Like most CC-ers, my car interest came early. This was perhaps something of a surprise to my parents, as they weren’t car nuts – Dad was a forester by training, and Mom was a teacher. They did drive comparatively odd cars – first a Volvo 544 and then a Saab 95 (2 stroke, 3 cylinder). But this was more in homage to Mom’s Swedish ancestors than because of any real mechanical interest.
Little hands need big toys, so my car love started with Tonkas: a bulldozer (as seen here in my back yard in 1966), dump truck, road grader, and Jeep, and later a car carrier with two 63 ‘Vettes, a dune buggy, and a Wagoneer with a snowmobile. At the time, Tonkas were made near Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota, and came in three sizes: Tonka, Maxi Tonka, and Mini Tonka. (Get it?). (Tiny Tonkas came out just a few years later.) Mine were mostly from the regular and Mini series, which weren’t all that mini, as the car carrier was over 27” long. Somehow these are among the few toy vehicles I no longer have (along with my pedal car, Eldon slot car set and one Kenner SST).
The size (and probably the dirt) kept them in the garage during the winter. Smaller vehicles were necessary for those road trips around the coffee table. Matchbox cars were just the thing. This Rolls was my first one.
My father had given it to my mom before I was born, since he couldn’t afford to give her the real thing. Being from the very early 60s it has no interior, and the axles are crimped to keep the wheels on, rather than mushroomed over like newer ones. It is also a bit smaller than the classic 1/64 scale of most Matchboxes and Hot Wheels, maybe HO (1/87)?
It was soon joined by a few similarly-small scale Matchbox
trucks lorrys to supply Coca Cola and milk to my growing village…
…and then by some Tootsietoy farm implements to feed the residents.
Tootsietoy had been making toy cars in Chicago since about 1910; they still advertise themselves as America’s Oldest Toy Company. Most Tootsietoy cars of the sixties (I had a lot) were just shells with wheels: no windows, no interior, not even a floor pan. The tractor is unusual in that it has more detail, wheels with hubs, and even a riveted-in bottom.
The collection kept growing. About this time, (mid sixties) Matchboxes became much more detailed. Perhaps it was competition from Corgi (Hot Wheels were still a few years in the future), or maybe it was the growing affluence during the baby boom. But nearly every Matchbox had some special feature.
The MG GT has a dog and a trailer hitch (often seen pulling a “caravan” – could a real one do that?); the Mercedes an opening door; the Rolls an opening trunk; and the Studebaker an actual sliding roof.
Similarly, the garbage truck tilts and dumps, and the cab on the dump truck tilts forward to access the engine. (A few years later, the Scenicruiser did not match the current Greyhound livery, leading to one of my many repaints.)
In 1968 all those features became obsolete overnight: Hot Wheels arrived! If you didn’t live through it as a kid, you have no idea what a big deal it was. Before Hot Wheels, toy cars were based more or less on actual vehicles, mostly ones you’d see around your town, and maybe a few race cars. Hot Wheels took the basic Matchbox size but instead made California hot rods and custom cars with cool translucent metallic “spectra flame” colors. But the real innovation was that Hot Wheels were designed to roll fast, and had special track to run them on. It seems obvious now, but it was a revolution then. Hot Wheels became a cultural phenomenon–not every boy had collected Matchboxes, but every boy had Hot Wheels.
My first was the purple Custom Fleetside, a gift from my older cousin, followed soon by the blue Twin Mill and a green Silhouette bubble-topped custom. (I still have the Silhouette, but I didn’t photograph it as it was the recipient of one of my poorer repaints.)
And then there was Hot Wheels track. I was soon the proud owner of the Hot Wheels Road Trials Set.
It came with a Tune-up Tower parking garage, 12 feet of track, and a Rod Runner. The Tune-up Tower was a parking garage complete with an electric elevator and a Dyno-Meter on the top floor. The Dyno Meter was essentially a rolling treadmill that measured spinning wheel resistance and whether the car pulled left or right. It actually worked, and came with a small tool to bend the axles to straighten them–Hot Wheel axles were very thin then.
