If you were a Lamley visitor last year, you might remember the Lamley Awards. It is something we will do every year - asking as many collectors as possible to vote for their Best and Worst in several categories, including Best New Hot Wheels casting, Best Super Treasure Hunt, etc.
We conduct a vote, and we had several thousand last year, and announce the collector's choice. We then announce our choice as well. Last year, readers selected KITT as their Best New Model, and the Ferrari 599XX Super Treasure Hunt as their Hot Wheels Model of the Year. Good selections. Of course, our selection of the attention-grabbing Mad Manga as Model of the Year was met with a lot of scrutiny.
We explained then that while the Mad Manga was not our favorite model of 2012, we chose it because it represented Hot Wheels' ability to introduce collectors and consumers alike to all kinds of cars and car cultures that may not be familiar with. We thought it was a great reason to choose it Model of the Year. It doesn't have to be the most popular, just something that is significant.
Now that we are well into 2013 (actually on the tail end), we start thinking about what models might be in the running for Best New Model and Model of the Year this year. There are a lot of candidates, and we will get into them when we start the Lamley Award process in the fall. But there is one that we are sure will be right in the thick of things - the Kool Kombi.
Hot Wheels obviously knew they were on to something great with this model, or they would not have selected it as their Toy Fair Model to show off to retailers. But I don't know if any of us could predict how popular the Kool Kombi would be once it hit the pegs.
Its appeal to collectors is obvious. First, it is a VW. Second, it is obviously tooned, but in a reverse direction from the ever popular Drag Bus. Instead of becoming a mean machine like the Drag Bus, it is cute. You just want to pinch its cute little cheeks. But then a look at its rear shows that this little cutie means business. But NOT TOO MUCH business, because it has some space for surf boards. I love that back and forth in the details.
And what about that word Kombi? It comes from Kombinationskraftwagen, German for "combination motor vehicle". The Kombi variant of the VW Minibus had removable seats, so it could be used as a transporter and a cargo carrier, hence its "combination" of purposes. The Kool Kombi serves several purposes as well, including as a dragster, a surfboard carrier, and obviously as a transporter (maybe only for 2 people, but that is beside the point).
And there is something else about the word "Kombi". While German in origin, it is synonymous with Brazilian VW Buses. Did you know that VW Brasil has been producing Kombis all the way up until now? In fact, they announced just last year that they would cease production in 2013. To me, Kombis are Brazilian. I enjoyed a ride in my share of them during my time in Brazil.
Hot Wheels must think the same thing, because the colors of the Toy Fair and initial versions are purely Brazilian. The 6-time World Cup champs could arrive at the tournament in one with those colors. The side design colors on all versions so far scream samba, and the surfboards and colorful ocean waves tell us the Girl from Ipanema arrived in one.
So there is a lot to love about this model, and we at Lamley, who normally celebrate realism, have fallen victim as well. We are totally entranced, enough to spring for a not-cheap Toy Fair model. (It is worth it, with its spectraflame Brazilian green and metal base.)
Collectors are obviously mesmerized too. The green Kombi is harder to find than most regular Treasure Hunts. We have had more trouble finding it than any other model, but have gotten lucky a couple of times. Errors on the Kombi sell for ridiculous prices on ebay. And it is a customizers dream.
We even asked Lamley friends on Facebook about what makes the Kool Kombi so appealing, and the answer we liked best came from Marv Hughes:
This is one of those cars that will make a current 8 year old say "Oh Wow! I remember this car from when I was a kid" When he gets to be 30-40 years old.We could not agree more. It is memorable. It instantly enters the pantheon of Hot Wheels collector faves, and will surely show up to several parties in Super TH and RLC exclusive clothes. Not to mention conventions.
Is it our favorite this year? Nah. We are JDM'ers here, and Toyota has dominated 2013. But we have fallen victim to its spell, and it could get our nod as Model of the Year. Collector response sure suggests it should.
So here are photos of all four versions released so far, including the fantastic Toy Fair model and recolor in white, which is part of Batch L, due in June. Enjoy...
(Find Batch L at Wheel Collectors, and the Kool Kombi all over ebay...)
Hot Wheels Kool Kombi:
Yes, painted surfboards: