Over the past two years, we’ve contributed articles to Die CastX magazine for publication on their website and in their quarterly print edition. We hope you enjoy the story of these bigger models of the microbus dragster.
Ron Ruelle hobbyDB
In 1996, Hot Wheels introduced a casting that would become one their most iconic and sought after models since the early Redline cars. The Customized Volkswagen Drag Bus, a VW Bus funny car, was an instant hit with its heavy metal construction and reverse flip up body. Since it’s more expensive to produce than most models, many subsequent releases have been in premium range, enhancing collector values. The relatively flat sides and easy disassembly have also made it a favorite for limited editions and custom models.
In 2000, when Hot Wheels was dabbling in 1/18 scale, they figured it would be wise to offer a larger version of the Drag Bus. As expected, the body flips open, still hinged at the front. Everything found on the original 1/64 Drag Bus is where you expect it to be, but gloriously huge and with surprising detail. The jumbo model is full of some great bits but a couple of head scratching decisions as well.
The frame is a nicely thought out metal structure that adds a lot of heft to the model (and it is heavy!) The cockpit is sparse (much like a stock VW Bus, come to think of it) yet the gauge cluster has detailed dials and the seatbelts are separate pieces.The steering has minimal capabilities, but since this is a dragster, going in a straight line is far more important anyway.
The engine has a lot of good detail and depending on which variant, multi colored parts. A complicated wiring harness is attached to all cylinders, which is a really nice touch. The rear slicks are massive and feel like they are solid rubber, so they roll with authority.
A few years after the initial 1/64 release, Hot Wheels came out with another utilitarian VW dragster, this time based on the Transporter pickup . In this case, the body did not flip open, but a clear bed cover did, revealing two engines.
The 1/18 Drag Truck, as it was called, was the same basic vehicle as the big bus, but the top half of the body has been swapped out for a pickup style cab and bed (and now you know why the top of the Drag Bus is a separate plastic piece!). Once the body is flipped open, there’s a built in support to hold the body up. The rest of the details are the mostly the same except they thoughtfully changed colors on almost every component and the blower on the top of the engine is a different style from the Bus. Since these models are easy to disassemble, components can be easily traded from one to another or repainted if you prefer.
Both of the large scale versions come with snap-on wheelie bar that does not quite live up to the rest of the model. It arrived in the package unattached, most likely to keep box size down, but when snapped on, it just looks like a cheap afterthought. Since the small model never featured this part, many collectors probably didn’t bother attaching it.
The large scale Hot Wheels Volkswagen Drag Bus came in several crazy paint schemes over its brief production time, but the Pickup only came in the wild version shown here plus a few single color variants that we can find. As nice as these models are sitting on display, there is something satisfying about opening and closing the body and zooming it around. You might find yourself making engine noises to go along with it!
Henry Ford supposedly said you could get a Model T in any color, as long as it was black. And even though you could easily paint one any color, it sort of looks weird when you do.
Toy companies have to think long and hard about dedicating time and money to creating a mold for a new car model… in order to get their money’s worth, they need to be able to offer a model in multiple versions. The easiest way to do that, of course, is by releasing it in Different Colors.
In some cases, the company might paint themselves into a corner with certain design decisions however. Here are some model vehicles that just sort of look weird in anything but the original hue:
Red Baron:Based on Tom Daniel’s World War I flying ace hot rod, there’s really no other color this car could logically be. For the original release and the Flying Colors variant, Hot Wheels honored that commitment. Eventually, when the car was reissued for Hot Wheels’ 25th anniversary, they opened up the paint booth and offered it in a bunch of different tones, even painting over the silver hat in some versions.
1978 Dodge Li’l Red Express Truck: This vehicle is based on a real version of the 1978 Dodge truck, and it had that name for a reason. Hot Wheels took some liberties with the colors after the initial release. When you see one on the road, the stepside fenders, loud graphics, and working smokestacks are awesome to see… and they are always red in real life, darn it!
Purple Passion: There wasn’t a compelling reason to call this car “Purple Passion” aside from that being the color of the first version. Despite different future colors, the name has stayed the same except in a few cases… For example, the Treasure Hunt variant was renamed “Gold Passion,” the Pearl Driver series called it the “Pearl Passion,” and the Steel Stamp series was known as the (wait for it…) “Steel Passion.” A few other odd ones just dropped the color altogether. The woody wagon version retained the color in the name, but the convertible was called “Passion Too.”
