Hot Wheels Behind the Scenes: How a Man’s Hot Rod Became a Legend

For generations of kids, a lifelong love affair with cars began with playing with hot wheels. And then their moms tossed their collections, probably with the rare Hot Wheels that, like a signed Hank Aaron Rookie card, could bring in thousands of dollars today.

With the exception of childhood trauma, Mattel’s hot wheels – introduced in 1968 with the first “custom camera” – are still gaining strength, with the first $ 1 billion in annual sales posted worldwide in 2021. And while a basic die-cast model still costs around $ 1, as they have from the beginning, Hot Wheels is no longer just for kids. Mattel is staging an annual Hot Wheels Legends Tour for adult fanatics who compete to see full-size custom cars – judging by an admirable “built, not bought” principle – immortalized as a Hot Wheels toy.

Lee Johnstone, a 71-year-old mechanic, hot radar and former hairdresser apprentice at Bridgewater in the United Kingdom, came to Manhattan’s Classic Car Club to unwrap his 2021 Legends Tour winner, from a small, tiny tarp: 1 G: a 1962 Volvo P The 64-scale version that he ran in his local strip in Northamptonshire ran 10.01-second, 135-mile hour-mile-mile. And it’s easy to see why Johnstone’s Volvo beats thousands of competitors at 25 tour stops on five continents: true in the Hot Wheels style, its home-made rod is foreign in reason and potential. (Sorry, Jr., this won’t turn into an intelligent space robot). Raising eyebrows at home and abroad, Johnstone transformed this elegant Swedish sports car into an American-style “gasar”, with its long-bodied body and scary blowers that terrified any street racer in the 1950s or 60s.

“It’s brilliant, and I’m amazed at the details,” said Johnstone of the green toy, which will now be packaged in plastic and stored on toy shelves – or fine, via Amazon – around the world.

“We’re a little overwhelmed, and we’re struggling to get our heads around it,” said Tori Johnstone, one of Lee’s three daughters, all of whom grew up in the vicinity of the drug strip and family store.

Lee closes a few spaces: a large-block 454 Chevy with little overburden and about 650 horsepower, dual quads (a pair of four-barrel carburetors), an impeccable GMC 71-Series supercharger, GM’s durable Turbo 400 three-speed automatic transmission , A 9-inch Ford rear axle and 28-inch Husier slicks on the back. The toy door is stamped with Lee’s boastful name: “Ant No Saint,” a reference to the Volvo P1800, powered by Simon Templar, before Roger Moore’s 007 in the television series.Saint

Johnston’s project now joins the “Garage of Legends”, a permanent collection of the brand’s most famous and collected designs, on a 1:64 and life-size scale. The winners of the inaugural tour are previous tour champions including 2JetZ, The NASH (based on a ’57 Nash Metropolitan) and a 1970 Pontiac Firebird.

That Seminal Custom Camaro 54 years after cutting its tires, Hot Wheels is looking for someone with “Garage Spirit” to compete on their Legends Tour, where there is an entry

The 2018 winner and New Jersey native Luis Rodriguez was with the 2JetZ, a fantastic mix of riveted-bodied Bonneville Salt flat racer, WWII fighter and (maybe) a tube-framed Ariel Atom. It is powered by a rear-mounted, turbocharged Toyota Supra 2JZ engine that cranks around 600 horsepower. Cool bit? A metallic vegetable steamer with an exhaust flap allows the flame to spit out and extend the exhaust note. Rodriguez – a day-to-day tech worker – designed and built 2JetZ from the ground-up, using a traditional English wheel and a vintage lead that he found at a nearby patio sale.

“When I get home at night and go to the garage, I go from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde,” Rodriguez said. “It’s my passion.” That passion has helped Mattel sell 8 billion hot wheels since the debut of the “Original 16” or “Sweet 16” car; The Beatonic Pirate, a Surfboard-Slang Deora-like toy and custom with VW Beetle, Plymouth Barracuda, Corvette, Camaro, T-Bird and Mustang.

