Hot Wheels Blister Cards Influenced Diecast Packaging Forever

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Otto Kuhni, one of the great American artists of the last half century passed away recently. If his name isn’t familiar, you surely knew his work. He was the artist who created the overall look of the new Hot Wheels brand in 1968 and continued to work for Mattel on and off until just a few years ago. He created the art for the carrying cases, advertisements, lunchboxes, and most importantly, the packages these toys came in. The fiery orange-yellow-red blister cards instantly created an identity for the whole brand, and influenced diecast packaging ever since.

Hot Wheels Otto Kuhni lunchboxPrior to his designs, diecast packaging was generally plain and not terribly interesting (although there were terrific exceptions). Most diecast cars were sold in boxes, such as Corgi, Dinky, and of course, the company whose name comes from those boxes, Matchbox. A few cars were offered in blister cards, however. Here are some early designs as well as later cool blister cards where companies realized that toy cars are fun, and they should be packaged that way too. Much credit has to go to Otto’s ideas.

This Dinky Alfa Romeo really looks pretty amazing on its rather basic package. The layout is simple, and colors are very limited due to printing technology at the time. Even the effort required just to change the name and model number was something of a pain in those days. One odd touch is that the car is mounted so high on the card, something you don’t see today.

Husky, an early attempt at 1/64 models by Corgi, also featured simple, not terribly colorful blister cards. This fire engine is unique in that someone got a little creative and added the silhouette of the cherry picker as if it were rising from the vehicle itself. But most featured identical base art to keep costs low. Another neat thing… if you see this era of Husky card, there is often a hole punched in the circle where the price is located, like on the fire engine. Presumably, that happened when a store wanted to charge a different price.

hot wheels blister cardBut then along came Hot Wheels! Brightly colored, dynamic graphics, a custom cut shape, and even a bonus in the blister in the form of the collectors button. (Note the off-center hole punch, arranged to allow the asymmetrically weighted card to hang level.) Not only were the free wheeling cars revolutionary, but the Hot Wheels blister cards themselves created a stir with consumers – and with other toy companies.

matchbox superfast blister cardCompetitors responded quickly. Matchbox began retooling their cars as the SuperFast series, with similar speedy wheels and wilder designs on their new cars. The packaging moved to blister cards, though the art was not quite as exciting as what Mattel was offering. Hedging their bets, Matchbox still included the traditional box inside the blister as a bonus. In fact, many of their cars were still available right in the box, same as always, as if the company saw this new fangled packaging as a fad. The combination of old versus new wheels, and different packaging options has created a colossal number of variants for collectors.

johnny lightning blister cardJohnny Lightning was a new startup from Topper Toys in 1969. Thematically, they represented the closest competition to Hot Wheels, with cars ranging from crazy fantasy designs to mild customs, all built for speed. The packaging had a chaotic, exciting design to match. Curiously enough, they had to make a design modification early on… the “BEATS THEM ALL” tagline ran into a legal challenge, as it could not be proven that JL cars could indeed do that. It was modified to “BEAT THEM ALL” to imply possibility, not fact.

johnny lightning jet power blister cardA later line of JL cars, the Jet Power series, featured their own bespoke card design, with a very energetic illustration of one of the cars in action. Sadly, these new cars underperformed the promise of the packaging and were a flop. More sadly, Topper ended the entire Johnny Lightning line (and just about everything else) after only three years due to company wide financial difficulties.

corgi rockets blister cardCorgi tried to compete in the high speed 1/64 market with their Rockets series. Note the two hole configuration on the card, requiring double pegs to hang the car from. The folks who stocked the stores couldn’t have been happy about that. Cool graphics, fast cars, but no match for the Hot Wheels marketing behemoth, at least in that scale. Corgi remains a major force in diecast, but wisely decided to focus more on their main market of 1/43 and larger cars.

tomy tomica blister cardTomy (Tomica) had a lot of fun with their packaging as well. Their Pocket Cars series was printed on a card that looked like denim, complete with stitching and buttons. Such designs really stood out from the pack and looked impressive together on the pegs at the stores. Many of their later series like the Series 60 also had playful graphics.

woolworth peelers zee toys pacesettersMinor brands like the Woolworth’s /Woolco Peelers cars saw the benefit of an exciting package, even if the vehicles themselves were a notch below in quality from the big brands. Or consider what Zee Toys was doing with this Pacesetters blister, mounting the car in a position to go along with the lines of the graphics.

