Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels is an American toy brand founded in 1968 belonging to the Mattel Group and producing miniature cars.

Today, this brand continues to produce new collections each year mixing real and imaginary models and markets them worldwide. The brand also produces circuits, garages and many other accessories. Over time, these miniature vehicles have become the object of collections, there are at least 100,000 models and variations existing since 1968 . The most expensive Hot Wheels in the world (a “Beach Bomb” model, a modified Volkswagen Combi) was sold for about $ 72,000 at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles .


  • 1968 : creation of the brand Hot Wheels by Mattel; production in California then, at the end of the year, in Hong Kong .
  • 1972 : production stopped in California.
  • 1973 : Replacement of Spectraflame shades with Enamel shades .
  • 1974 : Launch of Flying Colors models with pad printing decoration.
  • 1978 : abandonment of red-band tires and distribution of models into seven thematic groups ( Speedways Specials, Super Streeters, Oldies But Goodies, The Heavies, Drag Strippers, Rescue Team and Classy Customs ).
  • 1980 : Launch of the Hi-Rakers and Workhorses series .
  • 1982 : start of production in Malaysia.
  • 1983 : Launch of the Real Riders series and start of production in France and Mexico (stopped in 1986).
  • 1987 : Stop production in Hong Kong and first convention of collectors Hot Wheels in Toledo ( Ohio ) organized by Michael Strauss.
  • 1989 : takeover of the British firm Corgy Toys .
  • 1990 : Launch of the California Customs series .
  • 1991 : Production of the billionth miniature Hot Wheels.
  • 1992 : start of production in China. Launch of the first models made in limited edition (12,000 copies instead of the normal series of 200,000).
  • 1994 : systematic affixing of the brand logo (a flame surrounding a wheel) to a location in each miniature.
  • 1995 : structuring of the range in four series: First Editions for the new models, Treasure Hunt for the existing model variants in limited edition, Segment Series for the variants of models in twelve groups of four miniatures and Regular Line for the other variants .
  • 1997 : Launch of the Hot Wheels Collectibles series, whose very detailed models are intended for collectors. Takeover of the firm Tyco owner of the brand Matchbox .
  • 1999 : Signature of a worldwide exclusive agreement with the Ferrari manufacturer for the reproduction on all scales of all models of the famous Italian firm.
  • 2003 : release of the movie Hot Wheels World Race (in French “global race”) to mark the 35 th anniversary of the brand.
  • 2004 : Launch of 100 completely new models in the year (the usual pace being 36).
  • 2005 : Hot Wheels release AcceleRacers (continuation of World Race ).
  • 2008 : 40 th anniversary of the brand with the outputs of the series Since the cabinet 68 and 40th Anniversary .
  • 2010 : Release of the Battle Force 5 series.
  • 2011 : Special operation for the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500-mile race.

The origins of the brand [ change | change the code ]

The context [ change | change the code ]

If the 1950s can be considered as the golden age of the toy car on a scale of 1/43 ° with the development of brands like Dinky Toys , Norev or Solido , the 1960s see the emergence of miniature cars of smaller size, scale 1/64 °, whose brands Matchbox and Majorette are famous representatives. The outbreak of this scale is explained by the widening of the target of toy manufacturers to the “little brothers” of the children of the previous decade who are not yet old enough to play with 1/43 ° models. .

This market is dominated by European manufacturers that export heavily to the United States . But their models are primarily miniatures of European cars and young Americans are desperate to play with miniatures of American cars. The US manufacturer Tootsietoys is certainly on the market, but its range contains everyday vehicles, while young people dream of more sporting and more exclusive cars such as “custom” and “hot rod” modified body and inflated engines, or specifically American race cars like NASCAR dragsters and cars .

The creation of Hot Wheels

Elliot Handler , Mattel’s founding president , will then meet this expectation by launching a specific brand of thumbnails: Hot Wheels, a word game developed on the term hot rod and a reminder of the main feature of these new miniatures, their wheels that very thin axles can rotate with much less friction than their competitors, allowing them to drive faster.

The first range presented by Hot Wheels is a motley mix of 16 miniatures representative of the car dreams of young Americans …

Eight models reproduce modified versions of contemporary American sports and grand touring cars: Custom Camaro, Custom Cougar, Custom Mustang, Custom Barracuda, Custom Firebird, Custom Corvette, Custom T-Bird and Custom Eldorado. The roof of these models can be painted black to feature a vinyl roof.

Four are dream cars drawn by famous cartoonists of the “custom” movement like Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth and Bill Cushenberry: Silhouette, Deora, Cheetah and Beatnik Bandit.

Three are heavily modified models: Custom Fleetside, Hot Heap and Custom Volkswagen.

Finally, the last is a race car: Ford J-Car.

All these miniatures are made in California and, at the end of 1968 , in Hong Kong , with differences such as the size of the ruffles (small for models made in the United States, large for those made in Hong Kong) or the presence or absence of a dashboard. They have all the famous red-band tire wheels that will earn them the nickname ” Redlines ” and are available in many colors based on a specific paint called Spectraflame .

