Hot Wheels loops

Hall Of Flames: Hot Wheels In The Model Car Hall of Fame

The Model Car Hall of Fame is dedicated to the people and products that make diecast vehicle collecting so special, but no brand has a bigger representation in the MCHOF than Hot Wheels. Someday, when an actual museum is built, there should probably be a strip of orange track that leads to a dedicated Hot Wheels room.

It’s no exaggeration to say that Hot Wheels completely turned an industry upside down and altered the meaning of what a toy car could be. Playing with miniature cars changed from slowly scooting them around by hand to letting them rip down the track at scale speeds that real cars could only dream of. Hot Wheels’ designs were wilder and more colorful than anything seen before. And they ushered in the idea of “collecting” like no one else (It even says “Matching Collector’s Button” right there on the original packages).

hot wheels snake mongoose
Every kid wanted to be either Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen or Don “The Snake” Prudhomme.

Since 2011, the MCHOF awards have added more categories and honors for specific scales, opening up more space to recognize other diecast brands. In the early days, proceedings were dominated by 1/64 cars, and Hot Wheels garnered several accolades for Casting of the Year.

Early awards were like a traditional Hall of Fame, recognizing older models such as the 1940 Woodie (whatever name you choose to call it), the Custom Corvette, and the Custom Camaro. Later classics were honored as well, including the Volkswagen Drag Bus. Last year the award has changed to honor a new casting from the current year and Hot Wheels promptly won the 1/64 Scale category with the Fiat 500D Modificado, which, honestly, would have fit in perfectly as an original Redline. The same could be said for the ’55 Chevy Panel, the 2105 winner.

Hot Wheels Redline
Larry Wood, Otto Kuhni, and Ira Gilford were among those who contributed to the early success of Hot Wheels.

The people behind those designs are well represented in the MCHOF, too. Anyone who has spent any time in the hobby knows the names of Ira Gilford, Howard Rees, Bob Rosas and Larry Wood. All four were vital to the original look and feel of the early Redlines. Hot Wheels simply would not exist without their wild imaginations.

Otto Kuhni is in the Hall, as well. He is only credited with one actual car design, the Custom Otto, but he’s as responsible for the early images of the brand as anyone else. Kuhni was the artist who illustrated the early blister cards, advertisements, carrying cases, and lunchboxes that fueled the imagination of kids around the world. The Custom Otto, by the way, is the blue coupe shown on the very first Redline cards… it wasn’t based on any particular car or any Hot Wheels car, but was eventually commemorated in diecast form in his honor.

jimmy Boxman Chavez
Many diecast customizers, such as Jimmy “Boxman” Chavez, have worked for Hot Wheels over the years.

Several other inductees have worked at Mattel in other capacities.  Amy Boylan was the Marketing Director for the entire brand, which is a pretty huge task. Chris Parker kept Hot Wheels collectors informed (and entertained). Many of our inducted diecast customizers such as Dave Chang, Jimmy “Boxman” Chavez and Luis Tanahara worked for Hot Wheels at some point. Tom McEwen had maybe the wildest job of all, driving the Mongoose funny car that inspired dragstrip rivalries in basements and rec rooms everywhere.

Hot Wheels didn’t end with the Redline era, of course. More recent contributors are in the Hall as well. Michael Heralda, Mark Jones, Carson Lev, Phil Riehlman, Eric Tscherne, Steve Vandervate, and MiQ Willmott all played a huge a part in moving the brand forward and upward and through all kinds of loop-de-loops, over the last couple of decades, taking advantage of new casting technology and improved graphics possibilities.

Bruce Pascal office
Bruce Pascal is one of many authors who knows a thing or two about Hot Wheels.

It’s not just employees of Mattel who are honored in the MCHOF. A side industry of books, websites, conventions and diecast sales has sprouted over the years, many of them solely based on Hot Wheels. Model Car Historians are honored by the Hall each year for their contributions to the hobby. Jim Garbaczewski, Rob Graves, Bob Parker, Bruce Pascal, Chris Walker, Joe Wiggins, and Mike Zarnock (whose Altered Dragster even got its own 1/64 version) have all authored histories, price guides, or directories of Hot Wheels cars.

Hot Wheels books
Here are just a few of the Hot Wheels publications from MCHOF inductees!

There are several websites allowing collectors, to research, deal or just connect with one another. Paul Biddle, Charles Kitson, Michael Otte, Anita Smith are all pioneers of the online Hot Wheels world.

