Another pink #RLC Exclusive is about to drop on HotWheelsCollectors.com — look for it in June! A special thank you to Mattel for sending this one over early. The Blown Delivery will undoubtedly be added to the RLC Exclusive “Pink Party” Vehicles list — heck, I did it below — and with that, newer collectors will be asking the slew of questions that normally get asked every time one drops: Why are they called “party cars”? Can you still get these at the conventions? Will it be sold online? What are so special about these?
Collectors that have been around a while know better than to look to Mattel & Hot Wheels as a model of consistency — certainly ones that have tried to build a database of their collection. Names get reused, series and lines are interchangeable at times, and items like wheel names are often left to the collectors to figure out. Mattel is in the business of selling toys, not databasing their product, so it is up to us collectors. The chaos causes us to form lists and databases to categorize for our own sanity.
First Generation (2003)
That brings me to RLC “party cars”. Back in 2003, in conjunction with the 35th anniversary of the brand and the early success of the Red Line Club, the Hot Wheels team decided to throw the inaugural RLC Party to thank collectors. They chose a Friday night during the convention, had drinks and cookies, and gave away a FREE HWC/RLC vehicle along with thousands of dollars in Hot Wheels product! There was no long-term strategy. There was no knowing that this would become a bi-annual thing. The HWC team selected the #’70s Van since Brian Fitzgerald (marketing for HWC/RLC) had recreated the nostalgic flame deco on the Flying Customs release the year before, and recolored this one in spectraflame black. Yes, you read that correctly…. the first “pink party car” wasn’t even pink!
Second Generation (2005 to 2012)
The night must have set off the idea to make these RLC parties a bi-annual event at every Nationals and Convention going forward. 18 months after the inaugural RLC party — the typical length of time it takes for a Hot Wheels idea to be delivered to collectors — the RLC party was back at the 2005 Nationals event in Chicago. I was there! I remember the excitement while waiting for the doors to open as everyone in line speculated what the car would be for the event. The car turned out to be a spectraflame pink Bye-Focal with the same graphics as the HWC Series 2 release. This would continue the trend of releasing a party vehicle with a previous HWC deco, and would be the first of many spectraflame pink vehicles to come!
The idea behind releasing the spectraflame pink party cars was to celebrate the fact that spectraflame pink redlines were some of the rarest (and most valuable) cars around. I’m sure you’ve heard the whole, “they made pink cars for girls and therefore didn’t make a lot of them because Hot Wheels were intended for boys” — someone always mentions it in every Hot Wheels documentary. Since RLC party cars were limited to the 1,000 or so people in attendance, these were in fact some of the lowest quantity Hot Wheels cars out there. It is believed the ones from this era were produced in the 1,200 to 1,500 range. Leftovers were ultimately sold for $10 in very limited quantities via Virtual Vending Machine pulls on HWC, and the sales never seemed to go as planned. By the end of this era, the RLC party cars at the event would go from free to $10 each.
At the Collectors Convention in 2008, collectors at the event had long speculated which prior HWC release would be resurrected in spectraflame pink. There was a thread on the RLC forums for months prior where collectors had reasonable logic to combine with their speculative guesses. As the doors opened, all the guessing was all for naught as the Funny Money had been retooled for HWC/RLC use, ending the precedent that every party vehicle had to of been a prior HWC/RLC release. It was, however, the only time during this generation of RLC party vehicles that it happened, but this new precedent would be something we would see with the next gen RLC party vehicles.
Third Generation (2013 to 2016)
The third generation of RLC party vehicles coincided with the “Mirrorized Era” — where all HWC/RLC cars were plated with a mirrorized ZAMAC coating prior to the spectraflame coat being applied. This was done in contrast to the “Hand-Polished (HP) Chrome” which encapsulated this era. An “orange-peel” effect in the paint, quality issues, and crazy 2-year backorders ultimately doomed this era ultra-premium Hot Wheels, but the ultra-bright paint colors left collectors with some memorable releases.
The RLC party vehicles produced in this era were the Backwoods Bomb, ’70 Dodge Power Wagon, Custom ’38 Ford COE, Noodlist, ’69 Dodge Charger Funny Car, Baja Bruiser, and Custom Mustang. Three of the seven wore #Real Riders — something that hadn’t happened prior — bucking the neo-classics trend.
Fourth Generation (2016)
One car made up this generation: the Datsun 240Z. Coming out of the mirrorized era, 2016 was a transition year. We saw “CHINA” back on the chassis of this RLC party vehicle as ultra-premium production had shifted to a new plant. This new plant in China could achieve the HP Chrome look the RLC was founded on.
The #Datsun 240Z ushered in a new era but ended another putting it on an island as far as RLC party vehicles are concerned. It signaled a return to HP Chrome, but also marked the end of RLC party releases coming in plastic baggies with header cards AND it would be the last party car to come in a traditional spectraflame pink, BUT it would wear a new “pink with white graphics and a thin red line” deco scheme designed by Hot Wheels graphic designer, Steve Vandervate. It also marked the first time a Japanese vehicle had been chosen to wear the coveted spectraflame pink at the event.
Fifth Generation (2017 to present)
The fifth — also known as the “carded” — generation began with the introduction of spectraflame “party” pink, and the releases now coming on a standard HWC/RLC blister card. Gone was the ability to have every party car in a baggie, but suffice to say, these displayed better when not opened. Spectraflame Party Pink consists of a spectraflame pink basecoat with hints of red and orange in it depending on how the light hits it, and it was developed to be used exclusively on RLC party vehicles — hence the name. We have also seen the quantity increase mirroring the demand for other RLC releases.
The last RLC Party was at the collector’s convention in 2018 — and the event’s car, the #’66 TV Series Batmobile was sold in the souvenir room that morning. I still remember it like it was yesterday as I was on stage calling out raffle numbers and helping Brendon Vetuskey show off some live sneak peeks of some upcoming RLC releases. Collectors never received an answer as to why the RLC party ceased to exist, but I for one would like to see it come back with some major modifications of course.
In 2020, amid a pandemic year of no Nationals or Convention, the Volkswagen T1 Rockster had been slated to be released at the Nationals event. The cars were shipped to Charlotte but sat there for months before Collectors Events Unlimited (CEU) could get them back to California to send out to ticket-holders. Then, with the collector’s convention being canceled in the fall of that year, the decision was made to sell these exclusively on HotWheelsCollectors.com through the RLC. As of 2021, the RLC “party” cars are no longer associated with a party or even the convention events. Yet us collectors — creatures of habit — still refer to these as pink “RLC party” cars. In reality, these should be #RLC Exclusives with spectraflame party pink paint, but that is a mouthful to say so…. “RLC Party Cars” it is. 🙂
Categories: Collection Reflection