Hot Wheels Golden Arrow (left) and Golden Submarine
Golden Arrow, Golden Submarine: These are both fairly modern castings sharing a colorful name. At least the Submarine initially came in gold before embarking on a rainbow journey; the Arrow has to this point never been released in gold. Okay…
Hot Wheels Chaparral 2G (left) and Chaparral 2
Chaparral racers: No, that’s not a color. But to see a Chaparral in anything but white is kind of weird. The original Redline Chaparral 2G came in a surprising range of solid colors, and the newer Chaparral 2 has showed up with all kinds of graphics on it.
Hot Wheels Jack Rabbit Special (left) and Sand Witch
Jack Rabbit Special: This one is kind of strange… the Jack Rabbit Special was the star car from the Hot Wheels animated series, and as such, kind of needed to be seen only in white, preferably with blue stripes and maybe side graphics like on the show. That is, until the casting was renamed the Sand Witch, allowing designers to do whatever the heck they wanted.
DeLorean DMC: You could get a real DeLorean in any color as long as it was brushed stainless steel. Some people have painted theirs, and while they do look nice, that just ain’t natural! Hot Wheels has released a few differently colored DMCs as well, but most of their variants are related to different time travel options instead of colors.
James Bond Aston Martin DB5: While a DeLorean is supposed to be unpainted, the folks at Corgi felt that the silver tone of James Bond’s DB5 was too close to unpainted Zamac and would look unfinished on a toy. So for their model of the most iconic of all the Bond cars, they went with gold instead. Later versions were done in the correct silver, but the gold version is so well known that it almost looks right.
Blue Monday: Moving to a different company and a larger scale, Kenner’s SSP cars originally came molded in six colors: red, purple, orange, magenta, lime green and light blue. Honoring its name, the Blue Monday dragster was only available in that blue tone at first. When subsequent series were released, such as the Ultra Chrome cars and the Monster series, it became available in all sorts of colors (including a very nice chrome blue).
Black Jack: As mentioned above, the initial SSP cars were only available in 6 colors, but the Black Jack was the first to come in black. And only black. Toss in the molded red hourglass shape on the nose, and the car is often mistakenly called the “Black Widow.” As with the Blue Monday, the later chrome cars came in all colors (and the red bits were changed to black). The Monster series still came in black, this time with green spider graphics on it.
Copper Cart: Okay, this might be a bit of a stretch… the SSP Copper Cart was a Ford C-cab paddy wagon hot rod with a police driver figure, and it was available in all of those original colors. It looks most natural in blue, which seems to be the most common version. Sadly, this design was never offered in the chrome colors, one of which could be described as… copper.
Blue Max:Johnny Lightning’s Dragsters U.S.A. series featured miniature versions of many famous funny cars and Pro Stock racers, including the famous Blue Max Mustang. Most of the cars in this series were first offered in a color close to the real dragster, but were eventually produced in multiple colors, even the Blue Max. Bonus Fact: Another car in the series was called “Color Me Gone,” which should by logic be invisible. It was not.
Mach 5:If you’re going to make a model of the world’s most amazing animated race car, it can only be white with red and yellow graphics, right? Both Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning did limited editions of Speed Racer’s car in chrome silver as well, which looks sharp and not too jarring. JL also did a bronze version calling it the Mach 4, which was available only by mail after cutting up half a dozen blister cards for proof of purchase seals. Many collectors were reluctant to damage their packaging, so the Mach 4 is fairly rare.
There are of course, many other TV cars such as the Batmobile or the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine that have presented similar limitations. I, for one, will be curious to see what Hot Wheels does to jazz up future releases of the Yellow Submarine.
In 1975, Hot Wheels introduced a new way to package their vehicles, in themed 6-Packs. Cars were attached to a simple cardstock base with rubber bands, and the artwork featured some of the cars from that set. In the earliest sets, the cars were usually taken directly from Mainline offerings with no distinct variants. So it was all about the packaging.
At a recent yard sale I found a set from 1982, the “Classic Machines,” in what could be labeled “Never Removed From Package” condition.
