How Hot Wheels Work


Josh: Josh Clark

Chuck: Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant

Vo: Voiceover Speaker

Josh: Hey, everybody, when you're watching the big game this Sunday, be sure to check out Squarespace's ad with the Dude, a.k.a. Jeff Bridges, who's partnered with our pals at Squarespace to bring his project to life, DreamingWithJeff.com. Don't know what we're talking about? Go check it out at www.dreamingwithjeff.com, and keep an eye out for Squarespace's big ad in the big game on Super Sunday.

[MUSIC]

Vo: Welcome to Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.

[MUSIC]

Josh: Hey, and welcome to the podcast. I'm Josh Clark. There is Charles W. "Chuck" Bryant, and Jeri.

Chuck: You know what that just sounded like?

Josh: What?

Chuck: Like that's what happens, like you're having a nightmare and Umi wakes you up in the middle of the night and you just go, "Hey, welcome to the podcast."

Josh: [LAUGHS]

Chuck: And then she slaps you across the face real hard.

Josh: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. That's true.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: That is what that sounded like.

Chuck: That's what it sounded like.

Josh: That's pretty accurate. I don't know what got into me.

Chuck: You were just super-charged about this topic.

Josh: Ugh, that's terrible.

Chuck: What?

Josh: Super-charged?

Chuck: No, I don't get it.

Josh: It's like a super-charged engine?

Chuck: Oh, I didn't even think about that.

Josh: Oh, good. Well, that makes me feel a little better.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Yeah. You know, Jeri, by the way, before, when I told her what we were doing, said, "Oh my gosh. That was my favorite toy when I was a kid."

Josh: Nice. Hot Wheels are pretty great.

Chuck: Yeah, I had quite a collection and I don't know where they are today.

Josh: Oh, really?

Chuck: Nope.

Josh: They're missing, huh?

Chuck: Yeah. I don't know if they were thrown out or if my brother has them or they're in my mom's attic or what. Because I'm kind of curious if I have any valuable ones.

Josh: Yeah, you need to find them.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: They could be-apparently, as far as Hot Wheels collectors go, it could be in mint condition, all the way down to beater condition.

Chuck: Oh, is that how they rank them?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Mine would be beaters because I played with them like crazy.

Josh: Well, that's good. I mean, that's what they're for, you know?

Chuck: Sure

Josh: And there's value for a beater, too, like some people apparently harvest them for parts, to rebuild like a, you know, a new Frankenstein model.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: That's pretty neat.

Josh: There's a lot of stuff you could do with them.

Chuck: Yeah, and we should thank the fifth grader who wrote this article, too.

[LAUGHTER]

Josh: Sad face.

Chuck: I complained about that out loud to Holly. I was like, "This article actually says, 'sad face.'" Like as a sentence.

Josh: Yeah. I know.

Chuck: I had issues.

Josh: I'm glad you said something.

Chuck: Yeah. What if it was a fifth grader?

Josh: [LAUGHS]

Chuck: Their feelings are all hurt. [LAUGHS]

Josh: I think her feelings are hurt either way now.

Chuck: Sad face.

[LAUGHTER]

Josh: So we're talking about Hot Wheels today. I had a couple. My favorite toy was G.I. Joe, but I appreciated Hot Wheels.

Chuck: Yeah, I had G.I. Joe, too.

Josh: We should do a G.I. Joe episode sometime.

Chuck: I had the older ones, though. You probably had the-

Josh: The huge ones?

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: No, I had the real ones.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Ooh. I don't-that's fighting words.

Josh: Man, the ones that I had were so awesome. They were like-there was a huge, vast collection of all of them. There was like Cobra-the Cobra didn't exist when you were collecting G.I. Joes.

Chuck: No, but how could you say like, "Oh, that one that's ten inches tall and has real clothes and fuzzy hair and the kung fu grip is inferior to this little plastic thing"?

Josh: I think you just said it all.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: Fuzzy hair says it, right there. [LAUGHS] I don't really mean that, Chuck. I don't have a dog in that fight. Like if you like the big G.I. Joes, that's cool. I got no problems.

Chuck: Yeah, as a quick side note, I have to tell this story.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: When-you know how you used to do book reports and you would have to have a visual aid?

Josh: [LAUGHS] Yeah.

Chuck: I might've told this before. If I do, I apologize.

Josh: I don't recognize it.

Chuck: I did a report on Frank O. Harris, when in elementary school, because he was a-

Josh: The football player?

Chuck: Yeah. I don't know why I did it on Frank O. Harris. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: But I got my mom to make me a little Pittsburgh Steelers uniform for my G.I. Joe because he looked like Frank O. Harris.

Josh: [LAUGHS] Nice.

Chuck: Yeah, and that was my visual aid.

Josh: You still have it?

Chuck: No, of course not.

Josh: Wow.

Chuck: We had the G.I. Joes, but I think the Steelers uniform has gone bye-bye.

Josh: That's sad. Yeah. You know, I'm sure your mom put a lot of work into that.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Now I feel guilty.

Josh: [LAUGHS] So Chuck, I have a question for you.

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: Did you know that the number one vehicle manufacturer on the planet is, in fact, Hot Wheels?

Chuck: I did.

Josh: It kind of-it's astounding until you stop and think about it.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: Like apparently, since 1968 when Hot Wheels were first introduced, more than four billion Hot Wheels have been produced. That's more than the big four Detroit automakers combined. You're like, "Wow." And then you think, "Oh yeah. It costs a minute fraction of the cost to build a Hot Wheels than it does a normal car."

