The Best Dollar You’ll Ever Spend
Real Car Culture For Everyone

When I was a little kid growing up in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I remember going to the store with my parents to pick up groceries or something for the house. And like most kids, I would stop by the toy aisle to look at all the cool stuff.

Most of the bigger toys were expensive – something you could only get on Christmas or maybe your birthday – but there was always a chance that if I was well behaved my parents would let me pick one Hot Wheels or Matchbox car to take home and add to my collection.

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And by collection I mean a big pile of toy cars that would played with on the living room floor, in the dirt out front, or even in the bathtub.

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The great thing about Hot Wheels for both kids and the adults who paid for them is that they were cheap. Usually around one dollar each give or take; hardly more expensive than a small candy bar.

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And amazingly, in the 25-plus years since I was a little kid picking out Hot Wheels in the store, that price hasn’t changed one bit. While everything else has climbed significantly – be it automobiles, gasoline, houses, or food – it seems Hot Wheels die-casts are immune to inflation.

That has long made them the perfect impulse buy, whether it’s for a kid or for a grown up who is still a kid at heart. I mean, for less than the price of your average Starbucks coffee you can take home four of five of the things. Hell, I even know some guys who give out Hot Wheels to the neighborhood kids on Halloween instead of candy.

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For me, Hot Wheels have become the perfect office decor, pinned up on wall and taking over an increasing amount of space with each trip to the store I make. Unlike some of the hardcore die-cast fans, I don’t spend days trying to find rare releases or putting together complete sets; I simply buy the ones that I think are cool, and lately there have been a ton of those.

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Traditionally, I liked to take them out of the package to display them, and I still do that sometimes; but I’ve found that leaving them in the package displayed on the wall is very effective. It’s not that I really care about preserving the value, it’s just an easy way to display them, and my ‘wall of wheels’ always gets an interesting response when a visitor checks out my office.

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This isn’t the first time I’ve written about my love of Hot Wheels here on Speedhunters, but it’s been a while and I thought now would be a good time to talk about some of the cool releases that have come out over the last year or two.

More Than A Hobby
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Perhaps the greatest thing about collecting Hot Wheels (aside from the low price) is the fact there are some very genuine and very talented automobile enthusiasts creating awesome products all the time – and they are very keyed-in with real word car culture. Yes, some of the Hot Wheels line-up includes fantasy-type vehicles that are more aimed towards children, but for every T-Rex-shaped car or futuristic spaceship on wheels there are accurate replicas of a real vehicles from all over the world, and from all eras.

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And I’m not just talking about Ferraris, Corvettes, 4×4 pickups and other well known, flashy cars. For years now, the designers at Hot Wheels have been digging deep and releasing amazing replicas of obscure, historic and cult vehicles.

What I am talking about is the the kind of stuff that’s loved by real gear-heads and car geeks, and there’s seemingly no part of car culture that Hot Wheels hasn’t tapped into. From a Datsun Fairlady 2000 to a ’55 Chevy gasser to a BMW CSL race car, there’s something for everyone.

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I’m not entirely sure of the process our friends at Hot Wheels use to choose which cars will be recreated in die-cast form, but it’s resulted in some very unexpected and very cool releases, like a Chevy LUV with velocity stacks popping through the hood.

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Or a Honda Odyssey minivan in race trim. Because why not?

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There have actually been so many cool releases lately that it’s hard to keep track of them all. And that includes specially branded cars commemorating certain marques. One set marks the 50th anniversary of the Camaro, which is where this ’81 Z/28 comes from.

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Another set features BMWs exclusively, both modern examples and historic ones like the 2002 pictured here.

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In addition to the standard releases, there are also more detailed and slightly more expensive cars that feature elaborate wheel designs and real rubber tires.

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One of my favorites is the ‘Track Day’ series, which includes cars like the long-tail Porsche 935.

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And this tough-looking ’70 Chevelle road racer.

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There’s also the amazing ‘Japan Historics’ line, which is basically a must-have for anyone who fancies vintage JDM machinery. This is one of the few that I actually had to buy online because I couldn’t find them in normal stores.

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Hot Wheels has showed a lot of love to Japanese car culture in recent years. The Galactic Express is an awesome take on Japan’s dekotora scene.

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It even comes complete with a kaido racer that can be loaded inside of the trailer.

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In addition to that, the Hot Wheels team has also created some very cool original designs, like this rat-rod-meets-race-car known as Aristo Rat.

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And then there’s this awesome creation. If you’ve ever wondered what it be like if a split window Beetle mated with a Porsche 935, well, wonder no more.