As you can see in the images, that’s not necessarily the same as “Mint In Package.” More like “Messed-up In Package” in this case, right? All but one of the cars had become unmoored from their rubber bands (the black and red Bugatti on the left was hanging on by a thread). The rubber bands had dried and cracked into a texture resembling uncooked ramen noodles (but probably not as tasty). Not to mention, the top panel had been hopelessly folded down and had some rough edges. But they were only asking $2 (the original price sticker said $8.99!). And surprisingly, none of the cars appeared to be damaged. I couldn’t pass it up.
Of course, I wanted to fix it, but decided on a challenge… how much could I preserve the “sealed box” aspect of the set and still get the cars into place? The box ends were firmly glued, so I didn’t want to ruin that. When originally made, the cellophane window was attached by a dab of adhesive in each corner. Here, it was completely detached on one end, so I carefully pried as much of the window out of place as I could, trying not to dent it worse. From there, I had limited access. Success!
Big question: In what order were these cars originally parked? I found a photo online that showed the same set as mine, with the cars ordered from left to right thusly:
Okay, looks good… except as I mentioned before, the Bugatti was the only car still attached to the base, and it was on the left. So I consulted with Robert Graves, our resident Hot Wheels maven, and he found a photo that was the exact reverse of the order I found. Hmmm. It fit the pattern by having the “Bug” on the left, so I went with it. It’s possible there was no particular order for these cars in the first place. Unlike newer sets with form-fitting plastic bubbles for each car, the early sets could easily be swapped around during what was likely hand assembly. It’s also worth mentioning, there have been several Classic Machines sets over the years, so you might find one with similar packaging but a different assortment from this one.
You know how you can never find a rubber band when you need one? It’s even harder to find bland, tan ones in the right size when you need half a dozen of them. So I made a quick trip to the office supply store and bought a giant bag containing different thickness and diameter bands. There were just enough of the smallest, thinnest ones to do the project.
The bands wrap around both axles on one side of each car. It’s harder than you’d guess to get them wedged into place without any twisting. When I got to the Street Rodder, which has no fenders, I was relieved… until I realized with its short wheelbase, even the smallest rubber band was too long, so it had to be wrapped in a more complex pattern.
Wrapping the bands around the cutout would have been fairly easy if I’d just taken the whole dang thing out of the box like any normal person would have. But in place, there was limited room to maneuver. Also, the process required lifting the tab slightly, but not too much, or it would get a crease and then refuse to lay flat. I used a single blade from a pair of scissors (would that be one scissor?) as a guide to gently lift the tab, allowing the car and band to go where they needed. Each car took several minutes to wedge into place, because I am a masochist.
The long sides of the cardstock window cutout were severely warped. So before resealing then into their car-cophagus, I decided to adjust that. I wedged a small channel of cardstock under the top part to hold it up and on the bottom, glued a reinforcement strip where there was a small tear. It’s not perfect, but a huge improvement. Then I used a small amount of clear Goop adhesive to attach the window into place, sandwiching the front edge of the box together while it dried to straighten that up.
As for the top panel of the box, it flopped sadly forward. I bent it backwards until I heard a snap and then cringed to see… that it hadn’t ripped or creased or anything. Nope, just sits straight. Whew! There was also a dog-eared corner that needed attention. I put a very small dab of clear glue between the layers and held it straight with a clothespin until it was stiff. Not perfect, but better. Finally, I took a chance on removing the price sticker. Sometimes they only sort of let go, sometimes they remove part of the packaging (GAHHHHH!), but in this case, the whole thing popped off intact, leaving a slightly darker, less faded blue behind.
Finally, the set is ready for display. For a two dollar item plus a dollar for rubber bands, that seems like a lot of work. But if you have to ask a collector “why?” then you’ll never understand this hobby.
Over the past two years, we’ve contributed articles to Die CastX magazine for publication on their website and in their quarterly print edition. We hope you enjoy the story of a couple of De Tomaso Pantera diecast models.
This Hot Wheels Pantera had moderate detailing for a reasonably low price.
Ron Ruelle hobbyDB
Chances are you’ve never seen a DeTomaso Pantera on the road, at least not in the last couple of decades. Italian designed and Ford powered, these brutes were an interesting alternative to the Ford GT40 and other road going supercars. (In fact, we wrote about a miniature GT40 last week). Although they are fairly rare in production, a surprising number of Panteras come up for sale in all conditions and featuring many different configurations.