Unfortunately it was quite loud. I can recall getting angrily banished to my bedroom for tuning cars during the evening news. The Rod Runner was a rubber-band powered device, shaped something like a console shifter, that fit over the track and automatically booted the cars along the track. It was enough to make the cars go around and around the oval. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TE83PlNa0f4
I soon got lots more track and another Rod Runner. My friends and I would have full on race days in my room, to see whose car would make it around the track longer. Of course, this really measured concentration not speed, as most cars would keep circling until you got distracted and forgot to re-set the Rod Runner after the car went through. Thirty laps wasn’t unusual.
I also joined the official Hot Wheels Club. Like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, I waited by the mailbox each day until the box came.
The box contained a booklet, a patch, and decals (which immediately went on my bike and on my bedroom door next to the Odd Rods “Fords – Breakfast of Chevys” sticker).
But the real prize was the special chrome Hot Wheels car. I was briefly disappointed when I opened it, as it was supposed to be a Mustang Boss Hoss, but instead I got a Heavy Chevy. Though I professed to be a Ford kid (the Odd Rods decal notwithstanding), I got over it quickly.
Another favorite Hot Wheels toy was the Hot Wheels factory, which let you injection mold your own plastic Hot Wheels cars.
It came with molds to make ten different models. An expansion kit to make a pickup, camper, trailer and Indy car was also available. (Of course I had it.) The cars actually worked quite well on our tracks. Interestingly, in 2013 Mattel issued a very similar toy, though presumably you’re less likely to burn your fingers on this year’s version.
Matchbox of course had seen their market dry up. Who wanted a car that you couldn’t race? So in 1969, Matchbox came out with their Superfast line, to compete with Hot Wheels.
At first they just added faster rolling wheels to existing cars. This meant the wheels had to be narrow, like the old slow ones.
The Lotus Europa was my favorite car for many years (thus another unfortunate repaint), and I’d still love to have a real one. Note the leftover trailer hitch. Somehow I doubt any full-sized Europa ever had one.
Soon Matchbox had custom hot rods and other fun vehicles with wider wheels. Most of them worked quite well with all my Hot Wheels track, though the Beach Buggy was too wide (it did do well racing down the corrugated fiberglass of a friend’s porch roof though).
Note the V-12 and the hood decal on the Mod Rod. Were they trying to do a British / Jaguar take on a California custom? It went over my head at the time but I still liked it a lot.
Even Tonka decided to get in on the fast hot-rod toy craze, with the Tonka Totes line. Totes were slightly larger than Hot Wheels . Totes had polycarbonate (Lexan) bodies on a stainless chassis. They lived up to Tonka’s reputation for toughness; I frequently played with these on a sand bar of the local creek, with no ill effects. The axles were thick and quite flexible, but somehow were made to roll very well.
The ‘Totes’ name was a nod to the fact that each car came with a clip that let you hang the car from your belt. A variety of launchers were available, like the one shown which shot the cars quite fast. Interestingly, the Tonka Bronc at left is sought after by enthusiasts of the real-life first generation Bronco.
Meanwhile, Mattel decided to try to repeat the success of Hot Wheels with airplanes. In 1970 they launched the Hot Birds series. They are a bit bigger, perhaps 4 ½ inches, but have the same Spectraflame paint job and custom styling.
Instead of track, each plane came with a hook to slide it down a special line. (The hook mounted into the slot on the top of the fuselage.) The nylon line was textured, so it vibrated as the planes slid, making a sort of engine sound. Though I really liked mine, Hot Birds never caught on; they were only sold for one year.