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This one was cool enough that I had to buy a couple extra ones to open up and put on my shelf. If there’s something cooler you can buy for a dollar I’d like to know what it is.

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Over the years, Speedhunters has also had the chance to partner up with Hot Wheels on a few occasions for some very cool collaborations.

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Needless to say, I’ve got plenty of these in my collection and it’s pretty awesome seeing the SH name when I’m at the store browsing through the racks.

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With a kid on the way in just a couple of weeks, I’m really looking forward to introducing him to Hot Wheels when the time is right.

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What this means for the future of my collection, I’m not quite sure. At some point these cars may wind up in a toy bin rather than being displayed on the wall, but I’m pretty sure I won’t mind. Like the cars themselves, it’s a small price to pay to spread the joy of car culture.

Mike Garrett
Instagram: japanifornia
mike@speedhunters.com

Cutting Room Floor
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89 comments

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1

Any pictures of the initial d car next to the rx3?

3

I have It and have the green but still wish to find the blue and new white

4

A behind the scenes tour of Hot Wheels to find out how they're modelled and made would be 100% pure geekery – let's make it happen!

5

i would love a feature of a trip through the manufacturing process of hot wheels. drawings, cad work, mold making, casting and painting, show the whole thing.

Author6

That would be awesome indeed. Let's see what we can arrange.

7

Awesome. I've worked in metal casting for years, if you do a story and need a quick edit to check technical details send me an email. great story btw.

8

I've been collecting Hot Wheels and Matchbox for 55 years, and have just gotten started with personally customizing them. I agree, Mike. There's not much else that provides so much enjoyment for a buck. Great article! I am going to look into the "Japan Historics" series, and see if I can pick up a few.

9

How many nice cars you have now?

10

I probably have close to a thousand.

Author11

Nice! I'd like to get into the customizing at some point when I have some extra time.

12

Do you have the R34 in your collection?

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13

I am only 23, and i have been buying them since forever! I used to get a pound or two from my grandparents and go and buy one instead of sweets! A lot of the old more collectable ones from ten or more years ago are all unboxed, as i played with them all when i was a kid! But i already have at least 500 HotWheels, and never stop looking!

As you said yourself, i only buy the ones i think are cool, and its seems they have started to tap into the more "collectors side" and the now no longer children producing some really nice cars.

Author14

Very cool that they make stuff with appeal both as "toys" and as collectables.

15

I encourage you to start with it. These little pieces of car culture change a lot with even just a couple of touches of paint to make their details more noticeable. I´ve been modifying all of them lately, from little mods to big changes, or to make replicas of 1:1 cars. The satisfaction they give to you after a 20 min work is comparable to the one of spending just 1 dolar for them (here in europe the price is up to 4 times higher).
And congrats for the new gearhead that´s on the arrival!

16

I love how you decided to display them, I may try something similar in my garage. My toddler has already stolen my Kaido racer and AE86 from me, but I am glad that she already has an interest in cars!

Author17

Haha! It's really to do as long you don't mind tiny pin holes in the wall.

18

Just love it so much

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Author19

Nice lineup!

20

My life's collection of 1:43 cars is boxed up in the basement. Every once in a while, I go downstairs and grab a handful and open them with my 2.5 year old. I'm sure we've opened a few that were worth $5-10, but it's so worth it, plus I'd never even aspire to sell them as they all mean something to me. Soon enough, all of mine will be his, and he'll be spending a buck here and there to feed this disease we all have.

Author21

Can't wait to do that kind of stuff!

22

My mom bought me my first matchbox car when I was 3.
Now I am 33, still loving it so much.

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23

This one's still my favorite

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24

I love picking up a couple Hot Wheels at the store. I can't afford to buy all the cool cars I want in real life, but it's always great to pick up a new CR-X, AE86, or RX-7 for my collection. It's a great thing to collect when you're broke.

Author25

Yep, it's about as cheap a hobby as you'll find.

26

I had Majorette and Burago collection as a kid. I cant belive I crjushed them with hammer and blow them up with firecrackers.
Luckily I have saved collection with 40 Burago cars.

27

We all did that.. I destroyed many with my little brother.

Author28

I wasn't immune to doing that when I was a kid either.

29

I've been buying a lot in the last few years since they've been releasing old school Japanese and European sports cars, and they are impulse buys since I'm usually at the store for something else.

I've been looking for an RX-3 for a while now. I don't know why, but buying one online seems like cheating.