The most expensive and attractive Panteras are the slim-bumpered early models, which sort of look like a less cluttered Lamroghini Countach (for a lot less money). Later versions have large rubber bumpers that work better than most car designs that got caught in the transition to modern safety features. The more elaborate models have huge rear wings and flared fenders, a little less pure in design but still marvelous to look at.
They’ve been pretty rare in smaller sizes too, at least compared to other exotics. Probably the 1/18 scale model of the Pantera came from Hot Wheels as they expanded their offerings into larger scales in the late 1990s. The car was available with interesting options… you could buy it as a kit in red, or pre-assembled in blue or yellow. The red variant, especially unbuilt, can fetch upwards of $100 these days. This kind of model car is always gets our attention at hobbyDB.com, as the variants of the models extend beyond just the obvious color. By releasing it as a kit, Hot Wheels made an attempt to reach not just collectors, but hobbyists who like to create their own models.
Kyosho’s Pantera features more detail including separate marker lamps and such.
The lines and proportions on the Hot Wheels GTS model are good, although since it was not a high end model, it lacked super details like engine wiring and other working features that would not appear until Kyosho and others released their much more expensive models a few years ago. Kyosho is known for their high-end, high-priced work on exotic cars, especially on Japanese marques. Many of them are in the $100 range, but worth it for the exquisite detail. The air struts for holding up the engine cover are a nice touch, as are the pop-up headlights.
By the way, if you do happen to locate your red Hot Wheels kit and want to sell it, post it on our site! We know someone who needs it!
Have you always wondered the what the inspiration behind some of the most famous Hot Wheels designs? Discover more about your favorite diecast models in the second segment in our five part Hot Wheels Fireside Chat featuring Bob Rosas and Larry Wood.
If this is your first time checking out this Fireside Chat series, a little background. At the beginning of October, the hobbyDB team journeyed to Los Angeles, California to attend the annual Hot Wheels Collectors Convention. While at the convention, we got the privilege to interview two of Hot Wheels’ greatest designers, Larry Wood and Bob Rosas. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing parts of the live video interview as well as a blog post that includes the transcript. The videos are separated into five different segments:
Rosas designed Hot Wheels cars from 1969 to 1988. He worked on developing many series including Mean Machines Motorcycles, Steering Rigs, Ultra Hots, and Real Riders. One of his big contributions to the diecast hobby was working on improving the tampo process in the 1970s. The intricately designed graphics you see on model cars today wouldn’t be possible without his efforts.
Wood also joined Hot Wheels in 1970, and is still with the company as a consultant. His first design was the Tri-Baby in 1970. He also created the ’49 Merc, the Boyd Coddington collector set, the Ramblin’ Wrecker (which originally featured his phone number on its sides) as well as several school bus designs.
Please enjoy the second segment, Individual Hot Wheels Cars.
Transcript of Fireside Chat Part 2:
Christian: And now I have a lot of questions about individual cars. So, the first one comes from Sergio Goldvarg. Sergio runs a restaurant that has 10,000 cars in it, in Florida, worthwhile seeing, he’s also a guinness book record holder of the largest toy car collection. And he particularly collects Batmobiles, he has everything from 1:1 scale to 1:240 scale. He wants to know of all the many castings you guys did, which one did you have the most fun designing and which one did you like most at the end.
Bob: For me, I’ll never forget the Steering Rigs, the GMC Motorhome, you know some of the earlier cars from the early 70s, I mean the middle 70s actually, but the GMC Motorhome is quite a story. If you make it to scale, it wouldn’t fit in the packaging, you know with the 1:64. So it’s a little out of scale, plus I took 10 linear feet out of the middle, so that would make it down to three inches. I got the plans from GMC Corporation, they sent me the blueprints, and we were able to make a more accurate rendering. Because you know, it’s just a loaf of bread, there’s not that much to it, but I think Larry did a great job on the detailing and the tampo graphics.
Larry: One thing you have to remember, with Hot Wheels, the scale was the size of the package. So Volkswagen could be the same size as a cement truck. So when it came to this, we couldn’t do a little tiny thing that was real long, so we had to squash it and pull it up, so that was kind of fun.
For me, you know I got so many of them I love them all. But when the Bone Shaker, because of the guys that like the Bone Shaker, You know I learned to, the thing was just a sketch, and I think I threw it away once, and then I pulled it out of the trash, and then I looked at it again and thought, oh this might be kind of fun. So I took it from just a dumb idea into a dumb toy, and all of a sudden everybody liked it. So I’m sticking with the Bone Shaker.
