By: Matt Boyd
1:43 & 1:18 | $65 & $130
It seems only yesterday that the 458 Italia stormed onto the supercar scene, but believe it or not it has actually been six years! Ferrari has announced its replacement—the forthcoming 488 GTB—so it’s time to say ‘arrivederci!’ to the 458. It’s not going out quietly though. The final variant is the 458 Speciale, and it is indeed that. Sharper handling, lighter weight, and more power mean the Speciale is everything we love about the 458, only more so! Hot Wheels Elite is sending it off in style with diecast versions in 1:43 and 1:18, available in three colors: Rosso Corsa (red), Giallo Modena (yellow), and a matte black—all but the last with a contrasting stripe down the center. Engine and interior detail on par with the best of the Elite series is also part of the package. As this may well be one of the final replicas of the 458 produced—at least until it transitions from “current” to “classic” status—so the time seems right to delve under the hood one last time and check out Hot Wheels’ 1:18 version.
I remember thinking how radical the styling seemed back when it first appeared in 2009, but six years of familiarity have tamed that impression. Styling is still aggressive—some might contend more so with the Speciale given its additional aerodynamic aids. But the Speciale seems more of a single composition to me—its styling elements integrate more seamlessly somehow. Those new aero bits include a new bonnet with prominent extractor vents to pull air through the enlarged front intakes, now without the peculiar winglets of the original 458 Italia. But the new extractors, together with a more prominent lower lip combine to produce significantly more downforce. That is multiplied at high speeds by two small moveable pressure doors on either side of the prancing horse emblem that close off above 100mph to direct air through the turning vanes at the outsides of the front grilles. There is also a more aggressive diffuser to suck the rear of the car down into the pavement and keep the front/rear downforce in balance. These elements are all very well rendered on the Hot Wheels Elite model, although the pressure doors are fixed closed and so understandably don’t look all that interesting in scale.
Paint is also quite good. I like the Giallo Modena yellow best I think—its brightness plays nice reflections across the Speciale’s complex curves. The matte black is the polar opposite and very appealing for that exact reason. It has that ‘test car’ feel, although it is not billed as such. Aside from the paint and the striping, the only other difference is the color of the wheels; black for the yellow car, gold for the black, and traditional alloy for the red. Panel gaps are admirably tight—so much so that you will likely need an implement to hoist the engine cover, although the doors and bonnet have features that can be hooked with a finger. The cargo area beneath the bonnet has some surface detailing and woven tie-downs for luggage, but is otherwise unremarkable.
The doors feature side windows that are half open—an odd choice, but not unpleasantly so. The doors swing open smoothly on low-profile hinges, revealing a purposeful interior that hints at track duty more than boulevard cruising. The original 458 was the first regular-production Ferrari not to offer a conventional manual transmission, and given the Speciale’s even sharper performance focus, it’s no wonder the 7-speed dual-clutch sequential gearbox is the only option, actuated by jumbo paddles behind the steering wheel and pushbuttons on an odd-looking protrusion on the center console. The floorboards are bare metal on the real Speciale, simulated here by plastic molded with the proper diamond-plate pattern. The carbon fiber racing seats are soft-touch plastic to simulate the faux suede that Ferrari employs to add comfort while saving weight. Interestingly, Hot Wheels has chosen to equip the models with the European-spec optional 4-point racing harnesses, which are not available in the U.S. It’s not a mistake per se, but it is peculiar.
Find a safe implement to lever up the engine cover—after admiring it through the clear and nearly horizontal backlight. This is the latest—and likely final—iteration of the F136 V8 which traces back to 2002 and has been used in a fleet of Ferrari and Maserati vehicles. While not the largest displacement (Maserati has a 4.7L version) the Speciale’s 4.5L F136 F is the most powerful, producing 597hp at a stratospheric 9000rpm. It is that rare modern engine that manages to be beautiful and potent, with a flowing composite intake—unique to the Speciale—that feeds the compact power plant nestled deep in the engine bay. The model captures most of this quite well, although the simulated carbon fiber on the intake has the wrong finish—it is smooth and polished on the real Speciale, but the model’s is textured matte.
There is no chassis detail—the Speciale features a full-length flat undertray that hides all the mechanics of the stiffened suspension. However, the upgraded carbon ceramic brakes are in full view through the spokes of the Speciale-specific 5-spoke wheels. Even the brake rotors are color-keyed to the body. The asymmetrical tread pattern of the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires is spot on, but there are no sidewall markings.
Hot Wheels looks like it may be transitioning away from producing Ferrari replicas. That may make this 458 Speciale one of its final Elite series Ferraris, but it is also surely one of its finest. Faithful lines, intricate detail, superb paint on a model with appeal and relevance. Hot Wheels nailed this one—it’s the perfect way to say ‘arrivederci!’ to the world-class Ferrari 458 series!