Author30

I agree. The only exception I made was for the Japan Historics because I never once saw them in the store near me.

31

I've been collecting 1:18 scale diecast cars since I was a little kid (I have no idea how many I have now.) A few years ago, I took up photography as a hobby and thought my cars would be perfect subjects. As an example, here's my Maisto 1:18 Scale Ferrari California. What do you all think?

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32

Man if you shooting AutoArt I'd think it's the real deal! Well Maisto is nice but err...still look like a toy car lol

33

As beautifully detailed as the AutoArt models are, I don't think I could justify spending over $100 on a model car, not to mention that they're extremely delicate and can break very easily if you don't handle them gently enough.

Author34

Would think it's real if I didn't know. Very cool!

35

Don't be mislead, it starts with a dollar car then next thing you know you're buying Candy Striper's and 66 Super Nova's and opening those for fun. LOL

Author36

Haha!

37

Are you in SoCal? If so, you should check out Jimmy's USA for the Hot Wheels show in Whittier, CA. It's held the 2nd and 4th Sunday of the month.

38

Got any personal favourites?

Author39

It's way too hard to pick, but as far as the recent stuff goes I love that Beetle/Porsche 935 hybrid.

40

well, just bought those 2

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41

You ahould definetely try and get a tour through hotwheels design studio Mike!

Author42

Nice

43
Matthew Everingham

I started buying cars again about 2 years for my boy. Now I can't get a loaf of bread or milk without a quick detour to the toy aisle. I've even started buying doubles of the really cool ones. One for him and inw for me. :p

Author44

That's the way to do it haha.

45

When I was five my dad passed away and my mom struggled to take care of me and my two brothers, so toys were not an option but we would go to good will for clothing and the had these clear plastic grab bags of mixed mostly damaged toy and my mom would let me pick one,, I always looked for the bag with the most hot wheels in it ,, sometimes they were trashed and maybe missing a wheel because they used to be removable but I didn't care they were the coolest thing I ever saw,, long story short I'm 53 now and have over 6000 hot wheels in my collection and love them as much now as I ever have

Author46

Very cool story!

47

Awesome stuff Mike. Hot Wheels....you're never too old for them. I am thinking your collection may end up like this once you have a little boy. I ALWAYS kept mine in their packet, however opening all of these with my 3 year old son was a real blast. And now we both get to look at them and enjoy them. Rather than have them packaged up in boxes. Nothing beats the feeling of watching your own child rip apart that packet to get that car out!

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Author48

So worth it!

49

Super fun read. I wholeheartedly agree with the joy these $1 gems can create. There is a certain purple car that would look great in a blister I am sure.

Author50

Haha. Gotta convince the Hot Wheels guys now!

51

Great story Mike. I used to keep mine in their packets, packed away in boxes. But that changed once I had my son. I opened a lot of my collection with him, he is 3. Was great fun and now we both get to look at the cars and enjoy them together. Nothing beats the feeling of watching your own child rip apart that Hot Wheels packet, trying to get that car out.

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52

That Pikes Peak Celica was my 1st ever car...and now im on eBay trying to find another

Author53

I remember having this one way back, and I just found it again recently at a swap meet for - you guessed it - one dollar.

54

my 6 year old and I just started, we hit the local walmarts, target, dollar tree, toys r us and even walgreens, I have found the best ones by accident at dollar tree or luckys.

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Author55

Nice!

57

I have a small collection of 1:43 cars I made few years back with cars both cheap and a bit more pricey. However I also have 4 nice HW cars, few Mustangs from my childhood and few 911s I bought less than month back.

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58

Bad part is that here in Russia even cheap HW cars are quite more expensive being around $3 to $5 for one.

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59

Indeed one of my favourites

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Author60

Cool shot!

61

I was a Matchbox kind of kid, still have them at home in my parents place. My RS200 is a personal treasure.

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Author62

I had plenty of both. I always dug the more "realistic" nature of Matchbox. Like how Tomica is in Japan.

63

I love, love, love this article. I have a four year old, who loves hot wheels cars. He has collection of about 150 cars. I absolutely love buying for him because me and him try look for the ones that he doesn't have or the ones that are just cool. And it's great that they are just one buck.... Because he usually gets one every week.

Author64

I'm really looking forward to doing the same thing with my son in a couple years!

65
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Prices of Hot Wheels and Matchboxes may be immune to inflation over in the States, but here in Malaysia prices have increased in the past couple of years.

