FIRST LOOK! Hot Wheels Elite 1:18 “A-Team” Van

FIRST LOOK! Hot Wheels Elite 1:18 “A-Team” Van

You have to hand it to Hot Wheels Elite. These guys have a knowledge of their audience that rivals Lady Gaga’s – and like the singer, they have a chart-topping talent for knowing exactly what to do and which buttons to press to get the crowds cheering.

Take, for example, this 1:18 A-Team van, the companion to the 1:43 model we reviewed in the Winter ’12 issue of DCX. Deco’d with the unmistakable grey, red and black scheme that we remember from the series’ heyday, it’s got a great balance of working features and visual impact, done to a level that will entertain the core TV car collector, while offering just enough detail to satisfy most 1:18 high-detail fans at a reasonable price point.

The model’s got opening front and rear doors, an opening hood, and steerable wheels, and the big casting has been finished off just like the TV truck. Like a lot of HWE models, this one sports up-market butyrate windows all around – even in the sunroof up top – and the door glass is in the half-down position. That adds a bit of “driven” to the look. There’s a good overall gloss to the van, and the assembly is great.

The add-ons are a treat; behind those outstanding American Racing Turbine wheels the model has steel brake discs, and the deep dish units wear believable BFG radials. The separately cast red, yellow, and clear lensing all around is very well done, too, and it’s accented by finely photoetched wiper blades and steel antennas up above. More p/e is used for the lock cylinders on the front and side doors. Taken alongside the slick show-car paint and those neat fender flares, it’s a very trick-looking truck.

The interior is cool enough; don’t go looking for flocked floors or anything hyper-detailed among the twin rows of captain’s chairs and you’ll be happy. Pop those back doors and you’ll see that Hot Wheels put the cabinetry and the old-school reel-to-reel computer in the back; go forward, and there’s a rack-mounted two-way and speaker setup mounted in an overhead console.

Pop the hood and there’s a decent-enough 350 hanging tough in the darkness. Here’s the cool part: flip the truck over to check out the chassis, and you’ll find the mill’s been wired. The balance of the chassis is more about a proper profile on display than a detailed representation of a G-series frame and workings, and like the 1:43 variant, it’s got an incorrect single exhaust, rather than the box-tipped twice-pipes that the TV truck had ahead of its rear wheels.

Hot Wheels Elite knew, early on, that the main audience for this release was a different crowd than those who collect the company’s Ferrari-licensed replicas. Where the latter group is all about real-aspect hinges, finely turned photoetch pieces, and a level of finish that rivals the high-end pieces they’ll park the Elite models among, the collectors who will make up the bulk of the buying public for this A-Team piece couldn’t care less if the door hinges are dog-legs, or if the side door doesn’t open. They’re here for the overall look of the real truck – which is here, for sure.

No word on whether HWE will offer the van in a “Super Elite” variant; we’d wager that at some point, other decos will ultimately emerge on this mold set. In the meantime, we’re liking the overall look of this one. Love TV cars? Go ga-ga.

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  1. “the collectors who will make up the bulk of the buying public for this A-Team piece couldn’t care less if the door hinges are dog-legs, or if the side door doesn’t open…”

    I can’t disagree with this statement more. These are the two main complaints about this release from the bulk of collectors. Real aspect hinges and fully opening features are expected on any 1/18 die-cast that demands a price over $100.00. To make that statement is a cop-out. I think Hot Wheels did a great job on capturing the A-Team Van but why couldn’t they produce the level of detail and quality that the Ecto-1 release had? I’m guessing here, but I’m sure it’s a certain custom car designer that needed a paycheck for this to be released. I highly doubt we will ever see real aspect hinges or a sliding door on this van even if a Super D Duper Elite is released. We all speculated and dreamed of what the Super Elite 1966 Batmobile would include for our extra $200 and what did we get? Same Bat-leg hinges on the same Bat-release as the Elite but with a MINOR amount of parts upgraded, oh, and a useless base. Why? Because of that mentality you just presented in your article. Seriously, they (the manufacturers) need to realize that TV and Movie cars are where the money is IF they are done correctly and to as high standards that the “different crowd….who collect the company’s Ferrari-licensed replicas” would accept. I have just as many high-end, seemingly majestic die-casts as I do TV and Movie cars, a die-cast collector is a die-cast collector, we all want the best bang for the buck, there is no separation of what a collector wants from their pieces based on the genre they collect, that’s a horrible way to think. If that’s how the manufacturers are thinking then that explains the “good enough” attitude we have seen from so many companies on so many releases. Why not say what’s really the truth here, Hot Wheels had a really good plan… just didn’t come together fully, and collectors prefer it when a plan comes together.

