If you caught the recent interview with former Hot Wheels & Matchbox Graphic Design, Michael Heralda on @lamleygroup’s Fireside Chat series on Instagram, you’ll know that the 1998 First Editions release of the #Escort Rally was the first car Michael designed the graphics for Hot Wheels. It was his first of over 5,000 designs he did for Mattel during his tenure — a number that continues to rise even after his retirement in 2015. Michael also shared the story on how he managed to sneak his last name and initial on the design, which included also putting a “Swisher Motors” tribute to his design manager (at the time), Gary Swisher. He mentioned that Gary was elated to finally have his name on a vehicle stating that no one had done that for him before that moment, approving it instantly.
This by no means was the first time Michael had shared that story as he actually wrote a detailed story about his design for the Lamley Group back in November of 2015 when his 5000th design — the 2016 HW Snow Stormers: #’12 FORD FIESTA — started hitting stores. Instead of pulling the tidbits of info from that story, I am going to suggest that you go over to lamleygroup.com and read what Michael wrote.
Suffice to say, after John from the Lamley Group posted that article in 2015, the #Escort Rally had been seen in a different light. Michael went on to include the design on special postcards as his autograph sign sheets for upcoming conventions. I remember trying to get one at the Hot Wheels convention in 2016 but Michael had ran out just a few collectors before me — bummer!
Back when the #Escort Rally was first released in late 1997 (as part of the 1998 First Editions), it wasn’t highly sought after by any means. It was a super cool model that featured more deco than most cars at the time as the sides and front include tampos, and the front even has what Michael described in that article as a “Paint Op” which I assume is the internal term for an additional paint mask — where additional paint is actually added to the car. That is clearly something that is no longer done in basics so finding Hot Wheels that have added detail like that is always a treat.
So between the additional deco and the Michael Heralda story, the 1998 First Editions: #ESCORT RALLY already had a great backstory as far as Hot Wheels lore is concerned. The legend of this car doesn’t stop there, however. Since last year the cult following surrounding this 22-year-old Hot Wheels release has literally jumped to new heights as a YouTuber by the name of 3Dbotmaker has managed to showcase the vehicle in a new light as part of his high-flying, Diecast Rally Championship (DRC) series on his channel.
On the custom-made rally course that 3Dbotmaker designed, this 1998 First Editions: #ESCORT RALLY has been obliterating the competition. It is now the 3-Time DRC Champion after knocking out the 2021 New Model, Lancia Delta Integrale — a prototype supplied by Mattel — in the finals of the latest event. In the series, the car is driven by Steven King — an interactive format that 3Dbotmaker uses, allowing his fans to become “drivers” of the cars that race on his channel. Steven King became the Superman as this Escort Rally took flight in the first series, prompting 3D to create the “Big Air Bonus” for the series.
Fans of 3Dbotmaker’s channel — which currently has over 305K subscribers — have gone out and started buying their own “Superman” Steven King souvenirs from eBay as love for this 1998 First Edition has transcended traditional Hot Wheels collecting. Fortunately, most #First Editions back in the ’90s have seemingly high production runs as they appeared in several case codes at the time and there are loads of them on eBay and other secondary sales sites. This is great for fans of the channel as many have bragged on the 3Dbotmaker Facebook page about scoring this Hot Wheels release for only a buck or two.
In the @lamleygroup Fireside Chat, Michael Heralda admitted to being a fan of the series which prompted him to actually purchase the #8 Steven King DRC Champion shirt from 3Dbotmaker’s online store.
The lore of the 1998 First Editions: #ESCORT RALLY continues to grow thanks to this new twist. This release has literally transcended the bounds of traditional collecting and it will be exciting to see the popularity surrounding it grow — a car that traditional collectors considered a “pegwarmer” at the time. Should it become a 4-time DRC champion — oh man, look out!
Will this #Escort Rally ever become a high dollar piece? Given the supply out there at the current height of its popularity, it doesn’t seem likely, but as the diecast racers continue to buy them up and wear them out on the track, that supply could eventually run out. If this is a car that you always kind of liked but never thought to add to your collection, your time to buy is now. The additional deco and cool backstory on the design by Michael Heralda should be enough, but add in that this car is a YouTube sensation, and its clearly a must-have.