Mattel Hot Birds!

“Ready on the Flight Deck. Check your HOT BIRDS equipment… flaps… dive brakes… retractable landing gear. Connect the nearly-invisible Sky Line. Now – Take off! Fly! Soar! And bring her in for the perfect landing! You’re the pilot!”

This was the text from an advertisement for Mattel’s Hot Birds, a line of “Great-looking metal airplanes you fly!” The Hot Birds were released in 1971, on the heels of the incredible run that Hot Wheels were making at the time. They were designed by Bob Lovejoy, who created the ahead-of-their-times “Rocket Bye Baby” and “What-4.” Even the paint on the planes was similar, as the now-recognizable Spectraflame colors were utilized. Aviation was a huge outlet for kids during this time, so the line seemed like it was destined for success, with the sharp, colorful planes and interactive sets. For whatever reason, however…it produced a debilitating lack of sales, and was scrapped by 1972.

The fact that Hot Birds were only actively released during a one-year run makes these little Spectraflame gems somewhat difficult to find in good condition. They can be bought on eBay fairly easily, but the condition will often vary from Poor to Good. On occasion, some examples can be found in Excellent to Near-Mint grade, but these are seemingly few and far between.

The value of Hot Birds (at the time of this article) seem to be consistent in the $15-20 range for Fair/Average-condition models, while some excellent examples can exceed the $35-50 range, depending on the model.

The Hot Birds lineup includes 6 planes, all issued in different colors. They were manufactured in both the U.S. and Hong Kong, with some slight casting differences from the two countries being found. Each plane came with its own set of decals, which allowed the purchaser to “customize” the planes to their liking, much like some of the Spoiler series Hot Wheels. Two additional planes (presumably for release in 1972), were designed, but never released. They were the “Stratus Seeker” and “Sky Diver.” The models that did make it to production are listed below, along with available colors:

Maching Bird (Blue, Gold, Yellow, Green, Red, Magenta)

Ski Gull (Blue, Yellow, Green, Magenta)

Sky Scraper (Blue, Yellow, Gold, Green, Red, Magenta)

Star Grazer (Blue, Yellow, Gold, Green, Red, Magenta)

Cloud Hopper (Blue, Yellow, Gold, Green, Red, Magenta)

Regal Eagle (Blue, Yellow, Red, Magenta)

 

Neal Giordano
Author: “Hot Wheels Treasure Hunt Price Guide”
Founder/Editor, North Carolina Hot Wheels Association (www.nchwa.com)

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Tips for New Hot Wheels Collectors

So, you’ve decided to start a Hot Wheels collection? Congratulations, and welcome to one of the most diverse hobbies that you could’ve chosen to dedicate your time and disposable income to!

Since 1968, Hot Wheels have captured the imaginations of kids and adults all over the world. Mattel literally took over the diecast market with the first releases of their candy-colored, customized hot rods, giving a knockout blow to Lesney’s Matchbox brand in the process, which had been widely regarded as the “King of Diecast” up until that time. Mattel’s free-wheeling, fast cars were all over Saturday morning TV with an aggressive advertising campaign during cartoon hours, which immediately sparked the fever in kids everywhere. Adults, too. The huge improvements in colors, models and speed actually forced Lesney to completely redesign their line, which resulted in the issue of the “SuperFast” era. It turned out to be too little, too late, even though there are some excellent early Matchbox models. Hot Wheels had stormed the market and taken over. Lesney suffered great financial losses, and sold the company as a result.

The 1968 Hot Wheels quickly became hard to find, as the demand far exceeded the numbers released. Mattel’s co-founder, Elliot Handler, had found a winner; even after he was told he couldn’t take on Matchbox. His persistence was key, and it carries over even into today.

Kids and adults get into collecting for myriad reasons. Kids love toy cars, so that’s a given. But, why the adults? Quite a few simply want to get that feeling they had as a kid when they opened a new Hot Wheels car. Others are looking for an inexpensive hobby (it never stays that way!) and a way to collect the 1:1 cars that appeal to them that they couldn’t otherwise obtain.