Sizzlers – essentially rechargeable electric Hot Wheels – were another story; they were wildly successful. When they first came out, they had cutting-edge battery technology developed especially for Mattel. They were some of, if note, first rechargeable toys. I only ever had one Sizzler, but a few years later I bought a set of Chopcycles — custom trikes using the same drivetrain with larger wheels.
Though they would run on the special Sizzlers “Fat Track”, I had more fun running them in my (obviously dry) bathtub. Interestingly, Mattel re-issued Sizzlers in about 2007, complete with the original artwork. Of course I had to buy it “for my son”. (Alas, he is now too old to justify this year’s new Hot Wheels Factory mentioned earlier.)
There was one other Sizzlers variant: The Hot Line train set. I had a friend with one that I lusted after, but Santa didn’t cooperate that year. Like Hot Birds, the Hot Line was short lived.
By 1974 I was 11, but my interest in Hot Wheels continued. Hot Wheels had long-since dropped the Spectraflame paint jobs, but that year they came out with the Flying Colors series with cool tampo graphics.
As you can tell by the worn paint, the Breakaway Bucket (Pontiac el Camino?) was one of my favorites, as it was very fast on our tracks. The tracks had gotten more elaborate as we combined sets: bigger ovals of course, with multiple Rod Runners and Super Chargers, but also longer, wilder tracks all around the house, down the stairs and airborne over the Snake River furniture.
As I got even older I thought about making my Hot Wheels tracks into a race track diorama (inspired by a friend’s dad’s half-basement train set). A race track needed emergency vehicles, which led me to buy some of my more unusual Matchboxes.
The Rolamatics series used a small pin on one wheel to drive a cog in the body and turn the gumball light on the Police Patrol Rover and the antenna on the Badger.
Alas, the diorama never happened. But my Hot Wheels track was used one last memorable time, when all the boys in the neighborhood combined our sets for fifty yards or so down the street, to see how far a Hot Wheel propelled by an Estes rocket engine would go. (This was of course at the peak of Evel Knievel’s popularity.) The answer, if you’re interested, was about 20 feet along the track – and another 150 feet in the air in random directions. As the Mythbusters say, don’t try this at home kids.
After that, most of my cars were stored away, though I still got a new Matchbox or Hot Wheel in my stocking each Christmas until I left for California after college. I was lucky that my parents saved my cars. There are even more that I didn’t show, including a Corgi Mercury Cougar Sherriff’s car (?) with Whizzwheels, their attempt at matching Hot Wheels. And they’re all still proudly displayed in my garage.
Oh man, thanks for this. Really brings me back. I was (am) a car nut. Matchbox and Hotwheels are where it all began. I had the late 70s/early 80s toys. They still had the trailer hitches then.
Now you have really stirred some really old memories with those Hot Wheels Sizzlers. I remember having in the very late 70’s or early 80’s, a set of cars that had a little hole on the side of them, to recharge an internal battery. The charger was an orange battery holder with what I think were D or C sized batteries inside, an a small cable with a small plug at the end that looked like the plug of those old earplugs that came with the old small AM radios. Seeing this pictures now, those Hot Wheels Sizzlers look a lot like the ones I had. I was born in 1974, so I must have been 5 or 6 at the time. I honestly don’t remember much more than that, except that I really loved them but I don’t remember what happened to them.
I was born in ’75. My brother was born in 1981. We each got one Sizzler, probably at Christmas some year. One of us got a Mustang and the other got a van. The bodies of both were chromed. I don’t remember who got which one. I think I have both of them now.
Great post, C!
I had a small collection of Matchbox and Hotwheels in about the same time period as yours.
My Hotwheels set had a scale model building that the cars would pass through and get propelled by a set of battery powered wheels that would grab the cars by the fenders and door panels.
To this day, I can’t go through an automatic car wash without thinking “What if those brushes were propulsion wheels?” ZOOOOOOM!