I have been collecting since I was 3 or 4, and my collection is still growing as I'm writing this. Hot Wheels actually introduced me to car culture all over the globe. The likes of Mad Manga representing Bosozoku while the '55 Chevy Bel-Air Gasser and '32 Ford hot rod (just recently got the exact version as the opening photo) shows the variety of American style. Just couple of days ago I found some Chaparral models, which again introduced me to their history. But my personal favourite is the Honda S2000, which I am being a completist by getting every single version released.

I also have those Speedhunters collaboration models as well, waiting to get them autographed by you Speedhunter guys. So far I have Blake Jones signed on the Camaro. Next I'd probably get hold of Dino when he comes back to Kuala Lumpur later this year. LOL!

Author66

Nice. If you ever make your way to California I'll be happy to sign haha.

67

My son is also an avid collector. This Christmas he got a Lamborghini, he was so excited. When he put it on the counter to move it, it wouldn't move, he picked it up and noticed it had a plastic bottom that didn't fit properly. Annd the label was for a Renault. He kinda laughed, and went and got his original Renault. Just to show me how WRONG THIS MISTAKE WAS. He says " of all the cars to make a mistake on, they confuse a Renault with a Lamborghini, geesh!" I would love for Hotwheels to see this mistake, but don't know how to contact.

68
Jay Soh Tsu Chung

Heh, I guess the chassis is from the Renault RS-01, because I have the Renault and the base is faulty. Hahaha!

Author69

Haha!

70

Hey there, i am too a car lover i am 14 year old boy. Will u sell some cars to me ? Plz. I don't want any rare or red linw. I want JAPANESE cars. My name is TEJAS Parab. Plz search me on Facebook. My profile pic is of Paul Walker. Thank u .

71

As a result of this article I just went on line & bought my first ever Hot Wheels aged 43. So ... thank you Mr Garrett ... I think.

'65 Galaxie stock car :)

Author72

Excellent choice! Welcome aboard haha.

73

collected about 300 with my dad when i was younger. I think the coolest thing was going on searches for the ever so rare treasure hunts.

74

I just came back from a trip to Japan and picked up quite a few JDM favorites small models, Tomica brand. Got a few Hot Wheels at home too.
The little models are great to collect for price, storage, and quantity! Heheh :D

75

I like hot wheels but i love the really detailed 1:64 scale cars its cool seeing that much detail in a tiny car i have a massive collection of greenlight that i love i still get the occasional hot wheel tho

76

Just because you wrote this article, I'm going to stop on my way home to get a couple, maybe more, to add to my collection.

77

You forgot to mentions Supers and Treasure Hunts. Hotwheels with special edition paint and wheels hidden in regular packages. They are limited in numbers and hard to find in stores.

79

After finding out I was going to have a son I geeked out on the opportunity to design a car themed nursery/bedroom for him. Couldn't be happier with the end result. From the 42" rolling tool box that is his dresser/changing table (and eventually his tool box). To the pit crew inspired crib sheets, and the art on the walls that includes 911 promotional material, to cutaways of a Lancia rally car and lotus 7, and Monaco GP posters. Some of the final touches include an oil can inspired lamp, clock made from the compressor housing of a Garret turbo, and last but not least the full collection of the Track Day series hot wheels as well as a few other diecasts.

80

can i buy one of your collection?lol XD

81

Did I see the A-Team van AND KITT in there?! Well done, sir!

82

My colection TOY

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83
Chris Saddler Sam

RESPECT!!!

84

That purple RX-3 reminds me of a certain Dodge Dart! ;)

85

I am still waiting for Hotwheels to make a diecast of the Chevy Sonic RS Hatchback. C'mon guys! You've made multiple versions of the Focus and even the odd Fiesta! Where's the Chevy econobox love?

86

We have a very similar collection. Many of the same cars. Even the same 1:18 yellow 240z. Awesome article. Thanks !

87

I also do enjoy collecting hotwheels but where I live it is hard to find so I buy from various countries which cost me much. But cannot stop it. I am more into muscle classic cars. Have almost 800 car now... I enjoyed all what you said and made me feel I am not crazy

88

Hi Mike, I sent you a message on your IG page but thought I'd put this out there on here as well. I would like to find a way to honor the passing of my Sister in laws son, who was 2 years old. He loved Hot wheels and we have been sharing his story at thecalebeffect.com there is also a template that is used to share hot wheels with other kids. We have handed out hundreds of them and I would like to have one custom made to have on their website for others to purchase so others could hand them out. I hope that makes sense. Do you know who I could contact for something like this?

89

My favorite dollar!

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