Hot wheels history is extensive, as these classic miniature cars have been around since the late 1960s. From the fantasy custom cars to the most recent models to be rolled out, Hot Wheels will always have a special place in the hearts of little boys both today and in generations past.
Early History of Hot Wheels
Hot Wheels cars first came out in 1968, when Mattel created and released 16 unique models of "custom" cars that were named fun classic names from the decade such as Python and Hot Heap. They came with lowered fronts and raised up rear wheels to match popular cars of the time such as the 1969 Corvette. This was the first time a toy car attempted to replicate a real one down to the most minute detail, and the miniatures were met with instant success. In 1969, the toys were being purchased at a rate 10 times beyond what Mattel had anticipated, and so the toy company grew the line to 40 different car models. In 1970, 33 more cars were rolled out, and 35 more were brought out in 1971. The early 1970s was also the final time that Hot Wheels were made in the United States.
In 1973, Mattel released its models that are now considered highly collectible. With only three new castings that year, the models were discontinued due to low sales, and now they are hard-pressed novelty collector pieces only the most devoted enthusiasts commit to finding.
During 1975, Hot Wheels branched out to motorcycles, and they were not made again until 1997, again making them hot ticket collectors' items. They included Super Chromes and vibrant color schemes, to name only a few of the features of the motorcycle line.
Hot Wheels in the 80s and 90s
Hot wheels hit a new generation of fans when they were distributed in McDonald's Happy Meals in 1982. Kids of that decade went wild for the little cars, and again production was in full swing.
In 1984, another notable moment in the history of Hot Wheels came about when the "Ultra Hots" were created. These were bragged upon as being the fastest model car ever made, and even included two collectors' models not sold in the United States. The following years brought army cars, fantasy vehicles, and the very first collector's convention in Ohio.
For Hot Wheels' 20th anniversary, gold and silver cars were sold, and they also started selling plastic garages to hold the individual cars. In 1990, the company latched onto another part of pop culture - the network television show The Simpsons, releasing a special car based off of the show plot. The 90s also produced the first Hot Wheels helicopter and the first food venture with a cereal selling at local grocery stores. Possibly most newsworthy was the release of the "Purple Passion" car that was in such hot demand that it was almost impossible to find for approximately nine months. Finally, in 2003, Mattel collaborated with Columbia Pictures to roll out a Hot Wheels movie in time for the cars' 35th anniversary.
Hot Wheels have produced various limited edition models, known as the "Treasure Hunt Series." These were only manufactured in quantities of 10,000 and 15,000, depending on the series, and one of them quickly became worth over $300. Hot pink has always been the most difficult color to find on Hot Wheels cars, and a car with pink on it can be worth at least ten times more than the common colors of yellow, red, green, blue, etc.
In 2009, the chief designer of Hot Wheels retired after 40 years of service to the company, and he continues to serve as a consultant for the business, ensuring the classic look and feel of the cars remains intact for future generations.