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Plus also, it's not like you're going to go, "I want this Buick Cutlass Supreme in every color it comes in."

Chuck: Right. [LAUGHS]

Josh: You know? With a Hot Wheels, you can do that.

Chuck: Yeah, what's-the Lego status, they're the biggest manufacturer of tires?

Josh: Yeah, they're-yeah.

Chuck: I wonder, though, did these not count as tires because they're plastic? They count as wheels?

Josh: I don't know, man.

Chuck: Because four billion times four, that's 16 billion tires.

Josh: That's a really great question.

Chuck: I might have to challenge Lego. Or maybe just look up how many tires they manufacture.

Josh: Ole Kirk Christiansen is not going to be happy about this.

Chuck: Who is that?

Josh: The founder of Lego.

Chuck: Oh.

Josh: Remember Ole?

Chuck: Oh, yeah. That's right. I thought you were saying "old."

Josh: No, Ole.

Chuck: Yeah, I remember Ole. [LAUGHS] Yeah.

Josh: So let's talk about the history of this stuff, huh?

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: So Hot Wheels, like I said, have been around since 1968. And anybody who's heard the "Barbie Trademark" podcast will recognize the name Elliot Handler. That's Ruth Handler, the inventor of Barbie Trademark's husband.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: And Elliot, apparently, saw a real chance to muscle in on an already extant market, by a company called Tyco that had a line of miniature metal cars-die-cast cars is what they're called-called Matchbox cars.

Chuck: Yeah. That's right.

Josh: By the time Hot Wheels came around, Matchbox was already there and had established a market, and Mattel said, "Let's get in on that."

Chuck: Yeah, and the rumor is that he saw his grandchildren playing with them, and said they kind of stink, I can make these better and cooler. And he had a-as the story goes-had a designer, which we'll talk about in a second, called Harry Bradley, and he had a hot rod and Elliot was in the parking lot one day and said, "Man, those are some hot wheels you got there."

Josh: And apparently, if you go look at the old, original commercials for Hot Wheels-

Chuck: Do they say that?

Josh: -that's how-well, that's how they pronounce it, "Hot Wheels."

Chuck: Oh, instead of "Hot Wheels"?

Josh: Yeah. The emphasis is on the "hot." It sounds awkward. They're like, "Race your Hot Wheels."

Chuck: But it makes sense, though.

Josh: "You can race them. Just go buy some Hot Wheels."

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: That's what they-that's how they say it. "Collect all your Hot Wheels."

Chuck: Yeah, but that makes more sense in the context of a sentence.

Josh: It does, but having been raised-

Chuck: Right, right.

Josh: -you know, post-Hot Wheels-

Chuck: The emphasis is wrong.

Josh: Yeah. Hot Wheels-Hot Wheels.

Chuck: Now I'm trying to picture the guy in the parking lot saying, "Those are some Hot Wheels you got on your-there." You'd say, "Hot Wheels you got there." You know?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Oh, boy. We can sure waste some time.

Josh: We sure can.

Chuck: But the first-in 1968 is, like you said, when the first line came out of 16 Hot Wheels-[LAUGHTER]-they were sold initially for 59 cent a piece.

Josh: Yeah, and like you said, the guy whose car originally inspired the name Hot Wheels, was Harry Bradley. And he was the designer of that first 16 cars. They were also called California Customs Miniatures, was that first original 16 group of Hot Wheels-

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: -that were released in 1968.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So and Harry Bradley designed them all, including apparently, he got his hands on-the first one, by the way, that came out was a Chevy Camaro.

Chuck: Of course.

Josh: The second one that came out was the Chevy Corvette.

Chuck: Of course.

Josh: And apparently, the Chevy Corvette came out before the actual Corvette came out.

Chuck: Yeah, the '69 Corvette, that is.

Josh: So Harry Bradley was an old hand in not just miniature car design, but car design, in general. He was an old GM designer. And I guess he had connections still at GM, and probably under the table in a possibly illegal way, got his hands on the blueprints for the Corvette that hadn't been released yet, and Hot Wheels beat GM to the punch in releasing the 1968 Corvette.

Chuck: Yeah, the '69.

Josh: Thank you.

Chuck: That's all right. Yeah, as the lore goes, he supposedly knew that the cafeteria door was unlocked, so he snuck in through the cafeteria door, but-

Josh: That's called industrial espionage.

Chuck: Yeah. That sounds like a story, like just lore.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: But maybe so. Maybe he committed industrial espionage.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: So like you said, those were the two of the first 16 in that original lineup, that original collection, which if you have any of those-

Josh: [LAUGHS] Yeah, you're doing okay.

Chuck: Yeah. You got some money that you're sitting on.

Josh: Because I mean, like they went all out on those-that original line.

Chuck: Oh, yeah.

Josh: Like there were bushings to the suspension-I mean, the chassis. It had suspension, like shocks.

Chuck: Oh yeah.

Josh: Like you could press them down, and it would bounce back.

Chuck: I had some of those. I don't know-think they were from '68, but when did they quit making those? It said up until-

Josh: '77 was when they stopped making the-

Chuck: Oh no, '70 is when the suspension got an overhaul.

Josh: Okay. So for the first couple of years, like they were really putting a lot into these things. The tires were redline racing slicks.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: And the things-the whole reason they went to so much trouble is because they really wanted to destroy their competitor, Matchbox. And one of the ways they did that was by making these things far more functional than the Matchbox's were-the Matchbox cars were. So they really could race. And if you put a Matchbox car up against a comparable Hot Wheels-say the same model car-

Chuck: Yeah?

Josh: -the Hot Wheels will destroy it every time in the head-to-head race.

Chuck: As we saw on the internet.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: A guy did that, of course. He took two Volkswagens and two Audi 8's, I think, and one Matchbox and one Hot Wheel, and he said they won by at least a car length every time he tried.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: And this was no loop-de-loop or anything, it was just the straight race.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: They painted them originally in spectraflame, which was very shiny and sparkly and expensive. And I don't think we said that all Hot Wheels are built at 164th scale.

Josh: Yeah, that's a big point.

Chuck: But not necessarily all Matchbox cars. They kind of vary here and there.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: But, like you said, that spectraflame and the redline tires only lasted until '77. And the suspension only lasted until 1970, and sadly, a lot of that had to do with the fact that they moved them from Hawthorne, California, to Hong Kong.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: And like any product, you're like, "Hey, you could make it for half as much if you make it in China. So let's move-let's ship the operations overseas."

Josh: Well, not only that, it's the spectraflame paint is pretty expensive. It's awesome, it looks great, but it's pretty expensive. So with any collector's item, as they started to downgrade the components and the parts and the manufacturing, and ultimately, the final product, all that did was make the original stuff all the more valuable today.

Chuck: Yeah, they-because they like-

Josh: They had like fewer and fewer of them as the years go on, proportionately speaking.

Chuck: Yeah, they had actual axles. Like you know, it was like a real-they were designed by car designers. And they were made apparently to reach 200 scale miles per hour.

Josh: Yeah, that's pretty cool.

Chuck: That's way cool.

Josh: Yeah, remember like in the cockroach episode, we talked about how they're the fastest animal on the planet, relatively speaking?

Chuck: Yeah. Uh-huh.

Josh: Pretty neat stuff.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So Chuck, right out of the gate, Mattel had a hit on its hands.

Chuck: Oh, yes.

Josh: They released them in 1968. By 1970, Hot Wheels was a Saturday morning cartoon in the vein of like "Dune Buggy" and Scooby-Doo and all those guys, Hanna-Barbera.

Chuck: "Dune Buggy"?

Josh: Or Speed Buggy.

Chuck: Speed Buggy?

Josh: Yeah. Remember Speed Buggy?

Chuck: Uh-uh.

Josh: Yeah it was like a dune buggy that could talk and it was basically-

Chuck: Wonderbug?

Josh: No, it's Speed Buggy.

Chuck: Oh, okay. Because there was a like Wonderbug, too.

Josh: There was like-if you took Shaggy and put some like racing goggles on him and then turn Scooby-Doo into a speed-a Dune Buggy-

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: -that's Speed Buggy.

Chuck: Oh, is that a cartoon?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Okay.

Josh: They went around solving mysteries and stuff like that.

Chuck: Yeah. Wonderbug was-I think that was live action.

Josh: Oh, this was a cartoon.

Chuck: Sid and Marty Krofft.

Josh: This is exactly like Scooby-Doo, by the people who did Scooby-Doo, using the same people who did the voices for Scooby-Doo. It just vaguely changed the characters. Hot Wheels was virtually the same thing, except it was about racing clubs. There were the bad guys and good guys and-

Chuck: Do you know what this proves?

Josh: What?

Chuck: Is that in the 1970s, the dune buggy was a very popular thing.

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Chuck: Remember seeing those on the road?

Josh: Mm-hmm.

Chuck: Like I used to see them all the time-not all the time, but in the '70s, it was a common thing.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: You don't see them anymore.

Josh: Mm, very rarely.

Chuck: Nope. No Gremlins, no Yugos, no Wonderbugs.

Josh: You know, I like Gremlins. Do you?

Chuck: Uh, they're okay.

Josh: For me, though, the coup de grâce of car design is the AMC Pacer.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's like the Formica kitchen of cars.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's beautiful [LAUGHS] in all the weirdest ways.

Chuck: So much window.

Josh: That would be my sought-after Hot Wheels. If I had a Hot Wheels that I-if I just could have one Hot Wheel, it would-well, I don't know if that would be it-but it-I would be happy with that one.

Chuck: Now did they have that as a Hot Wheel?

Josh: Oh, yeah.

Chuck: Okay, because-

Josh: I looked it up. And if you look up AMC Gremlin Hot Wheels, they went to town on those. They had some with like the intakes like sticking out of the hood, and just all sorts of-just awesome, different variations like Indy Car Gremlins and stuff like that.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Because-and that raises a pretty, good point. Hot Wheels has always been about the racing design. Like they've designed them to look like racing cars, but they've also manufactured them to actually be able to win a race, like we talked about, with Matchbox.

Chuck: Yeah, and one of the differences-that is one of the main differences between the Matchbox and the Hot Wheel, is they were just much more interested in being sportier. Like you could get a Matchbox like a delivery truck.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: You know? They had a-but the Matchbox's looked more real. They all were about looking realistic and not necessarily performance.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: And hey, if you want a bread truck, you can get a bread truck.

Josh: [LAUGHS] Right, exactly.

Chuck: But you can't get a bread truck Hot Wheel.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: You know?

Josh: We'll talk more about all of this jam, right after this.

[MUSIC]

Josh: Chuck.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: We love to cook and eat, but we're busy guys.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So we don't always have time to like look for new recipes and try new things, and even measure stuff out. Right?

Chuck: No, and we didn't go to the Culinary Institute, either. So we kind of have to wing it, unless our good friends at Blue Apron help us out.

Josh: That's right. Because Blue Apron takes the stress out of cooking, Chuck.

