Hot Wheels™ popularity and sales from their inaugural year went far beyond Mattel's expectations. Hot Wheels™ actually sold more that 10 times Mattel's first year's projection. (Nobody has the exact production numbers. Mattel will not give access to this data so we have to take their word on this). In a single year, Mattel's Hot Wheels™ became the most popular purchased die-cast cars on the globe. Sales of Lesney's top-selling Matchbox cars plummeted to a distant second to Hot Wheels™, and in order to compete, Lesney changed the regular wheel of their Matchbox cars to a new "Superfast" design.

According to the Mattel folks who were there in '68, most of the cool little details (open-hood-scoop Custom Mustangs, silver-tipped injectors on the Custom Fleetside, painted center grilles on early Custom Cougars) were scrubbed because of the bean counters. Mattel underestimated the popularity of these cars so the focus was to cut down on detail and speed up production. Most of the very first '68s had some small extra detail that met its demise because of this.

In 1969 the Hot Wheels™ production line expanded by 24 new castings. The total Hot Wheels™ line-up now had 40 cars in the collection. Several new custom cars were produced, as well as eight new Grand Prix Series Indy-type race cars. These Grand Prix Series cars had their own distinctive magnificent packaging with a Grand Prix Brabham-Repco F1 graphic on the packaging, and a sheet of decal stickers were included with each car for your own personal customizing of the Grand Prix cars.

Running through the twin-wheeled SuperCharger, an accelerator device, was a problem for the open-wheeled Indy Cars. The engineers, designers and staff decided to do something about this. They created sets of plastic "gas tank" side pods for the Indy cars that would snap on to the car bodies. These strap-on tanks were made in prototype form but were never produced. There were around 100 of the tanks produced for the Indy Eagle, Brabham Repco, Shelby Turbine, and Lotus Turbine.

There was also a collection of six European cars added to the 1969 venue. These were the 6274 Volkswagen Beach Bomb, 6275 Mercedes 280SL, 6276 Rolls Royce Silver Shadow, and 6277 Maserati Mistral, all designed by Ira Gilford. The popular Custom Volkswagen of 1968 was also made part of the European car collection.

Another collection of cars began in 1969 and was called the Show and Go Cars. The collection consisted of cars that were produced from 1968 - 1970. These are the following:

In 1969 the Ford J-Car from the 1968 Hot Wheels™ line-up was unofficially included as a Grand Prix series car. This car was advertised in the 1970 Hot Wheels™ catalogue as being part of the Grand Prix series; however, the common blister packaging revealed otherwise. In 1970 two other castings were added to this series. These were the Porsche 917 and Ferrari 312P.

Three additional Customs were added in '69: the 6266 Custom Continental, 6267 Custom AMX, and 6268 Custom Charger.

No Continentals have been seen in brown, and the toughest standard color is by far olive. Yellow is the most common color for this casting. Almost all the yellow cars have capped wheels, which to me indicates yellow was a late run. Red and orange Lincolns, as well as the pink, didn't have painted lights, indicating the same thing. Warmer tones for 1970?

The Continental usually has a white interior. Dark interior cars (dark brown, not black) bring $200-$400. Although Danny Overby has an unpainted prototype with a dark interior, these cars were probably an early run, but not pre-productions or prototypes, dark interiors having been verified in blue, green, yellow, lime-gold, red, orange, purple, and rose cars, green being the most common with dark interior.

The Custom Charger came in every color, most commonly blue, gold, green, lime, and red. It is extremely difficult to find one in Brown... almost as hard as two known pre-productions in Enamel Orange (Mike Strauss collection) and Silver/Grey (Bob Rosas collection).

Some side notes about Chargers: cap style wheels are very rare and have been reported only on 4 red cars and 1 green car. A dark interior purple car sold in 1998 for $2,500. And an error: approximately 10 hot pink Chargers and one blue car made it through and were retailed without having the rivets stamped.

1969 is also the first year that Hot Wheels™ included a sheet of paper decals for customizing various models of their cars. These decals had various racing logos, numbers, and other colorful icon graphics. Ira Gilford, the Hot Wheels™ designer who came onboard the latter half of 1967, designed the entire 1969 line and was responsible for the creation of the Grand Prix series. His own creations for the Hot Wheels™ line are the 6259 Turbofire, 6260 Torero, 6261 Splittin Image, and the famous 6258 Twinmill.

