The Hot Wheels 50th Kick-Off Party

Every hot rodder’s story since 1968 has stared at the age of five with one thing in common: A Hot Wheels die-cast toy car. This past weekend, they celebrated their silver mark at their headquarters and Carbage was invited to sneak in before the large crowd was.

A 50 Year Celebration of the Automobile

While it isn’t the oldest die-cast brand of toy cars, Hot Wheels got the attention of young kids because Elliot Handler wanted something that looked more like the hot rods of his era. So, in 1968, Handler released the first sixteen castings with the first one being a blue custom Camaro. 11 of those first sixteen were also designed by Harry Bentley Bradley. He not only first worked with General Motors before working with Mattel but published his designs though hot rodding and customizer magazines under the name Mark Fadner because GM made it company policy to not allow design work for those magazines. He also worked with the Alexander Brothers on the 1964 Alexa, 1967 Dodge Deora, and eight other custom cars.

However, it wasn’t just the custom cars that brought Hot Wheels to the forefront. There were the race track sets, the bright orange sections of “road” with one or two “superchargers”. Those were battery-powered spinning wheels inside housings that looked like service stations to shoot the cars along the tracks. While many saw this as a staggering success, Bradley didn’t and left Mattel in 1969. While that was a blow, it turns out it was the turning point of car design for Hot Wheels cars. Ira Gilford came on board and the idea of a die-cast cars changed with his employment. Under Gilford’s design, we got some of the greatest hot wheels cars like Splittin’ Image and of course…


The Twin Mill

The Twin Mill, easily one of the most iconic and highest-priced die-cast Hot Wheels cars to date. It captured the imagination of both children and adults alike with its dual supercharged engines and massive intake scoops. If you have one of these still in the original, 1969 package, it can be worth over $800. However, a die-cast wasn’t enough and in 1998, during the 30th anniversary of Hot Wheels, a full-scale model was created with the blessings of Mattel.

There were only two guys in the hot rod world that the company could trust with such a project. Boyd Coddington and Chip Foose. Unfortunately, this was a sad part of history as Hot Rods by Boyd would go bankrupt prior to the finish of Twin Mill, but fortunately for everyone, the collections agencies didn’t scoop it up to ruin it. The Director of Hot Wheels at the time was Carson Lev and he contracted Barry Lobeck to finish the job in time for the 2001 SEMA Show.

The twin engines in this life-like project are a pair of GM Performance Chevrolet 502-Cubic Inch Big Block engines with a pair of Edelbrock carburetors on top of each Mooneyham 8-71 blower. Connecting both engines together and driving the B&M Torqueflite transmission is a connector plate from SCS Gearbox made for a tractor puller. It also uses a single starter, a 36-volt unit from a Bell Helicopter. All the lights are also fully functional with the body, glass, and light assemblies all made by Prototype Source.

It’s also driveable, well as drivable as a 1,400-horsepower car with two huge engines in the front can be. It’s been driven down the Las Vegas Strip, run a quarter-mile, and even down Sunset Boulevard to be displayed at the Playboy Mansion in Beverly Hills. While the colors and wheels have changed over the years since its completion, the Twin Mill hasn’t changed much. However, if you want to drive it, the only way to get a “sort of” experience is in the virtual world of Forza Horizon 3 and the Hot Wheels Bundle.


Hot Wheels in Life Size

The Twin Mill hasn’t been the only car to get a 1:1 version. Bone Shaker, the Darth Vader and X-Wing Cars, Deora II, even the twin-jet powered El Camino that the “Hot Wheels Test Facility” used as a pusher car for the corkscrew jump record attempt. All the cars they have publicly made as life-sized models were on display at this very first and opening stop of the 50th Anniversary tour. It was interesting to see them and realize what their base models were. The open wheel cars, for example, looked like they were from old IRL chassis and still used their pushrod suspensions.

The record attempting cars where also there, from the twins used for the Double Loop Dare during the 2012 X-Games. These cars were driven by Tanner Foust and Greg Tracy and both pulled off dual loop that merged at the exit. It was impressive to see in real life with a loop that was a couple of stories tall. There was also the long-jump trophy truck, also driven by Tanner, but with a different body on it. It broke the unofficial record for the longest jump by a four-wheeled vehicle at 332-feet. The official record (301-feet) has since been broken by Bryce Menzies in 2016 at 379.4-feet with a modified version of his Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series Pro 2 truck.

More than Just Hot Wheels Cars

What set this off as more than just a display of legendary Hot Wheels cars in scale and real life was the car show that took place during the kick-off event. Customized cars of all types attended the event from race cars to wild looking street cars. Imports and domestics, cars and trucks were all well represented. Eisi Ezerioha of Bisimoto brought out two of his cars, a center-drive and twin-turbo Porsche Boxter and the 1000-horsepower Honda Odyssey van. There was even a 1932 Nash in fully restored condition in attendance. We have three other features coming later this week from Patrick Long, Tommy Kendall, and “Rod”riguez.

However, just to single out the Nash, “Rod”riguez, Tommy’s Ninety Eight, and Patrick’s 356 still wouldn’t do justice on the vehicles in attendance. If you missed this, you missed out on history, technology, and all things worthy of showcase. I was certainly enjoying myself, even though I’m not a car show guy. Well, I’m not a car show competition guy, but stuff like this I certainly enjoy.


Jay Leno

The highlight of the show, for a lot of people, was the arrival of Jay Leno. He’s one of the certified car guys of Hollywood and defiantly has the appreciation of hot rods and customs with his own collection. Of course, he couldn’t arrive in a limo or hidden away, instead he drove from his home all the way to the Hot Wheels location in El Segundo, California in a 1956 Corvette. One very lucky kid was able to sit in the driver’s seat of his car, a proud moment for his dad, Leno, and the kid.

Of course, it was near impossible to reach him during the event as the crowd and cameras all followed him along. Not hating on the situation, he’s deserved it as a car guy, that’s for sure. That gesture to allow a kid in the seat was awesome to capture, too. It’s certainly made me respect the guy more to allow that to happen.

Only the Start

This won’t be the only stop for the Hot Wheels Legends Tour. There will be 15 stops along the way and each one will crown a best of the show. Those lucky winners will be taken to the 2018 SEMA Show in which one of those will be chosen to become a new die-cast car. That would be an amazing win for whoever gets it, but the only way to get it is to enter one of those 15 shows and become one of the final 15. Check out the Hot Wheels Legends Tour page to find the even closest to you.

Carbage Host

Justin Banner
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