It’s hard to say where modern diecast packaging would be today without the influence of Otto Kuhni’s designs for Hot Wheels, but it’s safe to guess playtime would be little less exciting (also read Otto’s Diecast Hall of Fame Obituary). If you have a favorite diecast blister design, let us know about it in the comments!

Comments (7 Comments)
Joschik

I think that Hot Wheels has recently upped the game with card designs such as the one from the Japan Historics Series like this Toyota 2000 GT.

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Going the Extra Mile – Transmedia Storytelling

Das_MittelElton Lin is a CS college student from Alhambra that is enamored by different tactics toy companies engage in to ascribe integrity to their properties. He spent so long chasing a childhood fictional narrative by Mattel that he found a real and uplifting story buried beneath it. 

 

The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell – Confucius

Companies should never have to compromise their integrity in a bid for survival. Unfortunately, some do. In this day and age, toy companies grapple to find a common thread with the hordes of children much more interested in handheld electronics. It is true that companies must prioritize earning profits in order to stay afloat, but keeping the masses pleased rings equally true. It is universally understood that toy companies prioritize catering to the younger demographic, but consequently, older fans may struggle to indulge in the brand as well. With the rise of 3rd party offerings or zealous customizers filling the void for fans, retention of brand loyalty has never been tougher.

As such, it makes it all the more gratifying when a company goes the extra mile and delivers universally enjoyable content through a multitude of platforms. Such a labor of love can be explored through the lens of transmedia storytelling.

So what is transmedia? Think back to a favorite childhood series of yours. Did you get to watch your heroes on TV, then go out to the stores to buy action figures of them? Spend your free time visiting official websites or fansites such as the one you’re currently on to brush up on your knowledge about their universe? What about playing video games or comics that weren’t necessarily canon to their source material? How about fast food or in-store promos? If you answered yes to any of these, you had been met with transmedia, the practice of telling a story across different platforms.

But adopting transmedia is no walk in the park. Great transmedia calls for capabilities of:

-expansion. Being able to carry a story through new mediums as well as reach the target audience is crucial to transmedia.

-engagement. Consumers will not only be enraptured by the fictional world, but also come to relate to characters and examine their own human condition.

-embellishment. Fictional worlds must be convincing to their audiences. The more a universe is fleshed out, the more chances the audience can perceive the universe and its ideals as feasible.

-order. The storylines must follow a pattern with how it is accessed through different digital mediums.

-opinions. It is important for creators not to neglect any of their characters by allowing the audience to witness characters evolve through unique feelings to situations and daily life.

-operation. Every message is another piece of the puzzle that ties into the storyline. The creators, what did they leave for us?

In short, transmedia storytelling challenges creators to put out content on a new plane of superiority in the most unique configurations / re-imaginings of the brand’s identity. Famous examples: a company all about plastic construction toys branched out their mythology and storytelling capability with a theme of unworldly mechs, and a company with unworldly mechs painted a new direction through robots that turned into organic animals.

 

Everything must be able to fall back on another. An overarching theme must manifest, which will contribute to the brand’s image. Obviously, it is important that the message reflects positively on how consumers perceive the brand.

Hot Wheels is recognized by its consumers for its presence/domination on the store shelves.

The message may be prevalent in some contexts. Who can forget the owner of the slogan “Just Do It” as well as its highly aspirational message? Or even “I’m Lovin’ It”, the shot at good vibes through pop culture? But what happens if a company’s brand suffers from an existential crisis or a search for new meaning? What can personify a brand entity and reinvigorate it? How do you continue a legacy of that caliber?

In 2002, Hot Wheels was faced with such a dilemma. The company was thinking of how to celebrate its upcoming 35th anniversary. What started out as a challenge became one of Hot Wheels’s most wholehearted attempts into the analysis and redefinition of its own identity. Back down they didn’t. Hot Wheels went in guns blazing with the mythology of Highway 35 World Race and AcceleRacers (see the respective hobbyDB Highway 35 World Race & AcceleRacers pages for how much investment these series got). The creatives at Hot Wheels took what could have been a disaster into a demonstration of spirit. Not only did Hot Wheels reclaim its identity but also earned new merits. Hot Wheels roared on with new life and an extension of its legacy.

Highway 35 and AcceleRacers, bless them, have been gone for more than 10 years. So what’s the worth in dredging up the past? Why do people still demand its renewal? What’s the point of me getting on my knees and begging hobbyDB to allow me a guest post on their blog?