Larry: That’s it. But I’ll tell you the truth, I can’t fit into it. So they wanted to do a video.
Christian: Is that why they cut off the roof at the end?
Larry: Yeah, the problem was, the steering wheel was here, and the door was here and your break wouldn’t work. Which is ok, you don’t care about the brakes. But they wanted to make a video with it. And I said I’ll drive it but you got to put me in a place where I don’t need the brakes. So I went out on an airstrip, I went and did donuts and everything, but had to downshift it and tried to get my foot over to the brake to finally stop it. Yeah, it’s tight in that car.
Christian: Excellent, so this is a question from Chicago. Lou227 wants to know on the redline Rolls Royce and Mercedes 280SL, the hoods open the wrong way (they are hinged at the windshields) but the Custom Corvette and Maserati Mistral have their hoods hinged correctly. Was it a mistake or was it intentional?
Larry: We can answer this real easy. We weren’t there. That was Harry Bradley and I don’t know who the engineer was at the time, but yeah that was before us. That was the first year.
Christian: True, sorry Lou.
Larry: I would tend to think, because staking, you couldn’t get to the little thin cowl, it would probably warp like crazy.
Bob: Yes the big piece, rigidity in the middle. Maybe they had to stake it.
Christian: So the next question comes from HW Collector, he’s in San Diego: Whose idea was the Hot Seat? And why?! Did anyone complain about Hot Wheels making a toilet on wheels?
Larry: Luckily I had nothing to do with that. We weren’t there. I can’t remember who did it. Have you seen the latest, was it Mark Jones? Have you seen the newest one, the toilet seat moves as it goes down the track. Like the shark, got a new one. That must have been Jones. That seems like a Jones.
Christian: Alright, fair enough. Next question comes from Jason Duncan. This is for Larry. Since you designed the ’65 Mustang Convertible, and several other Mustangs, what Mustang casting is your favorite one to design, and why?
Larry: Well I worked in Detroit and I was there at 65 so I was working on the the 67, 68 on those Mustangs. I always drew hot rods with big hood scoops on them, and finally my boss came to me one day and said, you know cars don’t have that, this was the performance era luckily, cars don’t have that, we could never do that. So I showed him how it could be done, you just drain the water out here, you scoop it, you seal it, and it shakes, so it became the shaker hood scoop. So I gotta go with the 69 Mustang, the trouble is we never did one with the shaker hood scoop, but that’s the car that should have the shaker hood scoop on it.
Christian: Maybe there’s hope.
Larry: I was going to say, maybe that will be my next car.
Christian: The next question comes from London from Mighty Maverick, and he says I am a fan of the 1970 range (those were the first he got) and always wanted to know what were the stories behind the Tri Baby, the Mantis, the Peeping Bomb and the Whip Creamer – what’s the inspiration behind these?
Larry: Well, we were doing crazy dream cars then, so I suppose there wasn’t really a reason for each car. All I can really tell you is Tri Baby is an easy one for me, because I came out of Detroit doing door handles, tail lights and grills and everything and the first day at Mattel I sat down, and they said, do a car. And I said, I get to do a whole car? What are you going to do, you’re going to do a sports car right? And then so, I’d worked in aircraft, so that’s where I got where I got the turbine engine idea in the back. That’s how the Tri Baby came about, it’s my first real sports car that I got to design.
Christian: And who came up with the names?
Larry: We had a guy named Sid, and that was his job. Kind of a strange guy, and he came up with some strange names, so it fit them.
Christian: Were they always accepted? Or you had a negotiation with him?
Larry: I don’t think we had an input then. Later on we finally did have the input.
Bob: The two things that we did put in got through. They had a legal guy.
Larry: Up until halfway through, they controlled the names, you can finally tell when they started naming the cars the right way is when we put our two cents in. We did all that work to do a really neat car, and then they had all these crazy names.
Christian: Any ones that you hated or loved?
Larry: The Bubble Gunner. It was supposed to be a bubble gum machine. That was the name, but it was not my favorite.
Christian: The next question comes from Jean-Philippe Coté, he’s from NY and writes – I always wanted to know why sometimes a model is based on a real car, but the name of the model isn’t. For example, Hot Wheels produced a Ferrari 308 but it was named Race Bait 308. Do you only acquire the rights to the casting but not the name of the car?
