Saturday, May 9, 2015

Hot Wheels Cool Classics: Series in Review, by Derek Albert...

We asked our good friend Derek Albert, aka "doomus" on HWC, if we could reprint his review of the Cool Classics line that just recently came to an end.  He allowed it, and we think you enjoy reading it.

(Thanks Derek.)

I sort of did with with Hot Ones in late 2012/early 2013, mainly focusing on new castings and retools. I thought I'd do a series in review for Cool Classics as a whole.

The Cool Classics line, while to me is fantastic, is going to be a tale of "what could have been" for Hot Wheels. The series had a lot of potential when the RLC members were first shown FEPs of the early mixes. Metal/metal construction, a new one-piece wheel design in the Retro Slot (RS) wheel, and a new paint process with the Spectrafrost paint. Unfortunately, the line was just slow at retail and online, and didn't seem to sell as well as many hoped. Many seemed to feel it was a poor attempt at bringing back the 2005-2009 Classics line. And after seeing the price point of $3.50 for the line at Walmart and Kmart (and the ATROCIOUS price at TRU), it just hurt the series even more, after years of that price point being for RR-clad vehicles. Locally, we are fortunate enough to have several Targets to choose from where they were priced lower ($2.50 to $3 depending on the store), and that's where I went for my fix of the series, besides online (thanks, Milezone).

And then the convention sneaks and subsequent Cool Classics article. The 2013 line had picked it up pretty good in the last two mixes, and 2014 was looking very promising. Preliminary list was leaked for what was to be in the final three 2014 mixes early that year. HWC Van sneaked all of mix 4 and a couple from mix 5 to the RLC members. He went silent, and six more cars from the last two mixes were shown at the Nationals that March (April?). About a week or so later, HWC posted the 2014 Cool Classics article, and the final two mixes weren't listed. The fourth mix still had not been released and wouldn't be for almost four more months. With what was to be in those final two mixes, all hell broke loose on the boards. Soon, a rumor surfaced that the ten cars from those final two cases would be moved to a new series dubbed Heritage. Considering the initial source, this was believed to be true, and late in the summer, some pics surfaced of four cars from the second to last mix. It was soon realized that while there was going to be a new line called Heritage, those final ten Cool Classics would indeed be released as Cool Classics (the mixes being delayed along with a mix of the Entertainment line), and the Heritage line coming afterwards. That second to last mix started hitting retail in late January, and the final mix in mid-late April. This series became the first adult-collector series that I actually came across EVERY release at retail. Not all from the same outlets, but they all hit big box retail.

So let's break it down by year and mix. I don't have a loose one of every release, so I will picture those that I do have out of package:

1 Retool: Turbo Mustang
1 Modified Tool: '70 Ford Mustang Mach 1
3 New Metal Bases: '69 Mercury Cyclone, '61 Impala, '68 COPO Camaro*

Mix 1/A: '63 Chrysler Turbine, Blastous Moto, '63 Plymouth Belvedere Max Wedge, '40 Ford Coupe, '65 Mercury Comet Cyclone, Turbo Mustang

While this mix featured 3 cars that practically never saw peg time (Belvedere, '40 Ford, Cyclone), the others tended to warm the pegs. The Blastous Moto didn't surprise me in the least that it became a pegwarmer, but the Turbine and Mustang did to a point. The Turbine seems to be a niche casting in general, and the Mustang, while a classic HW casting design, had a somewhat bland paint design. Done in a different color, that Mustang would have been a bigger hit I think.

Mix 2/B: '67 Pontiac Firebird, '67 Ford Mustang Coupe, Custom V-8 Vega, T-Bucket, AMC Rebel Machine, '65 Mustang

While the AMC Rebel Machine also rarely saw peg time (it was the one I had the hardest time finding at retail, besides the last mix of the line), the '65 Mustang and Vega became peg warmers. The Firebird looked neat in its race deco, the '67 Mustang was a hit (though I had an issue with the rear wheels... more on that later), and the T-Bucket was surprisingly scarce. IMO, iIt would have been better if they had used the '65 Mustang Coupe casting instead of the convertible (not the racey fastback, the coupe based on the convertible casting).

Mix 3/C: Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, Volkswagen Beetle (Tooned), '67 Oldsmobile 442, '69 Mercury Cyclone, '51 Buick LeSabre Concept, '62 Chevy

Another mixed lot. The Cyclone, Olds, and Shelby were the hits of this mix, but the LeSabre and '62 Chevy again just sat at most places. The LeSabre was another poor casting choice, IMO, as it another rather niche casting, even more so than the Chrysler Turbine. I feel the '62 Chevy had a poor color choice for it (gold seemed to be an odd color for this series, especially because if the car was gold, the wheels would be). And while I loved the '67 442, the rear wheels annoyed me (again, more on that later). The '69 Mercury, though, was PERFECT.