Simply put, series like these are the bread and butter for the path towards adulthood. Series like these merit the attention and praise for being testaments to creative storytelling and concept development. People think back fondly to Highway 35 and AcceleRacers because those were milestones in Hot Wheels history, times where Hot Wheels became more than just their cars.

These type of series continue to play a part in this uncertain future, where minds like Genndy Tartakovsky do not believe current Western animation is at its full potential. But most importantly, they persist as icons of hope. They strike a void that cannot be otherwise filled, and allow us to grow even when our minds are at ease. They serve as bildungsromans, the guiding lights towards our catharses and the search for value in our everyday lives.

Throughout the years, they’ve always remained larger than life.

Who knew that something disguised as a kid-friendly TV series could conceal so much meaning?

To watch the full video on which this article is based, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWjNOrLhPqI

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Auto-Archives Car of the Month — (Bocar) Bob Carnes’ Short Lived 50s Brand

What is a Bocar you may be thinking? Its no ordinary vehicle, its quite a speed machine.

The Bocars were created and produced by BOb CARnes (do you get where he came up with the name from?) during the late 1950s and early 1960s in Lakewood, Colorado. The vehicles were available in both kit or assembled form. The majority of Bocars were intended for track and competition use, but they could be driven on the road.

Bob’s first creation was the Bocar X-1, which was built using Jaguar suspension and brakes at the front and a Lincoln live axle at the rear. The powerplant was a 283 cubic-inch Chevy V8 engine. The body was made of lightweight fiberglass. The X-1 was entered in the 1958 Pikes Peak Hill Climb where it finished in fifth place in the sports car class. The car was promising, but needed more refinement and power. After several iterations, the XP-4 was born (P for ‘production). An unknown number of XP-4s were available near the end of 1958 and offered as a kit car or as a complete package.

The fiberglass body sat on a 90-inch wheelbase chassis to which Volkswagen or Porsche suspension could be found in the front, of course given extra modifications by Carnes. At the back was an Oldsmobile live axle with torsion bars. One Bocar was given a set of the latest Jaguar disc brakes, but most were fitted with either Chevrolet or Buick drums. Engines were mostly eight-cylinder units from either Pontiac or Chevrolet and matted to a Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed manual gearbox. A completely assembled example would set the buyer back about $6450.

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The Bocar XP-5 (white car above) was very similar to the XP-4. Main changes were to the brakes which now incorporated Buick Alfin drums. Weight distribution was improved; the XP-5 had a 44% of its weight in the front and the remaining in the rear. This was achieved by moving the engine back into the frame and offset to the right. This improved weigh distribution enhancing the vehicles balance and giving it better traction. Several XP-5 Bocars competed in the Pikes Peak Hill Climb and proved very competitive in the sportscar class. Bob Carnes himself raced a number of times, competing against local racer Frank Peterson (see image below) for several years. Frank was reunited with this very chassis at the November Hagerty Coffee & Cars event in Golden Colorado this year (below).

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The Bocar XP-6 (the darker car in the top image) incorporated a supercharged version of a Chevrolet V8. The chassis was enlarged by 14-inches to accommodate the supercharger unit. Horsepower was around 400bhp which required changes to the suspension. The suspension was beefed up to include a solid axle with torsion bars in the front and a live axle with torsion bars in the rear. The car was quick, but never really gained much national attention. It seems only one example was ever created and was used as Carnes’ person car.

The Bocar XP-7 was the next evolution of the Bocar racers. It was very similar to the car it replaced and had a Volkswagen front end. At a price tag of nearly $9000, the XP-7 was produced in very low numbers.

Bocar’s last racer built was for the 1960 season, the longer, more streamlined Bocar Stiletto. It would appear that less than four were created and carried a price tag of about $13,000. The car was intended to race during the 1960 season. Power was again from a supercharged Chevrolet V8 engine mated to a four-speed Borg-Warner T-10 transmission, and once again it had a space frame chassis and a fiberglass body.

The early Bocar Stiletto was raced at Pikes Peak by Carnes himself, but it encountered problems. A second example was built and sold to Tom Butz for driver Graham Shaw. This second car had a Hillborn-injected small-block engine. A third example is believed to have been built.

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Arrrrrr! Are There Treasure Hunts in Your Booty? Find Their Values on hobbyDB Now!