Bob: They not very often used the real names. Usually it was something gimmicky.
Larry: We’re going to blame Sid.
Bob: Yeah it had to be something.
Christian: So what happened, Sid left and then you guys were suddenly in charge.
Larry: Yeah we got in charge, to do the right names.
Christian: Sounds like cost cutting. The guy only did names?
Larry: Yeah, well legal, I should say. And, I’ll give you a story to show you where things went. We never had a problem with legal. We could do any car, we could do any graphics, we could do anything we want. I designed and worked on the car for ZZ Top, the Eliminator, the little red coupe, with the two Zs down the side of it. I won’t credit for putting the Zs on the side, but I designed the car. So Billy Gibbons, I met him because we were designing cars and everything, so I thought I’ll do Billy Gibbons’ car, he’d like that right? So I did the 34 Ford with the two Zs on the side. Well they got a lawyer and that lawyer really protected their brand, and that was the first time that we got in trouble for doing a legal thing that wasn’t legal. We had to pay him a bunch of money to keep the status ok with the company. And that was the first time. And from that point it just went crazy and you could imagine the legal hassles of doing a NASCAR, every tampo, every logo, every stitch, little tiny thing on those cars, because we are trying to do them accurate, had to be legal, had to be cleared. So legal went from not caring whatever car we went to, to every little dot on that car.
Christian: And when was that?
Larry: It progressed. But ZZ Top car was really the beginning of that.
Christian: And what year was that?
Larry: These guys would probably know the ZZ Top car better than I do. So late 70s. And then like I say, it just got bigger and bigger in fact, one of the biggest departments right now is the legal department. You have to clear the car, clear every tampo they put on the side, every name they put on it and everything, completely different.
Bob: You know there was another car that they went right down to using a dremel tool to taking name off the bottom and that was the NASCAR Stocker. I think they called it Mountain Dew Stocker, and then they said we can’t do that. So before we shipped them, they had to grind the name off. And then we called it the Racing Stocker.
Christian: Is that Sid again?
Larry: No this was us, by the time. But again this was a legal thing.
Bob: Then we couldn’t use NASCAR then by the end it was Racing Stocker.
Larry: Which everybody loves because they are hard to find, that’s half the fun!
Christian: True, true, the next question comes from Tom Kurtz, he’s from Paris “I understand both of you worked on the Lickety Six which seems clearly based on the Tyrrell P34, was it changed as it was just a toy or was it difficult/expensive to get a license to model the actual car?
Larry: I think at that case, we probably didn’t want to go through all the licensing problems. We just did it on our own. I’m a little surprised we didn’t get called on that, because it’s pretty easy to figure out what car that is. I think we just sell the car on magazines, and it had six front wheels, and we said hey that’s unnatural, we should do something like that. So I think it’s just one of those things, we just did and hoped no one would call us on it.
Audience Member: I don’t think Tyrrell would have cared.
Larry: That’s just it, some people were glad that we did some, other people would just jump all over us.
Bob: There was not a lot of versions at the time. I think it’s 7 variations of it now. India, Mexico, and France.
Christian: As an engineer was this good on the track?
Bob: As good as any.
Larry: it had plenty of wheels to rub on the sides, so it actually was pretty good compared to rubbing diecast on the sides.
Christian: So the next question comes from Jonathan Johnson and he wants to know who came up with the Sizzlers concept and how did you choose a casting for the first prototype models.
Bob: What came from the Preliminary Design (Ed. an internal team call Preliminary Design or Prelim) was the major influence in engineering from George Solacus and my only involvement was towards the tail end, when they were trying the chrome version and this will have lights on it, just a little different. That was the last of them for a while then they came back again, of course, a few years ago.
Larry: I can remember when Prelim turned that thing over, it had a huge battery in it, because there was no battery that small at the time. So it had a big battery, wires and everything, and it just went around the track. And they said here it is. And I said, I can’t do a body around that thing it’s got this huge battery in it. So they went to a battery manufacturer and worked to get the battery down to the right size and I personally think that would be a great thing to come back. With technology now those batteries would probably run for a week!
Christian: Sure but this has a small battery.
