Last year, die-cast brand Hot Wheels celebrated its 50th anniversary with a 15-city tour and a build contest that immortalized one lucky winner’s custom car in 1:64 scale.
The Hot Wheels Legends Tour returns for 2019, this time with additional city stops and the same grand prize, awarded at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas in November.
The Hot Wheels brand debuted on May 18, 1968, when toymaker Mattel released 16 castings, including the Beatnik Bandit, the Deora, a boldly interpreted Ford GT40 J-car, the Hot Heap, the Python, and the Silhouette. The remaining 10 cars were customized versions of production cars, each featuring oversized wheels and hard plastic tires with a redline stripe. Unlike rival brand Matchbox, which focused its efforts on reproducing production cars and trucks as accurately as possible, Hot Wheels always embraced the hot-rod ethos, a tact that proved successful from day one.
The fact that Hot Wheels sold far more than cars helped drive the business, too. In support of its ever-expanding line of cars, Mattel launched Hot Wheels track sets and accessories like the “Supercharger,” which used motorized foam rollers to propel cars at impossibly high scale speeds. Loops, jumps, and other stunts kept things interesting, while teaching kids lessons in physics that would be impossible to duplicate in full scale.
Fast-forward to 2018, when Hot Wheels created the Legends Tour to mark its golden anniversary. At each of the tour’s 15 stops, attendees were encouraged to enter their customized — or in some cases, full-on-custom — cars and trucks. A panel of judges, consisting of Hot Wheels designers, celebrities like Jay Leno, Aaron Kaufman, and Magnus Walker, and others in the trade reviewed each entry, rating them on authenticity (Does it look like a Hot Wheels car?), creativity (What details set it apart from the rest?), and garage spirit (an emphasis on built, not bought).
The city winners ranged from a 1938 Dodge Superior woodie-styled bus to a Geo Tracker with a monster motor poking through its hood, to the “Midieval 1,” a full-on custom best described as “Game of Thrones meets Mad Max.” Ultimately, the car selected as the overall winner in Las Vegas was “2 Jet Z,” a fighter-jet inspired custom built by Luis Rodriguez from a Nissan 300ZX, powered by a 627-horsepower turbocharged inline-six from a Toyota Supra.