Hot Wheels X-V Racers

Mike Pigott concludes his series on motorized Hot Wheels cars with a look at this little-known range of gyro-powered diecast vehicles from the 1980s.

99 (4)Over the years, there has been a number of powered ranges of diecast vehicles from Mattel. Scorchers were diecast cars with powerful pull-back-and-go motors in them, first produced in 1979. These were followed in 1982 by Shift Shift Kickers, which were similar, but had a brake lever on the back. In 1986, Mattel introduced X-V Racers, which were Hot Wheels sized cars with gyro-type motors that could race along the floor and also perform various stunts.

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Hot Wheels Shift Kickers

Mike Pigott looks at this little-known range of motorized Hot Wheels cars with ‘stick shift’ action!Wind SprinterBetween 1979 and 1981, Hot Wheels produced a range of powered diecast vehicles known as Scorchers. This range had powerful friction engines that could run on a range of track sets, including the amazing Scorcher Chamber, where they could drive around the inside of a transparent plastic barrel! However, by 1981 other manufacturers were producing similarly powered models, and cars with ‘pull-back-and-go’ motors became a-dime-a-dozen. Hot Wheels needed to make models with more of an edge, and so three of the Scorchers castings were modified into Shift Kickers, which supposedly had ‘stick shift’ action!

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Harry Potter by Tomica

Mike Pigott returns to the world of magic with a look at the Harry Potter models produced by Japanese company Tomica.DSC_0108

The long-running Tomica range of model cars has been produced by Yomy of Japan since 1970. This high-quality range is similar in size to Matchbox or Hot Wheels, but is generally made to a much higher standard. In recent years, Tomica has begun producing a wide range of character models, ranging from juvenile franchises such as Disney and Hello Kitty, through to more dynamic properties such as Star Wars, Marvel Super Heroes and DC Comics. Tomica seems to have a separate licensing agreement for its models, which are mainly sold in the far East, and generally do not overlap with franchises for the same characters held by Mattel or Corgi. One of the more exciting character ranges produced by Tomica is based on Harry Potter, the incredibly popular boy wizard created by J. K. Rowling.

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Hot Wheels Scorchers

Mike Pigott looks at this exciting range of motorized Hot Wheels vehicles from 1979.

White ThunderScorchers were a range of spring-powered diecast vehicles introduced in 1979. They were not the first motorized cars produced by Hot Wheels; the rechargeable battery-powered Sizzlers had been introduced in 1969 (although these were not diecast), and the clunky rubber-band powered Revvers dated from 1973. However, the Scorchers were the first powered diecast cars that actually worked convincingly.

Mattel described the Scorchers as being ‘spring-powered’ on the packaging, and they were activated by rolling the vehicle backwards, or backwards and forwards, to wind the motor. These days they would be described as ‘pull-back-and-go’ cars, and this type of friction motor seems to be fitted to all sorts of el-cheapo, pound-store junk toys. However, in 1979 this feature was incredibly innovative, and the motors fitted to the Scorchers were very powerful. Scorchers were the big stars of all the 1979 international toy fairs, and the ‘Scorcher Chamber’ track set was a particular favourite.

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Harry Potter by Corgi International

Mike Pigott looks at a small range of models from Corgi based on the adventures of the boy wizard, Harry Potter.Corgi Ford AngliaHarry Potter first appeared in the 1995 novel Harry Potter and the Philospher’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling, and proved to be a massive success around the world. The book spawned five sequels and several spin-offs. In 2001, Harry made the transition to the big screen, with a series of seven big-budget, star-studded movies. Unsurprisingly, there was a great deal of Harry Potter merchandise produced, including a range of diecast models from Corgi, based on three very diverse vehicles seen in the films.

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Johnny Lightning: The Lost Toppers

Mike Pigott looks at a range of Johnny Lightning vehicles from 2001 that was based on unfinished Topper Toys prototypes from the early 1970s.Custom CamaroJohnny Lightning was a range of diecast vehicles produced by Topper Toys of New Jersey from 1969 to 1971. The range was produced in response to Mattel’s successful Hot Wheels line, and was largely influenced by them. However, the Johnny Lightning range was quite short-lived, as Topper Toys suffered from financial mismanagement and went into liquidation in 1971.