Mix 4/D: Chevelle SS Express, '64 Impala, Plymouth Duster Thruster, 1957 Chrysler 300C, Dixie Challenger, '68 HEMI Barracuda

A very Mopar-heavy mix (4/6), this is where the series really picked up steam. Not a peg warmer in the bunch. There was a lot of initial backlash against the Impala due to the pink windows, but it still left pegs pretty quickly, and personally I thought it was a great release. The Dixie Challenger was the dog of the group, IMO, but it seemed to be a popular one among other collectors.

Mix 5/E: 1968 Mercury Cougar, '67 Shelby GT500, '61 Impala, '68 COPO Camaro, '70 Ford Mustang Mach 1, Custom '53 Chevy

A really good close to the 2013 line. The Cougar and '53 Chevy seemed to be the only ones that would hang for a prolonged period of time, while the Mach 1 and COPO were snatched up very quickly. But that '61 Impala, MAN do I love that thing, easily one of my favorites of the entire line.

* - The metal base might not be completely new for this casting, I'm not sure if it was the same base tool used for the RLC club car with the opening hood body tool.

Now, my problem with the '67 Mustang Coupe and the '67 Oldsmobile 442 rear wheels was that there's room to use the medium-wide wheels, but they used the normal width wheels. The only reason I could think why is because of the way the axle tabs are crimped, they don't always get hit right and the axles tend to be loose. If the axle was loose, it would cause the wheels to rub on the body. I did a few wheel swap customs on these two, putting BWs on the Mustang (sacrificed a Porsche 935) and just swapping in wide rears on the 442 (took rears from an SS Express). I also did a RR swap on the 442 that turned out great. More on that later.

2 New Metal Bases: Honda S2000, '10 Shelby GT500 Super Snake
Mixes changed from 6 cars per mix to 5, while keeping 30 cars.

Mix 1/F: '32 Ford, 1987 Toyota Pickup, '67 Pontiac Firebird 400, '77 Pontiac Firebird, Chevy Camaro Concept

An interesting mix. The '77 Firebird gets used for a 3rd time in less than 2 years, the '67 Firebird becomes the only repeat in the Cool Classics, and the Toyota truck is the only Cool Classics release to not have the RS wheels (because, hey, they won't fit). The Camaro Concept was actually the pegwarmer of this mix. This seemed to become the most plentiful mix of the line locally. I had NO problems getting several of the Toyota truck (and no, it wasn't to hoard so-to-speak, all these extras were bought for future custom swaps using the wheels and/or bases). The '67 Firebird was really nice, the perfect contrast to the busy look of the purple one from mix B.

Mix 2/G: Purple Passion, '29 Ford Pickup, '67 Camaro, '52 Hudson, '68 Olds 442

This mix was one I had mixed feelings over. The Camaro and Hudson were hits, and the Passion is a collector favorite. The '29 Ford is always neat, but the color combination here seemed a little odd for the casting (I think it's the red fenders). But that '68 Olds 442... I really like that casting, but WHY did it have to be done in the dark/burnt orange color, with clashing blue tampos. ARGH... (If you're reading Van, sorry man, but for me I just did not care for that color combination at all).

Mix 3/H: '85 Honda CRX, '73 Ford Gran Tornio, Amphicar, '47 Chevy Fleetline, Straight Pipes

I was very happy to see the Straight Pipes return here after a 4 year absence. Would have loved to see it in Hot Ones/Flying Customs, but this was a really nice release despite becoming the mix's pegwarmer. This was the first mix of 2014 that I started seeing in droves at Walmart. The CRX and Fleetline were the quick sellers.

Mix 4/J: '65 Ford Galaxie, Astro Funk, '84 Ford Mustang SVO, Volkswagen Drag Beetle, '55 Corvette

The Corvette just looked odd in this mix. I like the casting but the tampos just seemed to not fit real well, or maybe it was just the colors. Either way, something just didn't seem "right" on it. The rest of the case, though, was great. The Galaxie and SVO look FANTASTIC, and are easily 2 of my favorites of the line. The Drag Beetle never sat long once the mix hit retail a good 4 months AFTER the previous mix. And the Astro Funk was a perfect fit for the series, the Spectrafrost paint working well on this '60's show car throwback.

