The Tiny Toy Automobiles That Impressed Hundreds of thousands of Gearheads Worldwide

The Tiny Toy Automobiles That Impressed Hundreds of thousands of Gearheads Worldwide



In 1968, the toy producer Mattel launched a brand new line of small mannequin automobiles. The transfer was maybe a little bit of of venture, as there was no scarcity of different toy automobiles and vans already available on the market.

However Mattel’s new “Sizzling Wheels” had a particular trick up their sleeve:

They. Have been. Quick.

You see, different toy automobiles typically had rudimentary axles and chassis. So if you rolled them alongside a kitchen flooring, they wouldn’t get that far. Mattel sought to alter all that. Due to some intelligent engineering, its Sizzling Wheels might zip alongside the baseboards and between desk legs sooner than some other toy automobile round.

Suffice it to say, that was an enormous promoting level.

The unique Sizzling Wheels brand because it appeared in 1968. (Picture/Mattel)

Even higher, Mattel secured rights from Chevy, Ford, and Chrysler to make genuine miniature variations of common fashions sitting proper on the seller tons. After which Mattel personalized the automobiles within the Sixties hotrod fashion.

All instructed, the primary Sizzling Wheels automobile rolled off the meeting line and onto retailer cabinets on Might 18, 1968.

It was a customized Camaro, and included trick options like Keystone-style wheels, a suspension rake, side-exit headers, and redline tires.

Right here’s the very first mannequin Sizzling Wheels you may get, a first-gen Customized Camaro. (Picture/Mattel)

Different Sizzling Wheels quickly adopted, rounding out an preliminary launch line of 16 toy automobiles, now known as the Candy 16. These authentic 16 automobiles are among the most collectable Sizzling Wheels of all time and may go for large bucks in classic toy auctions.

The Sizzling Wheels line launched with 16 radical customized scorching rods. (Picture/Mattel)

Take it To the Monitor!

One of many different key differentiating components between Sizzling Wheels and its rivals, was that Mattel quickly launched a sequence of tracks and equipment so youngsters might actually let the automobiles fly round the lounge. These versatile tracks included loops, banked curves, and even daredevil jumps that added to the automobiles’ play issue.

Sizzling Wheels playsets are modular, so you’ll be able to hyperlink them with different playsets to create a complete toy automobile ecosystem—in case your mother and father allow you to take over the household room, that’s. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

And with out the necessity for electrical energy, many mother and father noticed Sizzling Wheels as a simple (and low-cost) different to a slot automobile observe. You could possibly simply join increasingly more tracks, with out fear of compatibility or working out of juice.

That accent line steadily expanded to incorporate larger playsets, stunt tracks, storage circumstances, gasoline stations, automobile washes, airports—heck, there was even a Sizzling Wheels McDonald’s drive-thru.

Principally, Mattel knew that the success of Sizzling Wheels was reliant on extra than simply the automobiles.

Sizzling Wheels launched its “Sto & Go” playsets within the Nineteen Seventies, which folded up into helpful suitcase-style carrying/storage circumstances. The Sto & Go line even begat a short-lived Sizzling Wheels railroad sequence. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

Drag Racing Involves Your Residing Room

And talking of tracks, Mattel’s advertising workforce totally realized the overlap between drag racing’s reputation and toy automobile gross sales. In one among racing’s most well-known sponsorships, the Sizzling Wheels brand was painted prominently on the dragsters of Don “Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “Mongoose” McEwen as the 2 racers squared off all through the Nineteen Seventies.

The Mattel and Prudhomme/McEwen sponsorship case examine remains to be taught in advertising textbooks. (Picture/Summit Racing)

The toys have been designed to be raced and, because of this, are loads sturdy too. You possibly can roll a Sizzling Wheels automobile by means of mud, launch it off the steps, and crash it by means of Barbie’s Dream Home—after a dunk within the kitchen sink, it’s pretty much as good as new.

The Lesney/Matchbox Rivalry

No dialog of Sizzling Wheels automobiles can be full with out mentioning Lesney. Beginning within the early Nineteen Fifties, UK-based Lesney Merchandise was cranking out small die-cast automobiles and vans as England dug out from World Struggle II.

A lot of Lesney’s earliest fashions have been industrial vans (Lorries) and army/farming gear. Flanking the cool Ford Fairlane police automobile is a Vauxhall Victor and Vauxhall Cresta—given Lesney’s British origins, it’s no coincidence that many Matchbox automobiles favor European fashions. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

Lesney’s toy automobiles have been sufficiently small to slot in a matchbox, therefore they turned generally known as Matchbox Automobiles. The road steadily grew to incorporate all method of automobiles, buses, tractors, and vans.

For those who’re into scale numbers, although it’s not all the time constant, all of those automobiles are usually thought-about 1:64 scale. Traditionally although, early Lesney-branded Matchbox automobiles (AKA 1-75 sequence) are smaller than their Sizzling Wheels counterparts, however the automobiles grew in bodily dimension and steadily eclipsed Sizzling Wheels because the toy line developed. Study extra about mannequin scale right here.

Smallest to largest, right here’s a scale/dimension comparability between an early Lesney Matchbox 1955 Vauxhall, a Sizzling Wheels second-gen Camaro, and a later Matchbox Jaguar roadster. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

It wasn’t till Sizzling Wheels confirmed up within the late Sixties that Matchbox confronted any severe competitors within the 1:64 scale toy automobile market. The 2 manufacturers can be fierce rivals for many years, earlier than Matchbox’s monetary troubles in the end allowed Mattel to purchase the model within the late Nineteen Nineties.

Yup—Matchbox automobiles and Sizzling Wheels are actually each owned by the identical firm. Bizarre, huh?

Must get your Sizzling Wheels to a concours occasion on the opposite facet of the globe? There’s a Cargo Aircraft for that. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

Sizzling Wheels’ Continued Recognition

In over a half-century of steady manufacturing, Sizzling Wheels have garnered legions of toy automobile aficionados throughout a number of generations. Which means the earliest Sizzling Wheels followers are actually sufficiently old to purchase Sizzling Wheels for his or her grandkids.

And albeit, Sizzling Wheels makes it very easy to do it.

From a Scrambler-carrying K5 Blazer to a Porsche 917, Sizzling Wheels has one thing in its 1:64 scale storage for just about everybody. You possibly can even get your 250 Testa Rossa in inexperienced! (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

Along with some wild customized designs, the Sizzling Wheels storage contains trustworthy reproductions of traditional Detroit musclecars, classic race automobiles, and Nineteen Nineties-era imports. Even higher, these automobiles are sometimes fitted with genuine particulars and correct race liveries.

In different phrases: It’s powerful to stroll previous a 1:64 AMC Insurgent Machine or modded Mazda RX-7 on a grocery retailer rack with out shopping for it.

…No matter whether or not you will have youngsters or not.

Common journeys to our native grocery retailer enable us to amass a group of automobiles, together with these traditional Corvette racers. For our youngsters, in fact. (Picture/OnAllCylinders)

Paul is the editor of OnAllCylinders. When he isn’t writing, you will most likely discover him fixing oil leaks in a Jeep CJ-5 or watching a 1972 Corvette overheat. An avid motorcyclist, he spends the remainder of his time synchronizing carburetors and cleansing chain lube off his left pant leg.


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September 2022