Seeing Red: The Different Levels of Hot Wheels’ Spectra-Red

Someone on the RLC boards asked about the different versions of spectra-colors that Hot Wheels has used, wondering the differences. Between a few different lines, there’s been a number of lines to use colors that would often be referred to as “spectraflame”. Here, I attempt to show the differences.

Trust me, the differences are MUCH more clear in-hand. I may try this again with another color and using natural lighting outside. We’ll see, haha.

Within, here’s the different lines each of the cars featured in the pictures here are from.

The ’67 GTO (along with the ’65 Chevelle, ’65 GTO, ’32 Ford and ’66 GTO Wagon) is/are from the retail Classics line that ran from 2005 through 2009. These seemingly were done in all metal-metal configurations with multiple colors for most of the releases, a seeming throw-back to the original redline era.

The Custom ’68 Mustang and Open Fire (the weird custom AMC Gremlin with 6 wheels) are from the first era of HWC/RLC cars, from 2002-2012. Even among these years, there’s some differences when comparing the earliest of releases to later ones. These were done with castings that were chrome plated and hand polished to give them a nice, smooth sheen to them.

The Subaru BRAT is from the 2013-2015 Cool Classics line. However, instead of “spectraflame”, it used a paint the HW team called “spectrafrost”. It has a bit of a matte finish to it, literally looking like its a frosty version of spectraflame. I personally loved this line but there were numerous complaints about the price of the series versus the cost of other premium lines like Boulevard, and how they didn’t come with Real Riders.

The ’64 Dodge 330 is from the “second era” of the HWC/RLC, from 2013-2015. During this time, they had moved away from the hand polished chrome that was outsourced to doing things in-house, using a process they called “mirrorized”. The hope was to give these cars the same look of the 2002-2012 HWC/RLC cars but for a cheaper price and quicker production times. It sadly didn’t work out that way. There were a number of delays and the final products often didn’t have the smooth finish they were hoping for, usually suffering from “orange peel” effect. They were indeed cheaper initially, and I didn’t mind the difference, but when prices started going up and quality wasn’t getting better, the move back to the China plant(s) happened for 2016-onward (what I refer to as the “third era”). The 330 here indeed shows the orange peel to the paint, but I wasn’t quite able to capture it as clearly as it is when in-hand. Trust me, there’s a difference from this to the Mustang and Open Fire.

Finally, the modern Mustang is from the current Hot Wheels ID line. To me, this line has had the richest, purest version of spectraflame for retail, even better than the Classics line. The candy effect of the paint really shows with these in my eyes.

So there you have it. Hopefully this gives some insight to the differences of the spectraflame palettes. (And to the old school collectors, no, I didn’t include the 1993 25th Anniversary line or the first “resurrection” of spectraflame in the 1980s Ultra Hots, because of how old the lines are compared to everything else here which were all seemingly released on top of each other, and honestly I just forgot, haha). If anyone would like to see a comparison using another basic color (blue, green, etc), let me know in the comments and I’ll see what I can do about getting pictures together in better lighting.

Check out some Hot Wheels spectraflame red cars on eBay! Click to see!

3 Replies to “Seeing Red: The Different Levels of Hot Wheels’ Spectra-Red”

    1. Amazingly, I don’t have that Mustang loose (or any of the other 4 for that matter). But I think the paint is pretty close to what the Classics were.

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