As Hot Wheels’ 50th-anniversary year draws to a close, it’s no surprise that retrospectives are the order of the day. Fans and collectors are primed for that type of material, and publishers are all too happy to oblige. But if you’re inclined to spring for one of these golden-anniversary anthologies, make sure it has the official blessing of Mattel, like this cool new book being distributed by Motorbooks: Hot Wheels: From 0 to 50 at 1:64 Scale, by Kris Palmer. Official Mattel licensing means that the author had access to Hot Wheels’ photo archives, among other things, which results in a first-class presentation worthy of a commemorative tome like this. The book is chock-full of fascinating photos of products and people, spanning the entire five decades that Hot Wheels vehicles have been burning up tracks and putting smiles on the faces of kids—of all ages! The forward is penned by none other than Larry Wood—Hot Wheels design grandmaster emeritus and roving Hot Wheels goodwill ambassador. From there, the book dives into the origins of Hot Wheels, the concept that inspired them, and the vision and creativity that spawned them. As fans know so well, the need for speed was at the core of the design from the very beginning, ensuring the playability that kept us all coming back for more.
One of the things we find most fascinating about this book is the juxtaposition of classic Hot Wheels cars we remember and photos of their full-scale inspirations, whether they be stills from the set of the classic ’60s Batman TV show, magazines like Rod & Custom, or the sales brochures from new-car models. There are chapters exploring the steps behind design and assembly as well as the science behind Hot Wheels tracks and playsets. There are lots of pics of the myriad other products and peripherals tied to the Hot Wheels brand—including some real oddballs!
One of the coolest parts of the book are the little features on all the full-scale automotive projects that Hot Wheels has been a part of, even from the very beginning. The groundbreaking promotional partnership with rival drag-racing icons Don “the Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “the Mongoose” McEwen is covered beautifully. More recent programs, like building the full-scale Twin Mill and Deora II, are highlighted, as is the insane and world-record-setting full-size stunt tracks featuring a six-story-tall double loop, a life-size corkscrew jump, and a world-record 332-foot distance jump for professional stunt drivers Tanner Foust and Greg Tracy. There are profiles of well-known collectors, including “Mr. Beach Bomb” Bruce Pascal and even DCX’s own resident Hot Wheels guru, Mike Zarnock.
In a savvy move that shows that Motorbooks truly “gets” us and the magnetic draw of the nostalgia that so many of us feel toward Hot Wheels, it has chosen to package the book in a special vinyl-sided decorative snap-closure case that looks and feels—and even smells!—like the Hot Wheels carrying cases we used and abused as kids to lug our favorite cars around. Well played, sirs! In all, there are 160 full-color pages in this beautiful hardcover volume as well as hundreds of fun and fascinating photos celebrating 50 years. If Hot Wheels are your passion, this book definitely belongs on your shelf.
Motorbooks, a division of Quarto Group; quartoknows.com