Obviously I don’t know the sales and revenue numbers, but let’s ask that question in the title from a collector perspective. Entertainment and Pop Culture have lasted longer, and thankfully done well, but Car Culture seems to be on a different level entirely.
For those that have collected for at least the last 15 years remember the hit-and-miss nature of Hot Wheels premium lines. They came and went, some lasted longer than others, but would eventually peter out. It became a common occurrence for lines to be announced, released, and never finish. Whole mixes – already announced – would be cancelled. Retailers would pull out, and cancelled but made mixes would pop up at overflow retail stores like Tuesday Morning and TJ Maxx.
No time here, but many of you know the stories of the final mix of Garage, the Walmart rejected mixes of Boulevard, the never-made antifreeze Modern Classics Silverado, the final Speed Machines, and the ROADRCR mix from HW Racing.
There are even the rumored mixes, like the final mix of HW Racing that was planned, partially executed but never made. It was to be all Japanese race cars, including the Toyota 2000GT, which ended up debuting in the basic range the next year. Remember the basic had a plastic base and the Super TH had a metal base? Those metal bases were made for the HW Racing line, and instead used for the Super. One day I’ll try to show the whole cancelled line. Pre-“JDM-Era”, it was going to be a doozy.
There was also the cancelled mix from Speed Machines, with a black Aston Martin DBS and Ferrari 458. Planned but never made.
Seems like a shame now, but these cancelled mixes probably would have sold poorly. That is the part of this story that can’t be ignored. Collectors weren’t buying the lines. If we were, retailers would of course had carried them. Many wonder how a line like Vintage Racing hung on the pegs a few years ago. It really, really did. Or Speed Machines. It surprises some, but those models hung. I remember the multitude of Speed Machines Bugattis on the pegs, gathering dust. Or my story of a rural Kmart that had three Vintage Racing Datsun 510s on the pegs for well over a year. I would visit those pegs every few weeks in my travels for work, and those 510s, along with a couple of AMC Javelins, got dustier and dustier, and a little more damaged from being knocked off the pegs by customers looking for something better.
Whatever the reason – collectors scoffing at a $5 price point for a premium model, bad branding by Mattel, collector’s tastes not ready for more realistic replicas – these lines came and went. I’ve talked about Boulevard a lot, but the value of that lost group of 2013 mixes can’t be understated. Hot Wheels changed its approach on Boulevard for 2013, focusing ONLY on licensed castings in realistic decos and reducing the size and frequency of the mixes.
The only problem was Boulevard had already made its mark as a dud for major retailers. Earlier mixes didn’t sell well, and Boulevard clogged the pegs. Walmart, Target, and to a lesser extent Toys R Us were out, so those mixes had to be sold elsewhere. The new Datsun 510 Wagon, Porsche 993, Jeep Wagoneer, and others could only be found at secondary retailers and hobby stores.
It just missed. The buzz for 2013 Boulevard started growing, to the point of a fever pitch by 2014. Those models quickly grew in value, and demand went through the roof. Being hard-to-find was part of it, but the models themselves also looked fantastic.
And if you look at that 2013 line, it looks a lot like Car Culture now. Five models in each mix, released every couple of months. And every model licensed. Missing of course is a specific theme for each mix and the amazing individual art by Julian Koiles.
But Hot Wheels knew it was on to something based on the collector reaction to 2013 Boulevard. It helped inspire what would become Car Culture, and here we are. Car Culture enters its fifth year in 2020, with no signs of ending. With very few exceptions the models don’t stay on the pegs, and our buying habits are telling Mattel to get even more creative and specific with the mixes. There is a lot to be excited about:
- ’71 Porsche 911
- Datsun Bluebird 510
- Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA
- BMW 2002
- ’70 Ford Escort RS1600
Japan Historics 3
- Datsun Sunny B121
- Mazda Cosmo Sport
- ’85 Honda City Turbo II
- ’82 Nissan Skyline R30
- Nissan Silvia CSP311
- Land Rover 110 Panel
- Porsche 959 Rally
- Ford Bronco 4×4
- ’67 Camaro Off-Road
- ’88 Mercedes Unimog U1300
- Ford RS200
- Volkswagen ID R
- Lancia 037
- ’84 Audi Sport Quattro
- Porsche 934.5
- ’98 Subaru Impreza 22b STi-version
- Mercedes 280
- Volkswagen Jetta MK3
- Nissan Silvia S14
- Honda Civic Hatchback (EG)
- GMC Syclone
- Buick Grand National GNX
- Custom ’72 Chevy LUV
- ’18 Dodge Challenger SRT Demon
- ’65 Corvette C2
Diversity and realism mesh together beautifully in the line, and these mixes should be gobbled up as usual.
And it starts with Door Slammers. Celebrating the class of race cars with, well, doors, this one will be popular. I’ve done the video:
Now here are the photos. Another Datsun 510 will cause some to scream overkill, but not when it looks like this one. And the Alfa is on the verge of becoming the next “must” premium model, and this one will help take it there. It hasn’t looked better. The underrated gem is the Escort. You will want it. A Magnus Porsche and and the best version of the 2002 so far round it out. 5 for 5.
We are in the Golden Age of Hot Wheels Premium. I hope it continues. It has helped spur interest in the lines that missed a few years ago (see: Prices for Vintage Racing), and hopefully keeps the momentum going into the future.