There are some formalities to begin with, of course. Before you get out there and start buying, you need to decide a couple of things with regard to WHAT you’re going to collect, such as:

• New, present-day Mainline models? These are the most affordable, at $1.00 or less apiece.
• Redline models from 1968-1977? These are by far the most expensive!
• Blackwall models from 1978 through the 90’s? Surprisingly, very available on secondary markets at decent prices. It’s not uncommon to find them loose, in near-mint condition.
• Limited Editions, such as the Redline Club at hotwheelscollectors.com?
• Promotional models? A lot of companies, such as Publix, have teamed up with Mattel to offer promotional models. These are highly collectible, due to the brand name tie-ins.
• Treasure Hunts? (Limited Edition releases each year within the line which typically feature rubber “Real Rider” tires, premium hubs and premium paint jobs. These are easily the most expensive Mainline Hot Wheels to hunt today, as most will set you back $15 or more each. Sometimes less, of course. But, popular castings can easily climb into the $80+ range and higher)
• New Models? These are labelled as “New For 2020,” for example. This indicates Mattel has issued this particular model for the first time.
• Or will you be a modern-day completist, and try to collect the entire set for the year, including Mainline, Segment, New Models and Treasure Hunts? This can mean you’ll easily have to hunt down 200+ models. But, the challenge is what some collectors crave.

A lot of decisions, to be sure! But, there’s one more key decision to make: Are you going to keep your cars in the package, or turn them loose? New collectors have a tendency to keep the cars in their package, either for display or collecting purposes. Others like to be able play or race their cars, so the package is inconsequential to them.

Value

Many new collectors will leave their modern Mainline cars in the package, because there’s a perception that they’ll “be more valuable,” years later. While this is true for Treasure Hunts and Limited/Special Editions, the reality is this: Your common cars were mass-produced, and there are a LOT of collectors keeping them in the packages. Unless you have a rare variation with different tires, a paint swing where the color is different or some other kind of oddity, your common cars likely will gain little to no value, regardless of how many years pass.

For example: Many collectors held onto their 1996-and-up issues stored away in Rubber Maid containers, in mint condition. However, when they decided to sell their cars years later, they would be dismayed to find that they were hard-pressed to get back what they even put into them…in other words, they would find themselves liquidating their collection at .50 cents on the dollar just to get rid of them! There are plenty of exceptions, of course. Desirable models and variations tend to hold and gain value. But, the majority of modern Mainline cars will never attain any moderate gains.

Redlines (1968-1977) are another story. If you can get in on them and buy low, then you’ve done well. That being said, Redlines can be some of the most expensive cars you’ll ever acquire. Obviously, finding one of these in their original packaging can add quite a bit of value. But, comparing Redlines to the Modern issues simply doesn’t stand up. A lot of kids opened their Redlines and played with them (they ARE toys!), which made packaged models much more rare, while modern collectors stashed away their mass-produced cars, hoping they would increase in value. Most times, this isn’t the case. In a nutshell, it’s best to collect to enjoy the hobby, versus collecting for value.

Lastly, in regard to Treasure Hunts: Use caution when purchasing them on the secondary markets, like eBay, Amazon, etc. You’ll likely come to the conclusion that it’s very difficult to find them in the store, and eventually turn to the markets. Always, ALWAYS bear in mind that most (not all) Treasure Hunts are at their “peak” of value when they’re first released, going for some very high prices. Most will die down as the year progresses, while the more desirable models will continue to climb. Which ones will climb? This is where the guesswork comes in, but you can be sure that models such as the ’67 Camaro, ’55 Gasser, Ferrari and other popular castings will always increase. Others, such as the Street Creeper and other less-desirable models will decrease in value, shortly after their release. Many of the 2000 Treasure Hunts fail to reach $10 in value, even with the Real Rider wheels as a feature.

In Summary

Once you’ve made the decision on how and what you want to collect, stick with it. Many collectors eventually find themselves all over the map, and end up with a plethora of boxed and stored cars that they only want to sell to free up space after years go by. Stick with your goals! The enjoyment of the hobby is collecting what you like and know you’ll enjoy. Anything after that is probably a waste of time and money.

