The History of Hot Wheels


In the late 1960s the co-founder of Mattel, Elliot Handler, was looking for a way to improve the diecast car toy market for kids. He felt the toy cars of the day were too realistic to really capture their imaginations, so he hired a designer from General Motors and former rocket scientist to help him create a diecast car that would be faster, sleeker, and just plain cooler than anything else available at the time.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Inspired by the California hot rod and muscle car culture exploding in the United States, Elliot and his team worked to create the toy cars of his dreams. From their efforts, a fleet of sixteen miniature diecast vehicles based on both realistic and customized designs was born. When Elliot first saw a prototype zoom across the floor with a simple push, he exclaimed “Those are some Hot Wheels!” …and thus, these cool little cars forever had their name. First hitting the shelves in 1968, they were instantly popular. Why do you ask? They were flashy, fast, and most importantly, fun to play with!

In the five decades since they first rolled off the toy line, Hot Wheels has maintained their popularity. Car culture is huge in this country, and as children, cars are often objects of first fascination for us. It’s really no wonder well designed replicas would catch on. With such a low price point despite 50 years of inflation, they were and still are affordable toys. Most likely, no matter who you are or how much money you had, if you grew up in the 1970s or later, you played with Hot Wheels.

Mattel claims they sell over a dozen Hot Wheels a minute, and thousands of different styles have come and gone over the years. Today, the original set from 1968 is known as “The Sweet Sixteen” and those are among the most sought after by collectors. They of course feature the signature “Redline” wheels, which were phased out in 1978 and are also highly desired on the collectible market.

Do you have any original redline Hot Wheels tossed into your old toy bins? You might be surprised by what they bring, even out of the package, at auction! As much as you loved playing with them and love watching your children and grandchildren play with them, knowing collectors pay into the thousands for some of these little cars might encourage you to finally part ways with them!