Chuck: Yeah. And here's how it works, folks. For just $9.99 per meal, they're going to send you the right ingredients in the exact right proportions, all bagged up very convenient, simple recipe instructions, right there to your door.

Josh: And meals are 500 to 700 calories a serving, way too low for how delicious they are. And Blue Apron includes step-by-step instructions with pictures. So even I can do it.

Chuck: Yeah, and they'll work around your schedule and your dietary preferences. And here's the best part: it only takes about a half an hour to cook these meals, and shipping is always free.

Josh: And the kind of stuff you're going to find at your door, thanks to Blue Apron, are things like citrus-marinated chicken thighs with cracked freekeh.

Chuck: Ah, man.

Josh: Get your freekeh on. While you also enjoy a little rainbow chard. When are you going to try a recipe like that on your own?

Chuck: Uh, yeah. Probably never, unless Blue Apron delivers it for free to my doorstep.

Josh: Exactly. You're going to cook incredible meals and be blown away by the quality and freshness. Blue Apron is fast, fresh and affordable.

Chuck: Go to BlueApron.com/stuff, and you can get your first two meals for free, people. That is right: two whole meals for free, just by going to BlueApron.com/stuff.

[MUSIC]

Chuck: You want to go ahead and talk about some of the other differences between Matchbox and Hot Wheel?

Josh: Yeah, sure.

Chuck: Since we're at it? Matchbox-or I'm sorry-Hot Wheel is the one that is more likely to have branded versions.

Josh: Oh, man and do they ever.

Chuck: Like the Ghostbusters Ectomobile.

Josh: Right or even more than that, like they have a deal with M&M Mars for 2015-

Chuck: Oh, they do?

Josh: -so they have like Twix truck and a Skittles van, and like all this stuff. They have the licensing with DC and Marvel this year.

Chuck: The Fast and the Furious, I know they had a line.

Josh: Yeah. So they're really big time into branded. And a lot of times, they'll have like-a store will just have exclusives.

Chuck: Oh, right.

Josh: Like access to an exclusive line of Skittles cars or something like that, that you can only get at KB Toys.

Chuck: Yeah, I think they have a NASCAR deal, too, if I'm not mistaken.

Josh: I would not be surprised.

Chuck: And the Hot Wheels usually have a little bit wider-a longer axle and wider wheels, because it's just cooler if that wheel sticks out from the body a little bit. You know?

Josh: Well, plus also, supposedly-and we'll talk about this a little more-when you shrink a car down to scale, it looks a little weird.

Chuck: Yeah. You might as well go ahead and bring that up.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: It looks weird. You can't just shrink it and have it in the same proportion and have it look normal.

Josh: Right. Like it'll be, as far as shrinking a car down by scale, it will be in the exact same proportion, but it's just off a little bit. Like-so what they do to make a Hot Wheels race-able is they expand the wheel well a little more.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: They break it out a little bit, which is why the wheels stick out some on a Hot Wheels, but not on a Matchbox.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: Because Matchbox's are all about realism. To heck with how it looks, as long as it's real.

Chuck: The-one of my favorite ones-and I had one of these that they mention in this article-was the Red Baron. The person who wrote this said it was an inexplicable, an inexplicably cool helmet over the cockpit. I don't know about inexplicable; it was just the roof of the car was a helmet.

Josh: Right.

Chuck: But I looked it up again today and I was like, "Oh, yeah. I had that thing." But it was a-[LAUGHS]-it wasn't a Nazi helmet, per se, but it was that shape of the helmet-

Josh: [LAUGHS] Right?

Chuck: Like the U.S. soldiers have that shape now, you know, where it's cut lower around the ears instead of just a straight, you know, like the World War II helmet. But the Nazis used those first, you know, because it's a better design for war. And it also had a black iron cross on the side of it.

Josh: Well, hence the Red Baron, right?

Chuck: Yeah, but it was-it's easy now, as an adult, to look and say, "Hmm, that looks like a little Nazi hot rod."

Josh: Yeah, but the Red Baron was World War I. He was pre-Nazi Germany.

Chuck: Yeah and it was also, I think, at the time, just like-looked like the biker gang-

Josh: Sure.

Chuck: -would wear like those helmets with the iron cross.

Josh: Yeah, and all of it was southern California hot rod culture is what gave rise to Hot Wheels. So it makes sense.

Chuck: Yeah, I don't think there was any like surreptitious intent. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Right, yeah. So like I said, right out of the gate, Hot Wheels was a hit. They had a cartoon within a year or so of the first 16 being released. The second release, they had, I think, 22 new cars.

Chuck: Yeah, 33 total.

Josh: And then, the third year, they had another-they released 33 after that. Right?

Chuck: Oh, no. Yeah, I'm sorry, 33 by 1970.

Josh: So they did 16, 24 and then 33. And all of them came in like different colors, right?

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: So like I said, if you had one, that didn't mean you had them all. You wanted to collect them all, so kids were going crazy for it. And another way that Mattel very wisely targeted children was to get in with fast food. In 1970, the first Hot Wheels came out as a toy at Jack in the Box's.

Chuck: Oh, really?

Josh: Yeah. The big one, though, the one that like put them over the top, was in 1983 when kids who were lucky enough to be taken to McDonald's for dinner-

Chuck: The Happy Meal. The Hot Wheel.

Josh: -to get-[LAUGHS]-exactly-was what they called it at the time, we could get one of 14 Hot Wheels in 1983. And they had some cool ones. They had a Chevy Citation.

Chuck: Did they really?

