The Bigger Picture: A Larger Scale Approach to Some Surprising Hot Wheels Castings.

A surprise compliment from an unexpected source prompted further poking into my older Hot Wheels stash. While I’ve not had the privilege and pleasure to see the Alfa Romeo BAT 9 in person, I’d figured I’d find a few tiny cars I can match up with my 1:1 interactions.

The somewhat shallow dive, only recommended when its meaning is not thorough, rather than neck breaking, resulted in a handful of castings I felt deserved a bit of time on the mantle, so to speak. 

As a professional photographer, I’ve had the opportunity to be around some extremely impressive machinery. But which came first, the proverbial chicken or the egg? In my case, I believe my love for both large and small cars happened simultaneously. Although I’m sure the start of my diecast collection began as a way for my parents to occupy my obviously permanent on-the-road obsession. I’m happy to be able to strengthen the connection.

I’ll spare you the unabridged soliloquy, so without further delay, here’s what I came up with. 

The 1951 General Motors Le Sabre Concept was introduced to the collector in the 2010 Larry’s Garage series, designed by Hot Wheels design legend Larry Wood. While it was released in three colorways, it’s important to note there was only one concept and one color – light blue. The only thing that really detracts from the overall execution of the car are the wheels. The blackwall tires with thick 5-spoke rollers do no justice to the original, but I can empathize with the fact there really wasn’t anything in Hot Wheel’s wheelhouse (har, har) up to the task.

Afterwards, the casting was released once more under the HW Garage umbrella in the 30-car set. It was also in the Boulevard series in a questionable matte purple with flames, although the wheels were more respectable. Finally, it was a Cool Classic with Retro Slot wheels in Spectrafrost green.

Somehow, it picked up Buick in its name and dropped the space in Le Sabre, which, for posterity’s sake, are both incorrect.

The 1:1 is an interesting car. It’s been out and about these last few years and I ran into it a few times. The concept was credited to Harley Earl, most likely one of the most important automotive designers (and figures) of the 20th century. It introduced a handful of ideas that were put into production. It’s worth reading up on a credible site such as Historic Vehicle Association. My favorite bit about its history is its life after the show circuit – Harley Earl drove it daily to the tune of 45,000 miles. Imagine parking next to it at the grocery store? 

Next up is the 1956 Corvette SR-2, a factory race car built for Harley Earl’s son, Jerome, who at the time was driving a Ferrari. Shame on him. But first, the smaller details.

The Hot Wheels Corvette SR-2 is a Mark Jones casting released in 2002. There were a handful of variations and I don’t possess the knowledge to Tilley* it, so I won’t even try. Some notable versions include the First Editions, and the belle of the ball, the featured 2003 100% Preferred in blue. That one most resembles an actual SR-2. Even the marking on the high fin has a signature similar to the real car, although I can’t quite make it out.

*this is a term of endearment.

Just like the Le Sabre, the SR-2 has been making its rounds recently. I first saw it last year at The Elegance at Hershey and again earlier this month at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, where they were celebrating mid-engine Corvettes (I know the SR-2 is not of that type). Despite its almost factory appearance, it’s cool to know whose hands commanded the steering wheel over the years.  

The Cunningham C-4R is what happens when a gentleman with the means to materialize his thoughts decides to go racing. That’s obviously oversimplified to the point of arrogance, but the story of Briggs Swift Cunningham is a fascinating read. As is the list of his cars, either bearing his name on the hood or the title.

The Hot Wheels version is a Phil Riehlman creation, which came to fruition back in 2001 in white with two blue stripes. It’s said that Cunningham was the first to implement racing stripes in that fashion. The one I’ve selected to showcase is the 2003 Hall of Fame – Legends. With only two cars built (not including later continuation cars), the fairing behind the driver’s seat indicates to me it’s replicating chassis 5216R, currently in the Miles Collier Collection at the Revs Institute. (The other, chassis 5217, is at the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.) It took 4th place at Le Mans in 1952 wearing the number 1.

In the tiled gallery above, the number 1 car is from the Miles Collier Collection, while the unadorned roadster is a part of the Simeone Museum. The C-4RK coupe is a painstaking recreation, based off the only one built, which is also in the Miles Collier Collection at the Revs Institute.

Interesting side note. I noticed the Hot Wheels version had the red, white and blue bullseye just fore of the door. Curiously, both C-4Rs (not including the recreations) no longer have that, although it’s present in many period pictures. I asked a Cunningham friend what the meaning was, and he queried a few other friends. L. Scott George, the curator of the Miles Collier Collections (think Revs Institute and home to many original Cunninghams), responded with this:

“If a marque/model of car completed the Le Mans 24-hour race at (or above) a pre-set average distance/speed, it qualified to compete in the Rudge-Whitworth Biennial Cup competition (originally Triennial) and was bestowed with a small red/white/blue roundel. Thus, if you saw a marque/model of car in the race bearing such a roundel, it had qualified to compete for the Biennial Cup in the previous year’s race; it did not have to be the exact vehicle that competed in the previous year’s race.  The last occasion on which the competition was held was 1959-60, and that was the 26th Biennial Cup competition.  Even though Rudge-Whitworth was a British company, the roundel colors were reversed from the traditional British “blue-white-red” to the French “red-white-blue” probably due to the fact that initial support for the prize was provided by Emile Coquille, Managing Director of the French subsidiary of the Rudge-Whitworth Company.”  

