Thursday, January 17, 2013

Wondering why these Hot Wheels Speed Machines basic wheel variations exist? There is a precedent...

There has been a lot of discussion about what prompted the re-release of the final batch of Hot Wheels Speed Machines recently, as well as why instead of the standard comold wheels, these models sport basic OH5's.

I can't answer why they were re-released.  Obviously only Mattel can, but even that might be difficult.  We have heard one member of the design team who worked on Speed Machines say he had no knowledge of the second release.  It could be to fill an order that needed to be filled, but I don't know the first thing about how that works so I won't even try to figure it out.  (By the way, writing about speculating this or that probably comes from the fact that I have been reading a certain article on deadspin for the last hour.  I am sure many of you have been doing the same...)

What I can speculate about is the use of OH5 wheels instead of comolds.  Let's say Mattel did decide to fill a premium line order with the final batch of Speed Machines.  Maybe they had extra bodies and bases lying around, and this was a perfect way to get rid of them.  So the process starts, but there are no comold wheels to use.  Well, one of the most important rules is to keep the assembly line running, and don't stop for anything you don't have to, including wheels.  If there are no comolds, why not use some extra OH5's lying around?  We can do them up to closely resemble the comolds they are replacing, and we have our order filled...

Hence, if the model had grey comolds, now it has chrome OH5's.  Black comolds?  Use black OH5's.  Black with an orange outer rim?  You get the picture...

This has been done before.  Back in 2008, Matchbox released their first batch of that year's premium Superfast line.  The models sported either the classic wheel or standard "sport" Superfast 5-spoke wheel.  That was a bit of a surprise to collectors, as Mattel had told them that a new Superfast wheel was in the works and would debut in the 2008 line (that is the wheel you now see on many Matchbox models like the new Lambo Police).

However, a few months after the initial release of 2008 Superfast Batch A, the models all of a sudden reappeared in stores with basic wheels.  The four sports cars - Porsche 911 GT3, Bentley Continental, Volvo C30, and Audi RS6 Avant - had the basic 10-spoke wheel, and the two classics - Austin Mini Van and Cadillac Hearse - sported the trispokes.  Matchbox variation collectors went nuts trying to find them, and the trispoke Hearse especially became a very hot item, selling for premium prices on ebay.

The funny thing?  The staff at Mattel knew nothing about the wheel change.  I remember going the to the Matchbox Gathering in July, and the designers were the first people that wanted to see the wheel variations.  They speculated that the factory ran out of Superfast wheels, so they put together some regular wheels to look similar in style and used those.  The use of the basic wheels continued through the remainder of the 2008 Superfast range, and the original Superfast wheels returned in 2009, presumably because more had finally been manufactured to compensate for the delay of the new wheels.  The brand new 5-spoke wheel finally appeared in 2009 Batch B, and then moved to the basic range after the Superfast line was discontinued in 2010 to make way for the Lesney Editions.

Alright, I have fully geeked out talking about wheels.  I wonder if any of it made sense, or if any of you even care.  Nonetheless, running wheel switches like these have happened before, and it seems they can happen at the factory independent of any decisions made by the Mattel Design Team.

In other words, I have no idea why it happened.

The 2008 Superfast variations:

Cadillac Hearse

Bentley Continental GT

Audi RS6 Avant

Porsche 911 GT3

(Sorry for the photo quality on these next two.  These pics were taken several years and two cameras ago...)

Austin Mini Van

Volvo C30


  1. The CoMolds were the best part of the Speed Machines.

    I'd buy a ton of them just for the wheels.

  2. The Co-Molds may look nice but they don't perform well. Nice pictures and info on the MB Superfast variations!