'15 Mix 1/K: '69 Mustang Boss 302, '84 Hurst Olds, Honda S2000, Ford GT, '65 Volkswagen Fastback

These last two mixes showed something I really wanted to see: more modern vehicles receiving the metal/metal treatment and one-piece wheels (in this case, the Honda S2000 and '10 Shelby GT500 Super Snake). We had to wait another bit for the Shelby, but the S2000 looked great with the simple race deco. The '69 Boss 302 was a VERY welcome release, especially after the casting was dropped from the Flying Customs line. The Ford GT received a new color that would only be seen one more time, and the Fastback is always a popular casting. I love the Hurst Olds casting, but the color chosen here seemed a bit odd. I like it, but it's the wheels that hurt, as they don't work in gold, IMO (and this was an issue with the Custom '53 Chevy and '62 Chevy).

'15 Mix 2/L: Datsun 240Z, Datsun Bluebird 510, '76 Chevette, Subaru BRAT, '10 Shelby GT500 Super Snake

The final mix. JDM heavy with the 240Z, 510 and BRAT, but they are all welcome indeed. The BRAT looked great once again. The 510 finally had a nice, simple design to it, instead of being cluttered with racing deco (not that the past releases were bad, just they all were race inspired decos). The 240 looks sharp in the silver spectrafrost, but the deco did seem a little odd. The Super Snake was great as another modern car metal/metal casting. And the Chevette... man I love that casting.

Improvements that I feel would have helped greatly:

  • Wheel choice. It would have been great to see the BW and HO wheel be used on a few of the castings (the 510 Bluebird would have looked great with HO wheels, for example). While I love the RS wheel, some mild variety would have been great to see.
  • Casting choice. This has been a constant battle in the premium retail series for some time. While the "start weak, finish strong" mentality might sound good on paper, in practice it's a very poor choice. (Luckily, the Heritage line is showing great promise, as that mentaily seems to be gone). A variety of what was featured would have been more ideal as well. We got that in 2014, but 2013 was very muscle heavy.
  • Price point. This fact alone seemed to drive a lot of collectors away from the line. The cars would generally sit on the pegs at Walmart and Kmart, and ESPECIALLY at TRU. At least locally, Target was the only retailer where they would sell consistently and cars would not hang long, due to their much lower price point. Whether or not it was a mistake, they had the best deal as far as retail goes ($2.50 or $3 per car, whereas other places were at least at $3.50). I know I often made the argument about the price point of the Classics line was often the same, but still.
  • New castings. Not a single new casting debuted in the line. Yes, the Turbo Mustang was a retool, but this release wasn't even intended to be the first release of it (the casting was planned for Flying Customs but was dropped). Some new designs would have helped the line quite a bit.

But the BEST thing about this line? EVERY CAR PLANNED FOR THE SERIES WAS RELEASED AS ANNOUNCED AND PREVIEWED! ALL 60 CARS WERE RELEASED!!! AND ALL COULD BE FOUND AT RETAIL WITH RELATIVE EASE! After a few years of lines being cut short, cars being changed in after mix lists were announced, or some mixes not showing stateside, this line was completed with all 60 announced cars. Yes, you essentially had to be at the store when the last two mixes were pegged to have a chance, but they were there.

In the end, I feel the series was a bit misunderstood. It really was a very nice series, and the spectrafrost paint does look really neat. I think there was a lot of collectors who felt that this was HW's idea of a resurrection of the 2005-2009 Classics line, and I don't think that was the point. The spectrafrost paint does look good, and ghost graphics work great with it. There were definitely several collector favorite castings included. Being made in Thailand like the Hot Ones and Flying Customs were, the quality was practically flawless on these. I rarely saw tampo issues, and when I did it was mostly on tight curved surfaces. I only came across one true error, a "reverse" wheeled Camaro Concept (mediums on front, small on rear). I am really hoping the Heritage line will be made over a the Thailand plant because the quality coming from that one is much better than Malaysia (Boulevard, anyone? that line was HEAVY on the tampo/deco issues).


  1. Great read. I got in late to this set, but ended up with some 20 cars or so. The last two sets in full, plus the galaxie, drag beetle, svo mustang and a couple more. I still see straight pipes and astro funks hanging around, plus the amphibacar. I loved this series, for no reason. Just really liked it. But I can't wait for heritage either.

  2. I loved this series. I loved that they stayed true and kept the same wheels. I loved that we had a cheap price point for a metal/metal car and didn't have to overpay just because of RR's. Nice assortment of drag cars like the Belvedere, Chevette and Hemi Cuda. Some of my favorite castings like: COPO Camaro, Turbo Mustang, Trans Am, SVO, Vega and Brat.
    Great read Doomus.

  3. Haven't seen the last batch yet, as far as the JDM cars are concerned. Should have picked up the Galaxie when I saw it on the shelf.
    TRU is very, very high for prices. TERRIBLE!!!!