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Hot Wheels Cars: Then and Now

Updated on June 8, 2016

Hot Wheels Cars Through the Years

From their beginnings in 1968 to today, Hot Wheels cars have undergone some changes. And they are still going strong.

The Hot Wheels brand now has a lot more than just die-cast metal cars. There are monster trucks, race tracks, remote control vehicles, garages, city play sets, movies, television shows, and even a video game!

In other words, Mattel is definitely keeping up with the times...

Image Credits: All Images on this page were taken by Belinda342

Please do not use images without permission of author.

Hot Wheels 60's and 70's Collection
Hot Wheels 60's and 70's Collection

Hot Wheels in the 60's and 70's

In 1968 Hot Wheels started out with 16 models. These included such awesome classics as the Python, the Beatnik Bandit, and custom models of the Ford Mustang and the Chevy Camaro. As Matchbox was currently in the die-cast car market and concentrating on the look of real cars, Hot Wheels made their models into totally tripped-out versions of real life cars.

It worked. Sales were 10 times what they had anticipated! The next year, 1969, Mattel greatly increased its line of models and the brand was well on its way to fame and fortune.

"There is a fine line between a hobby and a severe mental illness."

Scott Pedersen

Hot Wheels Cars 70s and 80s
Hot Wheels Cars 70s and 80s

70s and 80s Hot Wheels

1972 and 1973 model years can be the hardest for the collector to find. Due to slower sales, they just didn't produce as many...leading to the shortage of cars that lasted to today. If you are lucky enough to find them, chances are that you will pay extra to add them to your collection. (This is where a book listing values comes in really, really handy!)

By the 1980s Hot Wheels was going strong again, and a couple of big names started promoting them. As you've probably guessed, one of them was McDonald's. Kids do love their Happy Meals! The other big name promoter was Kellogg's Cereal.

This time frame also held the beginning of the "Real Riders" cars that had rubber-like tires. They also brought out the "Ultra Hots". These were said to be the fastest Hot Wheels ever least at the time. My personal favorite innovation of the 80's though, was the thermal color-changing paint. It was like having two cars in one!

Hot Wheels Color Shifters

I bought one of these for my son when he was young. He loved the changing colors! (And of course the excuse to play with water.) For him it was simply a win-win game.

Hot Wheels Color Shifters Sharkport Showdown Trackset (Amazon Exclusive)
Hot Wheels Color Shifters Sharkport Showdown Trackset (Amazon Exclusive)

This just may be the ultimate Color Shifter play set ever!

Hot Wheels of the 1990's
Hot Wheels of the 1990's

1990's Hot Wheels

In the mid 1990's Hot Wheels began splitting their cars up into different series. First Editions and the Treasure Hunt Series were two notables from this era.

The 90's also brought Mattel and Nascar together, and Nascar Hot Wheels began being produced. In 1999, they even added Formula One cars.

"If you don't walk back to the pits with the steering wheel in your hand once in a while, you ain't really trying."

Mario Andretti

Hot Wheels of Today
Hot Wheels of Today

Hot Wheels Cars of Today

In August of 2009, the Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 television show began airing on the Cartoon Network in the United States. A new era was born.

That isn't to say that the die-cast car production had slowed down. In 2012, Hot Wheels released 250 cars! While collecting these very cute (and very detailed) little cars used to be the realm of children, adults are now getting into the fun as well. Of course that could just be that the adults of today grew up collecting them! And why on earth stop now?

2012 Innovative Toy of the Year

Awarded to Hot Wheels Wall Tracks!

Every year the Toy Industry Association names the toys of the year. Well, for 2012, Hot Wheels got the honor of the Innovative Toy of the Year for the Wall Tracks series. If you aren't familiar with this type of track system, feel free to check out the detailed review below from YouTube. They really are awesome, and well deserving of the award.

Here's a really big hint: Looking for a great Christmas or Birthday gift for a boy? How about the Hot Wheels Dark Night Rises Wall Track System? This set combines Batman with Hot Wheels racing...what could be better?

Wall Tracks by Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels Photo Gallery - Taken at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The Entrance to the Museum's ExhibitShowcase of Hot WheelsFor this one, the car came first...then the Hot Wheels.The Deora II...a Hot Wheels brought to life!This was the first full size car modeled on a Hot Wheels!  Cool, huh?The Hot Wheels Version
The Entrance to the Museum's Exhibit
The Entrance to the Museum's Exhibit
Showcase of Hot Wheels
Showcase of Hot Wheels
For this one, the car came first...then the Hot Wheels.
For this one, the car came first...then the Hot Wheels.
The Deora II...a Hot Wheels brought to life!
The Deora II...a Hot Wheels brought to life!
This was the first full size car modeled on a Hot Wheels!  Cool, huh?
This was the first full size car modeled on a Hot Wheels! Cool, huh?
The Hot Wheels Version
The Hot Wheels Version

Image Credits: All Images on this page were taken by Belinda342

Please do not use images without permission of author.

Hot Wheels Collectors

Who collects Hot Wheel Cars at your house?

See results

Hot Wheels cars aren't the only collectible toys out there. I have a pretty hefty puppet collection that grows each year at Christmas. Is there a toy that you simply can't get enough of?

Do You Have a Toy Collection? - Let us know what you collect!

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    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Great look at Hot Wheels over the years. My sons played with them, and now my grandsons play with them, so I have watched the evolution up close.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I personally collect bobbleheads. When I had my son, I started the Disney/ Pixar Cars. With the way the economy is and my son who loves cars, we started buying Hot Wheels. Then I unfolded the universe. It isn't about collecting hard to find or anything like that. It is going through and picking out ones that just look awesome, then we make a list and hunt for them. I have a ton of them from the 1970s, I just need to dig them out, God only knows what I have in there.... It might be a little spooky....

    • MJsConsignments profile image


      6 years ago from Central Ohio, USA

      This is a great collectibles lens. My son has kept all of his Hot Wheels. Of course, most of the are out of the packs because he played with them - that's why we bought them after all - but now that he's a teen he goes through his cases reverently from time to time.

    • BestRatedStuff profile image


      6 years ago

      Always loved die-cast metal cars, though growing up match-box cars were what we longed for.

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 

      6 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      These are fun little toys that are so varied. It's fun to see what they come out with next!


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