Lastly, share the hobby with the kids. Hot Wheels are a toy that MANY of us grew up on. Never forget the excitement of opening up a new one on Christmas Day, or a birthday, and zipping them down a track. Hot Wheels got me through many long, cold New England winters, and I have the absolute fondest memories of them, even to this day. Share that excitement with the kids, when you have a chance to! Look for a local club, where many collectors and their kids will gather on a frequent basis. You can trade for models that you need, enter customs contests, and maybe even have downhill racing, if the club has a track. This is truly when you’ll appreciate the hobby: When you gather with others who have common interests. Good luck, and happy hunting!

Neal Giordano
Author: “Hot Wheels Treasure Hunt Price Guide”
Founder/Editor, North Carolina Hot Wheels Association (www.nchwa.com)

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In-Work on the 2018 Treasure Hunt Price Guide!

Well, it’s that time already…hard to believe it’s been almost a year since the last release!  I’ve just begun researching values for the 2018 Treasure Hunt Price Guide, and I’m hoping to have it released in late-March to early April.  Got some good ideas for some new features, but I’m not going to bog it down too much, due to Amazon’s “price per page” cost…don’t want to drive the cover price up more than it is.

Also, I’m contemplating using the Fat-Fendered ’40 for the cover model this year.  Haven’t finalized that as of yet!  Stay tuned; I’ll post a release statement when the new book has been published!  Thanks so much for all of the support for the previous editions!  I’ve been absolutely astounded and humbled, all at once!  You guys are the best!

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2017 Treasure Hunt Price Guide Coming Soon!

Hey, all!  Hope everyone’s been doing well!  Just a quick post to let you know that I’m just about done with editing the 3rd Edition of the Treasure Hunt Price Guide for 2017.  There are some new features that have been added, such as:  Short Card Values, a Rare Treasure Hunt Gallery, where you’ll get to see some of the priciest models, and a Year-by-Year Value Synopsis that will examine each year of Treasure Hunts, and their trending values, good and bad.  In addition, of course, to the 2016 Treasure Hunt line.

Thanks so much for the amazing support you’ve all given this project!  It’s been a very humbling experience, and a pleasure to write this series!

~Neal Giordano

PS:  The release date for the 2017 version is looking like it’ll be in early April or so.  Mid-April, at worst.  I’m a little ahead of the game this year!

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The Yellow Submarine Rides Again…

Back in 1956, in Liverpool, England, a 16-year old John Lennon led a band called “The Quarrymen.”  They would play small gigs here and there, but would become more complete in 1957 when they were joined by a 15-year old Paul McCartney.  Though they didn’t know it at the time, one of the greatest songwriting partnerships was born at that moment.  In those early days, another aspiring musician named George Harrison, who somewhat idolized John, would follow “The Quarrymen” around.  He would eventually join the group in 1958.  By 1959, the other members of “The Quarrymen” would depart, leaving the group with just John, Paul, George, and whatever drummer they could find.  Other band members would come and go, and the name of the band changed several times, but they all finally agreed to call themselves “The Beatles.”  Ringo Starr joined them in 1962, and the lineup was set.

After being turned down by every record label in London (D’oh!), the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein, finally got them a recording contract with EMI’s small label, Parlophone. The Beatles released their first album on March 22, 1963, and would release an astounding 13 albums in only 7 years.  No other rock band since then has even come close to that kind of production.  To put it in perspective, U2, as prolific as they were, released 13 albums in 29 years!  The rest of The Beatles story is well-known from there:  They made profound changes to the music industry by writing their own songs, utilizing innovative recording techniques and issuing amazing album covers.

Finally, it was time for the band to be exposed to the American scene.  On February 7, 1964 thousands of screaming teenage fans greeted them at JFK Airport in New York.  On February 9th, The Beatles would appear on the Ed Sullivan Show, which launched the “Beatlemania” craze in the United States.  The rest, as they say, is history.  The Beatles would go on to become one of, if not the, most influential bands the world has ever seen.

