Collection Update

Collection Update: Hot Wheels BIG-AIR BEL-AIR collection complete with TOY FAIR addition

Adding a #Toy Fair model is often the crowning achievement in any Hot Wheels casting collection. There is typically only one Hot Wheels Toy Fair release per year and, since this is an internal event at Mattel for vendors & employees, these can sell for quite a lot on the open market due to their scarcity. Add in the fact that the Hot Wheels team typically goes all-out on these models — full detail, #Real Riders, etc. — to showcase the brand, and you probably know how desirable these are from a Hot Wheels collector point of view.

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Hot Wheels Big-Air Bel-Air casting collection (family photo, January 2023)

In the fall of 2020, Toy Fair 2021 was cancelled at Mattel due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The car that was produced for the event debuted earlier in the year as a #2020 New Model: #Big-Air Bel-Air. The casting had already seen retail success as collectors took a liking to this #Brendon Vetuskey Designed tri-five Chevy — his latest since the #’55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser had reached super-stardom. This one was going to be hot!

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Hot Wheels Big-Air Bel-Air, a 2021 Toy Fair Exclusive

Toy Fair 2021 didn’t happen, nor did 2022 the following year. These #Toy Fair vehicles were ultimately stashed away somewhere at Mattel, until just last week. This means the design team (including Brendon) just got theirs! Coincidentally, my recent Toy Fair Big-Air Bel-Air eBay purchase came last week as well — capping off what has been a stellar collection thus far.

There are 10 variants of the Hot Wheels #Big-Air Bel-Air: 3 releases in each of 2020, 2021, and 2022 and the aforementioned #Toy Fair model. In each of the 3 years the casting has been in the mainline, one of the 3 releases (each year) has been a store exclusive. The gold colorway in 2020 was a #GameStop Exclusive, while the blue (2021) was a #Kroger Exclusive followed by the #ZAMAC (2022) which of course was a #Walmart Exclusive.

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Hot Wheels Big-Air Bel-Air Store Exclusives: 2020 GameStop (gold), 2021 Kroger (blue), and 2022 Walmart (ZAMAC)

From the name to the ingenuity, the #Big-Air Bel-Air represents so many things that make Hot Wheels vehicles great. The name of this casting could have simply been “’56 Off-Road Chevy Bel-Air” and everything would have been just fine, however, Brendon threw it back to the old school Hot Wheels days when casting names had a little more flavor. With “Big-Air” in front of its Bel-Air namesake, the name lends itself to the fact that this is an excellent track car that is made for some of those patented orange track jumps. Every mainline release of the casting thus far has featured the #Baja 5-Spoke Wheels which are the only off-road Hot Wheels wheels designed to work well on track.

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Hot Wheels Big-Air Bel-Air from the 2022 Chevy Bel Air mini collection: all three colorways: salmon, matte black, and ZAMAC

What further accentuates this casting’s potential legacy is that its built a tad differently than your standard Hot Wheels basic vehicle. Most basic (mainline) vehicles consist of 4 parts: a body, base, window, and an interior piece. When Brendon designed the #Big-Air Bel-Air, he decided to forego the window piece in order to add an additional “interior” piece. By doing this, he created one heck of a color break by giving the exposed shocks, roll cage, light bars, fuel tank, and exhaust their own piece that weaves in and out of the casting’s body — all while differentiating these pieces from the casting’s interior.

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Hot Wheels Big-Air Bel-Air from the 2021 Baja Blazers mini collection: all three colorways: blue, aqua, and red

One of the cool things that makes the #2020 New Models / Rod Squad releases stand out to me, is that Brendon included a few nods to his wife in the graphics. Coco “D” (his wife) is listed on the roof as the “driver” which makes perfect sense as marriage is as much of a team sport as baja racing. The car’s number “718” is also a nod to their marriage as it represents their wedding date (July 18th).

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Hot Wheels Big-Air Bel-Air from the 2020 Rod Squad mini collection (also part of the 2020 New Models): all three colorways: white, gold, and matte steel blue

The Hot Wheels #Big-Air Bel-Air has already been a fun casting to collect. The three colorways per year in the mainline have really jump-started this collection and the #Toy Fair model is the icing on the cake. I look forward to seeing if this casting endures a similar fate as the #’55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser. After having the Toy Fair release in-hand — with full-detail and #Real Riders — you can tell the Big-Air Bel-Air needs to go premium.

QUICK LINK! Complete your BIG-AIR BEL-AIR collection on eBay!

8 replies »

  1. While the concept of an off road Tri-Chevy should be appealing to a wide variety of buyers and collectors, the proportion of the roof is “off” like the original 57 Chevy, the first design 55 Chevy, the 56 Chevy in the premium and mainline, and the second design 57 Chevy. The only accurate casting is the 55 gasser and the 55 Chevy hardtop, 2nd design attributed to Larry Wood. Even the revised 55 Chevy Nomad has problems. For Mattel to have five strike outs from the existing Tri Fives I think is really sloppy workmanship. I know, “What do you expect for a buck?” Well, when Mattel can achieve very close perfection on numerous models, I do expect that when they go to the trouble of designing a new model, it’s not a close approximation of the real thing. I can deal with weird wheels and even weirder tampos, but at least the car should look like the real thing.

    I don’t know if this proportion thing is an issue for other collectors, but it is one of my pet peeves.

