50 years of Hot Wheels – a history, the cars and the brand

From the wacky to the wonderful, 50 years on Hot Wheels is still hot stuff

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Volkswagen, contrary to what you might have read elsewhere, is not the world’s biggest car maker. True, it may have produced 10.7million cars in 2017 – enough to put it ahead of Toyota and Renault-Nissan – but there’s one company, celebrating its 50th anniversary on 19 May, that can match that figure virtually every week.

I’ll not draw out the analogy too much longer as the images on this page will have given the game away somewhat, but just as Lego makes more rubber tyres than any other company on the planet, so Hot Wheels can stake a pretty good claim to being the world’s largest car maker.

Ahead of even Scalextric, Tamiya, or videogames such as Gran Turismo, the brand has served for many of us as the first step into that long journey to becoming a petrolhead. You might not remember your first Hot Wheels car (or perhaps your first Matchbox car; the British brand was bought by Hot Wheels owner Mattel in 1997), but from the moment you were old enough to grind them against the skirting board rather than attempting to swallow them, the little diecast models were acting as your first point of reference for automotive colour, style, brand and – on some level, at least – driving fun.

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