Some collectors lately are loving to hate Hot Wheels. For the very reason that Hot Wheels were bought for them as kids — $1 toy car — it seems as though in the world of social media, some collectors fail to understand that through 50 years, that remarkably holds true today. Now, over the course of 50 years, some concessions were made in the mainline to keep these little cars at the $1 price-point. Early on, it was the #Spectraflame Paint, decades later it was the introduction of basic wheels, but most recently the requirement of all mainline vehicles to have either a plastic base or body to compliment the diecast part has irked some collectors. To add to it, those same collectors seem to be irritated further by the aspect that there are so many “fantasy castings” warming the pegs. It seems as though another cost-cutting measure was to have less licensed castings in the mainline, and the ones that are released are snatched up rather quickly.
The truth is, Hot Wheels does release some great licensed vehicles in the mainline and to still do it at the $1 price-point is pretty amazing. Keep in mind that if you are comparing mainline Hot Wheels to higher-end, replica diecast brands, the comparison will most likely fall short if you’re viewing these cars in the eyes of a collector. Those cars look great on a shelf but in terms of play value, they certainly have less — AND, they cost 5 to 7 times more than a mainline Hot Wheels car.
While most collectors understand what it takes to still produce $1 mainline cars, we all hate to see our favorite castings retooled and recast into lesser versions of themselves. In 2015, one of my favorite castings, the #Mini Cooper, transitioned midway through the year.
One of the reasons I was originally drawn to the Hot Wheels #Mini Cooper in 2000 was the fact that it had a #Pop-Off Body. Activated through a switch in the base, the tab in the license plate pulls back so the body can be separated from the base. This was such a cool feature from the mind of Hot Wheels Designer, Phil Riehlman. Well, as time wore on, the Mini Cooper tool began to wear and this feature did not work as well. My 2014 HW Workshop / All Stars series versions barely even work and the bodies fall off quite easily.
At the extent at which each mainline car in run — estimated to be 1,000,000 pieces per car — times any additional runs for color variations that year, repeated year after year, even the most solid tools are worn with that kind of usage. The need for this casting to be retooled was necessary. Fortunately, it came at a time where retools where budgeted to accomplish this shift to having plastic being part of either the body of the base — rather than the casting being discontinued all together.
While I miss the #Pop-Off Body on the Hot Wheels #Mini Cooper, I understand the price to keep it in the mainline. The pain is eased knowing that there should be a premium version of the casting that exists still, but we really haven’t seen a premium release since this transition so there is no way to know for sure. With that said, the orange colorway of the 2015 HW Off-Road / Road Rally Series may be the last time we see this casting in its original setting — though it may be a tad wonky given the state of the tooling at the time of this run.
We are left with a Hot Wheels #Mini Cooper casting that is still a great looking casting and some may argue that the plastic base version actually presents a cleaner look in terms for the front grill being recessed back and cleaned up. While I miss the play factor of the #Pop-Off Body, the plastic-base version is certainly a suitable replacement as this casting still remains a collector favorite whenever its released.
I agree with the sentiment you have expressed. Frankly, it’s amazing that licensed mainline cars are still offered for $1. Considering this price point, Mattel’s designers really do a very admirable job of striking a balance between the budget imposed design constraints and achieving a pleasing level of detail in the mainline cars.
We have to acknowledge that mainline cars are designed to function as toys first and collectibles second. The mainline cars need to work with Mattel’s various accessories and fit within the overall play experience they have envisioned.
The fact that kids and adults find the mainline cars appealing is a testament to the entire Hot Wheels design team at Mattel. $1 Hot Wheels are an inexpensive way to indulge our love of automobiles… whether we are five or fifty-five!
Jon, thanks for taking the time to write that! I couldn’t agree more.
The mini from the new Forza ‘retro’? entertainment line is a pop-off body.
Yep. Its just basic lines that use the fixed (non-pop-off) body.