Larry: And put that into a Hot Wheels, in a Sizzler, they’d go crazy you could probably even charge it on the run. So I’m actually going to propose it to Mattel.
Audience: There’s a new line of Sizzlers coming out this year, ten second charges. They are kind of like the XV Racers.
Larry: This is an easy one. We should explain that when we pick cars, some years we get to pick cars. Other years marketing gets to pick cars, it matters who has control that year. Most of these, starting with the Poison Pinto, there was a gas crisis. They came and said we were going to do gas crisis cars. And I said, these are Hot Wheels, they are going down a track, they are going fast. So they wanted a Pinto Winebago, well you know what I did with the Pinto Winebago (Ed. the Poison Pinto), but later on they said, well, we need regular cars. And that kind of extended from that point of having because of the gas crisis and continued, what we did regular dog cars for quite a while, and finally design got control back and did the stuff we wanted.
Christian: And how did that work, I mean what was the fight?
Larry: You can imagine, you pick a car, you fill a wall full of drawings and photographs end everything, and if you go in there right now it’s the same thing, there is a big wall with cars, for you know sports cars, hot rods, and you know, everybody’s idea goes up on the wall and you start coming back and picking things. Well if there’s a marketing guy between you that says no, we’re not doing that hot rod with a big engine, we’re doing the Peugeot or something. I think at that time we were trying to get into Europe as well.
Bob: We were required to do actual European cars back then.
Christian: I’m European, there are some better choices than the Peugeot 505…
Larry: But not what we were told. We were told that was the car that you should do.
Bob: But I agree, you know I used to walk into the store, and I would see the Aries K wagon, or the pegs were full with the Aries Wagon and the Packin’ Pacer, and they were the only ones that didn’t sell. For a while there, they are probably still in the back.
Christian: The next question comes from a user that calls herself, Rubber Ducky Chick and she wants to know from you Larry, when you used to put your phone numbers on the Ramblin’ Wrecker, how many phone calls you would get, and also what people would ask you?
Larry: Well the story is, I put my phone number on the Larry’s towing. I put it on there because I figured it would be kind of a good business card, right? Meet people and hand the Hot Wheels to them and you say give me a call if you want to do business together or something. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Well the first phone call came about 6:00am in the morning on Christmas Eve some kid that was calling for Larry’s towing “I just got this under the tree and I’m calling” and I say “are your parents up” “No, I’m playing with my Hot Wheels” and I said “Well put it back down, go back to bed” and you know and the phone rang a few more times, off and on for a little while. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was, I didn’t have an area code on it, so every area code in the United States started getting that phone call. So we got a call from a minister in Chicago, and for some reason, Chicago kids love that number and he said “I’m getting phone calls like crazy.” So as you can imagine, we were told to take it off.
Bob: I have something to add to that. The shield on the door, is also a Big Jim thing, we used that on the fire truck and fire eater, and this one here. A classic carryover, Big Jim.
Larry: I gotta to tell you a future story after that as a friend of mine who worked for Barbie, and he tried to sneak his phone number on Barbie’s bed. He got caught, he thought hey, you know.
Christian: Do you remember any of the calls? (to Larry’s wife)
Larry: Oh yeah, she was the one who usually got the calls.
Larry’s wife: One time a husband called, he was checking his phone bill and saw all these phone calls, and was suspicious of his wife was cheating on him. And she hadn’t done anything wrong.
Larry: He was checking up on his phone bill and somebody was calling me all the time, and so he thought his wife had a thing going. And it was the kid calling. I wasn’t in on that one.
Christian: The next question comes from Florida and he/she calls himself Lananeeneenoonoo and he wants to know Torero and Turbofire were the first original designs in the range. How did Hot Wheels decide to include original designs in the range? Was it always planned? How did this approach work out?
Larry: Again before us, I would tend to think that when they first started they did the custom stuff, took a regular car, and put a big engine in it, and everything, you know they are designers. They wanted to do something a little wilder. It was probably Ira who started doing the wild shapes because he did the twin mill and all those neat looking cars. He had a whole series of cool looking cars, and even the work horses, it was probably Ira.
Christian: The next one is one of yours. It comes from Ireland, user is call DeLorean fan Is it true that Hot Wheels was going to make a DeLorean back in the 80’s, but then had to modify the casting and released it as the Turismo? If so, what happened?