Josh: Yeah. They had one that was one of my favorites, actually. It was a Toyota Minitrek, which like a station wagon/camper. And it even said, painted on the side, "Good Time Camper," that you could get in your Happy Meal. Which if I could have one Hot Wheel, it would probably be that.

Chuck: You know what they were doing, now that I look back through my adult eyes?

Josh: Like snorting pot?

Chuck: No, they were giving you a bunch of crappy ones because you wanted to keep coming back to get the cool one.

Josh: Yeah, probably.

Chuck: You're like, "Ugh, I got a Citation," I'm like, "Can I go back?" because I want to get the hot rod."

Josh: Right.

Chuck: That's exactly what they were doing.

Josh: Sure.

Chuck: Man, I feel so, like, manipulated.

Josh: What did you think they doing with Happy Meals?

Chuck: Well, I mean, I know it was all manipulation to get you to try and own all of them-

Josh: Right.

Chuck: -but they should've been all cool ones, but you can't do that because the regular kid might be like, "Nah, I got the cool one, I'm fine." But if you get the Citation, you feel gypped off and you really want to go back and get one of the hot rods.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: It's-my eyes are wide open, my friend.

Josh: Well, that's our friends down under in Australia have outlawed marketing directly to children, which I think is a fantastic move.

Chuck: Oh really?

Josh: Yeah, that's so unfair to market directly to children. It's just-it almost literally is like taking candy from a baby.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: Like kids aren't sophisticated enough to psychologically defend themselves from being like bombarded with-by adults to say, "Go tell your parents to buy you this. You can't function correctly without this Trapper Keeper, so go get it."

Chuck: The "trappa keepa."

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: What-did they make a law?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: Really?

Josh: Yeah, it's a big one.

Chuck: That's very interesting.

Josh: It's a very progressive law.

Chuck: It's a big law.

Josh: I think all countries should adopt.

Chuck: Well, in 1983-I agree wholeheartedly, by the way-in 1983 is when that Happy Meal thing happened-

Josh: [LAUGHS]

Chuck: -and also the same year, they moved from Hong Kong to Malaysia. And it said that's when they added their economy cars, so that must have coincided with the Citation.

Josh: Yeah. The Citation, man.

Chuck: [LAUGHS]

Josh: One of the most disappointing Happy Meal toys you could possible get.

Chuck: Yeah, because it reminded you of your dad, who drove a Citation.

Josh: [LAUGHS] Right. Who was always mad.

Chuck: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] Oh, dear.

Josh: So Chuckers?

Chuck: Yes.

Josh: After 1983, not a lot happened. Hot Wheels just kept going on, expanding more and more and more. I think they had another Happy Meal's joint in '91 or something like that. And in 1995, they said, "We need to do something big." And they did. They released something called a Treasure Hunt series, which is a purposefully limited release car-a series of cars.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: I think they did 12 models at 10,000 each, originally. And hence the name, Treasure Hunt; they were hard to find.

Chuck: Yeah, and one of the cooler ones, for me, was the Oldsmobile 442.

Josh: Yeah, that thing is neat.

Chuck: A dude at my church had a 442, and it was just awesome, man. He had like the only muscle car in the youth group.

Josh: [LAUGHS]

Chuck: And years-like two years ago, my brother, I was talking about this dude, Jason Singleton. I was like, "Whatever happened to him?" He's like, "Oh he still lives in the so-and-so." And he went, "And you know what dude?" I went, "No." He went, "He's still got it."

Josh: Oh yeah, why would you get rid of it?

Chuck: He still has the car. I went to his Facebook page and it is like the center of his life.

Josh: I'm sure.

Chuck: It's his baby. I mean, he's had that thing since like 1986. And it's juiced up, and he used to scare the daylights out of me in that thing. But it was also exhilarating, you know, to be riding with him. And he, you know, like 200 feet of drag he would lay.

Josh: Sure.

Chuck: Like power-braking and he would get like four sets of tires a year. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Right. You'd be in the passenger seat going, "Save me, Jesus."

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Yeah, I was very scared. Because, I was, you know-I didn't flirt with the wild side back then.

Josh: No. So the Oldsmobile 442 is the closest you got, huh?

Chuck: Yep, it was exhilarating.

Josh: And then-so that was 1995. This Treasure Hunt thing kind of went-it didn't go exactly as planned. Mattel was like, "Oh, we could make even more money if we put these into wider release." So the original 10,000 releases were redone again, and again, and again, so Treasure Hunt kind of became commonplace.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: But it was a good idea. And it tapped into this whole idea of collecting. Like Mattel was like, "We know you're out there and we're going to design these just for you." And we'll talk more about collectors, but just to kind of button-up the history of Hot Wheels, it all came full circle in 1996, when Mattel bought Tyco, and hence, Hot Wheels bought Matchbox.

Chuck: So they're all owned by Mattel at this point.

Josh: Yes.

Chuck: All right. We'll get to the design and collecting right after this.

[MUSIC]

Josh: Chuck, if you own a business, you know that your phone system is critical.

Chuck: Yeah, that's right, buddy. And you know what? Those old, archaic phone systems, they are super expensive and they're expensive to maintain.

Josh: Yep.

Chuck: And you know, there's a better way forward here in the modern future we're living in.

Josh: Yep. It's called, RingCentral. That's your answer.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: I mean, what a difference it provides, Chuck. With RingCentral, the phone system is in the cloud for a fraction of what the old system is going to cost.

Chuck: Yeah, that's right, buddy. And RingCentral does everything. Now you can send text messages to customers and colleagues from your business phone number. You don't have to use your personal phone to do that.

