Hot Wheels first appeared in 1968. I first appeared in 1969. It's a safe bet I crashed my first Hot Wheel soon after. If I recall the incident clearly, the girl next door, named Jody, ran a stop sign and totaled my 1968 Fleetside. Orange in color. Girls, right? Here's where I say that pink Hot Wheels from the early years are some of the most valuable because the marketing department decided they didn't need to make very many because little girls would not play with them. Tell that to Jody next door who's pink Custom Volkswagon destroyed my first car.
The first thing I can say about the original 16 Hot Wheels released in 1968 is that they are all favorites. I recently completed a full collection of the first year and I could spend a long, long time just collecting 1968 Hot Wheels. I love the Fleetside. Mine is orange. I'd love to have all the colors. By far the best year for Hot Wheels. They got it right the first time.
1968 Green Enamel VW
My personal favorite Hot Wheel that I have because the green enamel paint floors me, but it also reminds me of four years old. We lived in Freeport, Illinois, and my uncle Bill tried to sell us a Volkswagon Bug at one time. Even the full-sized car seemed like a toy to my young mind. Every morning we followed the postman, Charlie, to the end of the block where there was a box he emptied. Jody lived around the corner. She didn't actually wreck my Fleetside. I just made that part up.
1970 Paddy Wagon
The 1970 Paddy Wagon. Everything about this Hot Wheel just seems to come from a Saturday morning cartoon. How could a small boy (or girl) not love this whimsical creation?
1973 Alive 55
The Alive 55 is the re-release of 1970's Nomad. All of the Nomads from 1970 had white interiors, and for some reason I don't care for a white interior, but I love this piece. It reminds me of the Brady Bunch wagon even though it's nothing like that. 1973. The year my favorite movie, Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things was made, but i didn't know that for 12 more years.
1974 Police Cruiser
In 1974 my family moved across the river into Byron, Illinois, from the house we were renting from my uncle on Devil's Lane. Soon after I met a boy the same age as me, Brad. We were best friends for all the time I lived on River Road. Soon after we moved in they used the vacant field near the river to dump hundreds of heaps of dirt from excavating projects. Hundreds of small piles of dirt about five foot high. A paradise for five year old boys. Many Hot Wheels suffered I am ashamed to say, but can rest in Hot wheel heaven knowing they are fondly remembered. This particular car gives rise to a story I tell now for the first time, hoping the statute of limitations has lapsed. I love this car. Old 442. It's maybe my favorite of all. But in 1974 I didn't have one. But Brad did. So one afternoon I cleverly used a dime to remove all the paint from his police cruiser then took it home with me. let's just say he was not fooled the next time he saw it. Grand theft Hot Wheel.
1974 Rodger Dodger
Although I didn't have the Police Cruiser, I did have the Rodger Dodger. I called it the Donny Osmond-mobile. I don't know why I called it that, I guess maybe I saw Donny Osmond wearing something purple on the television. Or maybe I felt like if Donny Osmond were to drive a life-size Hot Wheel it would undoubtedly be the Rodger Dodger. What I know about this Hot Wheel is that it is the last one I remember having as I soon developed an interest in baseball and by age ten can't remember having Hot Wheels anymore. This one I sold at my grandmother's garage sale for the neat sum of fifty cents. When i finally earn enough money to reclaim one in that condition it will cost me a hundred times that amount.
1975 Ramblin' Wrecker
No Hot Wheel saw more action than the Ramblin Wrecker. It was a must have. Because no matter how crazy things got. No matter what mass carnage occurred in a day, the Ramblin Wrecker always showed up at the end of the day to make it right.
1976 Neet Streeter
The next three Hot Wheels are especially fond to me because I remember receiving them as Christmas presents. If memory serves, Christmas 1976 my brother Dan and I received the complete set of 1976 Hot Wheels and a crisp two dollar bill. There's nothing not to love about the Neet Streeter. It's all things Americana.
1976 Street Rodder
I seem to remember the Street Rodder was the star of the commercials at that time. If there were commercials, and I'm sure there were.
1977 '56 Hi Tail Hauler
And finally, the '56 Hi Tail Hauler. My grandfather had a similar truck in real life. I really adore this piece. It's probably the last of the great Hot Wheels. Probably the last significant redline.
When I set out to reclaim a part of my childhood by putting together a collection of Hot Wheels on Ebay I didn't know there was so much emotion invested in these little cars. There were times when I would see one and remember a story and literally start crying. Recently I was having a beer with one of my uncles and Hot Wheels came up and he said you probably don't remember this because you were too young, but your dad was mad for Hot Wheels. he used to buy miles of track and run them all over the house. And it would make sense: the person he was then is more than half my age as I write and younger. A boy.
March 6, 2013 update: Life is indeed mysterious. I now own a very nice version of each of these Hot Wheels, except the Alive 55 which I insist on owning in the rare lemon yellow. That will have to wait. The two year old often looks at me with incredulity when he sees them in an acrylic case. Sorry, little guy, you'll get them later, but for now they are for display only.