The Diecast Hall of Fame is dedicated to the people and products that make diecast vehicle collecting so special, but no brand has a bigger representation in the DHOF than Hot Wheels. Someday, when an actual museum is built, there should probably be a strip of orange track that leads to a dedicated Hot Wheels room.
It’s no exaggeration to say that Hot Wheels completely turned an industry upside down and altered the meaning of what a toy car could be. Playing with miniature cars changed from slowly scooting them around by hand to letting them rip down the track at scale speeds that real cars could only dream of. Hot Wheels’ designs were wilder and more colorful than anything seen before. And they ushered in the idea of “collecting” like no one else (It even says “Matching Collector’s Button” right there on the original packages).
Since 2011, the DHOF awards have added more categories and honors for specific scales, opening up more space to recognize other diecast brands. In the early days, proceedings were dominated by 1/64 cars, and Hot Wheels garnered several accolades for Casting of the Year.
Early awards were like a traditional Hall of Fame, recognizing older models such as the 1940 Woodie (whatever name you choose to call it), the Custom Corvette, and the Custom Camaro. Later classics were honored as well, including the Volkswagen Drag Bus. Last year the award has changed to honor a new casting from the current year and Hot Wheels promptly won the 1/64 Scale category with the Fiat 500D Modificado, which, honestly, would have fit in perfectly as an original Redline. The same could be said for the ’55 Chevy Panel, the 2105 winner.
The people behind those designs are well represented in the DHOF, too. Anyone who has spent any time in the hobby knows the names of Ira Gilford, Howard Rees, Bob Rosas and Larry Wood. All four were vital to the original look and feel of the early Redlines. Hot Wheels simply would not exist without their wild imaginations.
Otto Kuhni is in the Hall, as well. He is only credited with one actual car design, the Custom Otto, but he’s as responsible for the early images of the brand as anyone else. Kuhni was the artist who illustrated the early blister cards, advertisements, carrying cases, and lunchboxes that fueled the imagination of kids around the world. The Custom Otto, by the way, is the blue coupe shown on the very first Redline cards… it wasn’t based on any particular car or any Hot Wheels car, but was eventually commemorated in diecast form in his honor.
Several other inductees have worked at Mattel in other capacities. Amy Boylan was the Marketing Director for the entire brand, which is a pretty huge task. Chris Parker kept Hot Wheels collectors informed (and entertained). Many of our inducted diecast customizers such as Dave Chang, Jimmy “Boxman” Chavez and Luis Tanahara worked for Hot Wheels at some point. Tom McEwen had maybe the wildest job of all, driving the Mongoose funny car that inspired dragstrip rivalries in basements and rec rooms everywhere.
Hot Wheels didn’t end with the Redline era, of course. More recent contributors are in the Hall as well. Michael Heralda, Mark Jones, Carson Lev, Phil Riehlman, Eric Tscherne, Steve Vandervate, and MiQ Willmott all played a huge a part in moving the brand forward and upward and through all kinds of loop-de-loops, over the last couple of decades, taking advantage of new casting technology and improved graphics possibilities.
It’s not just employees of Mattel who are honored in the DHOF. A side industry of books, websites, conventions and diecast sales has sprouted over the years, many of them solely based on Hot Wheels. Diecast historians are honored by the Hall each year for their contributions to the hobby. Jim Garbaczewski, Rob Graves, Bob Parker, Bruce Pascal, Chris Walker, Joe Wiggins, and Mike Zarnock (whose Altered Dragster even got its own 1/64 version) have all authored histories, price guides, or directories of Hot Wheels cars.
There are several websites allowing collectors, to research, deal or just connect with one another. Paul Biddle, Charles Kitson, Michael Otte, Anita Smith are all pioneers of the online Hot Wheels world.
And speaking of connecting, Mike Strauss was one of the founders of the National Hot Wheels Collectors Conventions. Think about how many people have met at these events to share their hobby. Speaking of whom, let’s not forget that the Hall recognizes customizers and collectors as well. Folks like Sherry Abbey, Joe Alvarado, Kevan Bence, Chojiro, Rick Early, Jay Holt, Dino Laspada, Kazy, Lee Pearlman, Vince Mosley, Bryan Pope, Paul Spradlin and Chris and Marcia Walker based their work extensively or even exclusively on Hot Wheel castings creating beautiful diecast art. And many of our Collectors of the Year or R.A.O.K award winners are Hot Wheels collectors – as none of all of this would matter if not for the folks who hunt the pegs and dig through bins to collect them all!
As Hot Wheels celebrates its 50th anniversary, their freewheeling cars show no signs of slowing down. It’s a certainty that the Diecast Hall of Fame will continue to recognize how cool Hot Wheels can be.
You will be able to find profiles with more information on each of the individuals or models
mentioned here on the Hall’s Official Archive page on hobbyDB.