Josh: Plus, there's also zero start-up costs. Let me say that again, there's zero start-up costs. And no PBX hardware to install or maintain. Pricing is as low as $24.99, per month, per user, and that includes everything.

Chuck: That's right, dude. The future is here and it's called RingCentral. And right now, they are offering a 30-day, risk-free trial, that is actually risk-free. Just visit RingCentral.com to learn more. That is RingCentral.com, or because they're RingCentral, you can call them: 800-574-5290.

[MUSIC]

Chuck: So, back then, if you wanted to do a smaller version of a larger car and scale it down, you didn't have computer-aided design and stuff. Sometimes you might have had a blueprint, which helped, but sometimes you just had to get out there in the parking lot with a tape measure and just take some measurements. And then, you know, be good at math.

Josh: [LAUGHS] Right.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Basically.

Josh: And like we said, Harry Bradley, who's the daddy of the Hot Wheels designs, who's the guy who did the first 16, he was a GM designer originally. In his footsteps followed Howard Rees, and then after that, Larry Wood. And those are some of like the legendary Hot Wheels designers.

Chuck: That's the Mount Rushmore of Hot Wheels?

Josh: Pretty much, yeah. And, yeah, they would just literally go out and measure these things, and that was one way that Hot Wheels were born. Another way was that-and this definitely differentiates Hot Wheels from Matchbox-is that there are Hot Wheels that only exist in the Hot Wheels world.

Chuck: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Josh: They are called the Fantasy Cars. Like they're just the designers' imagination come to life.

Chuck: Right. Whereas Matchbox only, I believe, has red trucks. [LAUGHTER]

Josh: Exactly.

Chuck: Well, they only have cars that are based on real cars, right?

Josh: Right. Hot Wheels has a whole fantasy line.

Chuck: It's interesting that they're owned by the same company, still, and that they just have kept that distinction.

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: You know? I guess some people are Matchbox kids are some kids are Hot Wheels kids. I had both, I think. I had a bread truck.

Josh: Is that why you keep going to the bread truck well?

Chuck: No, I didn't have a bread truck, but I do remember having a couple of like weird utility-type vehicles that I don't remember-that they were probably gifts or stocking stuffers or something. I don't think I sought it out.

Josh: I was always into Tonka trucks. I thought Tonka was great. They were, obviously, much bigger, but those were construction vehicles, like dump trucks and stuff like that. And still today, that Volvo dump truck, the giant one with the huge wheels, I think is one of the coolest vehicles ever created. I think I had one of those when I was a kid.

Chuck: I didn't have a lot of Tonka stuff. One of my favorite Hot Wheels, though, was the Lil' Red Express Truck.

Josh: I don't remember that.

Chuck: If you saw it, you might-it might ring a bell. It was basically a-I can't remember what kind of truck it was, I think it was a Dodge, but it was just a cool, red step-side pickup truck, and it had the two vertical mufflers on each side, that went up above the truck.

Josh: I think I know what you're talking about, yeah.

Chuck: Yeah, it's really cool. And if you go to the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A.-

Josh: Oh, yeah.

Chuck: -they have a really cool exhibit there that I haven't been to in-person, but I was looking at it online-permanent exhibit, where they have the real-life versions of the Hot Wheel cars. And they have a Lil' Red Express Truck-a full-size one.

Josh: Oh, really? Yeah.

Chuck: Yeah, and I saw it and I was like, "Whoa."

Josh: Did you just die from nostalgia?

Chuck: Uh, I might've teared up a little bit at the desk.

Josh: [LAUGHS]

Chuck: But they have, you know, the gussied-up Corvettes with the big chrome engines coming out of the hood, and-

Josh: Do they have the 442?

Chuck: I don't know if they have the 442, but I'm going-

Josh: They will when your friend dies.

Chuck: Yeah. [LAUGHS]

Josh: I'll bet it's in his will.

Chuck: It'll go straight to the museum?

Josh: Yep.

Chuck: I'm going to go to this thing, though, at some point. I don't know on this next L.A. trip or not, but it's right there near the La Brea Tar Pits, I think.

Josh: Oh, yeah.

Chuck: So I want to go check it out.

Josh: I've been there.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's neat.

Chuck: It is neat. But back to the design, these days, you're not going to need a tape measure and stuff like that. You're going to Photoshop designs, and you're going to even get a 3D printer to do your prototype.

Josh: That had to have helped them tremendously.

Chuck: Oh yeah.

Josh: Because, you know, with the-if you're designing real-life cars and you have a 3D printer, that's pretty handy. But with Hot Wheels, like you can print out pretty much exactly what it's going to look like. And once they have the prototype done, they'll make a mold out of it, and then inject it with molten metal, under tremendous pressure, and that's why it's called die-cast.

Chuck: That's right.

Josh: You create a die that you cast all of the ensuing ones from.

Chuck: Yeah, and I think they're made with less metal than they used to be. But they still have metal components, right?

Josh: Oh, yeah.

Chuck: I haven't seen a new one in a while.

Josh: I haven't either, but I'm almost positive they do. And apparently, they're still about like a dollar.

Chuck: Oh really?

Josh: Yeah, I was on the HotWheelsCollectors site today, and like they kept making reference to "about a dollar," so just what's called the main line. The ones that they make en masse.

Chuck: The Citation. [LAUGHS]

Josh: Exactly. I'll bet if you got your hands on that 1983 Citation, it would be worth a few bucks.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] You're right.

Josh: But they kept referring to the main line stuff as about a dollar.