    • I can’t speak as to why something was designed a certain way, but I disagree with the “sloppy workmanship” words you used. Knowing Brendon (and Larry too), he puts a painstaking amount of time into all of his designs. If there is something that is not historically accurate — in terms of proportions — its usually because its a basic model design for play first. For instance, the roof posts are generally thicker so the roof doesn’t cave in upon being stepped on. The thickness of the body needs to be adjusted to work on track and also fit the standard wheel sizes. Had this model been designed specifically for premium, it may have looked a little different.

      • Brad, I retract my “sloppy workmanship “ statement as it was a slur on both Larry and Brenden , both of whom I have the highest regard for. They both have, in an artistic sense, produced numerous masterpieces. I should have specified inaccurate design, and I cannot understand how Mr. Vetuskey would allow a Big Air BA get produced which is very inaccurate in the roofline when his gasser is simply one of his and Mattel’s best masterpieces. This and many of Brenden’s designs are simply very highly accurate and playable, too! 🙂
        I believe, however, that Brenden designed the 55 gasser and Larry designed the 2nd model 55 Chevy hardtop, both of which have excellent roofline designs with adequate room for the appropriate tire sizes and appropriate roof post thicknesses. I still see no reason why the Big Air Bel Air could not have the same roofline as the 55 hardtop, which it does in real life, and it should not have to be a premium model to be so designed. I am an older adult collector and have owned both 55 and 57 Bel Airs in 1:1 so I am keenly aware of what they are supposed to look like.

        I respectfully disagree with both Brad and Dave on this matter. I understand the $1-$2 argument, but that is the whole point here. If Mattel can do it for a $1 BA gasser or a $1 55 Chevy, then they can do it for a $1 Big Air Bel Air. The basic body casting is the same whether it’s a $1 basic gasser or a $25 premium gasser. I am perfectly aware premium models get better wheels, tires, detailing, and paint and are for the adult collector. I have been collecting Mattel and other brands for 35+ years. Yes, other brands do get more historically accurate castings and the prices generally reflect that accuracy. Once again, that’s not my beef.

        Brad, if you’re arguing that Big Airs should go premium, then don’t you think the casting accuracy should reflect the increased price regardless of wheels, tires and paint? Take a look at real 56 hardtops, which in real life share the same roof as 55’s and 57’s. The Mattel Big Air’s roof is shorter than a real 56’s roof. Big Airs seem to be derived from the Mattel premium 56, which is also short, (I own one) I have experience in art and design along with owning 3 collector cars besides the aforementioned 55 and 57. It appears that someone signed off on the design because “it was close” and the car slipped through.

        If neither of you believe me then sit down with machinists measuring tools and compare Big Airs with Larry Wood’s 2nd design 55 hardtop. I am comparing apples to apples, $1 models to $1 models. If Mattel can produce utterly fantastic $1 models time after time, but then do sub par on others, I’m bewildered.

        I stand by my contention. I understand both of your arguments but I disagree. I realize that if I don’t like them, I don’t have to buy them. And I won’t. I’m sure Mattel won’t miss my business. I’ll simply buy the good ones!

      • Hey Ted, my point wasn’t to say that you are wrong about the roof line. It was to highlight that there is likely a reason as to why it was designed a certain way. I am not an expert in the tri-five Chevys so any historical inaccuracies go over my head. I just like the Big-Air Bel-Air and would love to see it go premium. You’re right in going with the “collect what you like” mentality, and I fully support that.

      • My beef was never with you or your blog. There are three big reasons why I personally like your blog. 1. You highlight models/castings from days gone by. This educates and encourages younger collectors to seek out neat models which they may have missed in their personal collecting . 2. You give ample space to unlicensed models which are generally viewed as peg warmers by some collectors. 3. You do not cater to niche models or premium models exclusively.
        “Squeaky wheels” , besides being annoying, sometimes get the grease. Constructive criticism hopefully will result in a better product. Consumers should have equal rights to demand a higher level of quality in one dollar product as well as in the more expensive premium levels. Mattel has traditionally given great “ bang for the buck”, so to speak. I think consumers have a right to point out when they fall short of their own mark.
        I am a professional musician along with being a lifelong music educator. In either case if what the people heard was/is not up to par, I heard about it, plenty. Fortunately that did not happen often, because of my own personal high standard. It’s the same with your blog, Brad. It’s a high level, high quality production. Exactly because you cater to mainline buyers is why I brought my complaint to you, figuring you might have some pull with Mattel’s higher echelons.
        With that said, I am going to shut up and quit beefing over a one dollar toy. I appreciate the time and consideration given here, by you and your faithful readers. May we all find the Super Treasure Hunt of our dreams in the New Year!

    • I would say that if you are looking for a very precise, accurately scaled model, there are brands with that level of accuracy. Bear in mind, this is designed to be a TOY for CHILDREN first and foremost, that just happens to also appeal to the adult collector. Also remember that this is in the $1-2 price range. Only once you get to the Premium lines or the RLC lines are they “For the Adult Collector” but are still supposed to hold that nostalgia from the toys we remember as a kid. Hot Wheels also are not accurately scaled to 1/64, and proportions are purposely exaggerated to work at that scale. Those door and hood gaps would be 3 inches wide scaled up.

  2. Thank you for the heads up. Ive been waiting for this to happen for along time now. And after passing. Several at $550 at the convention. I grabbed one for $400. Super happy. Thank again Brad for the heads up 😀

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