June 01, 2009
Well, we just finished up shooting a show, and a major part of this show was the history of Hot Wheels cars. As I brought in cars from the collection that I have cultivated over the years, I could not believe the reaction of the people that saw them. I mean young, old, male, female, white, black, whatever……they all had a story to tell about those little metal cars and the fun they had with them. The funny thing is, most people think Hot Wheels were just for boys. Now while it’s true that virtually EVERY boy loved ‘em….. a lot of girls liked ‘em too. A prime example of that is a story that happened to me when I was growing up………… The year was about 1971 or ’72 and I was about 7 years old and I had just gotten the Snake and Mongoose Hot Wheels drag race set. Every kid in the neighborhood was determined to have the fastest Hot Wheels car. There was a Hot Wheels cartoon on every Saturday morning, and that just fed the flames of our Hot Wheels passion. Of course, NOBODY was more serious about their Hot Wheels than me. I had special cars that I NEVER played with because they were for RACE only and I didn’t want to take a chance of bending the wheels up.(did you do this too?) So they sat in the drawer, waiting for their chance to rip down the track and win. And win they did……my cars rarely ever lost. Now in the cartoon, the hero’s name was Jack Wheeler, and the car he drove was called the Jack Rabbit Special. NOBODY in the neighborhood had the Jack Rabbit Special or had even seen one in real life,….. to own THAT car would be the equivalent to owning Excalibur!...... or at least a switchblade with genuine mother-of-pearl handles. Of course a major part of the allure of the Jack Rabbit Special was the fact that it never lost a race in the cartoon, so naturally the Jack Rabbit Special was assumed to be unbeatable on the track…. every body knew THAT. Now the girl character in the cartoon drove a car called the Sand Crab and it was a cool little dune buggy, but nobody wanted it because it was a GIRLS car. Well one day my older sister,(about 10 or 11 years old) came in with a nice, bright green Sand Crab and said she would like to race with us. Of course there was a lot of snickering and laughing before we decided to let her race with us. Finally, we said she could play and she set that little car on the track and low and behold, she promptly proceeded to kick all of our butts! That stinkin’ little car was FAST!!! Especially thru the loops! My dad thought it was the funniest thing he had ever seen! I wasn’t laughing! After that, my sister would leave the Sand Crab on her mantle in her room for all of us to see, and despite all my efforts to trade for it, she would only bring it out when we were racing….and the car was virtually unbeatable! I was determined to have it! Then one day it happened…..I was in the store with Mom and I saw it…..The Jack Rabbit Special!......and there was only one! I then proceeded to beg and plead and generally promise to do every chore around the house for the next 10 years if she would buy me the “Special”. Fortunately, Mom caved in and soon we were driving home with the Jack Rabbit Special tucked away in my hot little hands…….oh man, was sister in for a big surprise!!!! Once I got home, I thru together a make-shift track, because I couldn’t wait to see the JRS rip down the track. I figured it was going to be so fast it would probably go right thru the wall, so I made sure to put some of mom’s best pillows off the couch at the end of track to keep from damaging the wall. However, as I ran the car down the track, I wasn’t too impressed…….Matter of fact, some of my other cars were beating it. CARS THAT HAD ALREADY BEEN BEATEN BY MY SISTERS SAND CRAB!!!! AAAAAAAAA……!!!! What’s up with this?!? Of course remember I had no idea about the concepts of weight and balance and how those things affect the performance of a car like Hot Wheels. I was “test” racing down a straight track and my heavier cars were naturally beating the Jack Rabbit Special, just like they would beat the Sand Crab. However, when we had our “official” races the cars had to travel through a loop too, and this is where the heavier cars lost it, and the lighter cars like the Sand Crab were really hard to beat. Anyway, now I had a dilemma….I finally had the Jack Rabbit Special (Excalibur) but was dismayed at it’s performance. My sister wanted the Jack Rabbit Special in the worst way and had offered up the SAND CRAB as a trade. Of course my sister was very shrewd and kept working on me until finally…..somehow….she talked me into trading the ‘Special” for the Sand Crab. A few days latter, we set up the track for the big Hot Wheels races and I confidently brought out my unbeaten Sand Crab and put it on the track against the Jack Rabbit Special. When we pushed the button I stared in disbelief as my sister’s Jack Rabbit Special promptly proceeded to smoke my Sand Crab. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO…!!!!! THIS CAN’T BE HAPPENING!!!!!!After that humiliating defeat, my sister retired Excalibur to her mantle piece….and left me holding the Sand Crab…..A GIRLS CAR!!!!! Fortunately this story has a happy ending, because a few weeks later I was able to trade my sister something else and get the Jack Rabbit Special back where it belonged……beside the Sand Crab in MY Hot Wheels drawer!.........ah childhood…..it’s a wonder any of us made it out alive!