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Thursday, June 18, 2015

Will we ever see two Hot Wheels Mainlines again like Phil Riehlman's 2006 '55 Chevy Panel & Karmann Ghia?


It hasn't even been 10 years, but the further we get from it, the stranger it seems.

It is an era of cost control at Mattel.  Plastic is replacing metal in many cases, moving parts are removed, and the 4-part rule (chassis, interior, body, windows) is adhered to in almost all cases.

It has also kept many models out of the mainline.  At Matchbox, the Routemaster Bus has been relegated to premium lines because it is too expensive to produce for the mainline.  And at Hot Wheels, there is a slew of models that will only be used for premium lines as well, most notably the Blown Delivery, the Convoy Custom, Drag Bus, and '55 Chevy Panel, among a host of others.

The funny thing, though, is that a couple of those heavy, all-metal, multiple-parts models actually made their debut in the mainline.  The Drag Bus famously debuted in the 1996 mainline, and soon thereafter was relegated to premium duty.  But that was 1996, and many, if not most, of the models still had metal chassis.

But it was a pair of models that debuted in 2006 that still seem like such an anomaly.  At that time, almost all models were debuting with plastic chassis and no working or removable parts.  It had become the standard, and whether collectors liked it or not, they were used to it.

The Hot Wheels dropped a surprise.  As the 2006 Mainline was revealed by way of checklist posters, two new model slots remained blank.  Mattel assured those that inquired that there were two models ready to fill those slots, but that collectors would have to be patient, and they would not be disappointed.

And they weren't.  Towards the end of the year, in one of the final batches, Hot Wheels debuted two brand new Phil Riehlman designs, the '55 Chevy Panel and VW Karmann Ghia.


How these got approved is anyone's guess.  Both had metal bases, both moving or removable parts, both were large, and both were heavy.  (The Panel in particular was almost too big for the blister card and still remains one of the heaviest Hot Wheels models every done.)  And collectors loved them.  The models were gobbled up as quickly as Super TH's.

By now most of you know the cool little features that both models have.  The Karmann Ghia has a removable spoiler, which when removed reveals an engine and a better view of the interior:


But the real star was the Panel.  The rear hatch opens, and tucked inside is a full diecast metal chopper that can be pulled out.  It was a see-to-believe feature:


These two were obviously slated for premium lines, and after their mainline debut that is where they have stayed.  But what prompted their mainline debut?  Maybe it was a treat for collectors, a demand by a designer, or just an experiment.

Whatever it was, it was quite successful, at least in collector's eyes.  The Ghia and Panel came one per case, never lasted on the pegs, and were the talk of the Hot Wheels community.

So in this era of infiltrating plastic and 4-piece models, these two seem more and more of an anomaly.  The chances of us seeing something like that again are slim to none, but we are glad it at least happened.  We can still dream of a Blown Delivery mainline, or a Convoy Custom Super TH, but a dream is probably all they will be.

But even if we never see anything like it again, we at least have these two.  And while there are fantastic premium versions of both, the must-have versions of both castings remain the mainlines.  They are a permanent fixture in the Lamley collection...

(Find the Chevy Panel and Karmann Ghia mainlines on eBay...)


Hot Wheels '55 Chevy Panel & Karmann Ghia (2006 New Models):


























15 comments:

  1. I would add the VW Fastback im with them. Definitely a premium car in the mainline. Though, i would use mainline loosely here. There was no way any casual buyer would EVER find these in the store. I certainly didn't.

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    1. I have to agree to a point here, many of these were snatched up the minute they hit the pegs.

      Though I do know that the '65 VW Fastback was commonly found at KayBee toy stores, with it showing up right around the time the chain itself was closing up everything. It seemed that specific casting was made in more quantity than the Ghia or '55 Panel.

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    2. I live in Sao Paulo Brazil, and the 65 FB dont came to Brazil in 2006 :( I paid around USD40.

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  2. Metal/metal castings really started to dwindle after 2008. Heck, several of the new castings in 2004 and 2005 were metal/metal. It's a shame the trend the cars are going in, but at the same time it is understandable.

    As far as metal/metal castings still in the mainline, they're few and far between anymore. The Surf Crate seems to have been spared for now (I'm pretty sure the new release of it with the black base is actually a black painted base, but I could be wrong). The Mini Cooper was a last hold-out, unfortunately losing BOTH the metal base and removable body in one shot with that sky blue release.

    Personally, I think the Classics releases of the Ghia are the must-haves, but that's me, haha.

    I do know if they release the '67 Camaro in the mainline again and it gets a plastic base, all hell will break loose. And it's not out of the question, unfortunately, because the '67 Camaro convertible (which was derived from the normal '67 and the bases are interchangeable I'm pretty sure) received a plastic base for 3 Walgreens 2-pack exclusives.

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  3. Don't say never with Mattel. There is the plastic body version of the '55 Panel from the color changers line and even the premium version no longer has the motorcycle as witnessed with the release in the Atari pop culture.

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    1. Actually the 2009 Sweet Rides one with Reese's deco was the first one without the bike. The 2011 Garage series one was the next one without the motorcycle.

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  4. The 2015 candy pop culture '55 panel has a sealed up back

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  5. Typically, I have no interest at all in buying a playworn car this new, but these are ones for me to look out for in flea market dump bins.

    They both look great!

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  6. John, Phil Riehlman has the answer to most (if not all) of your questions. If you are in contact with him, he could tell you. He joked back in 2006 that he needed to start making castings with less pieces so they could STAY in the mainline. That led me to believe that the mainline USED to be the primary avenue for introducing castings. That changed however with all the adult lines Hot Wheels introduced. They started releasing the "premium" castings exclusively through the premium lines and HWC. Think Texas Drive 'Em...Convoy Custom....etc.

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  7. "That led me to believe that the mainline USED to be the primary avenue for introducing castings."

    Oh it indeed was. I think 1997 when the '67 GTO was introduced in (I believe) a special Target-only collector set is when castings started to debut in other lines. The adult collector lines that started I would say around 2003 is when many castings started to debut there and not the mainline. Classics series was a big thing for this.

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  8. Great photo's of them too. Nice to see theme in detail. I have the pair, but have yet to crack them open. I think I might be doing that soon. The Buick Grand National came out around that sort of time too.

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  9. Prices are all over the place on EBay, from $17 shipped to $185.

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  10. I am partial to '55 Chevy Panel(have few RLC & premiums), but the VW's very cool, too.

    That last '55 Panel with sealed rear hatch(3 Musketeers?) was a huge disappointment.

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  11. I was lucky enough to get that Karmann Ghia for a cheap price recently from another collector. This debut version is still the best looking of them all.

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  12. I grabed a few of the Panel. The Ghia on the other hand was a end of year lucky grab. The VW FB FE never got and was disappointed.

    I miss the FE line made me look forward to the coming year. I have many sets actually very overwhelmed with my collection but no heart to let anything go. I can deal with plastic bases but in all honesty, if they go plastic body my collecting days may be over. MB has made a BIG mistake imo going that route. I would never buy them for my kids. They are a tragedy waiting to happen imo. They stopped producing product with small parts because of choking hazards. Well the plastic is so thin on MBs that it will just explode with enough weight. And small pieces will be plentiful.

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