The van in your tiny village is a CA Bedford I’d recognize one anywhere not only did my dad occasionally use the workshop hack CAs but I owned a 59 version in blue but with full side panels not a bottle body, Strange how it dwarfs the bottle body Commer truck its parked near. Cool. Those vans were memorable as they had sliding front doors and my Dad would drive with them open, seatbelts nar and noone fell out.
As a child, for my seventh Christmas (1956) I was given a Tonka dump truck (red and green, cribbed from a Ford) and an overhead crane setup. And had a mother who didn’t want to see the toys wrecked, so I was never allowed to take them out in the dirt. Instead, I played with the setup in the house using marbles.
After three or four years, they went in the attic. Where they stayed for the next fifty years, thru three moves. Attic to attic.
Eight years ago, I put them up on eBay. You should have seen the bidding war, given their condition! I seem to remember getting something like $500.00 for the set.
And somebody else who remember Estes model rocket engines! I got into that seriously during my adolescent years, at one point had built a four stage rocket that never worked properly. There was always a mid stage failure somewhere along the line.
Matchboxes and Hot Wheels. Still have many of them, all these years later. When I joined the Hot Wheels club, they sent the club materials (card, sticker, etc) separate from the prize car. Somehow I got no materials, but two shipments of Boss Hosses in silver. Score! The other prize cars were/are the red Mongoose and yellow Snake funny cars. Tilt-up bodies, all the stickers, and so on. The Matchboxes seemed to pave the way at an early age for the appeal of all things English, to me. Moving on and getting older, the Hot Wheels seemed to really go together with the Odd Rod stickers, the Schwinn Sting Ray bike, and the Monogram, Revell, AMT, and MPC car kits. The car kits are gone (there was a strange series of freak serious model car accidents sometime early in my teenage years, spontaneous combustion and small explosions, driving off of high cliffs, and episodes of large rocks mysteriously falling from the skies), but the rest of the stuff is still kicking around in the house. The author is correct in that the arrival of Hot Wheels rocked our eight year old world. The rest of the stuff was there and available, but the roll out of the Hot Wheels, for us kids, was as big as any new car introduction could ever have been for the adult gear heads.
What a wide variety of toys !
From ca. 1972 to 1978 I was a very loyal Siku driver. I did have 2 Matchbox Scammells though. This:
I still have this, and the matching orange crane Scammell.
I always preferred the Matchbox because they were more realistic than Hot Wheels. I’m not into the fantastical Barret Jackson bat mobile stuff.
That’s exactly why I liked Siku trucks so much. Certainly in the early seventies they were somewhere inbetween a toy and a collectable. Realistic tires for example, with dual tires on the drive- and semi-trailer axles. Later on they got the simple wide plastic tires all around. Cost savings probably.
When it comes to very detailed 1:50 diecast trucks, IMHO, WSI Models is the best. Like this Scania brick hauler from the seventies.
Thanks for this fun article, I really appreciate your work and research. I can certainly remember many of the toys you feature here.
I had a preference for realistic die casts. So my collection featured more Matchbox than Hot Wheels cars. I don’t know if they were sold in the US, but here in Canada, I would also seek out die cast made by Playart (Hong Kong) and Majorette (France). As they had a nice variety of cars, plus they were realistic.The Playart collection featured a nice balance of American and imported cars. The only thing I didn’t like about the Playart die casts, was their wheel design was not that attractive. They used it universally, on all their die casts, unfortunately. Majorette cars were harder to find in Canada. But their quality was excellent, as was their realism. Below are some of the Playart die casts I had, at the time. Including the Mercury Police wagon.
The one on the left reminds me of the Mercedes “Krankenwagen” from Siku.
Besides Tonka, I also collected quite a few ‘Buddy L’ metal toys. They were very similar to Tonka, in their scale and appearance. Unfortunately, they seemed to use a singular default cab design for all of their trucks. But Tonka was guilt of that too…
I do have a couple of Play Arts, including a replacement Miura. I recall having at least one Majorettes, but I can’t find them now. Also had a few Corgi and Husky cars, made in England like Matchboxes.