Fast forward to present day.  Mattel has decided to honor Beatlemania by issuing a 6-car set, and the demand is expected to be high.  Early releases are already on eBay, and they’re selling for $20-25 or more.  You can pretty much associate that with the “newness” factor; some folks just love to throw their money around when they get that “gottahaveit-itus.” But, I do believe this set will retain a much higher-than-average value than some of the other recent subsets that Mattel has issued.  As you can see below, the card art is reminiscent of the old album covers…funky and 60′s-looking.

And, to add more fuel to the fire, collectors will also get a chance to grab a newly-released for 2016 Yellow Submarine.  This one has also already hit eBay, and I’ve seen some go for as much as $60.00.  While that’s insane to me, this model is almost guaranteed to be cherry-picked from cases and pegs everywhere.  It’s NOT going to be an easy find.  And, the value on the secondary is going to reflect as such, even after the new-ness wears off.

So, there you have it.  While The Beatles were well before my time on this Earth, I can appreciate all of their contributions to the music industry.  I’ll give it a shot and try to find all of these models, but I’m not expecting it to be easy!  You could say I’m expecting “A Hard Day’s Night.”  (Ok, that was lame…sorry)  Until next time!

Neal Giordano

NCHWA.com Founder/Editor ( www.nchwa.com )

Looking for the old article archives?  Click here

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Ahead of It’s Time…The 1990 Acura NSX

Thinking back to the late-80′s and early 90′s, there are quite a few cars that could easily be classified as “ahead of their time.” The 1990 Nissan 300Z comes to mind, along with the Delorean DMC-12. I still see some of these on the road, and, with some slight obvious exceptions, both look like they could still be somewhat newly-released.  The designs are both retro and modern, all at the same time.  That was the beauty of some of those early models.  But, another model comes to mind, even more so than the aforementioned:  The 1990 Acura (or Honda, as it was back in the day) NSX.  Mattel nailed this one as a New Model for 2015; the details are fairly accurate, and the stance is almost exact. As a Hot Wheels model, it was released in red, then white.  Following that was a Spectraflame blue Treasure Hunt issue for 2016, along with a blue counterpart in the Mainline.  If some styling aspects remind you of a jet fighter aircraft, it’s not accidental, because the NSX team turned to the General Dynamics F-16 Falcon for inspiration.

So, what makes the 1:1 ’90 Acura NSX tick?  Here are the basic stats:  Its mid-mounted 3 liter V-6 engine is a naturally aspirated, double overhead camshaft, 6 cylinder unit that produces 270 HP at 7300 rpm.  A 5 speed manual gearbox delivers the power to the wheels.  Top speed was around 168 MPH.  A curb weight of 3009 lbs ensured the power plant was more than capable of providing an interesting thrill ride, with a 0-60 time of 5 seconds.  By the way, “NSX” stands for ”New”, “Sportscar” “eXperimental,” if you weren’t already aware.

In the end, the Hot Wheels rendition seems fairly faithful to the original, although it looks to me like the height of the HW version is slightly exaggerated.  For most of us, that’s as close as we’ll get to a real one, since a 1990 NSX in very good condition sells in the 42K to 79K range, depending on the mileage.  Another thing to keep in mind:  Repairs on the older NSX’s are somewhere in the Earth’s stratosphere.  If I fork out that much for a car, I’ll buy a new one!  In the meantime, I think I’ll stick to the 1/64 version!

Neal Giordano

NCHWA.com Founder/Editor ( www.nchwa.com )

Looking for the old article archives?  Click here


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Frosted Oat Mag Wheels With Marshmallow Cars!

I think many of us can relate to Saturday mornings when we were kids; was there anything better than sitting in front of the TV to watch cartoons, with a big bowl of cereal?  Not to me, there wasn’t.  I’d watch my favorites, ending with “The Bugs Bunny Show” at 11:00, followed by some WWF matches.  Then, it was off to play outside for the rest of the day.  I have a lot of fond memories of those Saturdays!

Around 1990, Saturday mornings would become pretty special for kids who loved Hot Wheels.  Ralston, a cereal company (among other things) released a Hot Wheels-specific cereal named, aptly, “Hot Wheels.”  I think I bought a box or two back in the day, but I honestly can’t remember if I liked them or not.  But, one of the best things about it?  You got a free Hot Wheels car as the “prize” in the box!

Now, I don’t know about you, but getting the prize out of the cereal box was a fight with my sister, on a normal basis.  We’d go tooth and nail for whatever it was.  But, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have gone for these, simply because she despised Hot Wheels.  If these had been around during my childhood, it would’ve been a snap to snag them all. Provided, of course, that I could’ve talked my mother into it.  Let’s face it:  Most kids’ cereals back in the day were all sugar, so your choices could easily be predicated on what prize was in the box!

Anyway, these car promos are easily found on eBay today, and they’re pretty affordable, with an average secondary value of $5.00 or so.  Sometimes, they’ll be higher; other times, lower.  But, they’re out there, should you decide to chase after them.  Unless, of course, you still have them from your childhood, or your own kids’ childhoods!  :)  Pictured below are some of the ones that were available. Do a search on eBay, and the rest should come up, with many still in their original baggie.  It might just bring you back to a time when Saturday mornings were fun!

Neal Giordano

NCHWA.com Founder/Editor ( www.nchwa.com )

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Star Trek Gets a 50th Anniversary Nod From Hot Wheels

Space:  The Final Frontier.  These are the Voyages of the Starship Enterprise.  Its five-year mission:  To explore strange, new worlds.  To seek out new life; and new civilizations.  To boldly go where no man has gone before.”

And, so goes William Shatner’s voice-over intro to “Star Trek: The Original Series,” or TOS for short.  Gene Roddenberry’s creation ran from 1967 to 1969, and was canceled after 79 episodes.  The abysmal Nielsen ratings were the cause of the show’s demise, indicating that, simply, very few people were watching the show.  I don’t have to tell you the rest of the story; even the most casual Sci-Fi fan knows that it was a major hit during its re-run era, spawning off movie after movie, and several new, re-imagined TV series like “Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG),” “Deep Space Nine (DS9)” and more.  A truly big hitter in the space TV show era, it paved the way for other hits to flourish, such as “Battlestar Galactica” and “Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century.” Even George Lucas can give a nod to the show for helping “Star Wars: A New Hope” become such a mega-hit, because there was already an established audience.  Even as I write this, a new Star Trek TV series is set to hit the airwaves in January of 2017.  Nicholas Meyer, who wrote/directed in “The Wrath of Khan,” “The Voyage Home,” and “The Undiscovered Country” Star Trek films has signed on to co-create and produce the upcoming series.  There may be no end in sight to the Star Trek phenomenon.

An admission:  I’m a fan of almost all of the aforementioned shows/movies.  It took me a few years to get into TNG, as the writing during the early years was “blah” at best.  But, it did improve…tremendously.  The episodes that featured the Borg were some of the absolute best-written, emotion-driven storylines ever.  DS9 on the other hand?  Never liked it.  From the pilot episode on, I just couldn’t get into it.  But, as a kid, I truly enjoyed Battlestar Galactica and Buck Rodgers (even though the storylines for Buck Rodgers could sometimes border on the ridiculous side of things.  But, hey…it had Erin Gray, AKA Col. Wilma Dearring and Pamela Hensley, AKA Princess Ardala in it, which made the show worth watching in itself!)  Heck, even before those shows, I got into “Space: 1999,” which was a truly underrated show for its time, as well as the “Thunderbirds.”

Anyway, in homage to all that “Star Trek” has accomplished, Mattel decided to do a tribute to the shows by first introducing the U.S.S. Enterprise into the Mainline a few years ago.  These were insanely tough to find in the early days, but they became more available, once the hype wore off.  Then, there was a dedicated line of diecast ships which sold moderately well.  Finally, in 2014, a 6-car set was released in the “Pop Culture” line.  These were good sellers right off the bat, but…many ended up being peg warmers in the end.  The card art was cartoon-ish, as was the deco on the cars themselves.  The castings weren’t very inspiring, either.  The gem of the bunch for many was Uhura’s Jeep Wagoneer.

Now, in 2016, Mattel presents us with another “Star Trek” subset in the Pop Culture line. I think they definitely got it right this time.  The card art is absolutely fantastic…some of the best yet, IMO.  And, the set is a nod to the 50th Anniversary of the show.  The castings improved as well, with the coveted T1 Panel Bus and desirable Deco Delivery and Quick D’Livery models in the lineup.  In a nutshell, this is a really nice set, with the minor exception of the graphics.  They’re cool, but suffer from that dot-matrix-y problem that has plagued the Pop Culture line over the years.

Still…definitely a set worthy of a Star Trek fan.  They should be in a galaxy near you soon, if they’re not already.  Happy 50th, Star Trek!  And may Scottie, Dr. McCoy and Spock all rest in peace…

Star Trek Pop Culture

 

Neal Giordano

NCHWA.com Founder/Editor ( www.nchwa.com )

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Hot Wheels “Prototypes?”

pro·to·type ˈprōdəˌtīp/ noun:   ”A first, typical or preliminary model of something, from which other forms are developed or copied.”

If you’re any kind of a regular on eBay searching for Hot Wheels, you’ve most likely come across an “Ultra-Rare, Un-spun Prototype!”  The un-spun thing runs rampant across eBay, and guess what?  It’s making money.  Lots of money.  Throwing that “prototype” word in the auction verbiage apparently causes oddities collectors to whip out their PayPal accounts in record time.  What’s the common theme of all these auctions? Look where most of them are originating:  Maylaysia.  Yup, our friendly sellers in Malaysia love to help out U.S. collectors by providing us with exciting and “rare” Hot Wheels that are one-of-a-kind.

While it’s been an ongoing thing for quite a few years, we saw it amplified in last year’s Super Treasure Hunt Lancer Evolution.  This version had a ZAMAC body versus the standard black body, as well as Redline Real Riders versus Blackwall Real Riders.  I won’t even tell you what the thing went for, but it was well over $200.00.  Insane.

So, was this a prototype?  Nope.  It was a one-time knock-off that most definitely originated from the Mattel factory, but likely by a line employee who got creative, made the changes, took it home and put it on eBay.  Here’s a tip:  Mattel isn’t going to stop the manufacturing line just to make a few one-offs, then continue on.  Keep this in mind as you’re bidding on these “rare variations.”

Another popular “proto” is a wheel change.  Oh, yeah…since that Porsche is sporting a mis-matched set of Pro Circuits and 5-Spoke Mags, it’s definitely gotta be a rare prototype, right?  Unlikely.  This is one of the more popular scams.  It’s not difficult to do a wheel change without even drilling out the posts.  You’ll see many of these originating from Malaysia, but they’re being sold in the U.S. as well.

The next popular “prototype” available is the ever-present “un-spun.”  These are all over eBay, and you’ve likely seen them.  You know, the disassembled car with intact posts that haven’t been touched?  Yep, those.  Prototype?  NO!  At least, not by the standard definition of the word that I indicated at the beginning of this blog!  Any Malaysian line worker can snag a few models before they’re assembled and call them an un-spun prototype!  The word just doesn’t fit, folks!

Lastly, there’s the good ol’ variation wheel swap “prototype.”  That rare variation of wheels that no one else seems to have.  These are pretty common, and can command big bucks on the secondary.  Rare?  Sure.  From the Mattel factory?  Likely.  Made by a line worker, or swapped out by another collector?  Good possibility.

Ok, so this blog has been very negative toward the “rare prototype” segment of the Hot Wheels hobby.  I get it.  There are definitely legit prototypes out there, for sure!  But, you really have to do your homework to ensure you’re not getting hosed.  These things are bringing in a lot of money, and mostly to Malaysian sellers.  As long as collectors are snatching up these perceived “rare” cars, it’s a problem that won’t go away anytime soon.

I’m not downplaying protos completely.  But, you have to know the difference between what is essentially a common (and sometimes purposeful) error and a legitimate prototype.  Some indicators of real protos are blank bases, off-colors, resin models (obviously!) and more.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions, both to the seller and the Hot Wheels community. There are plenty of collectors to get differing opinions from!

Now, this….this is the epitome of a Hot Wheels prototype.  Not many were made, as the body was found to be too narrow for the track Superchargers.  So, the body was modified to incorporate side wells for the surfboards, giving something for the Superchargers to grab onto.  THAT’S a prototype!  ;)

Got any prototypes in your collection?  Tell us about it by leaving a comment below!

Neal Giordano
NCHWA.com Founder/Editor ( www.nchwa.com )

Looking for the old article archives?  Click here

 

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Hot Wheels 70′s Playsets: Thundershift 500

Let’s take a trip back to the mid-70′s.  To Rhode Island, say…around Christmas time.  The winter is throwing everything it has at the hapless citizens of this New England state.  While we were waiting for the gale winds to die down (which would immediately lead to extreme sledding down the cemetery hill), we were pretty much relegated to staying inside.  Sure, we’d fight to go out, but our parents always gave us this look, as if

we were just absolutely stupid.  But, since it was Christmas Day, we were in no rush to meet up and show off our new stuff.  There was serious playing to be done.  I opened up one of the larger gifts, and found a new Hot Wheels Thundershift 500 racing set.  Now, up to this point, the only other Hot Wheels set I’d had was the Road King Mountain Mining set which, while cool, didn’t do much more than plod along with the yellow rig truck that came with it.  The artwork on the Thundershift set indicated that there might be some serious racing involved! (Although…I wish I still had that mining set; tough to find, now!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went downstairs and opened everything up, carefully laying out all of the pieces and decals.  Following the directions closely (at least as well as a kid seething with excitement, can, anyway).  After I got everything together, I sat back and admired my handiwork.  It looked like everything was in place.  I got to the most important part of the set (the cars!) and instantly loved the yellow Monte Carlo Stocker and the red Torino Stocker.  They looked like they were right off a real racing track, and I appreciated the details that were put into the racing tampos.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now it was time to see if this thing actually worked.  I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t become completely frustrated with the set within the first 10 minutes or so.  You had to nail the timing of the car in order to keep it moving around the track, and the slightest error in judgment sent it flying into the clear protector above the launcher, halting your progress.  In all honesty, it was pissing me off because I wasn’t gifted with patience as a kid!  Another hazard was putting too much behind the shift when you did time it correctly, because you’d sent it flying off the track.

The shifters themselves had some friction to the pull, so it wasn’t a free-for-all with the process.  As the car would pass a point, you’d pull the shift back toward you to continue the lap.  If you timed it right, it was a thing of beauty.  Time it wrong, and *blam*….off the track.  After a bunch of practice, I got pretty good at it, and could keep my car lapping on a consistent basis.  My friends weren’t as good, so the schadenfreude was on, right from the start.  I was a vicious competitor.

 

 

 

 

With all that being said, I would rate the Thundershift 500 as one of the better 70′s Hot Wheels sets.  It was fun, competitive, pretty well-built, and a challenge to learn.  You could pick it up quickly, but mastering it took some time.  It was also a lot of fun trying out different Hot Wheels on the track, too.  Some worked really well…others, not so much.

Finding one on the secondary market today can be somewhat costly, although I’ve seen some real bargains over the years.  It just depends how many collectors are bidding against you, in the end.  But, if you’d like to find a decent, complete version, it’ll likely run you anywhere from $80.oo and up.  I’ve seen them go for more than $130.oo.  A lot of coin, for sure…but, it’d be worth it to relive the memories from those cold winters!

Until next time….(first two pics are credited to onlineredlineguide.com)

Got any fond memories of a favorite Hot Wheels track set?  Tell us about it by leaving a comment below!

Neal Giordano
NCHWA.com Founder/Editor ( www.nchwa.com )

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