Given the success of these small cars, Mattel launches orange plastic tracks and various accessories to create a game environment around them, as well as small carrying cases including the famous wheel-shaped suitcase. Sold for 90 cents then, each Hot Wheels model is presented in a package featuring a wheel-shaped collection button with a miniature design and its name on the rim. This success will lead Matchbox to completely modify the wheels of its models and to launch its range “Superfast” since 1969 .

1969: Development of the brand

The popularity of Hot Wheels miniatures is growing as much as the number of models in the 1969 lineup . There are twenty-four new cars, bringing the total number of thumbnails to forty models. Decals that can be applied to the thumbnails are inserted into the packaging.

The range consists of six mini-series of four models each; the former includes classic Ford models treated with hot-rods, the second of Can-Am- type covered wheeled racing models , the third of all fantasy cars imagined by Hot Wheels designers, the fourth-largest uncovered Indianapolis wheels, the fifth of American cars and the sixth of European cars. The two mini-series of racing cars officially form the Grand Prix Series. Miniatures continue to be manufactured both in the United States and Hong Kong. Many new boxes and accessories are available elsewhere.

The whole range is designed by Ira Gilford , ex-stylist from Chevrolet. The first four fantasy models debut: the “Splittin ‘Image”, the “Torero”, the “Turbofire” and the “Twin Mill”, a model with two engines mounted on the side. The miniature that will become one of the most sought Hot Wheels models of all time also appears: the “Beach Bomb”, a Volkswagen minibus modified and equipped with surfboards. The Grand Prix Series consists of eight models of Formula 1 , Indianapolis and CanAm racing carswhich are offered in their true racing colors: thus, the “Chapparal 2G” is painted in white, the “Brabham-Repco F1” and the “Lola GT 70” in English green, the “Ford Mk IV” in dark red and the “Mc Laren M6A” in orange. These cars were well known at the time because of their presence in television shows and in films like Grand Prix in 1966. Mattel adds two more muscle carsin 1969: the “AMX” and the “Dodge Custom Charger”. Four new Ford-inspired hot rods appear: the 1931 “Woody” wagon, the 1932 “Vicky”, the 1936 “Coupé” and the 1957 “Thunderbird”. The Woody and Vicky are equipped with exposed metallic engines. , the Coupé rolls on very small front wheels and huge rear wheels, which gives it an extremely racy look, and the Thunderbird has a windshield windshield and an aerodynamic extension of the support driver’s head.

The first police car integrates the range, in the form of a Plymouth Fury dubbed “Custom Police Cruiser”. This model has the distinction of being the first Hot Wheels toy to display a printed pattern stamp, a six-point badge and the word “POLICE” on each side of the body.

A third luxury coupe is added: the “Lincoln Continental Mk III”. Finally, Mattel adds to its range three European models: the “Maserati Mistral”, the “Rolls Royce Silver Shadow” and the “Mercedes 280 SL”. Like the Continental Mk III, these three cars keep their standard look, with the exception of their Spectraflame paint and the famous Hot Wheels wheels.


Each year, the generic range of miniatures in scale 1: 64 e is renewed. It consists of several series, the main ones of which are named:

  • First Editions (formerly Model Series): New models.
  • All Stars (formerly Open Stock): New variations of old models.
  • Treasure-Hunt : Rare models.
  • Code Cars : Models with an internet code to unlock virtual content.
  • Mistery Cars : Models packaged in a package that hides them.
  • Track Stars (formerly Track Aces): Models specially designed to work on Hot Wheels circuits.
  • Teams : Models made within a theme composed of four vehicles each.

The membership of the model in the range is indicated by the color band and the corresponding name on the right side of the front of the package.

There are also other series, outside the generic range, such as Classics, Ultra Hots or Since 68, whose prices are often higher and the finish better but whose collections can also be renewed annually.


  • Michael Strauss, Tomart’s Price Guide to Hot Wheels Collectibles , Tomart Publications, 1st edition in 1991, 4th edition in 2000 ( ISBN  0-9142-9343-5 )
  • Bob Parker, The Complete Book of Hot Wheels , Shiffer Publishing, 2000 ( ISBN  0-7643-1083-6 )
  • Mac Ragan, Hot Wheels Cars , MBI Publishing, 2001 ( ISBN  0-7603-0839-X )
  • Michael Zarnock, Hot Wheels Variations – The Ultimate Guide, Krause Publications, 2004 ( ISBN  0-8734-9738-4 )

Feature films

  • 2003Hot Wheels – World Race ( Original title: Hot Wheels Highway 35 World Race), by Andrew Duncan and William Gordon .
  • 2005 : Hot Wheels Acceleracers 1 – Firing (Original title: Ignition ), Andrew Duncan and Gino Nichele. Duration of 60 min
  • 2005 : Hot Wheels Acceleracers 2 – Speed of Silence (Original title: Speed of Silence ), Andrew Duncan and William Gordon. Duration of 66 min
  • 2006Hot Wheels Acceleracers 3 – Break Point (Alternative Title: Extreme Situation Original Title: Breaking Point ) by William Lau. Duration of 61 min
  • 2006Hot Wheels Acceleracers 4 – Ultimate Race (Original title: The Ultimate Race ), by Andrew Duncan. Duration of 61 min

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