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Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels entered a crowded die-cast toy car market in 1968, but these scale-model hot rods had an edge. By adding an axle and rotating styrene wheels (the brainchild of Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler), Hot Wheels were the fastest toy cars on the market.

They were also flashier than most of their competitors – brighter paint jobs, fancier models, all geared toward youngsters with a yen for speed and showiness.

At first, there were 16 model cars produced – the original Sweet 16 – 11 of them designed by Harry Bentley Bradley who had been involved in the production of full-sized custom vehicles like the Dodge Deora car and Chevrolet Custom Fleetside pickup truck.

In addition to models of those two vehicles, the Sweet 16 included the Beatnik Bandit; Custom Barracuda; Custom Camaro, Custom Corvette, Custom Cougar, Custom El Dorado; Custom Firebird; Custom Mustang; Custom T-Bird; Custom Volkswagen; Ford J-Car; Hot Heap; Python (aka Cheetah) and Silhouette.

To complement these little speed demons, Mattel also offered one of the most popular accessories in all of toydom: the Hot Wheels track system – A do-it-yourself kit of track sections, connectors, loops, curves, ramps, launchers, speedometers, and much, much more which enabled Hot Wheels fanatics to build elaborate and ever-changing speedways.

Even without the spring-loaded launchers and battery-run supercharger power boosters, the cars could get rolling along those tracks pretty fast with the force of gravity.

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The Hot Wheels line continued to expand with cars rolling off the assembly line at a rate that eventually exceeded Detroit’s big three car manufacturers combined.

The track sets and other playsets became more and more elaborate, incorporating everything from the treacherous intersections of ‘Criss-Cross Crash’ to the erupting leap of ‘Volcano Blowout’.

A merger with Tyco in 1997 brought the Hot Wheels line into electric, slot-car-style racing, while the new X-V Racers line introduced motorised, chargeable cars that sped along without the aid of launchers and power boosters.

After more than 40 years, Hot Wheels remain one of the fastest die-cast cars on the planet, and Hot Wheels cars and track sets can still be found laid out on the bedroom carpet of many a young racing enthusiast.

Like an Erector set for the hyperactive, Hot Wheels tracks have become the building blocks of kiddie car dreams.