In 1993 the independent toy company Playing Mantis acquired the rights to the defunct Johnny Lightning trademark, and began manufacturing replicas of the original diecast vehicles. Eight Commemorative models were released in 1994, and a further ten in 1995. However, Playing Mantis moved on to original castings, starting with a range of American muscle cars, and it was several years until another batch of Topper reproductions was released, the Topper Series from 2000.

The final batch of Topper-style models was produced in 2001. These were called Lost Toppers, and were based on models proposed by Topper Toys, but never actually put into production. The second series of Johnny Lightning Commemoratives from 1995 had included two vehicles, Custom Continental and Custom Mustang, which were based on unreleased prototypes. The Lost Toppers consisted of six more unproduced items, although it was not clear whether they were modelled from original pre-production samples, or whether they were based on catalogue illustrations. The series included two realistic muscle cars, two hot rods and two bizarre fantasy vehicles.

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The Pink Panther by Dinky

Mike Pigott looks at Dinky Toys based on that popular cartoon cat, the Pink Panther.dinky-toys-pink-panther-1969-advertisementThe Pink Panther made his debut in the opening titles of the 1963 film The Pink Panther, and proved popular enough to be spun off into a series of animated shorts. These cartoons were later repackaged as a TV show which featured the Pink Panther riding in a very unusual custom car in the opening and closing credits. Dinky soon produced a model of this car in two versions, which were very different from standard Dinky models.

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View-Master / Matchbox Grand Prix Game

Mike Pigott looks at a rare game that combines a board, a View-Master viewer and reels and four Matchbox Superfast cars.

Viewmaster Game BoardDuring the 1970s GAF, the manufacturer of View-Master, entered the toy market with a range of games incorporating 3D viewers and reels. One of these was a race game that had the novel idea of using Matchbox cars as playing pieces. What makes this product of interest is the fact that some of the cars included were exclusive to the set and were not available separately, resulting in them being among the rarest Matchbox models of all time.

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Johnny Lightning Topper Series

Mike Pigott looks at this small range of classic Topper Toys reproductions made by Johnny Lightning in 2000.

Flame OutThe Johnny Lightning range of diecast model vehicles was first introduced by Topper Toys of New Jersey in 1969. Intended to take on Mattel’s successful Hot Wheels range, Johnny Lightning had a much shorter lifespan, as the brand was discontinued when Topper Toys went broke in 1971. The brand lay dormant until 1993, when it was revived by a new toy company called Playing Mantis. The first of the new Johnny Lightning models was the Commemorative Series, which consisted of eight reproductions of early Topper Toys cars. A second series of ten Commemorative editions was produced in 1994. Playing Mantis moved on to original castings instead of reproductions, although five commemorative models were reissued in a metallic paint finish as the 30th Anniversary Series in 1999.

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Classic Fire Engines by Yat Ming Road Signature

Mike Pigott looks at this recent range of 1/43 classic fire engines made by Yat Ming of Hong Kong.

Dennis Light 4Yat Ming is a Hong Kong based manufacturer of diecast toys that dates from 1970, created to take advantage of the diecast boom inspired by Hot Wheels. Yat Ming models were largely cheap and cheerful knock-offs of Matchbox and Hot Wheels products aimed mostly at the American market, and were often sold under the ‘Road Tough’ brand.

In 1997 Yat Ming entered the collectibles market, producing a line of budget 1/43 scale American cars. These were quite sparsely detailed, but were good value and featured a number of vehicles not modelled elsewhere. Later a range of highly detailed 1/18 cars were introduced under the ‘Road Signature’ marque, and were again aimed at the USA market, where that scale is extremely popular. This was followed by a series of 1/24 scale fire engines, which were again well detailed, good value and featured a number of moving parts.

In 2006, a line of 1/43 scale vintage fire engines was launched, initially featuring pre-war American vehicles, although British and German ones were later produced. The range was extremely well-made, with great attention to detail, and mostly featured fire engines that had never been modelled before. Another plus point was the price; at around £14 each, these were less than half the cost of similar models by Matchbox, Corgi or Conrad. Yat Ming had clearly researched the real vehicles carefully, as the models were very accurate right down to the coach-lining. Of the models produced, they mainly dated from the 1920s and ‘30s, with seven American items, three British, and a German wartime truck.

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