Sales of Hot Wheels™ tapered off in 1971 and there was an overstock of earlier models in retail stores. Because of this new orders diminished for 1971 and Mattel countered by only releasing seven new castings for 1972. To cover up Mattel's losses, Seymour Rosenberg, Mattel's executive vice-president and chief financial officer at that time, falsified the books from 1971 to 1972 by reporting orders as sales, even as the orders were being canceled and shipments were not being made. Some earlier models still in production were reissued with the new 1972 blister packaging.

The total number of cars in the Hot Wheels™ collection was now at 119 different castings. The 1972 line-up of new cars consisted of:

The design team consisting of Larry Wood and Paul Tam created all the models for the 1972 line-up. Larry Wood was appointed head of the Hot Wheels™ design division and he personally created five of the seven new castings. These models were only in production for one year and the minted production numbers were much less than earlier castings. Hence these cars are very difficult to locate and command a higher premium. A white enamel 1973 Mercedes C-111 recently sold for over $3,000, but isn't listed in any price guides.  It is either a prototype or a car that didn't get a "mix code" when it was sprayed.

The new castings in 1972 were only produced in a limited number of spectraflame colours. Mattel moved away from the bright spectraflame colours in order to reduce costs. All the castings for 1972 were in production for one year only and are very rare to find. Mattel continued to expand on the popular Mongoose and Snake series of cars. This year they added two new castings: the Rear Engine Mongoose and the Rear Engine Snake. Each car was sold separately in regular 1972 blister packaging, which had dropped the collector's button to reduce costs. This packaging showed a picture of a Mantis over the blister. Hot Wheels continued to be made only in Hong Kong.


The 1973 Hot Wheels™ line-up consisted of 34 cars. Three castings were new, twenty-one cars were recastings and ten cars were also recastings for Shell gas station promotions. The total number of different castings in the entire Hot Wheels™ line now stood at 122 cars. Only three original castings were produced this year:

Mattel wanted to cut back after 1972 due to slowing sales and rising costs. The decision to do only three new castings for 1973 was partially because of the slow down, but some of the people were moved to work on other toys and there was a big layoff in 1972 which diminished some of the manpower. Using old castings with new paint was very easy and Mattel did it many times. Although it's said they never used the ten new '72 and '73 castings again, but they did use some. The Funny Money tool was reworked by removing the rivets for better tampo printing, and the C-111 was used with minor changes. In an effort to cut costs, the others were not used because they had casting problems, had too many parts or were not readily adaptable for tampo printing. Many of the carry-over cars were cast with the hoods, doors and other parts closed.

The 1973 Hot Wheels™ castings are some of the most difficult cars to locate. One sought-after and expensive redline pieces would be any Superfine Turbine in BP - with pink being the "holy grail" for many a collector, but held by very few (only one I know of). I won't insult anybody with a value guess on it, but I suspect it would be among the top two or three prices for any one casting. This is mainly due to the 1973 cars being in production for only one year. Also, since they weren't selling as well, Mattel decided to cut the production numbers.

Since there was an oil cartel formed in 1973 the cost to produce Hot Wheels™ escalated dramatically. Mattel countered with cost-cutting measures throughout the entire Hot Wheels™ line. In order to reduce the increasing cost of creating Hot Wheels™ the Spectraflame paints were discontinued and rather dull enamel paints were used in their place. In a recent interview, Bob Rosas, a Hot Wheels™ engineer at the time, remembered: "By 1972, the popularity fad for Hot Wheels™ had subsided. From what I was told, sales were down and we needed to cost-reduce the line. The usual approach was to reduce the  number of parts. We went to a new, simpler wheel. But this time we looked at the expense of the Spectraflame finish and compared it to straight enamel colors. Big savings. The Spectraflame finish required that the bodies be almost perfect, no pits or knit lines in the casting. This meant visual rejection of bodies with defects that did not comply. Then the bodies were zinc-plated, again another visual inspection and then the Spectraflame paint was applied, inspected and assembled with the rest of the parts. Whereas the enamel paints were very forgiving, and thick opaque paints would hide casting defects."

Many extras found in the earlier models such as movable parts, windshields, glass roofs or extra parts were removed from the other 21 recastings produced that year, and the expensive wheel and axle technology was changed to save on production costs.

In 1973, Mattel reported a 32 million dollar loss soon after making a false, more optimistic report to Mattel stockholders. Amidst an investigation by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC), Mattel’s stock plummeted as shareholders and investors immediately sold their stock and filed lawsuits against Mattel.

The Fastest Metal Cars in the World! no longer.

1973 also saw a major change in Hot Wheels™ car performance. It was the fast wheels that made the Hot Wheels™ brand so desirable and in 1973 Mattel decided this was no longer important or necessary to sell their brand of die-cast cars. Boy were they ever mistaken! For 1973 Hot Wheels™ no longer rolled very well and their paint appearance was extremely dull. The Hot Wheels™ wheel and axle design was drastically modified to cut escalating production costs. The torsion-bar spring action layout was discontinued. A straight axle was used instead and wheels were permanently attached to the axle with a cold head axle which was visible through the middle of the wheel. This seriously flawed design caused the wheels to have constant friction and resistance against the axle at all times. Also, the axle was no longer held in place to the undercarriage like the previous models. Now the axle moved freely which caused further friction to be produced on and off the Hot Wheels™ track. In essence, Hot Wheels™ were poorly manufactured and sales dropped significantly because of this. Many collectors and consumers stopped purchasing Hot Wheels™ since the performance and colours were so drastically altered. Hot Wheels™ were no longer the fastest die-cast metal cars in the world or the most impressively stylish cars. Lesney's Matchbox Superfast cars captured the fastest cars title in 1973. Too bad the Johnny Lightning company was no longer operational. I'm sure if Topper was existing in 1973 Mattel might not have made these cost-cutting decisions which affected Hot Wheels™' leading-edge technology of their wheels and axles.

There was a new blister package produced for 1973. The fastest die-cast cars in the world slogan was removed from the packaging and in its place was the slogan: Race em! Collect em! There were three Hot Wheels™ depicted on the cover. These were the Superfine Turbine (beautiful casting - horrible enamel colour), the Sweet 16 (beautiful casting - horrible enamel colour) and the Porsche 917. Since I don't own any of these I can't comment on the reverse packaging details. This slogan "Race em! Collect em!" didn't do anything for the Hot Wheels™ collectors and consumers. Needless to say this packaging didn't last long. Many changes took place in 1974 to revive the Hot Wheels™ name.

There was also a Shell Oil Company promotion that year and a series of ten promotional cars in seven different drab enamel colours were produced. These were all recastings of earlier models. Shell picked the cars they wanted from a selection Mattel gave them. Mattel chose the cars that had less parts in them and even cast non-opening hoods, doors and other parts in one piece with the body to save labor and materials, along with the new terrible axle design. These were given away in small plastic bags with a Shell company emblem and the Hot Wheels™ Logo on the cardboard top. Some of these promotional cars have been spotted in production 1973 blister card packaging and are worth quite a bit.

The Shell cars standard pack carton was item number 8242 and contained 16 polybagged cars per carton. Documentation states that each carton would contain at least 10 different cars from the following list:

Each master carton (case) would contain 192 cars. Not that changes couldn't have happened.

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