First conceived in 1968 by Hot Wheels™ Designer Ira Gilford, this radical twin-motored concept car quickly became the holy grail of the late 60's die-cast cars from Mattel Toys. Recognized as the first internally designed full custom Hot Wheels™ car, it still embodies the essence of the Hot Wheels™ culture. Most prominent in the design are the twin, blown, big block motors. However, Gilford states that the design really started from the rear of the vehicle. "I wanted a design with a fully exposed rear so when it was viewed from behind it would be nothing but massive tires. The twin motors were almost an afterthought, but they now have become the Twin Mills most recognized feature."

When designing the Hot Wheels castings he took into careful consideration the performance aspect of the car on the Hot Wheels™ track. Thus, he designed the car castings with a low sleek look so they would perform smoother on the track and handle the 45- and 90-degree curves. His contributions in the refinement of the overall Hot Wheels™ design are why these cars today have that same sleek look and style.

The cars were once again produced in the US and Hong Kong with minor variations in the castings, although not all models were made in both locations.

Hot Wheels™ celebrated the manufacture of its 25 millionth car on August 26th, 1969, and continued making them at a rate of a million a month.


In 1970 Mattel's Hot Wheels continued to burn up the competition and was as successful as ever. Mattel's marketing department decided to expand the "Hot Wheels™" line by producing other products with the Hot Wheels™ insignia. Items like lunch boxes, sheets, bedspreads, garbage cans, watches, alarm clocks, radios, LP's and even comic books were marketed under the Hot Wheels™ logo.

The Hot Wheels™ line was so popular that a Saturday morning cartoon television show was launched dedicated to these wonderful die-cast cars and the "Hot Wheels™" series was very popular. It was produced by Hanna-Barbera and the TV show ran for two seasons in 1970-71. Twenty-six episodes of the show were produced. Many Hot Wheels™ cars were promoted in this weekly series, including such vintage cars as The Demon, Sand Crab, The Hood, Jack "Rabbit" Special, The Paddy Wagon and many others in the Hot Wheels™ line-up. Each show typically climaxed in a wild race in which the Hot Wheels™ won. To offset any bad influences that the wild racing may have had on the young viewers, each show ended with educational driving tips.

Mattel and producer Ken Snyder had earlier teamed up on The Funny Company series. Because of it's close connection with Mattel's line of toy cars, the Federal Communications Commission demanded that the opening to the Hot Wheels™ cartoon, along with any references in the cartoon to the Hot Wheels™ title and any mention of the makes of cars, all be counted as commercial time. The FCC was, in effect, ruling that the whole cartoon show was a commercial for the Hot Wheels™ toy cars and not an entertainment program. This led ABC to cancel the popular series after only two years on the air. The FCC ruling remained in effect until 1983, when a new lineup in the FCC ended the restrictions.

In 1970 the Hot Wheels™ line-up expanded by 37 new castings making the total number of Hot Wheels™ in the collection now 77. Actually 35 new casting were produced and The Skyshow Deora and Skyshow Fleetside recasting made the number 37. This was the first year Mattel produced a car model casting exclusively sold in a set. They outdid themselves by including one of these two exclusive cars in the Sky Show Set. The Flying Circus Set in 1971 contained only the Skyshow Fleetside. The Deora and the Custom Fleetside cars were first produced in 1968 and for this set had a plastic bed modification, designed by Howard Rees, created to hold a ramp and a launchable plastic plane.

The car model numbers are each 6436. Strange how these two very different model castings commanded the same model number. This model production number 6436 was given to the SkyShow Set and not necessarily to the cars. Each Sky Show set included one of the cars and six planes and the orange track. Please note, Mattel displays many more of these number inconsistencies later on in their Hot Wheels line.

Today these two cars from this set command a very high premium. The Skyshow Deora has a value of $2000 in mint condition on it and none to date have been found to exist in the Skyshow set unopened. While Tomart's says it is a $2,200-2,500 car, the market has been soft on them and most seem to have sold in the $800-1,400 range. Of course, almost all of those have been aqua, with few of the tougher purple being sold around here that I have seen. If one Skyshow Deora is located in an unopened box it could possibly command a premium value of $5000. The Skyshow Fleetside has a value of $400 mint and $700 if it is packaged in the Skyshow set or the Flying Circus set.

Mattel also featured two new car series that were created, developed and designed by "the Hot Wheels genius" Ira Gilford. These were the Heavyweights and the Spoilers. These two new series proved to be very popular and a resounding success.