I have that tow truck, but its in green and orange. The glass fell out long ago.
Well, of course I’m going to chime in on this one. Great article! I had many of the same Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, but due to various “accidents” I can count the survivors on one hand and still have enough fingers left over to make a variety of rude gestures. I was particularly fond of putting metal toys into a vise, to give them realistic dents.
I never did it on purpose, but our Estes-on-Hot Wheels experiment certainly gave a couple cars some realistic dents.
Those Tonka and HotWheels were fabulous fun for us aspiring gearheads. My personal favorite was a Strombecker(?) 1/32 slot car set, with a Ford GT40 and a 275 Ferrari. Sanded the tires, put light oil, etc. to make the Ford win. I’m assuming you finally managed to get the push out of the fastest cars?
Ah yes… Tonka trucks and Hot Wheels, two areas where I can definitely relate (despite being too young to have owned any of the “cool ones” new).
I grew up in the late ’80s/early ’90s. But my old man was born in ’64, and fortunately for me, my grandparents had the foresight to hang onto his toys. I have countless fond memories to look back on from the three Tonka trucks alone. I can’t imagine the toys of today tolerating kids pushing them around the yard while leaning half their weight into them, day after day, like those old Tonkas did. Ours survived both me and my brother, are still being enjoyed by our younger sister, and may well last for the next generation.
The Tonka trucks came home with us, but the Hot Wheels lived at Grandpa and Grandma’s house… one more thing to look forward to when we went to visit. To this day there are still two of the round “mag” cases filled with battered original Hot Wheels cars, and oodles of orange track with purple splices. (Even twenty years ago, the new stuff just wasn’t as cool as the originals.)
In terms of Hot Wheels, we were far from having every accessory one could own – but we sure did have the most important one. Anyone else try putting Matchbox cars through their battery-powered (and really noisy) Supercharger Garage?
The Tune-Up Garage would have been a real lifesaver. We always spent a lot of time testing the cars, one by one, to see which ones performed best (rolled smoothest and straightest). Ten cars might have yielded one “good” one which could consistently make it around the oval without crashing. As for the rest? Well, you could always make a downhill course that ran from the ping-pong table to the floor, perhaps with an upside-down loop at the bottom 🙂
Yeah, I had a Supercharger, and so did my brother. In addition to the noise, they had a way of bending the fragile Hot Wheels axles.
Until you got to the Hotwheels, I’d swear you’d posted pics of my Matchboxes from the 60’s and 70’s. Your post brings back many a great memory and almost inspires me to dig around in the attic for the cases. I distinctly remember the transition to Whizwheels and likely still have my gold Muira.
Thanks for the post!
What a great piece! I am of that generation and went through the exact same changeover from Matchbox cars to Hot Wheels. My first Hot Wheels were the 67 Thunderbird and the 67 Eldorado.
I was lucky enough one year at Christmas to get the Mongoose-Snake Drag strip. You got the Mongoose and Snake Mopar funny cars and a 2 lane track that would clamp to the edge of a kitchen counter. Gravity did the rest.
The older cars never were much good on the drag strip from too many years of hard driving on outdoor concrete. But my 55 Nomad was hard to beat.
Some of the older Hot Wheels and several of the Matchbox cars fell victim to my desire to follow in the footsteps of Earl Scheib. Repainting them seemed like such a good idea at the time, but is less of one in hindsight.
I still have most of my old cars in a box in the basement. I must get those out for a look-see.
I always wanted the Nomad but could never find one in a store. (Ditto the VW bus surf wagon.) That was one advantage of Matchbox; they came in series with a only a few dozen models a year, and some stores had a rotating display on the counter. You’d see the one you wanted, and then ask the checker to get it out for you from behind the counter, in it’s little cardboard matchbox (hence the name). I loved going to the local hardware store every couple weeks after I got my allowance.