Chuck: Well, they've just kept making their manufacturing cheaper, and cheaper, so they've maintained that cost, I guess?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: So as far as collecting goes, the most valuable, and that is not this crazy one made out of diamonds for the 40th anniversary, which we'll talk about in a minute, but the most valuable, regular Hot Wheel is the '68 Beach Bomb, which was a VW Bus in hot pink that had real surfboards sticking out of the back of it.

Josh: Yeah. Originally, they only released, I think, 25 of them like that. There were a couple of problems. It was difficult to manufacture them with the surfboards sticking out of the back, even though it was more realistic.

Chuck: Sure.

Josh: And it also was terrible on like a loop-de-loop track because I guess the surfboards would either weigh them down or it would get stuck. So they only made just a few of these things. Though the Beach Bomb that was the highest-selling Hot Wheels ever was a pink one. They made even fewer of those because apparently a lot of boys were like, "I'm not playing with some pink van, even if it does have cool surfboards sticking out of the back." So the thing sold for like, I think, 70 something-$75,000, in 2000. And it has since sold again, in 2011, I saw in like L.A. magazine, for like $125,000.

Chuck: Yeah. That's a lot of money for a tiny little car.

Josh: Yeah, it is. And that's the highest one ever. Apparently, by a long shot, too.

Chuck: Yeah. I mean, I've seen others that were worth like ten grand and stuff. Like I think one of those 442 originals is like ten grand?

Josh: Yeah, I guess like a 1970 Mongoose or Cobra are worth about ten grand these days. And a lot of them, just like with any collector's item, you'll see if there was just a few of them made, obviously, they're going to worth a lot more. If there's something that where they adjusted the design-like for example, the Python was originally called the Cheetah, and then they found out that a real-life executive, with real-life lawyers at GM, owned the name "Cheetah."

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: Because apparently GM executives just own names for cars that could potentially be used?

Chuck: Like every fast animal name?

Josh: Right, exactly.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: So they changed it to the Python, but that was after they'd starting manufacturing the Cheetah. So there's some out there that say "Cheetah" stamped on the bottom, and if you have one of those, it's worth ten grand.

Chuck: Yeah, it's funny to think about-it's the same with Stars Wars-like sometimes the mistake ones are the ones that are super valuable, because like there was some recall, but like oh, but you want that one.

Josh: [LAUGHS] Right.

Chuck: Because the Boba Fett's rocket really shot out before kids started choking on them.

Josh: Right or catching on fire.

Chuck: [LAUGHS] Yeah, and that's the one want. But like you said, it's all about scarcity and supply and demand.

Josh: Dude, this whole thing is reminding of a really great gallery I put together about hilarious knockoff toys.

Chuck: Ooh, that's a good one.

Josh: Yeah, go to StuffYouShouldKnow.com and look that up. It's pretty awesome. There's some really strange interpretations of beloved toys, including Star Wars toys, that people who make counterfeit toys come up with to try to-

Chuck: I own some of them.

Josh: -skirt trademark law maybe or something? Or else they just full don't understand the toy and what its allure is, so they just make it in this weird interpretation. It's pretty hilarious stuff.

Chuck: Yeah, it's a good one. We'll post that again.

Josh: Okay.

Chuck: And then I did mention the diamond-studded one. I always think these things are just ridiculous, but like to take any like of the diamond-studded bras, was worth, you know, a million bucks.

Josh: Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Right?

Chuck: I just always think it's kind of dumb. But they did make a 40th anniversary edition in 19-I'm sorry, in 2008, with 2,700 little diamonds and rubies for taillights, and black diamonds for the tires, and all that stuff, 18 carat white gold body, but it's worth 140 or it cost $140,000 to put together. But I'm sure, you know-

Josh: It's gaudy. It's a gaudy Hot Wheels.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: The car is cool. It looks like Mad Max's car.

Chuck: Oh, you got-is that a picture of it?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: I don't think I saw that.

Josh: Can you identify that car?

Chuck: What is that? It looks familiar.

Josh: It does look familiar to me, too.

Chuck: It sort of like a DeLorean, but I don't think it is.

Josh: [LAUGHS] I don't think so either.

Chuck: No. That new Mad Max looks good, though.

Josh: Oh, they're remaking Mad Max?

Chuck: Well, there's a new reboot I guess is what they call it these days.

Josh: Cool. Who's in it?

Chuck: What's his face that played Bane? Who's that guy?

Josh: Oh yeah.

Chuck: Tom what's his face.

Josh: Huddleston?

Chuck: No. Not Tom Huddleston? [LAUGHS] But it looks-it's the same director.

Josh: Tom Hardy?

Chuck: Yeah, Tom Hardy. But it's the same director from all the Mad Max series, so it's-

Josh: Oh, really?

Chuck: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And it just looks-it's supposed to be just like one long, intense chase, battle.

Josh: Yeah. Sounds a lot like a Mad Max movie.

Chuck: Yep, that's what you want.

Josh: Have you ever seen Vanishing Point?

Chuck: I think so. What is that?

Josh: It was like-man, I can't remember the car, but the car was basically the star. It was one long car chase from like, I think, Colorado to California?

Chuck: Yeah, I remember that.

Josh: That was a good one. From the '70s?

Chuck: Yeah, Two-Lane Blacktop too.

Josh: Challenger? I think it was the Challenger, the car.

Chuck: That's another classic car movie. Yeah.

Josh: Oh, I haven't seen that one.

Chuck: Yeah, that's a good one. That one weirdly had James Taylor in it. [LAUGHTER] When he was young and like on drugs and cool.

