It’s only April but I’m struggling to see how Matchbox will top the Draggin’ Wheels, the Custom ’72 Volkswagen Beetle dragster that was sold through Mattel Creations back in January.
There’s been some griping about these premium Creations models. With a $25 price tag, they’ve not always done enough to convince some collectors that they were worth the money. RLC without the metal base or Spectraflame, is one accusation, especially where Hot Wheels Real Riders have been used. In some cases, I agree. Personally, I think it’s good that Matchbox is offering some collector-focused models again, but I’ve not bought them all. I passed on the Routemaster, Mercedes and the recent Nissan Z, but I really like the Land Rover, C-10 and more than any of them, the Draggin’ Wheels.
You probably know that Matchbox has a long history with Beetles that goes all the way back to the earliest days of Lesney. There’s also a heritage of custom Bugs stretching back to the 1970s. The Dragon Wheels casting was launched as a Superfast in 1972 and lived on under other names into the 1980s, before being resurrected as a Premiere release in 1997. I had several Beetles in my toy box as a kid, partly because we owned a real one for the first five years of my life. Here’s a selection of Superfast Beetles with a modern interloper.
Beetle or not, Funny Car-style dragsters were a Matchbox staple in the 1970s. Here’s the Draggin’ Wheels with the Dodge (Charger) Dragster and a Mustang-based Speedking (Superking) called Gus’s Gulper from the mid-70s. My uncle had one that I played with a lot as a kid so later I bought my own.
More recently, Funny Cars have been the preserve of Hot Wheels. The green Bug put me in mind of the green on this ’71 Firebird, Bubble Up/Pacemaker, now driven by Terry Capp, from one of my favourite Hot Wheels series, Drag Strip Demons.
When I unboxed the Draggin’ Wheels (no pictures of the packaging here, sorry!) I was struck by a few things. The metallic avocado green is fantastic. The deco and details are great. And it looks a lot like the Dragon Wheels, much more so than I expected.
The casting is not identical, but it’s very close: sharper, more delicate and with a more pointed front end. The parachute package on the back is a separate plastic piece instead of being cast-in. Even the chassis inside is very similar in form, although the air scoop isn’t hollowed out like the original. In short, it’s a thorough updating that pays tribute to the original without feeling like a pastiche. Give it a metal base and it’d be perfect, although that makes zero difference to the look of the model.
I absolutely love this model. Not everyone will feel the connection I have to its 70s and 80s roots, but I hope everyone can appreciate its beauty, because it is beautiful. Hot Wheels Real Riders? Yep, but who cares when they look this good? You couldn’t say the same for their use on the new Z, at least not in the pictures, which is why I didn’t jump on it last week.
I don’t often go for a big sales pitch but if you didn’t order one when it was released, I hope you can track one down. This model will never disappoint you. If this doesn’t prove to be my favourite model of 2022, it will have been an amazing 12 months!
(follow me on Instagram @diecast215)