The "Heavyweights" were futuristic castings of large trucks with a wraparound windshield and some of these even contained a two-part cab and trailer combination. The Heavyweight cabs featured a unique red-lined, split wheel that snapped onto an existing wheel thus giving these cabs double wheels. These wheels were specifically designed for the Heavyweight series with only one exception, the Hairy Hauler which, by all indications of the model design casting, should have also been a Heavyweight. This series was issued in three different blister card packages, which featured respectively a Cement Mixer, a Fire Engine and a Tow Truck. The Heavyweights consisted of six cars: 6450 Tow Truck, 6451 Ambulance, 6452 Cement Mixer, 6453 Dump Truck, 6454 Fire Engine, and 6455 Moving Van. The Heavyweights were made from 1970 - 1972. Today they are highly sought after and have a high value.

The other series introduced in 1970 was called The Spoilers. They were versions of earlier castings used in 1968 such as the Custom Cougar, Custom T-Bird, Custom Camaro, Custom Barracuda, Custom Firebird and the Custom Mustang, customized and reproportioned by Ira Gilford. The Spoilers had large exposed engines and front and rear spoilers with high rake tires in the back and smaller tires in the front. These were the ultimate coolest souped-up muscle cars ever made. They also had their own blister card packaging with a picture of the very hard to find Spectraflame "Boss Hoss" Mustang. The Spoilers were made in 1970 and 1971. Along with the Boss Hoss, they were called the 6405 Nitty Gritty Kitty, 6407 TNT Bird, 6408 Heavy Chevy, 6412 Light my Firebird, and the 6411 King 'Kuda. Black roofs have been seen on every color car except for the Lime, Pink, and Gold prototypes. The availability of a King 'Kuda with a black roof would be somewhere around 1:15 or 1:20. Most of the difficulty is that the black-roofed version is quite popular, and they end up in collections and simply do not leave. Orange is probably the toughest King 'Kuda color and only one is known with the black roof (Bob Case's site).

The Spoilers, and the Customs series cars they were modeled on, have some design controversy. None of the US Customs from 1968 have doorlines, and the only Hong Kong Custom from 1968 with doorlines is the Camaro. It is widely believed the Camaro was the first tool that was built, and lots of experimentation was going on with that casting.

Now think about the doorline Custom Firebirds. They are found in more than half a dozen colors. Since the Firebirds were run in red and blue originally, you would expect to see the doorline versions mostly in red and blue if they were early variations. But that is not the case.

Mattel had a mission to include certain details in the castings (like side exhaust and moving parts). Doorlines may have been an initial consideration for detail. They were cut into the left and right slides for the HK Camaro, but the casting may have appeared too choppy with the lines. The smooth sides of the cars with no doorlines arguably show off the paint better, and that spectraflame paint effect was getting the cars tons of attention in focus groups. Maybe the kids didn't even notice the doorlines. A decision may have been made to not pursue the doorlines on the rest of the Customs. Less detail, less cost, and possibly better appeal.

But in 1969 Topper hit the scene with cars that not only had similar paint jobs (Johnny Lightning) but had opening doors! Mattel probably realized that re-tooling for competition was not going to fit into their existing cost model for the cars.

Meanwhile, the Spoiler series, based on the Customs, was being designed. The designers knew the cars would lose their only moving part (the hoods) so they considered adding more detail to the bodies. The doorline concept was again approached. The lines added a bit of interest, and to produce them, all it took was a series of small cuts into the existing left and right slides.

During this modification period, the original US molds were altered to eventually become the Spoilers, which were ultimately produced in Hong Kong. The HK tools were in HK, while the US tools were right at hand for the Mattel folks to tinker with. The thing to keep in mind here is that after the US tools were modified, there were no more US Customs produced, because those tools were long gone... (Kind of like the rear loading beach bomb becoming the side loader- modified and gone forever).

Quite possibly, during the tool modification phase, the slides were removed and the doorlines added and then the tools reassembled. This would be done to prove the concept of how the doorlines would look in profile view on the real cars. Without doing all the additional tooling (on the engine compartment) the molds were run and produced a small number of pieces. Since those tools would never be used again for US Customs, any outstanding orders for the Customs would need to be filled using the slightly modified tools.

Thus, there was a moderately short run of doorline T-birds and Firebirds. The design actually got simpler with the loss of the moving hood. The inexpensive doorlines were just there in an attempt to offset the loss. Very speculative, but possible...

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