And speaking of connecting, Mike Strauss was one of the founders of the National Hot Wheels Collectors Conventions. Think about how many people have met at these events to share their hobby. Speaking of whom, let’s not forget that the Hall recognizes customizers and collectors as well.  Folks like Sherry Abbey, Joe Alvarado, Kevan Bence, Chojiro, Rick Early, Jay Holt, Dino Laspada, Kazy, Lee Pearlman, Vince Mosley, Bryan Pope, Paul Spradlin and Chris and Marcia Walker based their work extensively or even exclusively on Hot Wheel castings creating beautiful diecast art.  And many of our Collectors of the Year or R.A.O.K award winners are Hot Wheels collectors – as none of all of this would matter if not for the folks who hunt the pegs and dig through bins to collect them all!

Hot Wheels 50th
Hot Wheels’ 50th Anniversary is an occasion to look back fondly at the brand’s history.

As Hot Wheels celebrates its 50th anniversary, their freewheeling cars show no signs of slowing down. It’s a certainty that the Model Car Hall of Fame will continue to recognize how cool Hot Wheels can be.


You will be able to find profiles with more information on each of the individuals or models
mentioned here on the Hall’s Official Archive page on hobbyDB.


9 thoughts on “Hall Of Flames: Hot Wheels In The Model Car Hall of Fame

  1. The Fastest Hot Wheels Car in Auburn, New York circa 1970

    It was 1970 or 71, I think. I was about 11 years old, when a local department store called “Nichols” held a Hot Wheels race in which you brought your fastest Hot Wheels car to the store and they sent it down a track (set up on top of a display counter – I remember it all vividly!) and recorded your car’s speed using the Hot Wheels Speedometer.

    To determine which of my many Hot Wheels cars was fastest my older sister helped me use my dual-lane drag set to hold elimination races of all my Hot Wheels. The winner was my chrome Club Car King Kuda. My sister took me to the store and I entered that car in the race at Nichols Department Store.

    They wrote my name, address & phone number in a ledger with the speed my car registered. Incredibly, I had the fastest speed so far! I suppose I forgot about it within a few days, until one evening during supper the phone rang, and it was for me. My father always had us tell all our friends to NEVER call during the supper hour, so getting a phone call at that time was a surprise. Even more surprising was that the call was from the Nichols Department store! My chrome Club Car King Cuda had WON! I had the FASTEST Hot Wheels car in Auburn, New York!

    We went to the store, I think it was right after supper that night, and they gave me the track that was used to hold the races. I was SO THRILLED! Boy, do I wish I still had that car and track. After graduating High School and about to head off to Air Force Basic Training I gave all but a few of my toy cars to a nephew. I still have those few redlines I’d hung on to, but that King Kuda was not one of them.

    Aahhh, the memories!

    Ralph Cady
    Hot Wheels owner/enthusiast since 1968
    Recumbent Bicycle owner/enthusiast since 1981

  2. The profound aspect of Hot Wheels that has always stayed with me was its reinvention of the status quo and its ability to act as a canvas for creation.

    As a child, I didn’t choose Hot Wheels. Without so much as a second glance to the brand, I’d scoop up Matchbox models for their realism. Hot Wheels chose me when it rolled out its 35th anniversary. I had innocently gone into Blockbuster seeking a narrative for Matchbox, but arrived home instead with a shining World Race DVD case decorated with 5 cars. I absolutely adored the simple but wholesome narrative, and realized an innate desire to pursue the core themes of speed, power, performance, and attitude.

    From there, Hot Wheels permeated everything I did. For school assignments, I wrote stories about automotive racing that amounted to nothing (yet ultimately left me satisfied). I’d skip cafeteria food some days just so I could afford to buy Hot Wheels from my classmates. When AcceleRacers elevated Hot Wheels with a new sense of audience engagement in 2005, I brought the HyperPods and the Sweeper to show and tell (and made my family suffer through Happy Meals just so I could gain 3 more light-up McDonalds cars). From the reception garnered and as far I was concerned, Hot Wheels was everyone’s business.

    I still haven’t been proven wrong present day. I see new creativity with how people approach the brand. Not only does the 1 dollar per car formula retain the chances of building a collection, but also provides people the opportunity to leave their imprint on the brand. Whether it’s a younger child decorating the car with Sharpie or a veteran customizer chopping apart the entire model for a major overhaul, the brand name bolsters imagination. Even those that have officially worked with the brand walk away with something original: experience and a vision/product idea that they got to influence and cultivate. Many creators seeking employment or building connections mention Hot Wheels as a springboard or turning page towards their desired career path. Hot Wheels’ greatest strength is its malleable identity.

    It’s unreal to me how much the brand has shaped my life, and how my relationship from openly despising it has transformed to one of passion. I live out my days in a room where not one corner isn’t adorned with Hot Wheels memorabilia or merchandise. I’ve made it my objective to publicize/grant recognition to fantasy series that Hot Wheels has crafted because one of their fantasy series was my gateway to their world. I sift through all these official publications and products, and deeply admire everything Hot Wheels has done as far as interpreting automotive culture and championing originality.

