The Hot Wheels #Elite 64 line has just kicked off here at the start of the #2023 Hot Wheels year. The first car is one of the most popular choices for a #Drift Car in the #’96 Toyota Chaser JZX100. Before we get to the car itself, let’s take a moment to understand the Elite 64 line and what will be coming our way.
The #Elite 64 line is essentially the resurrection of the #100% Hot Wheels line which ended in 2008 and all tools were destroyed not long after. Now, firmly in the “Instagram-age” of Hot Wheels collecting — where collectors share their collections by opening up their cars and taking photos of them, oppose to just collecting in package — collectors have begun to realize the many benefits of multi-piece tools. For those that weren’t around (or don’t recall), the 100% Hot Wheels line was a retail line that featured more scale-appropriate Hot Wheels, that had higher piece counts, custom wheels, and retailed for about $8. Collectors on a large scale level would often balk at the price point, opting to largely collect the basic-level vehicles at the time. As Hot Wheels Premium has grown over the last decade — namely with the introduction of #Car Culture — other diecast companies have seen the opportunity to capture a collector market focused more on realism with extremely detailed 1:64 scale models.
The key phrase is “scale models” versus “toys” here. Mattel could no longer bring back the 100% Hot Wheels line to retail because the line doesn’t meet the safety standards of today. There in lies the decision to make the #Elite 64 direct-to-consumer (DTC) via the Mattel Creations (HotWheelsCollectors.com) platform. Another DTC line, HWC’s Red Line Club, had reached unprecedented popularity levels in the last 5 years, so there was an opportunity to finally sell this “not-fit-for-retail” line for the collector, directly to them (us) now.
Perhaps the largest testament as to how far Hot Wheels collectors tastes have changed since the defunct #100% Hot Wheels line is that car chosen to kick off sales for the #Elite 64 line is a #JDM #Drift Car. While the car may be popular in the drift world, the Toyota Chaser was sold exclusively in Japan; but given the success of Hot Wheels #Skylines, there may be a deeper strategy here.
The #’96 Toyota Chaser JZX100 is from the last generation (6th) of the Chaser (X100) model which was produced from 1996 to 2001. Over the course of the Chaser’s lifespan (1977 to 2001), the model went from luxury sedan to sports sedan. The “JZ” in front of the model (X100) indicates the car’s performance engine: Toyota’s JZ engine. What is cool about the Hot Wheels #Elite 64 line is that the back of the blister car gives you various specs on the car. Take for instance the engine spec. This particular ’96 Toyota Chaser JZX100 has a 2.5 litre 1JZ-GTE Turbo I6 engine.
So why is the Toyota Chaser such a great #Drift Car?
Aside for the powerful 1JZ-GTE engine — which is extremely reliable and easy to work on — the rear-wheel drive (RWD) layout, 5-speed manual transmission, limited slip differential (LSD), and long wheel base and all great foundation aspects for a #Drift Car. Upgrades to the suspension and adding some aftermarket coil overs make for a cheap tune that can add 100 HP right off the bat.
So why are all these facts about a toy car (scale model) with no engine important?
Based on what collectors were shown at the convention in October, it appears the #Elite 64 line will be very car culture centric with the next four models consisting of the built-from-scratch Mercedes-Benz 300 SL, Modified ’69 Ford Mustang, LBWK Lamborghini Aventador LP 700-4, and Land Rover Defender 90 Pickup castings. The Hot Wheels Design Team all contributed to this line, crafting multi-piece tools in their area of expertise. The #’96 Toyota Chaser JZX100 is a #Mark Jones Design as Mark has become a jack of all trades given his previous (and current) portfolio of modern Hot Wheels Premium castings.
While I am not sure if the #’96 Toyota Chaser JZX100 was the best casting to showcase the line — as there were some complaints about it being “basic” in appearance — it takes more than a quick glance in the blister to realize the amount of work that went into this design. Ultimately, the car did sell out rather quickly (within several hours), so starting with #2 in the line may have been the right choice — even if it wasn’t intended to be.
Check out the base! You have a separate piece just for the exhaust which penetrates the back of the body giving you one heck of a color break, showcasing the extraordinary aftermarket exhaust. The duck-tail spoiler is another piece that gives form to this rather boxy silhouette, and the negative camber angle of the wheels is truly a remarkable feat — something that has never been done by Hot Wheels before!
As of now, the Hot Wheels #Elite 64 line will feature wheels designed specifically for the casting. Its going to be hell to try and classify them all for database purposes, however, the true benefit is for the scale model crowd as designers aren’t pigeon-holed into designing castings around standardized wheel sizes. Elite 64 will be a fun line to collect and collectors won’t appear to have problems getting their hands on these so long as said collectors are ready on sale day. The #’96 Toyota Chaser JZX100 sold for $20 (plus shipping & tax) so we will see if that is the standard price for this line or if prices will vary like that of the RLC releases based on packaging and casting design. Either way, the line looks to be off to a great start with the first five models — four of which will be released in early 2023 — and should be easily integrated into any Hot Wheels collection!