Happy Holidays everyone...
Christmas and New Year's always means we close the book and one year and open it on another. There is a lot to look forward to in 2016, much of which we know about, and I am sure a lot of surprises we don't, but that is for another time.
Let's look back on the year that was with our final entry of the 2015 Lamley Awards. You voted in several categories, and we revealed the Reader's Selections earlier this week. Those winners by far tell the more complete story of what collectors liked and didn't like than just the Lamley selections, but hopefully you find what I have to say at least somewhat interesting.
You will see that I agree with many of the Reader's Choices, but there are others that are quite far apart. When I look at categories like Best Super or Best New Model, I obviously take into account the models I liked the most, but try to consider relevancy, uniqueness, and execution. I am by no means an expert, but hell, I have a blog and you are reading it, so why not? Funny what can make you an expert these days.
I will try and make my case in each category, but I am sure you will disagree on some. Let me know if you do, as I love to read everyone's thoughts. I don't know if any of my choices will equal the reaction of the Mad Manga's selection of Model of the Year in 2012. But in my defense, I selected it because of the way it introduced so many to more obscure elements of Japanese car culture. Look what happened to the Hot Wheels line, any Jun Imai design, and the customizing world soon after. I surely didn't cause it, but like many of you, I saw it coming. The Mad Manga doesn't seen so "out there" anymore, does it?
So, here are my selections in each category. I have included the Reader's Choices for comparison. Agree? Don't agree? Let me know...
Best Super Treasure Hunt of 2015:
1. Custom '77 Dodge Van
2. '69 Ford Mustang Boss 302
3. Toyota Off-Road Truck
1. Ferrari 599XX
2. '69 Ford Mustang Boss 302
3. Kool Kombi
This was one of the easiest categories for me. The Readers chose the 599XX, and for good reason. It is a popular casting, and for now it appears to be the last Hot Wheels Ferrari we will see for awhile. But while I liked it, and I do see the significance, the color and wheel choices pale in comparison to the 2012 Super in red. In fact, I think the basic "non-Super" 599XX looked better than the Super.
For me though, the Mooneyes Van isn't just the best Super TH this year, it may be the best Super Hot Wheels has ever done. Yes, it looks great, especially with that van-worthy Mooneyes logo on the side, but moreso it hits every mark for being a great Super TH. Everything is upgraded, from the gourmet mustard spectraflame to the fantastic extra Mooneyes logo on the rear. That just isn't an extra stripe like most. But on top of that, the van is sporting...moon discs! I always laughed when people said the wheels on the Dodge Van Super looked wrong, because there is no other wheel that should be on the van. Doing a Mooneyes Super and giving it the Moon Discs is as cool a Super TH upgrade as there ever has been. Perfect.
The runner-up, but still a mile behind the van, is the Mustang Boss, mainly because it looks so darn good. Simple tampo design, and a great wheel upgrade from the basic version. The Trans Am wheels are completely appropriate, and the BF Goodrich on the tires just adds. And lastly, the Toyota because, once again, because of its totally appropriate Toyota Racing livery and colors. Great wheels too. Sense a theme?
Worst Super TH of 2015:
1. 2008 Lancer Evolution
There are no runners up in this category, because in the case for both the readers and myself, no other model came close.
The Readers chose the Rrroadster, and while this is all based on opinion, and no one can be wrong, the Readers are. Ok, they are not, but I could not disagree more. I see why the Readers chose the Rrroadster. It is a Hot Wheels original, or generic. It isn't the most popular model because of that, and I am sure the Readers made it the overwhelming Worst because of the choice of casting. I get that. But hell if it isn't a really nice looking model. Obviously a modern take of the Jag E-Type Roadster (RRRoar...get it?) it looks fantastic in HW Racing blue with the orange stripe. If this were an actual E-type casting, this Super might have won Best of 2015.
So if it has to be a generic you don't like, why not the Pass'n Gasser? Generic casting, and ugly to boot. The yellow rims don't work, and the bad flame tampo doesn't generate too much excitement either.
But my choice was EASY. The Lancer Evo is a nice casting, but that is one ugly Super. I give Hot Wheels props for a black Super (it looked more grey on some), but that Speedhunters tampo design is hideous. It is just way too busy. But what makes this the worst Super are those wheels. Why oh why are these being put on any Hot Wheels model anymore? They have never looked good, and don't work on the meaner-than-mean Evo. It doesn't look like the street-hugging Evo, but instead some sort of off-road hybrid. I can think of numerous better options, even with blue rims (which was a bad choice too). It is like a Hugo Boss model wearing a suit that looks good in silhouette form, but has pink and orange horizontal pinstripes, and the model is wearing clown shoes. Nothing, and I mean nothing, works on this model. And it is too bad because the thought of an Evo Super, especially in the year the real Evo rides into the sunset, is way cool. A swing and miss to be sure.
Best Hot Wheels New Licensed Model of 2015:
1. Nissan 180SX Type X
2. 1970 Ford Escort RS1600
3. BMW M4
1. Nissan 180SX Type X
2. 1970 Ford Escort RS1600
3. McLaren P1
This is where the Readers and I almost fall completely in line. The Top 2 are no brainers. The 180SX may not have been popular among the HW lot 5 years ago, but it sure is now. It is such a great choice for a Hot Wheels casting because of its ever-growing relevancy in today's car world, but it is its execution that puts it over the top. It mirrors the real thing, but has a little personality as well, especially with those sleepy-eye headlights. Great color choice too, and I think many of us will lament that there was no recolor of this one before we went all busy logo in 2016. Maybe down the road.
