Hot Wheels: 1968-1970 – A Staple in Every Kid's Toybox
Speeding into our childhood memories
If you were between 4-12 years old in 1968-1970, you probably had at least one Hot Wheels car. They were cheap, under a buck, and available at just about any toy store. Hot Wheels were new to the toy scene and quickly became a very popular toy. What kid could resist that shiny car, with its accompanying metal button, all packaged neatly in a brightly colored cardboard pack?
Hot Wheels were available in metallic colors – all metallic. Red, blue, green, gold, purple, silver, and pink. PINK?What boy wanted a pink Hot Wheel? Most of these meet a quick demise – maybe smashed under a hammer, thrown down cement stairs, used to collide with other toys…there was no limit to the way a pink Hot Wheel could be destroyed. Too bad, as pink ones are often the most collectible today, due to the fact that so many of them did not survive at the hands of a young boy who already harbored destructive tendencies.
Mattel first introduced Hot Wheels in 1968. The cars released in 1968 were the Custom Barracuda, Camaro, Chevrolet Corvette, Eldorado, Firebird, Fleetside, Mustang, T-Bird, Cougar, Ford J-Car, Hot Heap, Python, Silhouette, and the Beatnik Bandit. Eleven of these cars were designed by Harry Bentley Bradley, with a Custom Camaro in blue being the first.
The first 16 cars are very collectible today, with 10 based on regular production automobiles of the era, and the remaining 6 based upon real cars and cars designed for track racing.These cars were painted with Spectraflame paint, had bearings, working suspension, and wheels with red lines around them. These are known as redlines and identify what year the car was made.
The spectraflame paint made Hot Wheels more distinctive from Matchbox cars. Matchbox cars were mostly based on real cars and trucks, made to be almost exact replicas with no customization.
Hot Wheels were designed to go fast on their orange plastic tracks so Mattel chose a low-friction plastic called Delrin. You will notice this in the wheels, as it is the round part between the axle and wheel. The result was cars that could go up to scale 200 mph. These white bushings were not used after 1970, so any Hot Wheel with the white bushing and redline on the wheels can be dated to 1968-1970.
The torsion bar suspension was flawed. When the car was pushed down, the axles would bend like a real car, resulting over time in the wheels sagging.The cars that survived my childhood all have this issue. It was redesigned in 1970 to eliminate the problem.
In 1969, there were many new cars introduced. One of these, the Beach Bomb, is the holy grail of collecting. The first run of the Beach Bomb featured a small sunroof and a pair of plastic surfboards that extended out through the rear window. However, it was discovered that the Beach Bomb was too narrow to go through the Super Charger track accessory. It was redesigned, becoming wider. The original Beach Bomb can collect a nice price, if you can find one.
Color was everything in Hot Wheels, with each car being offered in purple, lavender, red, orange, gold, brown, olive, lime, green, aqua, light blue and blue.
Prices today of Hot Wheels can vary. I have sold a slightly beat up 1968 Barracuda for $14. Original Hot Wheels still in their blister packs can go for hundreds of dollars. Certain cars were offered in a few colors, making them rare. Cars can be sold for parts, for collectors to use for restoration.
As I got older, I got more Hot Wheels. The designs of the 1970s got wilder and more creative. More models were offered, and the designers went crazy coming up with cars not based in reality.
When I became a dad, I got my son his first Hot Wheels for his 4th birthday. I could not wait to give them to him. I recall he got them early.After that, the floodgates opened. A trip to Target was not complete unless we got a new Hot Wheel. At less than a dollar, it did not break the bank. Before we knew it, and after our daughter was born, we had hundreds of Hot Wheels. They fill two plastic containers, eventually put away for another day. I am certain that fathers from my generation have made sure their kids were amply supplied with Hot Wheels and their many accessories.