We might be accused of making up the rules as we go along, and we certainly cannot deny that. When we started the Lamley Awards two years ago, we created several categories and asked our readers to vote.
We are only two years in, and the response has been far larger than we could have anticipated. Not only did many folks vote, but they asked their friends to vote, and went to their favorite forums and asked them to vote. It was great.
For example, the winner of the Reader’s 2013 Model of the Year is the ’55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser. Some thought that was a bit of a surprise, with Lamley’s obvious connection to anything JDM and import. But the Gasser could not be ignored as one of the instant classics Hot Wheels produces occasionally. Plus, it has a strong following. Members of a Chevy forum got behind the vote, and asked everyone they knew to vote. Some say that might have skewed the vote, but we love it. There was a group of collectors passionate about a model, and they made sure everyone knew. That passion should hopefully be why most of us collect.
We considered the Gasser ourselves when it came to our choice for Model of the Year. The model was clearly popular, and that is one of the things we look at. When we consider Model of the Year, it isn’t just the model we liked the best. We look at many factors. Was it popular? Was it discussed by collectors? Did it garner strong opinions? Did it push our hobby in a new direction? There are a lot of things to look at. That is why we chose the Mad Manga in 2013, to the chagrin of many. We stand by it, as that model introduced a segment of the car culture that not many westerners knew about, and it surely was talked about. A ton.
With that in mind, for us it came down to these models:
- VW Kool Kombi
- Boulevard Datsun 510 Wagon
- Toyota 2000GT Super TH
- ’67 Camaro Super TH
- ’55 Chevy Bel Air Gasser
- Matchbox BMW 1M
The ’67 Camaro is a collector favorite, and it looked fantastic, but it is so widely used, there was fresh ground covered with its release. The Gasser too is a casting that will always be popular, and executed well, but not surprising in any way. The BMW 1M is a model we were so glad Matchbox did, and seemed to, along with the Karmann Ghia T34 and Dodge A100, give us a glimpse of why we have always loved Matchbox: unique casting choices executed extremely well. And it proved very popular, flying off the shelves.
But for us it came down to the Kool Kombi, Datsun Wagon, and Toyota 2000GT.
The Toyota was unique in that it surprised everyone. There were rumblings that Hot Wheels had done a 2000GT for the Racing line, but no one knew the casting was done and already in the 2013 mainline as a Super TH. So because the Toyota was set to debut in a line that was subsequently cancelled, it was not officially a new model in 2013. Hot Wheels doesn’t give New Models the Super TH treatment, but this one unofficially debuted as a Super. Kind of cool. Plus, we have to thank the 2000GT Super for helping put the Lamley Group on the map. We broke the news, and that was the first introduction to Lamley for many collectors.
The Kool Kombi also deserves serious consideration. When it was first introduced in the mainline, it was literally easier to find Regular TH’s than Kool Kombis in green. Take a VW, which is always popular, and toon it up in such a creative way, and you have a winner. Giving it a little Brazilian flare doesn’t hurt either. There are a lot of people out there, Lamley included, that love the Kombi and cannot pinpoint why. It is truly a great little model. It is also one of our safest bets for some 2015 Super TH treatment.
As great and impactful as those two models were in 2013, we chose the Datsun 510 Wagon. But when you think about it, the Datsun was only part of the story. The 510 Wagon was part of the 2013 Boulevard line, which looking back, was an almost perfect collector line.
And no one could find it.
The diecast gods like to play with us. We have seen several lines vanish right before the good stuff was slated to arrive. In the last couple of years, that has happened to the Vintage Racing line, Hot Ones, and Flying Customs, and we are hoping the same fate is not waiting for the Cool Classics.
2013 Boulevard was the same thing. 2013 was right when Mattel figured out how to do Boulevard right. The 2012 line had some great models, but it was way too bloated with models no one was interested in, and some batches hung on the pegs for months. But in 2013, it was different. Only a few batches, with only a few cars, and all interesting castings. Muscle, classic, JDM, Racing, obscure, current, unique, it was all there. We had cars from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, 00’s, and today. All done tastefully, all with real riders, and all for real car lovers. You could tell there was a lot of each designer in the line. It was where their car infatuation came through the most.
By the time the 2013 line was ready to launch, no big box stores wanted them. 2012 was still clogging the pegs, and there was no reason to think the next batches would sell. Unfortunately, they probably would have. The selection was so much better.
So Batch A, which included the buzz-worthy 510 Wagon and Hakosuka Skyline, was released to dealers in the very first week of 2013. It was found in a small number of Walmarts in April and May, along with a couple of TRU’s, and then vanished. It wasn’t until September that these batches popped up at western-US TJ Maxx stores, some Shopkos, and Tuesday Morning stores. If you didn’t have those stores in your area, you were out of luck. And even then there was no guarantee that Boulevard would be there.
So in the worst case of collector bad luck, the best premium line we remember never made it to the masses. Demand skyrocketed, and they are still highly desired models. And they always will be. Thankfully all of these castings are appearing in other lines, and those that missed out on the Boulevard should be able to get their mitts on the next version. But that group of Boulevards will always be gems.
It is because of that perfect storm of circumstances that we decided to not just pick the Datsun Wagon as our Model of the Year, but to give that distinction to all seven new castings in the 2013 Boulevard lineup. All seven are unique choices, none like the other, and all executed near-perfectly.
’71 Datsun Bluebird 510 Wagon
Renault 5 Turbo
’85 Chevy Astro Van
’58 Plymouth Belvedere
1988 Jeep Wagoneer
Porsche 993 GT2
’85 Ford Bronco 4×4
We could easily write several paragraphs on why each one of these models is fantastic. They are all different, and epitomize the direction Hot Wheels took with the line 2013. I don’t know how we will see a line as great as this one was. Hopefully if we do, people will be able to find it…