The Escort is the same. I could care less about its connection to the Fast & Furious franchise, but that is obviously significant. This one scores high in the execution department as well (I am fine with a chrome interior if it means chrome bumpers), and wins with the unique choice that it is. Hot Wheels has done an awesome job of late introducing popular cars from "non-US" areas, and the RS1600 Escort is a prime example.
Lastly, swap a coin between the M4 and P1. M4 wins because it isn't sitting on large rear wheels. Oh, and that AWESOME olive green recolor.
Most Disappointing New Licensed Model of 2015:
1-3: The upsloped-chin models
1. Corvette C7.R
2. Aston Martin Vantage GT3
2015 is the year the up-sloped chin killed way too many models. It was subtle on some, like the BMW M4, and that wasn't a problem, but too many potentially great models were sacrificed in the name of the track. Yes, the orange track is a Hot Wheels staple, and models should be able to hit the loops and make it all around. But exaggerating replicas of real cars so much to make them track compatible is a bummer.
It looks like designer Miguel Lopez might have solved the problem with his adjustable chin spoiler, which we will see more of in the 2016 HW range, so hopefully that changes things. But in the meantime, models like the Aston GT3 and Corvette C7.R will remain looking like deformed, barely recognizable versions of their real counterparts.
Best Matchbox Licensed New Model of 2015:
1. Tesla Model S
2. '15 Ford F-150 Contractor Truck
3. Jeep Willys 4x4
1. Tesla Model S
2. Alfa Romeo 4C
Another choice that falls in line with the readers. The Tesla was such a pleasant surprise, and I think is one of the main reasons collectors are returning to the orange pegs. It was never about whether or not Matchbox could make a great licensed model, it was if they were willing to do it. They are now, and as we have documented numerous times, the buzz is back.
So hooray Tesla. But the two trucks on the list weren't as flashy, but equally great. The Ford F150 Contractor Truck represents maybe an even more significant sign of where Matchbox is going. Instead of exaggerated utility vehicles that supposedly catered to kids, the team is doing realistic utility vehicles that a kid might see on the road. And an all-white contractor truck definitely fits in that category. A great model, and I was a little surprised at how much I liked it.
The Willys? Truck plus classic means hard-to-ignore. The '57 and '75 Stepsides remains faves, and this one joins those ranks. And I could easily replace any of these with other great new models like the BMW M5 police and Lamborghini LM002.
Matchbox is starting to hit home runs again, and I could not be happier.
2015 Hot Wheels Model of the Year:
1. HW Heritage Ford Transit Supervan
2. RLC '55 Chevy Bel Air "Candy Striper" Gasser
3. Custom '77 Dodge Van Super TH
1. Nissan 180SX Type X New Model
2. Toyota Off-Road Super TH
3. RLC '55 Chevy Bel Air "Candy Striper" Gasser
I should probably start with this photo:
I had the hardest time deciding between the Transit Supervan and Candy Striper Gasser as Model of the Year. Such a hard time that I took a photo of both as the winner.
Both are VERY worthy candidates, as is the Dodge Van Super. The Candy Striper because...well, just look at it. It isn't hyperbole to say that the RLC Gasser is one of the nicest looking Hot Wheels models done, even if you aren't into the casting. That pink pops, and the details are amazing, from the striped roof to Candy Striper logo to the rear trim. And while it isn't pictured here, the card artwork makes this model worth it by itself. Designer Steve Vandervate killed it on this design.
But I chose the Transit Supervan. I like significance, history, and models that make you appreciate something that maybe you didn't before. So once again, the video that is all the proof you need.
Yep. It's awesome. And after you watch the video, take a look at the Hot Wheels version. Focus on the stance. Notice the front is a little higher than the back? Just like the real thing.
It is the small details like the stance that makes this model so great. I can go on. It is smaller than most van castings, it is highly detailed, the wheels are fantastic, and on and on. Plus, it is debuting in a premium line, meaning it can look much more realistic than say a basic version would have.
It is a model that is indicative of the car culture and history that Hot Wheels designers are immersed in. The Transit Supervan was more obscure to a lot of collectors, but not anymore. No matter what versions of this casting come after this one, none will be as great as the debut. It is the significance of the car, country, and era that this model comes from that makes this the choice as Model of the Year.
And Supervan beats out what is to me the best-looking RLC car and best Super TH Hot Wheels has ever done, not to mention a great basic new model in the 180SX, which didn't even make the list.
That means to me 2015 was a great year, and it really was. Matchbox may have had the most significant year, but the Hot Wheels Super TH's, the return of the RLC, and the improving Hot Wheels premiere lines all made it great. Not to mention the growing transparency of both brands to collectors. There were problems, like the up-sloped chins and more seriously, the stolen models and factory customs, but a lot of great stuff definitely emerged.
Every indication is that 2016 will be even better, but we will have to see. For now we can close the book on 2015 knowing it was a great year for collectors...