I’m obsessed with Hot Wheels Car Culture.
Truly obsessed. I have claimed it is the best thing Hot Wheels has ever done, and as it evolves year-to-year, mix-to-mix, that opinion only gets stronger. From Japan Historics in 2016 through Cargo Carriers in 2018 (with much more to come), Hot Wheels has never been better.
But that isn’t the only reason I am obsessed with Car Culture. HW Car Culture is evolving. The first Japan Historics was an amazing set, with its mix of JDM favorites done in several racing styles (with a police car mixed in), sitting on the new 4-spoke Real Riders. It was a great way to introduce Car Culture.
But as each mix has been released since, the line has matured. The mix themes get more and more interesting, as does Julian Koiles’ art, and subsequently the new models that debut in the line. That is illustrated perfectly in Japan Historics 2. It is a far more realized – and sophisticated – mix than Japan Historics 1.
The obvious difference between the two mixes is that Hot Wheels added more premium features to the line in 2018, resulting in yes, a higher price point, but also better executed models. Better paint, more details, and more freedom to develop new castings. But things go much further than that. Japan Historics 2 is more Japanese. From the colors and wheels used, to the absence of any blatant racing graphics, the JH2 models fit together as a group, and reflect a true Japanese car meet. Look no further than the two new models in the mix, the Nissan Laurel and C210 Skyline. Both cars would be common sights in Japan, but relatively unknown elsewhere, especially in the US. Yet we have evolved to a point that these two models can anchor this mix, and sell out everywhere.
Which leads me to the ’69 Nissan Skyline Van. Since I received my preview set of Cargo Carriers last week – and promptly filmed the preview video so I could open it (coming soon) – I have not been able to take my eyes off of the Skyline. I’m not kidding. Yeah, it’s just a toy car, and I consider myself a fairly reasonable person with well-rounded taste. But I cannot stop ogling over this model. I’m sitting in my living room right this second, typing on my laptop, and the Skyline Van is sitting next to me and my peppermint tea. I’ve picked it up several times just to look at it.
I knew I would love the Hakosuka Wagon as soon as it was announced. That isn’t a surprise. Couple my love for wagons with my love for Japanese cars, and it goes without saying that this model would be an instant fave.
What I didn’t expect was how much more I would like it than I anticipated. I already thought it could take the “John’s favorite” crown, and in hand it surely has. But my goodness, this model is truly NEXT LEVEL. The execution picks up where the Laurel and C210 left off. These three look like nothing Hot Wheels has done. Ever.
Let me show you what I mean. Let’s start with this comparison:
I have always loved the 510 Wagon. It was a wonderfully out-of-right-field choice when it debuted in 2013, and it has been a Hot Wheels superstar ever since, rivaling the ’67 Camaro and other collector favorites in popularity the last few years.
But darned if the new Hako Wagon makes the 510 look like an oversized blob. I still love the 510, but I am doing it no favors putting it next to the Skyline. The lines on the Skyline are more crisp, the proportions more realistic, and the style more pronounced.
The small Real Riders make a huge difference, instantly creating better proportions. Beyond that, though, look at the lines and details in the front grill, window pillars, and rear tail gate, not to mention the crisp surf line and tight wheel wells.
In fact, the execution of the Hako Wagon reminds me of, well, this:
Yeah, that is the Toyota Crown Wagon by Tomica Limited Vintage. And yes, I am comparing the two. TLV will still use more pieces, but in terms of crisp details, the HW Hako is pretty darn close. TLV will always do stock, but if they wanted to do a modified C10 Wagon, it would look like the Hot Wheels.
And I haven’t even talked about the paint. Metallic light green, understated for sure, but gorgeous. And no over-the-top graphics. The model gets to speak for itself.
And speak it does. This is Hot Wheels at its best. I think it’s the best model Hot Wheels has ever done, and maybe the best indicator of where Hot Wheels can go. I will pay $6 all day for a model like this. That is truly a bargain.
So this is where we are. Directly following a successful Hot Wheels mix anchored by a Laurel and C210 Skyline, we get one featuring an obscure Japanese wagon and a modified Minivan, neither sporting any racing graphics. That is quite a change.
I’ll get to my preview of Cargo Carriers soon, but this model needed its own feature. It better, since it now carries the crown of my Favorite Hot Wheels Casting.