Larry: Ok the original DeLorean was a mid engine car and they had built a mock-up of it, and they were testing it and everything else, so we copied that car, so the wheelbase was a little longer, the shape is a little nicer, it was a nice car. The trouble is, by the time that we tooled it, they had gone to the rear engine car and the wheelbase had moved and the car had changed shape. So DeLorean said “no you can’t do that car, you have to do the new car.” And weren’t about to do two DeLoreans so we modified it to the ugly grill, and added a few other pieces to it, to make it error.
Bob: After it was built, the EDM details had changed, but I have a few real ones.
Christian: We’ll need some images for those later. Excellent, so I guess you waited until the company went bust and then made it?
Larry send us these photos after the event
Bob: Years later.
Larry: By now it’s worth doing. Back then, it was a car that we were pretty sure that it wasn’t going to be a big deal and it wasn’t worth doing two tools on it. Now it’s worth it.
Christian: The next question comes from Ohio, from Andy Cell and he asked, can you talk about a few cars that you were going to make and did not or about Hot Wheels concepts that could not be done and why and what happened?
Larry: I know one car we didn’t make but we made a brass and we made a prototype and a toy show model. It was a Mercury Cyclone and I think it was the first year I was there. So it never went any further than that. In fact I’ve seen about, I personally know of about, 8 or 10 prototypes that never got beyond the handmade stage. And you know some of them were pretty cool and the Mercury, I don’t have the slightest idea, it’s a beautiful looking car. I don’t know why it never went any further, but maybe a legal problem.
Bob: I’ll tell you another one was a motorcycle, a prototype that was way different scale, even bigger than the Street Eater and the first motorcycle we did (Ed. theMotoCross), the one with a yellow seat, one with a red seat, but about a little bigger than that.
Larry: Yeah it was a good size. It would fit in the package.
Bob: Of course, they built the tools for them and carried it all the way to finish. I ordered some parts to put some together, just cause you know marketing might change their mind, and they needed to have some samples, so they sent them, printed, and finished up. That’s another one I can recall.
Christian: As the ones you remember, I know Bruce Pascal has a few of these early. Which one do you think was the coolest that should have been done?
Larry: Again I could mention a couple, but you’ve never seen them. They just disappeared. There was one where the wings came out, it was really cool, but it never was made. Trying to think of some other ones that we did, but again, sometimes we would go to the handmade model and you would look at it, and someone would say, we’re not going to do it.
Audience Member: More recent than those, was the Beatnik Bandit 2. I saw a resin about the time of the Silhouette II.
Larry: Ok, that would make sense.
Christian: The next question is from David Durovy. Was there ever a design or casting that you “fought” over? Meaning… one you both wanted to design, one you debated on the HW “interpretation of,” stuff where you weren’t seeing eye to eye?
Larry: You do it.
Bob: No you do it.
Larry: We worked fine together. No, we had a great time. The two of us, like I said back in the corner having a good time playing with cars. So you couldn’t beat it. We had a little track where we could play with, you know try the cars out. Things like that. So it was no problem.
Bob: They only made six new ones a year, and we capped them at six, so there wasn’t a lot of cars, and it did take a long time to get the car to production, plus we had to go through all the preliminary sample sheet. Yes we made the first year, we had someone hand carve it, for many years.
Larry: Yeah you had to do a hand carving. You had to do a prototype for the toy shows all decorated up and most of those had the windows painted because they were solid.
Christian: So I hear all the time about this corner. How big was this corner? And what did you do, did you race cars?
Larry: Like I said we were just over in the corner with the partitions you know, the partitions were about here, you could stand up and yell at each other and everything like that. And I remember the rest of it was all Barbie. That’s not true, there was Big Jim and HeMan and all that of course every once and a while they would go hit, you know like all the sudden HeMan was a big department. Also in the very very beginning when we first got there, there was a department that was called Freelin, which was the idea place, where Sizzlers came out. My job was to make the car look good, his job was to make it, and make it go down a track and everything, so by the time it got to us, it was pretty much filtered down, but Freelin did crazy things. You would go in there and things would be flying around tracks and everything, but that was their job. Their job was not to make it, their job was to come up with the ideas, and what’s fun is to find the prototypes that they came up with. They look ugly as sin, but they do things, like Bob’s got plenty of those, you know do the wheelie, they weren’t went to look pretty, they were just meant to work, so that was kind of fun.