Hot Wheels takes to the streets with its 40th anniversary cross-country road trip from Mattel’s headquarters in El Segundo, California all the way to Watkins Glen, New York (home to American road racing) and making stops along the way. At each of the stops, Hot Wheels will host free events for visitors, such as life-size Hot Wheels cars, historic Hot Wheels memorabilia, booths for kids to create custom Hot Wheels driver licenses, Hot Wheels die-cast races, autograph sessions with designers and many more family-friendly activities.
Tour stops include the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah; Speed, Kansas; the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum in Indiana; and the Automotive Hall of Fame in Detroit.
Also on display at each stop is the custom jeweled Hot Wheels car, created by celebrity jeweler Jason of Beverly Hills, made to commemorate the 4 billionth Hot Wheels vehicle made since it began production in 1968. It’s the most expensive Hot Wheels ever made valued at about $140,000, with nearly 3,000 diamonds and weighs about 23 carats.
Hot Wheels collectors will also have the opportunity to receive a commemorative die-cast car created exclusively for each stop that is based on the car seen on the late-1960s packaging, originally designed by Otto Kuhni. That car never made it to production, and as a tribute to Otto, designers recreated his package design in die-cast form for the first time.
For the kickoff event, employees at Mattel’s headquarters were treated to a special company picnic, where Mattel co-founder and Hot Wheels originator Elliot Handler was honored by Mattel’s CEO Bob Eckert, with a collection of all six commemorative custom die-cast vehicles that are being given away at each event stop, and a one-of-a-kind 1:18 scale die-cast version of the 1967 Chevrolet Camaro that was the first Hot Wheels ever produced, which was presented by famed Mattel designer Larry Wood, who has been with the company for 39 of the last 40 years.
Mattel was founded in 1945 by Harold “Matt” Matson and Elliot Handler (hence the name “matt-el). Handler thought about a die-cast toy care while playing with his grandchildren in 1966. He noticed that the die-cast cars of the day weren’t anything special given they were made up of questionable materials and they lacked a variety of models. Handler bought a die-cast manufacturing plant in Hawthorne, California, and he assigned Jack Ryan (head of research and design at Mattel at the time) to head the project, who later hired Harry Bradley, one of the top auto designers at Chevrolet, to lead the design teams. The name Hot Wheels later came about after Handler first saw Bradley classic Southern California in the parking lot and told him that he had “some hot wheels.”