Josh: Were they apologizing to France?

Chuck: No, I don't know what the deal was?

Josh: Did you hear about that?

Chuck: No.

Josh: So that whole Charlie Hebdo like solidarity march, the U.S. sent like, I think the assistant deputy in charge of the USDA or something like that?

Chuck: Yeah. It was the ambassador or something. Yeah.

Josh: So to apologize, John Kerry had James Taylor go to France to perform "You've Got A Friend"-

Chuck: Shut up.

Josh: -for the French government.

Chuck: Ugh.

Josh: Yeah. Just talk about making-

Chuck: That's so embarrassing.

Josh: I know, isn't it?

Chuck: Send Guns N' Roses or something at least.

Josh: [LAUGHS]

Chuck: Like-well not-send Guns N' Roses from 1988. That would be a good gift.

Josh: I would go for any Guns N' Roses, man.

Chuck: Ooh.

Josh: One more thing about collecting. If you wanted to be the coolest collector of Hot Wheels on the planet, you would have to build a time machine, and go back to 1987, to my hometown of Toledo, Ohio. Which is where the first ever Hot Wheels convention-collectors' convention was held. I really wish I would've gone to that. Because I was there at the time.

Chuck: What year was it?

Josh: '87.

Chuck: Oh yeah?

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: I can't believe we sent James Taylor. I'm still just like-

Josh: Yeah.

Chuck: I can't focus on anything.

Josh: Well, if you want to know more about James Taylor, Hot Wheels, or just about anything there is in the universe, you can type it into the search bar at HowStuffWorks.com. And since I said search bar, it's time for listener mail.

[CHIMES]

Chuck: I'm going to call this minimum wage argument-not argument-proposal.

Josh: All right.

Chuck: "I listen to 'How Homelessness Works,' from quite a few years ago, and you guys commented that part of the problem was that low minimum wage in comparison to cost of renting a two-bedroom apartment, you'd have to work something like 87 hours per week to afford it, with the implication we need to raise minimum wage. After hearing this, a clear solution occurred to me. I think disagreements on raising minimum wage is a result of a simple misunderstanding. On the raise side, people believe this wage should be set at a level that would allow someone to raise a few children and live a modest but reasonably comfortable level, or at least a safe level. On the don't raise it side, people believe minimum wage is just a starting point for working, like for teenagers at their summer job or after school. This side believes workers should-were never intended to, and should not expect to be able to support a family that pays minimum wage. So here's my solution. Since we are a democracy here, let's just decide what it is supposed to accomplish and then set it at the appropriate level to do that. If we decide as a nation that someone should be able to raise a family, rent a two-bedroom apartment while earning minimum wage, let's just figure out what that would cost and set the wage there, figuring rent, clothing, food, utilities, transportation, etc., let's say it's 27 grand per year, then set it at that rate. On the other hand, if we, as a nation, decide that minimum wage is just a starting point and not meant to support a family, it's intended for people with no work history or experience and low to no marketable skills, then we need to set minimum wage at a relatively low level, and let the market-the free market will ultimately determine the wage for entry-level workers. And workers historically have been able to increase compensation by gaining skills and good work history. With this settled, any argument about setting minimum wage at a living wage would be mistaken, because we all just decided that people aren't not meant to live on minimum wage and certainly not meant to support a family." That is from Joe Prohaska in Reno, Nevada, and it's interesting. I look forward to seeing the rebuttal emails.

Josh: Yeah. Love that kind of stuff.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: It's a great proposal. I mean, I think that is what it's based on, but as far as I know, the cost of living calculations are really out of date and take a lot of stuff into account that doesn't really apply any longer.

Chuck: Plus, regardless of what you think it should or should not be, the fact is, adults with two kids are still going to be working these jobs; it's not just going to be teenagers looking to advance.

Josh: Right. But it would be nice to put that issue to bed. To say, like, this is what we're trying to achieve or this not what we're trying to achieve.

Chuck: Right.

Josh: At the very least, it'd get everybody talking.

Chuck: Yeah, because should some teenager at his first job make like 14 bucks an hour?

Josh: I don't know.

Chuck: I don't know if that's sending the right message, either.

Josh: I don't know.

Chuck: I don't know. [LAUGHS]

Josh: We'll leave it up to you guys, our dear listeners.

Chuck: When I started working, it was like three bucks an hour or something. It was ridiculously low.

Josh: That is ridiculously low.

Chuck: Yeah.

Josh: If you want to let us know how you feel about Joe's proposal-was it Joe?

Chuck: I believe it was Joe.

Josh: Reno Joe?

Chuck: Reno Joe.

Josh: You can tweet to us at SYSKPodcast, you can post it on Facebook.com/StuffYouShouldKnow, you can put it in an email at Stuffpodcast@HowStuffWorks.com, and just for kicks, you can hang around our home on the web, StuffYouShouldKnow.com.

[MUSIC]

Vo: For more on this and thousands of other topics, visit HowStuffWorks.com.

[MUSIC]

Chuck: Hey, friends, just want to let you know our friends at Squarespace have partnered with the Dude, Jeff Bridges, in a really cool thing called www.DreamingWithJeff.com. And this is something Jeff Bridges actually came up with. It's a project where his friends, in various locations around L.A., with these cool, relaxing sounds and guided meditations, and stories designed to lull you asleep, and it's really neat. And he's also the face of No Kid Hungry, which is a great charity group you should look into. So check out www.DreamingWithJeff.com, and see what the Dude in Squarespace has going on.

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