Hot Wheels collecting has reached another golden-age as there has never been more demand for these toy vehicles in my 26 years of collecting. There are quite a few castings that collectors love to chase en masse — most of them licensed models.
What separates Hot Wheels from most of its competition in the diecast world, is the ability of the designers to creatively come up with unlicensed castings. Collectors refer to them as “fantasy models”, and for every toaster on wheels or drag racing hot dog, there is a realistically proportioned vehicle. Of course, it’s Hot Wheels, so the flare is there, as these aren’t your typical vehicles to be coming out of automotive design centers across the world.
Modern Take on a Classic
In the late ‘90s at the Hot Wheels design center in El Segundo, California, designer Nathan Proch was tasked with coming up with a revision to the classic Dodge Deora Concept that Hot Wheels introduced in 1968. The idea was to create a new casting by giving the Deora’s design a modern makeover for the new millennium. The #Deora II was born.
The #Deora II was introduced in the 2000 First Editions, and the fact that it stayed true to the original Deora with removable surfboards, excited collectors. Noticeably absent, was the classic spectraflame paint and redline wheels. These were signature items that Hot Wheels did not have production-ready solutions for at the time, and certainly weren’t going to reproduce in the mainline.
It didn’t take long before Mattel’s plan for the #Deora II started to reveal itself. The casting was chosen to represent the Hot Wheels brand in 2000 at the annual Toy Fair event, with an extremely limited premium release with special paint and wheels. The Deora II was coming into its own, but the collector following wasn’t the anticipated demographic the design & marketing teams had hoped for.
Some nostalgic collectors loved the modern refresh of the design with the classic curvature that was prevalent in automotive design during the late ’90s. Others hated it, with stark comparisons to the rear-end of the Ford Taurus station wagon at the time. The mixed reviews of the casting were certainly not what the brand team had envisioned by introducing a sequel to the long revered Deora casting. Still, the team remained persistent, avoiding any plans to discontinue the new face of the brand.
Said plans turned out to be much larger than any collector could have imagined. The #Deora II was used across multiple lines in 2002 and 2003 — all while Mattel secretly concocted a plan to reveal a real-life, 1:1 scale, driveable vehicle. More on that in a second.
In 2002, the Deora II was chosen as one of the first vehicles to be released on HotWheelsCollectors.com through the inaugural year of the Red Line Club. Plans to bring back spectraflame paint and redlines — later referred to as Neo-Classic Redlines — had not materialized fully. The HWC Series 1 Deora II ended up receiving a faux “spectraflame” paint job (achieved by the VUM process), and the trendiest Real Riders at the time: the Deep-Dish Real Riders. For every bit as cool as it was to have a favorite casting of mine in the first year of the RLC on HWC, the cool factor grew exponentially in 2003.
The Deora II was once again chosen to represent the brand at Toy Fair in a year that celebrated the 35th anniversary of Hot Wheels. As part of the festivities, Mattel unveiled a new line of Hot Wheels through this release: Highway 35 World Race. New fusion graphics and co-mold wheels were introduced and the #Deora II was at the forefront of it all. How you ask??
Tied to this line was the first full-length movie about Hot Wheels and the star, Vert Wheeler, drove the Deora II throughout the movie as part of a mysterious race the day he turned 16. The movie may have been animated by the way of some clunking early 2000’s computer-based animation, but the vehicles displayed some pretty cool features as part of the flick’s action scenes.
Two years later, the brand tried to launch a similar concept through The AcceleRacers by adding in 36 all-new castings and a card game to the mix, but it was perceived to be a failure by collectors as they had no interest in collecting a line of 100% fantasy cars that bared little resemblance to real-life vehicles.
Epic failure? Not so much. It turns out, many kids at the time grew up watching these movies — and continue to, thanks to YouTube — and now possess enough buying power to drive up prices on the entire AcceleRacers line once deemed to be a flop by the Hot Wheels faithful.
How does this tie into the Deora II? Well, halfway through the first AcceleRacers movie, Ignition — the followup to Highway 35 World Race — Vert Wheeler drives his new TEKU-liveried Deora II out of a closing portal and it is subsequently chopped in half, making way for Vert to drive the Power Rage — thus ending the Deora II and its short-lived film career. To this day, fans of the films have been clamoring for Hot Wheels to release that TEKU Deora II in diecast form. Hot Wheels has yet to oblige.
