HOT WHEELS: 1968 - Present
The intent of this guide is not to provide you with specific values but to assist you in your overall collection efforts. This guide will briefly discuss variations, a sampling of values, and other Hot Wheel related items.
The Beginning and Redlines: The actual Hot Wheels design team was assembled in 1966 with team members going on a shopping trip as part of their first mission, buying up as many cars from different manufacturers as they could find. The team reviewed these cars and agreed the cars were not exciting and not very fast. The team created one of the first designs with 0.020" music wire for the axel. The wheels were designed with a thin edge to minimize the surface touching the track which minimized friction and maximized speed. The team agreed on the California look with smaller front tires and larger rear ones. In 1967, one of the team members, Harry Bradley, a former employee of Chevrolet remembered the door was usually left open at GM Styling Center cafeteria. Harry was able to get a copy of the Corvette plans, and the Custom Corvette Hot Wheel was released before the real car did. The Custom Corvette was a hit, as collectors and kids were waiting impatiently to see the new car. Even with the success of the of the Corvette, Harry Bradley's boss was sure the Hot Wheels would fail, and Harry was reassigned to designing staples for the assembly line. Harry resisted the reassignment and was fired. After the success of the Hot Wheels Harry's boss realized the mistake he made and Ira Gilford, a Chevrolet employee as well, was hired to replace Harry.
Hot Wheels were released in 1968 with 16 cars. These cars are identified by the red stripes on the tires of the cars, which collectors have labeled these cars as "Redlines" which ran from 1968 - 1977. As the castings were used over the years, a common misunderstanding is the date which appears on the the casting. The Mustang is a good example of this misunderstanding, as a car can be purchased off the shelf today with a date on the bottom of 1968, but is a current model in production. The date represents the date of the casting, not the date of the issue. Various colors, tires, interior, window tints, and tampos (decals), are used to determine the actual age of the car. Recently, Mattel has made some of the original cars with their original paint jobs and red line tires, but does indicate on the base of the car the term "Vintage" or "Anniversary". It is important when a seller lists a car for sale when using the term Vintage that it is understood the application of the usage. Vintage can imply antique or original. If the car is a recent model, "Vintage Collection" is a proper usage, followed up with the actual year the car was issued.
The 1968 issue CUSTOM MUSTANG was available in few variations. The below shown at top left is the closed hood scoop and the below at the bottom left is the open hood scoop (OHS). The CUSTOM MUSTANG was also available with a louvered rear window. The OHS and the louvered rear window versions bring prices up to $2000 per car. The Custom Mustang is a very popular car itself and can bring up to $1000 depending upon condition and color. Other popular Redlines include: The Pink Mercedes C111 ($500), Python (Cheetah variation $10,000), Rear Load Beach Bomb ($70,000), Blue Rodger Dodger ($2,000), Purple Custom Cougar with black roof ($4,000), and the White Enamel Custom Camaro ($50,000). These values have been reported or witnessed in various documents or websites.
1978 and Blackwalls: In 1978 cars were issued without the red line tires and were a solid black. Some of the same castings continued to be used and new castings were created as well.
1981 and Real Riders: From 1981 - 1986 cars were issued with Real Riders. Real Riders are tires made of real rubber and had "Good Year" on the sides. In 1995 a "Real Riders" series of 4 cars was issued. The Real Riders are very collectable. Some of the rarer variations have brought up to $300 per car.
1995 and Treasure Hunts: In 1995 the Treasure Hunt series was introduced. 12 cars for the year were issued at a limited quantity of 10,000 each. These cars were issued with a special TH Logo and Real Rider tires. Every year since 1995, the Treasure Hunt series is issued with 12 different cars. Due to the popularity of the Treasure Hunt cars, the number issued has increased over the years. The goal in increasing the quantity issued was to ensure collectors would have a better chance at finding these rare issues.
The Ultimate Redline Guide is an excellent book for reference. The authors are Jack Clark and Robert P. Wicker.
Other Hot Wheels Related and Inspired Vehicles
The huge success of these cars in 1968 led Mattel to create other concepts generally relating to Hot Wheels. Mattel soon came out with Small Shots, Hot Shots, Hot Wings, Hot Line, Zowees, Farbs, Sizzlers, Chopcycles, Earth Shakers, Revvers, and RRRumblers.
SIZZLERS 1970 - 1978 41 Vehicles
EARTHSHAKERS 1971 3 Vehicles - Consisted of Ground Hog Bulldozer, Dumper, and Scraper. Accessories were available.
HOT LINE 1971 6 Vehicles - This Train Set variation consisted of a Speed Chief Engine and 5 cars.
HOT BIRDS 1971 6 Airplanes -
RRRUMBLERS 1971 - 1973 16 Vehicles
SMALL SHOTS 1971 - 1973 14 Speedy Kids on Wheels
FARBS 1972 4 Vehicles
HOT SHOTS 1972 - 1973 8 Vehicles
CHOPCYCLES 1972 - 1973 9 Vehicles
ZOWEES 1972 - 1975 14 Vehicles
REVVERS 1973 10 Vehicles
Other Guides I Have Written: