By Brad Bannach
In this 5-part series on “What Makes Certain Hot Wheels Collectible”, we’ve taken you on a ride full of nostalgia as CHILDHOOD FAVORITES looked at how collectors often seek Hot Wheels that they grew up with. Then, we took the VARIANTS & VARIATIONS route by defining what the difference is. Some collectors have casting collections made up of every variant and variation, while others find it thrilling to chase down hard-to-find variations exclusively. After that, we looked at two of the hottest Hot Wheels castings of today and determined that their rise to Hot Wheels superstardom came down to A SIGNIFICANT RELEASE. In the penultimate segment of this series, we took a look at three origin stories and concluded that AN INTERESTING BACKSTORY can have a large impact when it comes to collecting lore.
Perhaps, the easiest reason to see “What Makes Certain Hot Wheels Collectible” is to look at the INSTANT FAVORITES. These Hot Wheels castings were popular from the moment they were found on the pegs, and continue to have large followings to this day. Nothing can be attributed to their instant impact, and rise in popularity, more than the fact that these are totally rad designs.
Volkswagen Drag Bus
If there is one casting that deserves to challenge the ‘67 Camaro® for Hot Wheels casting supremacy, it's the Volkswagen Drag Bus -- though, some could argue there has been a shakeup atop the list of the most popular Hot Wheels of all-time. Back in 1995, Hot Wheels Designer Phil Riehlman was challenged to create a Hot Wheels vehicle that could serve as a “billboard on wheels” for promotional runs. There was at least one other design which would later become a collector favorite, the Blown Delivery -- but it was the forward-flipping Volkswagen Drag Bus that would win out. Released as “VW Bus” for its debut in the 1996 mainline, the Volkswagen Drag Bus caused collectors to expand their local retail radius as everyone sought to find one, once they realized how special this behemoth of a casting was. It was heavy, it was fast on the downhill, it was a hit from the very beginning. Many Volkswagen Drag Bus releases continue to be highly sought after, years after their initial release; and its popularity spawned the creation of the Volkswagen Drag Truck in 2004.
Larry Wood likes to tell a story about how he scrapped the initial design of the Bone Shaker. Of course, much went on behind the scenes at the Hot Wheels Design Center before the Bone Shaker hit the pegs in 2006, as Larry refined the casting from initial concept to the Final Engineering Prototype (FEP) stage. When it landed at retail, the Bone Shaker became an instant favorite.
The Bone Shaker has been popular from the start, there's no doubt. It was anointed an instant collector favorite and continues to be released with a high frequency -- across all lines -- to this day. The original design has even spawned a hardtop version, while grandfathering a family of descendants in the Baja Bone Shaker, Bone Speeder, Skull Shaker, Pixel Shaker, Bone Blazers Trackin’ Truck, and the Bone Shaker Monster Truck, to name a few. The personality the Bone Shaker casting brings has undoubtedly made it a fan favorite, while the 1:1 version that sits in the Garage of Legends pulls in new fans every time it's out at the Hot Wheels Legends Tour stops.
Pop Culture Legends
Long before they were cast as Hot Wheels vehicles, the Batman Classic TV Series Batmobile™ and the Ghostbusters™ Ecto-1 were cast as hero cars in TV and film. They became pop culture icons. Collectors had long clamored for these two to become Hot Wheels, and when they finally did in 2007 and 2010 respectively, collectors grabbed all they could. Suffice to say that these two were instant favorites. To this day, you’d be hard-pressed to find these hanging on the pegs for long despite the minimal changes to the variants year over year.
Both castings have endured success not only at the basics level, but also at premium, and ultra-premium. Both castings have sold out quickly as San Diego Comic Con (SDCC), US and Mexico convention, and Red Line Club related items here on HotWheelsCollectors.com. Some collectors have amassed epic collections of all the variants, knowing every time one is released, it will be a hot ticket item.
Several years prior to the Purple Passion being released in 1990, folks at Mattel learned of a burgeoning Hot Wheels collector market that expanded from Redlines to Blackwalls to the newest releases. Hot Wheels Designer Larry Wood had anticipated the day in which he could finally design a car that didn’t have to meet the strict track requirements Hot Wheels designers had to abide by. That day came when he was informed that he could finally design a car for the collector. He knew that he wanted to create a ‘49/’51 Merc that sat lower than previous Hot Wheels and featured a ton of custom elements, including rear wheels that were covered. The Purple Passion was one of the first Hot Wheels built exclusively for the collector, and that burgeoning collector market in 1990 responded, snagging all of its many variants in the years to come. 30 years later, we have more than 100 variants of the Purple Passion. Like the Volkswagen Drag Bus and the Bone Shaker, the Purple Passion has a lineage of castings that were based off of it, including the Passion Too, Purple Passion Convertible, and the Purple Passion Woody.
Instant favorites have long inspired additional branches to their family trees and the Dairy Delivery is no different. When the Dairy Delivery hit the pegs in 1998, its classic milk truck design made it an instant hit with collectors. The billboard nature of the casting allowed for it to be a great promotional piece, while Hot Wheels customizers loved the sheer real estate to customize. The popularity of the Dairy Delivery would eventually drive the creation of the “Blings” Dairy Delivery, Monster Dairy Delivery, Drag Dairy, and the Hot Wheels Monster Trucks version of the Dairy -- all while the original casting has seen more than 70 variants.
There have been many instant favorites over the years, and these are surely some of the more widely accepted in terms of collectability in the last 30 years. What other instant favorites can you recall?
Have you enjoyed the “What Makes Certain Hot Wheels Collectible” series? Which segment has been your favorite, and what reasoning would you include for the basis of a sixth segment? Let us know in the comments below!
BATMAN and all related characters and elements © & ™ DC Comics. (s20) Batmobile designed by George Barris.
Ghostbusters ™ & © 2020 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc. All Rights Reserved.