Hot Wheels Car Culture enters its FIFTH year with Door Slammers. After so many hits and misses, is CC Hot Wheels’ most successful premium line ever?

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:

Door Slammers

  • ’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

All Terrain

  • Land Rover 110 Panel
  • Porsche 959 Rally
  • Ford Bronco 4×4
  • ’67 Camaro Off-Road
  • ’88 Mercedes Unimog U1300

Hillclimbers

  • Ford RS200
  • Volkswagen ID R
  • Lancia 037
  • ’84 Audi Sport Quattro
  • Porsche 934.5

Modern Classics

  • ’98 Subaru Impreza 22b STi-version
  • Mercedes 280
  • Volkswagen Jetta MK3
  • Nissan Silvia S14
  • Honda Civic Hatchback (EG)

Power Trip

  • 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.

jtl46

29 thoughts on “Hot Wheels Car Culture enters its FIFTH year with Door Slammers. After so many hits and misses, is CC Hot Wheels’ most successful premium line ever?

  1. Entertainment is pretty much a dying line and it was Halo that did it in. Those hung so long it wouldn’t surprise me if they turn into the next HW Racing where we all regret leaving them behind. And what Halo didn’t kill, the endless repeats finished off.

    Pop Culture lives as a source for donor wheels. Hot Wheels should just sell the wheels in stores and save everyone the trouble. Occasionally you’ll get a quite hit like the Grateful Dead series, but for the most part no one really collects the cars and you can still buy many of them years later for less than they cost on the pegs.

    Car Culture is different in that it came out of the gates hot with JH1 and the buzz for each release has been high. It hit at the right time and they have, for the most part, given the people what they want. IT was even able to weather a price increase and keep going. Hot Wheels has done a great job keeping up with the demand. Sure there have been some misses, but overall you rarely see CC sets clogging the pegs (side eye to the BRE 510 Transport).
    Now would probably be a good time to mention that I ordered a few extra cases of JH1 and I still have them sealed, waiting for the right time to unleash them on the market.

    1. I feel like Hot Wheels could do very well selling the various real rider wheels loose for wheel swap aficionados…wonder if we’ll ever see that.

  2. Some ( one or two ) nice deco’s here but nothing new . Another set I’ll pass on . It’s becoming hard to watch Hotwheels flog a dead horse .

    1. My opinion isn’t as valuable, because I really got into collecting after Cool Classics was wrapping up, so I don’t have any Boulevard specifically, but yes, in my opinion, Hot Wheels struck gold when they started Car Culture.

  3. This is a decent set I’d say. Nothing extremely exciting but no dud either, which is very rare in Car Culture. My least favourite would be the Datsun. The deco is nice but we’ve seen too many 510s recently so this simply doesn’t excite me. The BMW and Porsche look great but still, like the 510, don’t strike my fancy because we’ve seen too many of these types of decos before. The highlights for me are the Escort and Giulia. Both look fantastic in their respective liveries and both different and unique than their previous releases. The Alfa is the second best version imo, after the Forza. The yellow front over the red body is also a very nice combination. I just wish it had the same wheels as the BMW and Escort, I don’t like the 4sp that much.

  4. To answer the question….yes, I think CC is the most successful premium line, certainly in my time collecting (which admittedly has only been the past 15 years or so), but I suspect probably overall as well. John, I think you touched on the reason in your write-up – Mattel seems to have learned from the past, taken cues from the collectors, and synthesized everything they’d learned into something that really tapped in to what people were looking for. I personally really liked Boulevard, but even then it was hit and miss. If the various premium lines were houses, you’d say Boulevard had “good bones” but needed some work. Well Mattel put in that work, and the result is the beautifully remodeled and updated “house” (renamed Car Culture) it always should have been. Part of the allure is the variety. Many other premium lines had too many fantasy vehicles that didn’t have any collector appeal, others were too focused (like Garage being limited to only American muscle). Car Culture cherry picks what made all those lines great and sticks to just those things. I love it, and while some may gripe over the handful of models that have gotten the Car Culture treatment repeatedly, there’s plenty to keep things fresh. It says something about Mattel’s confidence in and regard for the line that they debut so many new castings in Car Culture. While not every mix of Car Culture may appeal to any one person, there’s enough people that are really in to each mix that, as mentioned in the write-up, very little tends to hang around too long.

    I hope Car Culture lives a long and fruitful life. Looking at the list of models coming in the next half dozen batches, I know I’ll continue to shell out for them.

  5. I miss the Hot Rods and Muscle. Have been getting sick of JDM and Volkswagens for a long time now. “Hill Climbers” looks interesting. Rally type lines are nice to finally see. In my opinion, it would be nice to see Indy/F1 Grand Prix cars someday again. Same with some Trans Am circuit racers and Drag cars like in the Vintage Racing series.

    My whole deal though is they need to actually put historically correct paint schemes. I was sooo disappointed in the last Drag Strip Demons set because of that reason exactly.

  6. Maybe it’s the focus of the Hot Wheels brand, but I think the race car and modified street car mixes are getting a little long in the tooth. Of the six new mixes we will be seeing in the coming year, four of them fall into these two categories, with models from the remaining two likely doing so as well. For this reason, I don’t have much interest in most of these upcoming mixes. The one that looks the most appealing to me is “Power Trip.”

    While some would argue that it’s more Matchbox’s territory, I would like to see some more stock-looking vehicles in Car Culture, as well as some non-racing speedy cars, and some older classics from the ’30s-’50s. There are plenty of guises under which to present such models too: “Factory Sleepers,” “Rarities,” “Exotics,” “Grocery Getters,” “Garage Queens,” etc.

    Mixes like “Cargo Carriers” and “Shop Trucks” have piqued my interest in the past. Bring on some more models that fall outside of the racing and customizing scenes. For now, I’ll pick and choose the few models from the 2020 line that I like, and that aren’t too similar to models I already have in the collection.

    1. Garage Queens sounds epic!!! I can already start wondering what cars could be in it McLaren F1, Countach, Murcielago, Aventador, 959, Carrera GT, Chiron, 300 SL, CLK GTR, Ford GT…. I could go on. And these same cars could also be in the exotics mix. I’ve been begging for an exotics set since at least 2 years now.

      1. Overall Hot Wheels premium line is a success. However, Mattel need to work on their marketing and distribution network. I am not sure about the availability of all premium sets in US, Europe and Asia
        as whole throughout the year, but here in India the availability of all premium sets is erratic. And it is frustrating to miss on some cool sets. I love the door slammers set, but we missed on the cruise boulevard. Was looking for the Bug and Supra from the set. 🙁

  7. I still don’t understand the Door Slammers name for this release. “Celebrating the class of race cars with, well, doors”… you mean like most race classes? Other than the open wheels cars and maybe Nascar, don’t all or most race cars have doors? From Rally cars, to Le Mans prototypes, to DTM or WTCC and so many other FIA sanctioned (or not) categories. It seems to me that the race cars with no doors are in the minority. So, why oh why make such a big deal about doors you can slam?

    1. My issue is that Doorslammers has traditionally been associated with drag racing. So I keep thinking it’s something like Drag Strip Demons 2.

      But there are some other racing series that don’t have doors. Funny cars, monster trucks, … um… swamp buggies… maybe that’s considered open wheel.

  8. Old 70s , 60s 50s, lowriders!!! Dammit! U cant touch a car 1/64 scale with tiny little whire wheels & white walls for less that 30 bux , hotwheels made a 3 car set in 1998 or1999 and they go for 100 bux on e bay , i have 4 of those identical 3 car sets , with the front/back side to side suspension, and metal flake wild paint! And ill probably grab every one i can trade something for just to get the tires and wheels and suspension off of , i grab revel 64 impalas from 2001 to 2005 any time i can , because they made so many of that year so they are the eaziest to come by , the big motha casting was screwed down in an acrilic case and matel never once mentioned it had that same suspension under it , ive had 2 of them in different colors for many years and when i saw a lose one on e bay I ripped open the package and posted them on Instagram and every one opened them up in amazement, more real authentic loveider culture cars need to be released , theres a huge demand for it ! And mattel knows it ! Why won’t they put some chicano culture car sets out , people of all walks of life are into them now , not the mainline lowriders with wheels that look horrible on them but the 100’/. Hotwheels lowriders from the late 90s that mttel nailed , and never made again, why? I dont understand!

