Didn’t expect this one did you? The third model on my list of 10 Most Significant Models during the 10 years since Lamley launched is a model I rarely talk about.
But the Mazda RX-3, while truly a fantastic casting, is not here based on its merit as a model. It is one of the most significant models of the Lamley Era because I chose it to represent Car Culture. To me, the greatest line Hot Wheels has ever done, and maybe the most influential line in all of 1/64.
I was in Lexington, Kentucky for the Hot Wheels Nationals Convention when one of the Marketing Managers from Hot Wheels invited me to lunch to get my thoughts on something the Hot Wheels Team was working on.
Robert swore me to secrecy, and then told me about a line they were calling “Car Culture”, that would feature different themed mixes of five premium models. He then listed the first mix for me. There were no images, no e sheets, no renderings at all. Just a plan.
I heard Skyline (twice), Datsun 510 Wagon, Toyota 2000GT, and Mazda RX-3. I think it was pretty obvious from my reaction that I was all in. And I was. It was obvious to me that this line was going to be a hit. That Hot Wheels was finally doing to drop a premium line aimed directly at today’s collectors.
And I was right. Car Culture has been a hit from the very beginning. Hot Wheels upgraded the line a couple of years in to full premium, and it has gotten even more popular. Sure, there is the occasional miss, but Car Culture is still going incredibly strong, and there is no sign of slowing down. Even the addition of Chase models this year has been met with general excitement.
And from my seat here at Lamley, nothing has been more fun to cover. Before Car Culture, Hot Wheels Premium lines were more boutique than anything. More niched more than they needed to be, and for every desirable, popular model there were several that catered only to a small niche, usually old school, more nostalgic collectors.
Car Culture was clearly built off the interest that models like the Boulevard Datsun 510 Wagon and Porsche 993 had generated. They were a little too late to save the original Boulevard, but instant collector interest was enough for the Hot Wheels team to understand that replicating what was going on in the real car world was the way to go.
I decided to use the RX-3 to stand in for the entire line. It was part of the original mix, it was a unique choice at the time, representing a bold new direction for Hot Wheels, and it even was one of the first models to sport the 4-spoke Real Riders, which were also a strong indicator of where the Hot Wheels Team was willing to go.
I don’t have enough time to list all the models that have been released within Car Culture, whether it be the standard mixes, Team Transport, 2-packs, or Diorama sets. Not the mention the Car Culture-inspired Fast & Furious and New Boulevard lines. Suffice to say it is a murderer’s row of cars, with no end in sight.
Car Culture is easily the most important element of this hobby I have seen emerge during these last 10 years. Whether the execution of the line itself, or the immense influence it has had on our hobby, it needed to be acknowledged here.
2 Replies to “The 10 Most Significant Models of the Lamley Era: Hot Wheels Car Culture Japan Historics 1 Mazda RX-3”
Personally, my favourite year for Hot Wheels premiums was probably 2011 because of the Vintage Racing series plus Hot Wheels Garage had a whole Ferrari subset, a brand there hasn’t been in Car Culture since it didn’t even start until a year after Mattel lost the Ferrari license to May Cheong Group. 2011 also had the later releases in the Slick Rides Delivery line.
“Car Culture” is the line that firmly established a mid-tier in the diecast space, more so than any other single line of product in this hobby. It used to be that it was either basic or Kyosho/TLV, with the mid-range options skewing heavily one way or the other. Car Culture is exactly in the right spot: still toy-like, but with oodles more detail from body to tyre. For any other toymaker, that’s a death knell for margin, so it’s a good thing that Mattel has the industrial capacity (a lot like Bandai and their Real Grade line) to pull this off AND use the learnings from CC to make even the mainlines better than before.
Thanks to that, brands MiniGT, Para64 and Tarmac Works (and to a lesser degree, Spark) came to the fore, taking over from Kyosho while actually being able to bring down prices enough that a MiniGT and an HWCC can compete in the same price bracket (retail; second-hand is still a pain point). Qualitatively, that means one can hit TLV-level detail for not a whole lot of money, making for an enticing proposition that, if played right, can lead to killer deals accounting for inflation. There’s competition now, at every level, and it lifted damn near every brand and the hobby in doing so.
Such a strong mid-range bracket is significant in providing options for people who want in on this hobby, and HW Car Culture is the nexus on which everything else hinges upon. Lose this line, and it’d be hard to motivate its competitors to do better within the US$5-10 range. Lose this line, and we’d lose a lot of potential collectors who can help preserve the love of cars.