In 1971 Hot Wheels were still the hottest die-cast cars around. Since sales were so impressive, 35 new castings were created for the 1971 Hot Wheels line-up. There were now 112 cars in the Hot Wheels collection to choose from. There were new Spoilers, Heavyweights, Street Rods, famous funnies, fast fuelers, souped-up stockers, experimental machines, California customs, Europe's finest imports, one-of-a-kind SHOW & GO™ specials, cool customs, classic legends, Mongoose and Snake cars and even dragsters. These cars were created by the Hot Wheels design team. The creators and designers in 1971 Hot Wheels team line-up were Ira Gilford, Howard Rees, Larry Wood, Paul Tam, and Bob Lovejoy. These five designers who contributed their creations in 1971 have made some of the most memorable and brilliant Hot Wheels castings in Hot Wheels history. In 1971 we also see the splendid ingenuity of Larry Wood's creations and designs brought into the Hot Wheels line. His contributions in 1971 were the following 16 cars:

  • 5178 Bugeye
  • 6006 Special Delivery
  • 6019 Team Trailer
  • 6020 Snorkel
  • 6175 Hood
  • 6177 T-4-2
  • 6179 Jet Threat
  • 6183 Pit Crew Car
  • 6185 Mutt Mobile
  • 6187 Bye Focal
  • 6188 Strip Teaser
  • 6192 Waste Wagon
  • 6194 Racer Rig
  • 6461 Grass Hopper
  • 6467 Olds 442
  • 6472 Classic Cord

The Heavyweights series started in 1970 proved to be so popular that another seven cars castings were added to the 1971 line. Larry Wood collaborated with Ira Gilford in developing the 1971 Heavyweight series. The only Heavyweight Ira didn't create was the S'Cool Bus. This casting was created by the famous model kit builder and designer Tom Daniels. The S'Cool Bus in 1971 was credited as being the heaviest Hot Wheels™ ever produced. This record has been surpassed since. Tom Daniels contributed many other of his famous car creations in later years as well. Mattel got free license for Tom's work by purchasing Monogram, the model-kit company for which he worked. Adding the Monogram company to Mattel's stable of toys proved to be another profitable venture. Later on, the Mattel Hot Wheels™ line became so popular and profitable that they were able to purchase many of their die-cast competitors, including Matchbox and Dinky/Corgi.

Another series, "The Spoilers", was so popular that three new castings were added to that line. The 6418 Sugar Caddy casting is a modified Custom Eldorado casting. White interiors are certainly more desirable, but not very rare with certain colors. Blue cars will often have white interiors, as will red, brown, olive, and aqua. The white interior is not as commonly found in other colors. However, it is hard to say whether the rarity of white interiors is a reflection of production numbers or collectors' tastes.

The 6471 Evil Weevil casting uses a stretched Custom Volkswagen chassis. This casting was created and designed by Paul Tam. This all-metal chassis has two exposed metal engines front and rear and includes sunroof. This car was only produced in Hong Kong and came in a variety of Spectraflame colours. It's a favorite amongst Volkswagen collectors. Almost all seem to be blue, but some are red, green, or aqua. Magenta and purple examples are hard to find.

The 6406 Boss Hoss casting, a modified Custom Mustang chassis, had been released the prior year in 1970 as casting number 6499 with a chrome finish, also known as "The Boss Hoss Silver Special". It was only available in the Collectors Club Kit and had not been released in the blister packaging. In 1971 it became available in a wide variety of Spectraflame colors. The Spoilers are all very spectacular American car castings and to this day are quite desirable by Hot Wheels collectors.

The Classic cars series was continued, and while officially recognized as a series in the Hot Wheels™ annual catalogues from 1968 - 1971, the cars never got their own distinctive blister packaging.

The Muscle cars line was also expanded in 1971. The two muscle car creations were the experimental American Motors AMX2 and the General Motors "Olds 442". The 442 proved to be the most popular selling car that year, but the casting was produced in limited quantity in 1971 before its production was halted. It is believed that there were tooling problems and the bodies required a lot of costly hand deburring. Among these original versions, magenta is the most common color, followed by yellow. Yellow 442s sold in 2001 for $400-$700. In 1973, the car was re-issued with a non-opening hood. Contrary to rumor, there was no licensing problem with Oldsmobile in the use of the casting. Mattel went on to make many GM cars and at that time only required a token approval, sometimes as little as an informal memo.

Because of the popularity of the Hot Wheels™-sponsored Mongoose and Snake funny cars, Mattel decided to create another two cars for the Hot Wheels™ line in 1971. These were titled Mongoose II and Snake II and had new part numbers, even though they continued to use the original Mongoose and Snake molds. They came in their own distinctive blister packaging and, to reflect the actual race cars campaigned in 1971, appeared in new colors with redesigned decals and stickers to customize the cars.

Another first for Hot Wheels in 1971 was the inclusion of the first two dragsters casting ever produced. These were the Tom McEwen Mongoose I and the Don Prudhomme Snake I. These were sold together (another first for Hot Wheels™) in their own distinctive blister packaging. The packaging was named Mongoose & Snake Dragster Pak. New wheels were used when creating these dragsters. The premier of the blackwall wheel was used on the rear of the dragsters and the front wheel was the introductory plastic lace wheel.

1971 marked the last year Hot Wheels™ were produced in the United States. Following the resolution of a worker’s strike in the Far East that cut Mattel off from its suppliers there, Hong Kong became the sole site of Hot Wheels™ production until 1982.

A new, improved design of the wheels and axles contributed to make Hot Wheels™ the fastest metal cars in the world once again. Johnny Lightning had briefly taken this title away from Hot Wheels™ in 1970. Hot Wheels™ countered in late 1970 by changing the structure of their wheels by using the type B red-stripe tires split wheel (usually referred to as "snap-on" or "cap-style" wheels). This outside wheel clipped onto the adjoining back part of the wheel. There was less friction on the wheel with this new design. Also the axles used slightly thinner metal gauge and the bushings were eliminated altogether. Hot Wheels™ now had four separate axles that improved suspension. The Hot Wheels designers also added more weight to the new Hot Wheels™ castings, which improved their handling of the curves, gave the cars more velocity and allowed the cars to travel farther down the Hot Wheels™ track. This change in wheel and axle design was also included in the earlier castings that were still in production.

In December of 1971, Hot Wheels™' main competitor, Johnny Lightning, went out of business. Despite Johnny Lightning's brief success in 1970, Topper ceased operations when the public company ran into financial difficulties. Twenty years later, in 1992, the Michigan-based Playing Mantis company acquired the rights to the Johnny Lightning name, and released a line of new JL cars. They were all reproductions of original JL cars, since the original tooling is long gone. The first repro series was the Commemoratives, released in early 1994. It included cars such as the Movin' Van, the El Camino Surfer, the Bug Bomb, etc. Selling for $2 to $3 in stores like Wal-Mart, Toys R' Us, etc., the line proved successful enough that Playing Mantis released 2 more lines, "Muscle Cars USA", and "Dragsters USA". Since then, Playing Mantis and its Johnny Lightning cars have become a serious competitor to Hot Wheels™, if not in market share, at least in quality and desireability.

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