  9. How about a traditional ‘40s-‘50s style kustom leadsled set? Chopped, slammed, and shaved with deep candy colors and wide whitewalls: ‘40 Mercury, ‘39 Lincoln Zephyr, ‘48 Chevy, ‘37 Ford…I feel this type of car has been underrepresented, but is definitely a car culture of its own.

  10. I wish the CC line would get some of the wheels used in the Pop Culture series. It would not hurt my feelings to see the “gold” colored wheel like the one on the Escort go away forever.

  11. I have enjoyed the TeamTransport and the Car Culture has been going good for a few years. The Entertainmnet line could use some new cars and stop with the repeats. It would be nice if they could do a movie like Canon Ball Run. . . . I would also like to see the detail of car culture applied to emergency vehicles. The only detailed police cars are comming from GreenLight. Matchbox mail line are ok but lack the “wow” car culture has.

  12. I like the car culture series if for anything you can get some cars in nicer quality then offered in the basoc range. I tend to buy whatever i like within each series but not the set. As to pricing, it is not too much considering the fact that back in the days when hotwheels where started they cost a dollar and factor in what a person made in those days, 5.00 dollars is cheap factoring in what one makes now.

  13. What is the difference between the SEMA BMW 2002 vs the Door Slammer BMW 2002? They look alike except for the price. If there is no difference than someone got slammed of the high price of the SEMA BMW

  14. Just found this set today. Picked up three out of four. I got the Escort, Giulia, and BMW 2002. I passed on the Porsche 911 because I’m not crazy about the livery and it looks too similar to the mainline version. Naturally the 510s were gone but I’m not too worried if I don’t find it. Just like BlackWind mentioned, the 510 is getting used quite a lot lately and I’m actually getting sick and tired of it. If I find one, I’ll still get it because I like the livery but if I don’t, oh well. I’m hoping I can also find the Cruise Boulevard set. That came out before this so hopefully at this rate it’s not obsolete. Maybe a Walmart can get one last batch because I really want that Supra and Nissan Hardbody!

  15. This feels like the most disappointing set so far, or is it just me? The 911 particularly, why isn’t it on the Fifteen52s? I’ve done a custom version of this casting and that size wheel on low profile tyres doesn’t fill the arches at all – hence why this one sits a bit high (I’ve used chunky slicks on mine, and they’re perfect for it). The rest are ok but nothing new, Alfa let down by stretched tyres looking lost in the arches, and I’m all Datsuned out. 2002 and JPS-style Escort are the stars of the set I think.

    Also (picking up on a point in the video) we’ve had premium versions of the 964 (Magnus Walker and black with red accents) but not the ‘71 911. That casting has so much unexplored potential as a premium, I’d love to see more of it. Audi Quattro too, that’s begging for a VW LT35 Team Transport set.

  16. I’m a bit newer to collecting, having only bought casually up till the last few years, so I can’t comment much on earlier premium lines. I don’t really remember Vintage Racing in stores or Boulevard. I have a couple of Speed Demons, but don’t remember that line being prominent in stores either. For me, Car Culture has been a game changer. I never did see any of Japan Historics 1, jumping onboard at the tail end of Euro Style. I began by cherry picking just those models I liked most, but soon found myself buying the full wave in most circumstances. There are exceptions, such as trucks and American muscle/dragsters/funny cars. Overall, I love the direction Mattel is going with this line. If the spotlight tends to be a bit Japanese, Euro and race car focused, well that’s fine by me. I’m most excited for upcoming Hillclimbers. That assortment sounds amazing! The sneak peak at the Lancia looks spectacular as does the VW ID R. I sure hope the RS2000 is the ’84-’86 model. I absolutely love that car!

    As others have mentioned, I also would like to see an Exotics wave as well as a few more clean-stock/lightly modified assortments. Just finely detailed without all the graphics. Keep up the great work and keep ’em coming!

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