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The best driver at Metro City High, Jack “Rabbit” Wheeler was the son of former racing champ Mike Wheeler.
Mike, who had retired after an accident, was worried about his son’s enthusiasm for the hobby. But Jack was unstoppable, a hot wheelin’ hot dog whose love of cars was matched only by his love for his girlfriend, Janet Martin.
Joining Jack and Janet in the “Hot Wheels” club were apprentice mechanic Mickey Barnes, Mickey’s tomboy love interest Ardeth, Mike Wheeler’s Motors mechanic Tank Mallory, and Kip, the son of an African ambassador.
The older Doc Warren was an honorary member, a veteran mechanic who acted as a mentor and made sure the kids were always conscientious drivers.
When not racing, the kids hung out at Mother’s soda shop, owned by Mother O’Hara.
The Hot Wheels club was defined by their concern for safety in their driving, which is why the renegade Dexter Carter had been kicked out of the club for recklessness.
Together with the equally careless Stuff Haley, Dexter formed a rival club, Dexter’s Devils, which served as a contrast for the good Hot Wheels kids.
But the real story of the show took place behind the scenes.
Both the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) came down hard on the toy-inspired series, demanding that the 57-second opening and other references to the Mattel toy car line be counted as commercial time.
Such a condemnation of a cartoon as a thirty-minute commercial foreshadowed the wave of cartoon-commercial tie-ins that would dominate the 1980s when FCC regulations became a bit more lenient.