Another innovator in the field of sports car racing was Jim Hall, and Hot Wheels has created a handful of his race cars over the years.

The Chaparral 2, another Mark Jones gem, was presented in the 1998 First Editions. The number 66 car was most accurately represented in this initial release and therefore I won’t mention any subsequent versions.

Named after a Texas running bird, the Chaparral series of racers introduced a number of innovations to the sport. The first Chaparral 2 was on display in early March at the Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance (they really brought the heat this year, despite the cooler temperatures on the field). Roger Penske was the Honoree and the Chaparral 2 he raced was in the Cars of Penske class. It was incredible to see in person, even if it was never fired up throughout the weekend. And yes, those are Corvair taillights.

Moving on. The Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato is another one and done casting. Introduced in the 2009 Classics series, it saw four separate colors, with two rolling on lace-style Real Riders. I have three of the Real Rider Spectraflame black (although it’s really a dark blue, IMO) cars and that’s it. It seems every time one comes up for sale at reasonable price I can’t help myself from buying it.

The ‘chase’ car was a Spectraflame green car with the same wheels. I’d like to also have that one day. The designer on the miniature is unknown, whereas it was Ercole Spada at Zagato who improved upon the 1:1 DB4 GT.

The original planned called for 25 Aston Martin DB4 GTs to be transformed by Italian coachbuilder Zagato. However, with less of a demand than originally thought, only 19 cars were produced. A further four Sanction II cars were built in 1988 and two Sanction III constructed in 2000. Zagato’s changes included a smaller body with a distinct double bump hood and increased compression in the 3.7L inline-6. I’ve only had the pleasure of viewing a Sanction II in person, which you’ll notice has three hood humps, while at the 2015 Greenwich Concours d’Elegance.

Finally, moving on from all the race cars, is another casting that debuted in the 2009 Classics series. The Tucker Torpedo, as it was named in the series, was introduced in three main colors, with a fully chrome version reserved as the ‘chase’ piece. It appeared again two years later as a Treasure Hunt (and $uper Treasure Hunt). Its final resting place (thus far) was in the 2012 Boulevard series in a metal flake copper, the model we are focusing on today. Hot Wheels called it the Tucker Torpedo, perpetuating a falsehood of the model’s name. Scratch that name from your mental record and replace it with Tucker 48.

The first time I saw a Tucker in person was while I was in Florida in 2013 during a day trip to the Tallahassee Automobile Museum. There sat Tucker 1005, in all its green glory. While the velvet ropes might have restricted my visual of the car, my imagination was free to run wild. It wasn’t until until the 2018 Greenwich Concours did I see my second, and it wasn’t even what it seemed.

Rob Ida has been instrumental in bringing the Tucker namesake back to the minds of automotive enthusiasts. It was there that I spied his twin turbo Northstar V8, air ride equipped, blue jewel. While it wasn’t a real deal Tucker, the ground-up recreation was an incredible display of talent. 

In 2019, once again down at Amelia Island, I caught a glimpse of Tucker #1044, owned by Howard Kroplick. It was a deep green and stunning. I was reacquainted with it back up in Greenwich and took in further details the following week at The Elegance at Hershey. I can never grow tired of a Tucker.

And I will certainly never grow tired of collecting tiny cars and seeing their full-size inspirations in real life.

If you’d like to see more 1:1 car pictures from various events throughout the years, please find your way to my Facebook page or Instagram.

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6 thoughts on “The Bigger Picture: A Larger Scale Approach to Some Surprising Hot Wheels Castings.

    1. Thanks Will. The Tucker is certainly an impressive machine. It’s a shame the company never realized its full potential.

      -Bryan

  1. First of all, SUPERB article! The tie-in with professional photography of the real cars was fantastic, and the little nibble of history for each car was great. More like this, please!

    I also learned that the one and only example of the DB4 GT Zagato in my collection is actually the chase?! I had no idea. I picked up my version rather cheaply in a second-hand hobby store that always had a big selection of carded Classics series hanging around. I just got it because I love the model in real life, had no idea it was the chase version. I’m lucky to have a few of the cars here, but I had NO idea Hot Wheels made a Cunningham!
    And as a final note, I’m glad to see the Tucker get some love on the blog. The copper Boulevard version is one of my most treasured items because the casting is spot-on (moon discs notwithstanding) and it represents a really interesting side-note in American automotive history.

    1. Hey Ben!

      Thank you! I was finally able to combine my two passions and present them in one medium. I will certainly be doing something like this again. You can count on it.

      And you’ve got the green one with Real Riders, eh? Nice! And yes, the Cunningham is exceptional! I highly recommend everyone adding it to their collections after the read up Briggs Cunningham and the company he built. It’s a great part of automotive history.

      I agree the copper Tucker is one of the best releases. You’ll be interested in knowing the prototype featured similar wheel covers with whitewall tires.

      See the HVA This Car Matters video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40Gu-7-XXLA

      Cheers!

      -Bryan

      1. That’s a great video, and I did not know the prototype Tucker had wheel covers like that…makes me appreciate the Boulevard version even more. I wonder if their choice of Moon Discs was a nod to this prototype or just a coincidence.

        I had a moment of doubt about whether I had the regular wheel or real rider version of the green DB4, but I dug it out and sure enough, real riders. It’s quite a thing to discover something surprising about your own collection.

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