I was 8 years old when Mattel Hotwheels turned the world of die-cast “toy cars” on it’s head. Where I had once been happy to push my Matchbox cars around in the sand-box, or fill the pipe or log carrier trucks and pretend I was doing construction work — now there was a new twist to playing with those little cars — speed! Not only had Mattel designed the fastest little cars on the block, they also had style…. the paint jobs and custom features made all the other 1:64 scale die-cast cars look like your father’s station wagon.
The Matchbox “BP” tow-truck was relegated to sitting in pit row while the California Custom hot rods raced down that slick orange track. My favorite was always the anti-freeze green Custom Camaro.
The Custom Camaro was one of the original 16 Hotwheels. First released in 1968, the car was a “better than original” miniature version of the real thing. You’d have to customize a real ’68 Camaro to add the “power bulges” (as Mattel called the raised vents on the hood), and the four small exhaust pipes that ran out behind the front wheels were as close to running open headers as you could get.
The anti-freeze Spectraflame paint let you know even from 10 feet away that it was a Hotwheels. Sure, Matchbox tried to put out a few colors that were similar, but Mattel’s process of applying the translucent paint over polished “zamac”, (and in rare cases over polished chrome), was a look you couldn’t get even wih a $10,000 paint job on a “real car”.
Over the years I’ve tried to collected as many of the ’68 Camaro variations and castings that have been released. When the HotWheels Classics (Series 1) came out and the anti-freeze Custom Camaro with redlines was again in production, it was a blast from the past — like just about everything these day, the new ones weren’t made as good as the originals, (the Classics have thick axles and no nylon bushings or spring wire suspension so they don’t roll as fast or sit as nice as the true redline era cars — but the look is there. Yeah, it’s 40 years later, but I couldn’t wait to get one home and run it down the orange track — for old times sake.
So… what’s your favorite Redline?