My brother and I had Hot Wheels tracks and cars til he discovered girls at 13 and I got them.I passed them on to my little sister when I got to 13 and started to be less of a tomboy and discovered boys and makeup.I only remember having a Hot Wheels Cougar and Barracuda.
I’m still amazed that I never had the woody K-Car wagon, or knew it existed until well into adulthood!
The third image with the wooden buildings brought back a flood of memories. I had the entire set of buildings that came with the far right Rinder City Station orange roof building. That and a couple dozen Match Box cars would monopolize my Grandmother’s oriental carpet every time I was there for a visit. Of course I was Mayor of the city and drove the Rolls just like the one featured here. As time when by I upgraded my Rolls as the new Match Box models came out…. though the Red Match Box E-Type was my “weekend” car.
Thanks for memories.
I was seven when Hot Wheels first appeared, and my Matchbox collection was quickly set aside. I had the supercharger too, with the purple Splittin Image one of the cars included in my set. I’ve still got my chrome Boss Hoss from the Hot Wheels Club, and a green Custom Corvette with bowed axles. Great fun and lots of early car collecting memories. Thanks for the post!
Lots of memories here, too. Between my three brothers and me, we surely had several hundred HWs and MBs plus the occasional Corgi. We build our own towns out of cardboard and balsa, and had 30′ long tracks set up with multiple loops, etc.
Sadly, I got rid of almost all of my cars when I was in college.
Great post! I was 8 in ’68 when they hit the market, and like nearly every boy around that age back then became an instant Hot Wheels “gearhead” (Hot Head…?). Fortunately my grandma was a quite a push over, and would buy me a Hot Wheels car, and sometime a set, pretty much anytime we were in a hobby, department or “Five and Dime” store. Thanks to “Gram” I’d accumulated quite a collection within a few years.
My personal faves were a dark green “Beach Bum” rodded VW bus (with surf boards that fit in slots along each side), metallic orange ’36 Ford “Vicky” coupe, gold Dodge Charger, and chrome Mustang “Boss Hoss.” Oh, and, of course, the Snake and Mongoose funny cars. Those were awesome! My Vicky was probably my most fave ’cause, of course, it was the “fastest”. I remember winning many a Hot Wheels “drag race” with my trusty Vicky.
Think it was maybe Xmas ’69 or ’70 when I had my “Red Ryder” moment, and got the HW Grand Prix set, which, IIRC, at the time was the largest HW set you could get, with two 2-level Supercharger houses, and a huge dual-figure eight track layout, with loops, etc. It was, to this day, the single coolest Xmas present I ever received. I must’ve gone through a gross of D cell batteries in those superchargers playing with that set constantly. Still miffed that my Mom gave it all away when I was away at college!
Ah yes, those were such fun, carefree times. Thanks for the trip down Hot Wheels memory lane!
Wow what a great article!!! Love me some toy cars. I collect old Matchboxes like that mainly, I enjoy restoring them. I’ve gotten several that were victims of “repaints” like yours that I’ve brought back to like new condition! Thanks for sharing.
No one mentioned “Johnny Lightning” cars, the closest competitor to Hot Wheels. And yes, when I joined the Hot Wheels Club, I got the Boss Hoss, which even now has no fingerprints or blemishes on it. It never made it to the track like the Chaparral or the Splittin’ Image, which were my best two cars on the Supercharger Sprint set.
For some reason I never had any Johnny Lightnings, though they were advertised quite a lot and at least one of my friends had some. IIRC they were Kenner’s attempt to keep up with Hot Wheels, back when Kenner was part of GM (General **Mills**). (Now they’re part of Hasbro.)
I was sort of amused a few years ago when Johnny Lightnings were re introduced as collector die casts, more for adults.
