The Hot Wheels #MBK Van recently hit the pegs as part of the Speed Shop Garage of #Pop Culture. As soon as collectors started to find it, questions were asked: What type of van is it? Will we see more vehicles with #HKS livery? Why is there an elephant in the front seat?!?!?
Let’s start with the most absurd. Yes, there is an elephant in the front seat, and it’s not the metaphorical kind. Rather, it is one of many Hot Wheels interior “easter eggs” that have been included in the castings as of late. The elephant, the national animal of Thailand — where Hot Wheels Premium vehicles are currently produced — was chosen to ride in the passenger seat as a tribute to the hard-working people of the country by Hot Wheels designer, Mark Jones. A similar elephant actually adorns the base of all current Matchbox vehicles as the mainline vehicles are currently made in that same Mattel Bangkok (MBK) plant.
Jones, and marketing manager, Jimmy Liu recently discussed the vehicle via an episode of Lamley Live stating why it was done, and what the vehicle origins are. So what are they, you ask?
First things first, the vehicle is unlicensed — meaning, it isn’t made by a specific auto manufacturer. Jimmy stated that when the brand team visits Thailand, they are escorted from the airport to the plant in custom vans, and that sometimes they are a little eccentric with side graphics and custom rims. This design was definitely done as a tribute to the MBK plant — hence the #MBK Van name.
Being that it is unlicensed, makes it the perfect candidate for #Pop Culture as the real estate on the sides allows for any graphic the Hot Wheels team wishes to place on the sides. Also, the fact that there is no automotive licensor to approve the graphics, will definitely make it easier in terms of legal, allowing for it to be slotted in more places. A perfect example may be the fact that we just saw the #MBK Van released in #HKS livery.
It wasn’t until recently that Hot Wheels started producing #HKS liveried vehicles — well, technically the first was the HKS Altezza, but that is a story for another time. I guess you could say the modern era of Hot Wheels and HKS started with the Car Culture / Open Track: Nissan Skyline GT-R (BNR32) in 2019. Also that year we saw the white HKS RX-7 from Fast & Furious. Then, this year, we got HKS versions of the Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34), ‘18 Honda Civic Type R, and this #MBK Van.
As far as the Speed Shop Garage mix overall, it was a refreshing break from vehicles laden with pop culture characters as this one featured vehicles with automotive paint schemes. Had it not been for the MBK Van, we may have not seen the #HKS livery on a support vehicle such as a van. Instead, we now have the makings of another cool looking race team.