    1. Hello, Gregg –

      Thanks for the comments. You make a lot of good points. And though I’m not looking to start a tug of war, I’d like to explain mine.

      When I said “bulk of the buying public for this A-Team piece”, I meant exactly that. The bulk of the audience who will get excited over, then buy this model, are not real diecast collectors. They’re TV fans and movie car collectors. They aren’t the type of collectors who are more informed about, and demand more detail from, their models – the “bulk of collectors” you’re talking about.

      I consider myself among that more informed crowd. And if this was a model of a stock GMC van at this price point, I’d probably pass because it didn’t have the features you mention. But here is what I know to be true: guys like us who collect TV cars, as well as high end models, are in the minority by a wide margin. And we’re definitely not the audience this model was truly intended for. According to a Mattel insider I spoke with when the A-Team van and the “Ecto-1” were first announced (and reps I spoke with when Ertl /RC2 did movie properties, back in the day), the models in a series like this are aimed more at movie fans who will add these diecasts to their collection alongside posters, figures, and other memorabilia. More often than not, this type of collector does not regularly collect diecast model cars unless the models are connected to a movie, a TV show, or a celebrity.

      Remember, the manufacturers are always looking at the bottom line. And the license fees and legalities for a TV or movie model are multiples of what the license for a normal car would cost. You’re right when you say that some Hollywood designer needed a paycheck for the Batmobile. So did everyone at Universal Studios who had a creative stake in the A-Team, as well as GMC, BF Goodrich, and a few others who no doubt had their part in creating the van and the intellectual property behind the TV series. In some cases, there are actors who own pieces of TV shows as part of their contracts. That means they get a piece of anything that gets sold, including buttons, posters… or diecast model cars. I’m not saying that’s the case with the A-Team, but it’s a definite possibility.

      Another thing: when it comes to planning and building a special release, the manufacturers also have to think past the initial decoration the mold will wear, and wonder what they can do with the mold set once its first release is finished. In this case, there were already several GMC/Chevy vans sold in 1:18; Highway 61 kind of struggled to sell those. That must have had Mattel wondering if adding the extra bells and whistles to this van tool would pay off down the road in future decorations. Adding those things would have bumped the price up a lot on the initial release, too, and that probably would have scared off a slew of those TV fans.

      Taken in that context, when you compare this GMC van to the base ’59 Caddy Miller/Meteor mold set used for the Ecto-1, which is a car that hasn’t ever been done well in high detail (and definitely has more potential down the road – surf wagons, hearses, Kustom pieces), it’s pretty much a dead end.

      By the way, it’s not just Mattel. I know of a main line manufacturer right now that’s on the fence over a license for an upcoming summer film sequel that’s going to be a blockbuster. Unfortunately, the “star car” they’ve been offered the exclusive on is a truly boring machine when it’s not done up in its movie deco and special packaging, so they may pass, because it’ll be a dead end once enthusiasm for the film fades. But they know that the alternative is to pay the license, and make the car in a lower-detail variant that the movie buffs can swing, so the company can make a profit. Most “real” model collectors will pass. But, again – that’s not who they’re trying to sell to.

      Catering to Ferrari guys is a whole lot easier for Hot Wheels Elite, licensing-wise: unless you’re replicating a liveried car with sponsor decals, etc., you just have to pay Ferrari. It’s expensive, for sure, but it’s a lot less layered, and far fewer parties are involved. Less parties, less licensing; less licensing, more money in the pot for real hinges, photoetched pieces, and really sweet model cars.

      Just so you know where I’m coming from: I’m not defending the manufacturers by saying any of this. Nor do I have any sway on what they do, or how they do it. I’m just putting what I know out there on the table as way of explaining my comment. I hope that helps.

      Thanks for reading Die Cast X.

      Best Regards,


  2. Hi Joe

    all things considered i have to agree with Gregg on the issues of details left out on this model A team van for the price of over $100.00 we do want more bang for our buck ….. the hinges are a let down , the side door not opening is a let down and why put totally the wrong exhaust on this model …..why ??
    there is a lot of collects out there like myself who do collect TV and Movie Die cast models there is lots of models to collect and there is demand for detail and getting it right
    we are still waiting on a few models to come our way like the Fall Guys Truck ..! would be a good one..
    Yes this A team van is a good model but it does fall short of being a great model
    its already in my collection 1.18 scale and 1.43 scale but i will always look at this model and think they just missed out on getting it right but a least its here

    best regards


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