Company executives and designers say that love of automobiles is a virtual prerequisite for a job. Biographies of many employees show previous positions in major automakers. The designers’ own projects have been scaled down into toy sizes, such as the large-block ’55 Chevy Gaser that Staff Designer Brendon Vetusky created in his driveway in California.

“We’re all hardcore car people,” says Vetuskey. “We know what makes a car authentic.”

In the past, the company used to make scale models from wood before using it as a tool for mass production of metals. Computer-aided design has transformed the process of making cars, which are still cast from Jamaica, into alloys of zinc, aluminum, magnesium and copper. Using software and a hand-controlled armature that converts gestures into onscreen analogs, designers demonstrate how both the original sketch and life-size car are digitized, 3D modeled and then sampled before being made in Malaysia, Thailand or Indonesia. . Pre-production models are rigorously tested – on orange tracks, of course – to make sure they meet all performance characteristics; In keeping with the modern gizmos that I used to kill in my own youth. For an instant race, we see a spring-loaded turnstile shoot car with a 180-degree hairpin that can send vintage models by air, possibly closing someone’s eyes.

Keeping in mind the car-culture trends, the company has built everything from the 1991 BMW E30 M3 to the 1972 Nissan Skyline H / T 2000 GT-R. The Cult-Status GT-R – with a bent-wire hood opening function and separate engine-bay piece – is part of the “Red Line Club” (or RLC), a series of high-end castings with more complex features and details naturally, the company offers adults. Taking full advantage of a growing market for nostalgia and collectible toys; Selling everything from NFT to RLC that gives members access to limited-powered models that cost around $ 25 to $ 35 per pop. The name is in high demand for “Redline” models built between 1968 and 1977, partly due to their red-striped tires. RLC’s product drops show that 35,000 cars were sold online in less than 15 minutes, Vetusky says.

From Tanner Faust and Greg Tracy’s favorite orange jumps and X Game Loop; As the U.S. Postal Service commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Hot Wheels stamp (coincidentally, a recent birthday gift sheet is on my desk), it’s clear that these simple-yet-stimulating toys remain an integral part of car culture.

“And today, it’s not just Camaros and Mustangs, cars of all world cultures,” says Vetusky.

With many hot wheels or action-loving boys and girls trashing by moms and dads over the years, rare, mint-conditioned models have come up with numbers associated with cars that you can actually drive. I meet Bruce Pascal, a Washington, D.C.-area man whose love for cars was revived when his mother returned a seemingly lost box of cigars filled with cars. A friend immediately offered him 200 200 for the set.

Today, Pascal is considered the world’s leading collector of hot wheels. Her collection includes about 4,500 cars, including nine of the 10 rarest models in history; Fans call it the Holy Grail: a production prototype of a 1969 VW Beach bomb rear-loader bus, painted in hot pink, which killed its sales to young boys, but sent its future value off the chart. Only about 50 pink surfer buses were made, with a pair of boards hanging behind each. Only two are known for survival, the other is an early production model. Pascal appeared The cocoon is big, Where a toy expert inspects the model in white gloves, confirms its authenticity and says it is worth about $ 100,000. Host Greg Harrison says, “These are the greatest, most expensive hot wheels of all time,” before breaking myself into this thought. Yet Harrison steadily increased his offer to $ 70,000. But Pascal thinks it’s worth twice as much, and rejects Harrison. Good thing, too: he’s been offered এখন 200,000 for a 3.2-inch-long toy, and he’s still hanging on to it.

Pascal notes how the Hot Wheels blew up the matchbox – an influential car toy for years – out of the water, what Mattel’s then-president called the “ability to play.” While the matchbox car had crude steel axles and tumble, easily broken wheels, the Hot Wheels had flexible wire axles – originally from guitar strings in prototype form – inboard chassis mounts, delirine bushings on plastic tires and cambered wheels; Assist them to roll straight (indicated by track boundaries) at the claimed scale speed of 300 miles per hour.

“A matchbox car can’t roll 10 feet, but a hot wheel can roll 50 feet,” Pascal said.

Pascal highlights the reach of the vehicle and the sum of the application.

“From our parents to today’s generation, every car lover has played with a hot wheels or owned one.

“As far as I’m concerned it should really be in Smithsonian.”

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