While Hot Wheels celebrates its 50th anniversary, Rahul stumbles on an opportunity to live out his childhood fantasy.
Back in the day – before the time of smartphones and tablets – when I was still in school, the boy with the coolest toy car was the most popular.
So, when Mattel Toys introduced Hot Wheels in India, it literally transformed my childhood. Suddenly, Hot Wheels became ‘the thing’ to have. I remember owning over a hundred of these models and having proper fist fights with my cousin to settle the most important question – whose is better.
A few years later, they also introduced the tracks with the loop-de-loops and jump ramps, which left me standing in a pool of my own drool with every new version. Each new model of car, track and accessory was better and cooler than the one before it in exactly the way a five-year-old would imagine it to be. I’m quite sure that, as we grow older and our toys get bigger, every car enthusiast can trace their love for automobiles to these 1:64 scale models.
With 6 billion cars produced since 1968, Hot Wheels has inspired generations of children the world over – many of whom have grown up to become car enthusiasts. As 2018 marks their 50th anniversary, Mattel Toys India decided to make two life-size versions of their most popular 1:68 models to celebrate the occasion and display them at the 2018 Auto Expo.
One of them was based on a Ford Mustang, while the other was a bit more extreme in being an homage to the era of classic hot-rod muscle cars. Hot Wheels selected a 70’s Chevrolet Camaro from the 2016 HW Flames Collection, and then went out and found the closest thing – a Hindustan Contessa Classic – to base it on. Well, 60’s Camaros are a little harder to come by!
With the help of a garage in Mumbai, the team went to work to recreate the car – while taking liberties to make it look as mad as a kid would envision. After three months, the car transformed into something unrecognisable – with a completely reworked interior, a thoroughly modified front end, and a set of new wheels and tyres. But, above all, it has an extremely challenging paint job. The flames look unbelievably realistic – this isn’t some off-the-shelf vinyl wrap. This is beautifully hand painted in a way that gives it a three-dimensional look. The flames run from the front all the way to the rear door of the car. Additionally, the front has an angry glow thanks to a red light behind the radiator grille – while the tungsten-light headlamps are hidden by chrome grilles. Park the car in a dimly lit environment, and it looks nothing short of demonic.
That demonic appeal is further aided by an interior panelled and finished in red leather, a steering wheel made out of a thick chain and a terrifying knob on the floor shift gear lever, which looks like the angriest skull imaginable. Mechanically, there were no changes made to the car, suffice to say that it’s drivable. Upon learning that last bit of information, I desperately reached out to them to let me have a go – and they did!
Driving the car was surprisingly easy – as long as you’re on the move that is! You see, with no power steering, and a metal chain for a steering wheel, it was a bit of a handful. But, at the time, it simply didn’t matter. Why? Well, if you thought that a Mustang or a Cobra gets a lot of attention on the road, rest assured, this will make them simply push them into oblivion. I couldn’t park it anywhere on the road, or even in my parking lot, without it drawing a crowd. Watching people trip over their own dropped jaws was incredibly amusing – and strangely satisfying. I even met a person who waited for 20 minutes for me to finish the shoot just to ask me if he could take a selfie.
As I was taking the car back, I passed a school bus full of children who began screaming in elation as they saw the car – and the reason why this car is appreciated by so many suddenly dawned on me. It appeals to the inner five-year-old in all of us, and reminds us of our own childhoods. More than that, it gives us reason to believe that transforming our childhood visions into reality is actually possible.
After all, as a child, I dreamt of having a life-sized version of that cool dinky car. So, thank you Hot Wheels for allowing me to finally live the dream…