Cool! I have a lot of the featured cars, including the Rolamatic Range Rover, Lotus Europa (in metallic lilac), the green MG sedan with the dog in the back, the maroon Silver Shadow, several Wagonaires, a very rough Caddy ambulance, a blue 300SE (love the opening doors AND trunk!) and a blue Custom Eldorado. I also have a chrome Boss Hoss. It and the Eldo were my Uncle Dave’s originally.
As a child of the 80s I was more about the Micro Machines for my cars and GI Joe& Transformers for the rest of the toy box. The big ones were the Exotic cars like the Lambo and Ferrari. Hot Wheels were still around but they were not the big hit they were in the 1970s.
Fabulous post! Despite having been born after the Hot Wheels boom, growing up I always had to choose between Matchbox and Hot Wheels when car shopping. Matchbox generally won out for whatever reason.
Spawn and I got my cars out recently…what a flood of memories that brought back! Thank you for writing this article.
I was born in 1975. I was always a Hot Wheels fan, but not into Matchbox. I don’t know exactly why. I think that Hot Wheels were a bit cheaper, but still a good quality car, unlike those crummy ones with poorly detail\ed bodies and all-plastic chassis that the axles snapped off of.
Anyhow, I always treated my HW cars with extra care, putting them in collector cases and not just thrown into a box (where my non-HW cars went). A couple years ago I finally bought some display cases to hang on the wall to show off my HW collection.
Micro Machines came onto the scene later. My younger brother had a few, but he never was into toy cars as much as I was. I ultimately wound-up with all of his too.
Having been born in 1960, I was heavily into these and did the transition from Matchbox (very quickly iirc). I suspect lots of TV commercials help that along. They even had their own Saturday morning cartoon (I can still remember the theme song). The Estes rocket engine experiments also made a brief appearance…
Nice article. I’ve still got most of my toy cars and a few, including the hot wheels cars and track is still stored at my Mother’s home. My Dad kept all our toys, claiming they would be useful to keep the grandchildren amused when they came for a visit. Pictured is my very last purchase, over ten years ago, of this superb bus by a HK company, ABC models. It cost a ton of money to buy, but just could not resist it as I remember travelling in these models as a child.
Beautiful model !
Wow, this one hit home. I was all of five years old when Hot Wheels took our neighborhood by storm. All of us kids had started out with Matchboxes, but Saturday morning cartoon commercials introduced us all to the world of Hot Wheels. After a while, the Matchboxes were left in the toy box and the Hot Wheels were the car of choice. If I was a very good boy during the week, my dad and I would go to the local hardware/department store (mostly to test or replace TV tubes, I swear), he would allow me to get one car of my choice. Most often it was a Hot Wheel of some stripe. I had a huge collection in a very short time, but my all time favorite was my Custom Cougar, in metallic green with a simulated vinyl roof. I think I had that one until I was 13.
Like most other kids, I started out with Matchbox, and I still remember my favorite one: a mid sixties Pontiac Bonneville fastback in a lavender color. It still had the hard skinny “tires” and the fat axles. Until the Custom Cougar came along, that was my number one go to car. The funny thing was, I wasn’t really all that crazy about Matchbox cars, as the ones I got were rarely cars I saw on the street. Most often they were gifts from my dad, but he had no clue as to what I liked, and I ended up with weird little British cars, when what I really wanted were American muscle & pony cars!
As an aside, up until a several years ago, there was a hobby shop here in Grand Rapids, MI that still had the Matchbox display case with the cars in the cardboard box. I bought a couple of cars that way, a late 90’s Pontiac Firebird Formula and a Chevy Camaro Z28. I still have the cars and the boxes! I don’t believe anyone still sells them this way any longer, and the hobby shop no longer carries Matchboxes in their store. It’s all about RC now…
The next big wave in childhood car ownership were the Johnny Lightning cars, I can remember when they sponsored one of the Unser brothers at the Indy 500! They tried to ape the success of Hot Wheels, but never came close to the same amount of acceptance as HW. There were some other brands that came along, we also had some Majorette and a few other Hong Kong made imitators too.