That wasn’t the only on-screen performance the Deora II had. Remember that 1:1 scale Deora II that I alluded to earlier? A behind-the-scenes look at the build of the custom, 1-off vehicle was shown via the show Rides where car legend, Chip Foose, had a hand in the creation.
Having a Hot Wheels diecast vehicle in your hand is one thing. Watching it race on screen via movies and video games is certainly next level. Seeing the 1:1 build allows you to experience Hot Wheels at another scale — literally!
The 1:1 Deora II was unveiled during the “Grandstand Event” at the Petersen Automotive Museum during the Hot Wheels 35th Anniversary year of 2003 — bringing Hot Wheels to life for a number of folks. Seeing celebrity, and fellow car enthusiast, Jay Leno drive the vehicle down the orange carpet was something to behold. It was a pivotal moment in the brand’s history as the event brought Hot Wheels all kinds of attention in the automotive world, as the Deora II was only the second full-size Hot Wheels vehicle at the time. There had to have been internal discussions about what that event accomplished while planning the current strategy behind Hot Wheels Legends Tour.
For many people, this was the first time they had experienced the Deora II, and walking away with an extremely limited version (600 pieces) of the real car must have been super cool! Many of the souvenir Deora IIs from the event were sold in the hundreds of dollars and it took me a year or so of searching to find one at a price I could stomach for my collection. It would take several more years to finally score the elusive “press kit” version in chrome.
To see the Deora II on-screen was one thing, but as most of you know, to see your favorite car in-person is another. So, shortly after moving to Phoenix in 2007, I heard the 1:1 Deora II was making an appearance at a car show. Being a fan of the casting, I knew I had to attend. I made the trip across town, paid the entry fee, and took the horribly cheesy picture on the left. Years later, Hot Wheels would introduce the aforementioned Legends Tour and the Deora II would be back in town. Once again, I had to greet this Hot Wheels celebrity, and make sure that Mattel was taking care of her. You know, for when they decide to relinquish ownership of the vehicle. 😉 Nerd alert!
If you watched that episode of Rides, you’d know that the 1:1 Deora II was designed from the toy. What you may not know is that the 100% Hot Wheels version of the Deora II was designed based on the 1:1 vehicle in 2003 and comes complete with opening tonneau cover. Sadly, it would be the only time this high-detailed, several-piece tooling of the casting would be released.
Displaced by another HW Original
To say that the #Deora II wasn’t a Hot Wheels icon during the early 2000s would be crazy — its stardom was simply short-lived. Almost half of the casting’s releases came in the first 4 years (2000-2003) as over the next 17 years (2004-Present), the casting would be relegated to basic use as only the convention release in 2005 could be considered premium. There were some decent releases, but none had the significance of those from the first four years.
What happened? Two words: Bone Shaker. With the Bone Shaker becoming an instant favorite in 2006, the Deora II seemed to fall off all marketing and promotional brand items by 2007 — in favor of the Bone Shaker. In addition to that, the Bone Shaker was slotted into the premium lines as a “HW original” or fantasy design, a place the Deora II sat just a few years earlier.
In the eyes of collectors, many dismiss the Deora II as (what I would now consider to be) a classic casting. I mean, there is a whole generation that grew up with the Deora II in their cartoons, and have played with the Hot Wheels car as kids. The 1:1 currently travels with the Hot Wheels Legends Tour alongside other Hot Wheels favorites in the Twin Mill and Bone Shaker.
Could the exposure through the Legends Tour rejuvenate interest in the Deora II?
For the first time, the #Deora II was a Treasure Hunt in 2021. The release wears that all-too-familiar paint scheme the 1:1 has. For fans, finding it hasn’t been easy however. Its Treasure Hunt status means that it was produced in slightly more limited quantities than your average mainline, and thus far, they haven’t lasted long on the pegs. It’s a happy medium for this collector as it is good to see collectors chasing the casting, talking about it once again, but I would have loved to see this one produced in higher quantities for fans. Without premium releases, or even a super treasure hunt release, the casting still needs some help to get back to being at the forefront of collectors’ minds.
As it stands today, the #Deora II following is certainly more of a cult-following. Whenever I post something about the casting, I seemingly get a handful of responses every time from different fans of the casting. Messages will often state how they’ve collected the casting, they were fans of it in HWY35/AcceleRacers, and/or they love seeing the 1:1 on the Legends Tour. All are seemingly touched by the design that allows them to see themselves pulling up at the beach — ready to surf — in a one-off ride, no matter where they live or if they’ve ever surfed. The Deora II is a legend.
Categories: Collection Reflection