    Life gets tough. Sometimes unfamiliarity and fear arises, but in the face of hardships, I do what kid me would have believed to be inconceivable. I turn to the loud and proud, the hearth and trove of passion that is Hot Wheels. When I think of the heroes of the brand, the real people who made their mark, and my fictional heroes that embraced teamwork, I am at peace.

  3. Possible my first race with 2 years old (little did I know that these Matchbox Regular Wheels and Marx models suck in comparison with models that have hot wheels!). The Custom Firebird in purple (cannot remember interior color) was my favorite, the Funny Money my fastest.

  4. My main memory is everytime I would go shopping with my mom and we would stop at Wool Worths department store. Doownstairs they had toys and she would always let me pick out 1 or 2. Unfortunately another memory was I was a bad boy with the neighbors and we would take fire crackers and put them on some of our older cars. Light thefuse and send them down the track going opposite directions. When they took the jump and would crash into each other the firecracker would blow up. Sometimes too early or after the crash. But it was still fun until we got our butts beat for doing it.

  5. I love Hot Wheels!

    The summer of ’69 – the best summer of my young life. Just ended sixth grade and ready to play. My younger brother and I got bored fast. We decided to walk down to see what our friends – also brothers -who lived on the corner were doing. What we found changed my life forever. I saw the orange track running from the top of the staircase to the floor below. Several small shiny cars were parked all over the floor. Th older brother picked up one of the cars, a bright green Custom Eldo with redline tires around silver mags, and handed it to me. I spun one of the back tires and watched It spin for what seemed like an hour. Wow! I loved it! I was told to follow him up the stairs to the landing. He had grabbed another car and we ascended the stairs two at a time. At the top was a stack of book that were holding in place two lengths of the orange track descending down the stairs. He placed his car – a cool looking pink Nomad – on one of the tracks below the books and directed me to place mine on the other track. I did so ass he grabbed a broken length of wooden yardstick and placed it both tracks. He then lined the cars up against the yardstick and asked “ready?”. Uh sure, I muttered and he quickly lifted the stick. The cars raced down the stairs so fast I could barely focus on them. Cool! The cars flew off the track and stopped further on the carpet. Soon after, my brother and the younger brother ran up the stairs, each gripping another car. We continued the process for the next two or so hours, having a blast. I remember checking out all the cars they had and wondering where I could get my own. I found out soon enough that he five-and-dime store within walking distance had a great selection of these little hot rods. I soon built up quite a collection, using my paper route money to purchase them. We spent most days that summer playing with those cars and coming up with new ways of running the track and added accessories such as the Supercharger and drag race starting gate. I was hooked and would never forget Hot Wheels.

    Flash forward to 1995 – I was standing at a co-worker’s desk and noticed a tiny go kart that looked like a Hot Wheels. I asked him and said yes it was. He handed to me and I thought it was so cool. We talked about Hot Wheels for awhile and it sparked my fond memories of the summer of ’69. I started hunting for them at every store I thought sold them, including JC Penney at the time. There were cars and car sets for the ‘adult’ collector that I thought were really awesome. So it began again. Then, with the advent of the internet – and more specifically eBay – I spent many hours and many more dollars on the auction sight.

    Flash forward to today – I’ve now honed my collecting to certain castings. Mainly Corvettes and new castings. My goal a few years ago was to possess at least one of every mainline casting from 1968 to present. I reached my goal a couple of years ago and now have every casting from 1968 to 2017, receiving the last 2017 new casting a couple of weeks ago.

    I love Hot Wheels!

  6. I still have my original rally case with my well played with, stepped on, buried in the sandbox Redlines (and one Matchbox car, see if you can spot it!). So many memories in there (And still some sand)! I wouldn’t trade this for anything!

  7. I first encountered Hot Wheels around 1985. Where we were living at the time, I hadn’t ever seen them before as they’d only just started importing them. I had Christmas or Birthday money to spend and went to a particular toy store to spend it, found a huge display of them and bought 20 or so. They seemed much more exciting and in-tune with the car culture of the time than Matchbox. I still have most of them now.

  8. As a kid I was rather destructive to my Hot Wheels. The young, budding artist in must have taken over, because I would use either a sharpie marker to color in things like headlights, exhaust, engine details or chassis details, or use Testor’s model paints to do the same. I remember painting many cars this way and one time a Dixie Challenger with a touch up bottle of enamel blue paint from my parent’s old 1971 Ford Pinto. I also made a few convertibles with a hack saw. What few Hot Wheels survived then I still have now, among my collection of other cars as well as replacements for the ones I once destroyed.

    It’s either irony, or fate, that nowadays I spend my time designing new ones.

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