When I was about 13, my mother shipped off my remaining (and original!) HW to my nephews. They pretty much trashed them, because in the mid 70’s, they were just old toys and no one believed there would be a future for them. I married in the mid-80’s and as a joke my wife bought me a HW for our Christmases together. It became a tradition, and when the kids came along, they got in on the action, too. To this day, I still get at least one HW for either my birthday or Christmas; and I still give one to my girls either for a special occasion or just because.
When the girls were young and if they behaved, they could get a treat (or a small toy) from Meijer (midwestern department store, like WalMart) when we did our weekly shopping. The older of my two daughters became a collector like me, and amassed a small flotilla of her own. Her younger sister joined in and on cold winter days, we amused ourselves playing with our HW sets. I taught the girls about drag racing (my first love) and how to do eliminations. We had a great time with stuff. But the cycle continues, they got interested in makeup and boys and other things and my huge (1000 pieces) sits in a corner of the garage awaiting new owners.
I have a few Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Johnny Lightnings decorating the house. My wife puts up with it, as she grew up in a motorhead home herself. I get a kick out of occasionally grabbing one off the shelves and inspecting it, imagining myself as an eight year old again and piloting it to some grand adventure somewhere in my imagination.
The best cars I ever owned.
“imagining myself as an 8 year old…” – you hit the nail on the head.
My first Matchbox was that tan-colored Bedford milk truck. I think was just 3-1/2 years old. Our local 5 and dime (universally known as The Dime Store) displayed all the Matchboxes. (I believe there were always 75 in the series) behind the register. They cost 49 cents plus tax and it took 3 weeks of allowance at 25 cents per week to afford one. 1/25th scale AMT 3-in-1 models were $1.49 + tax , and it took willpower to forgo a new Matchbox and save up for a model kit. Interestingly, when Hot Wheels came out they were only sold at the “big” toy store downtown. But by then I was more interested in 1/43rd scale Dinkies and Corgis. Though I did by a few Hot Wheels in my 30’s and 40’s – ostensibly for my own kids.
I had the MG with the dog – in blue, the dustcart and the Matchbox case. I used to take my cars on holiday in that case…
also, didnt hot wheels have some kind of unclippable X-frame rolling chassis underneath?
On some of the very oldest ones, the axles didn’t go straight across, but were bent into a shape (a trapezoid? I’ll have to ask my high-schooler if that’s the right word) to cantilever the wheels. I don’t know if that made it easier to attach the axles, or if it was for springiness.
One related factoid I didn’t mention was that there were 3 types of wheels. The oldest ones had small white nylon hubs that the wheels were pressed on to. Some others had the inner part of the wheel attaced to the axle, and the outer half was glued to it, kind of like a cap. Eventually they went to the one-piece wheel, with the axle straight through. Collectors make a bug deal out of which style a particular car has.
In all cases though, the axles were much thinner than even the Superfast ones, which made them more fragile, but faster if you were careful with them.
The Python has the bent axle (it’s visible in the little rectangular holes in the chassis) and hubs with press on wheels.
The Sugar Caddy has the cap-style wheels wich were often lost.
And the Double Vision has the through – wheel axles.
This is what I remember(hopefully an image is linked)
Wow. I don’t recall anything like that. Since you mentioned the MG I assume it’s from the 60s /70s. Is it from North America, or ?
maybe early 70s. In the UK. But maybe it wasn’t Hot Wheels after all?
Edit: they are Corgi Rockets. The key released the frame as shown:
Once you lost the key you had to pry the frame off with something else.
and here is the image
Cool. I don’t think those ever made it over here.
There certainly are endless variations. Right now Hot Wheels makes a car with an onboard camera that videos as it runs down the track. I would have loved that, though I sort of doubt my folks would have bought me a $60 toy car…
Thanks for the post. I still have several of these cars, and the same collector case.