Treasure is usually hidden, but thanks to our price guide, its value won’t be – at least, not if it’s the Hot Wheels kind!

Over the last few months, we’ve been working hard to make our price guide a one-of-a-kind resource and today marks an exciting milestone. As well as our Expert Valuations, we’re now calculating values from a variety of sources with the aim of providing the most accurate pricing information for every collectible in the database. First up: Hot Wheels Treasure Hunts!

We’re now displaying calculated values for all of the Treasure Hunts U.S. cards and are working on finishing the values for international long and short cards and sets. As well as being able to check out what your Hunts are worth, we think you’ll be fascinated to see the range of values, from $2 to more than $500 and which ones are the most desirable! Hint; it’s not always the ones you’d think!

Ever wanted to know how much the TV Series Batmobile is worth? Now you can easily find out –

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How about that sweet Dairy Delivery Treasure Hunt – a cool $16.76

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And what about the super cool Cruise Bruiser Treasure Hunt – valued at $22.41

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What’s the value of your favorite Treasure Hunt? For a full explanation of the price guide methodology click here. Interested in getting involved? Contact us to figure out how you can help build out the most accurate collectible price guide in the world!

 

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Cult Scale Models Joins hobbyDB as Latest Official Archive

Cult Scale Models is the latest company to host their Official Archives on hobbyDB. The company specializes in large scale, high end resin models, which is an unusual combination, but when you see some of their offerings, you’ll see how they got their name.

“In the last 100 years of automotive industry many cars have been produced,” their website proudly proclaims. “Some successful cars gained a CULT status, even long after their production had stopped. Cult models now creates these models for you in scale 1:18.” Odd variants of well-known models, unusual nameplates from familiar marques, and underrepresented vintages of otherwise common cars are among their specialties.

Cult Scale Models Aston Martin shooting Brake

If James Bond needed just a bit more room for gadgets or equipment, he might have gone for this Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake. Few were produced, few models have been made of it.

Cult Models is the brainchild of ID bv, the business of Jaap van Dijk and Mark Asbreuk. If those names sounds familiar to collectors, they are also the founders of Matrix Scale Models. “I have always been interested in cars and during my studies I worked at Volvocar company in the design department,” said Jaap van Dijk,  “End of the nineties, I decided to step out and became my own boss.”  Mark had started A.M.C. Miniatures which made high-spec 1/18 Scale models.

In 2000 Jaap bought Replicars where Mark after a stint for Modellissimo then worked.  Later they together formed another company, Neo Scale Models. The difference here is while those brands mostly focus on 1/43 scale models, Cult does theirs in 1/18 only.

Cult Scale Models Mini ClubmanFor instance, despite changing marques a few times, the iconic Mini Cooper didn’t change its styling much during its original production. But in 1969, BMC decided a more modern replacement was needed. Enter the Mini 1275GT and the Mini Clubman. The “hot dog” grill and headlight design was met with a mixed reaction and the original 1959 face (which continued alongside it) ended up out-living it by 20 years. Since then, however, the Clubman has developed a devoted following, for whom Cult offers a 1974 Clubman Estate.

Cult Scale Models Aston Martin LagondaOr take the Aston Martin Lagonda… with its wedgy, very long coachwork, it’s one of the more controversial Aston Martins ever produced. Which is why there aren’t a lot of models of it. (Johnny Lightning made one in 1/64, just to be part of their Evel Knievel series). But Cult was willing to take a chance on it, and considering the very limited numbers they produce, there will be enough fans to buy them all.

Cult Scale Models Jaguar E TypeAnother example is their Jaguar E-Type. Widely considered one of the most beautiful automotive designs ever, Cult’s model is a later Series II car, which featured some minor changes implemented to accommodate U.S. safety standards at the time. While most companies offer models of the more “pure” early Jags, Cult decided the later one needed some love as well.

Cult Scale Models Volvo BertoneCult’s offerings are mostly European marques, although many of them will be familiar to U.S. collectors, yet just a bit strange. The Volvo 262 Bertone carries much of the boxy styling familiar to the brand, but with a lower, sleeker roofline. You’ve probably seen one in person, maybe, but probably never seen a model of one, either. It’s obscure enough that you forgot about it, but you want one now, and Cult has you covered.

A browse through their Official Archive will reacquaint you with of plenty of other cars that feel oddly familiar or familiarly odd. Either way, you’ll eventually want to be part of this Cult.

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