pods. An unknown number of the cars were made as test subjects and given to Mattel employees. Currently, there are only about 25 known to exist and is widely considered to be the holy grail of Hot Wheels collecting.
`55 Chevy Panel
Introduced in 2006 as a First Edition, the `55 Chevy Panel was one of the year's heaviest models along with the VW Karmann Ghia. It has a metal body and base. The panel also has a rear hatch that opens to reveal a motorcycle that can slide out. Due to the model's significant weight and cost, the `55 Chevy Panel is not expected to return to the mainline after 2006.
Mars Pathfinder/Sojourner
In June 1997, Mattel released a Hot Wheels toy vehicle based on the Mars Pathfinder and Mars Sojourner rover, in cooperation with NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
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Special Wheels

Screamin' Wheels had treads on them, making them screech as they rolled down the track. They were only offered on 3 models sold with the starter set and the 2 models included in the "Serpent Cyclone" track. They were sold in very small numbers, making collectors snatch these up for high prices. They appeared once again in 2005, only on Escort Rally for a short amount of time in the Hot Wheels Racing Series.

Lime Hub Wheels
The Lime Hub wheels were offered with black plastic tires and a lime wheel. There were only a couple of models, and were sold in small numbers, making them very collectible.
Real Rider Wheels
These were plastic wheels with real rubber tires. While sales were strong, Hot Wheels cut the line after only three years, because they were too expensive to make. They have appeared only on limited edition cars and special series, such as Treasure Hunts, since then.
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