By Raymond McKee (The Southern Gent)
The challenge in producing yet another guide to Hot Wheels is to find something that hasn't been done before. Bob Parker and Michael Strauss have been writing guides for years. What could they have possibly left uncovered about the signature early years of Hot Wheels? How do you put a fresh spin on a now very familiar subject? Well, Messer's Clark and Wicker have put together a fascinating and informative effort that meets that challenge most successfully.
To begin with, the book is hardbound. The It's not going to fall apart as the glue in the binding dries out. The cover features an assortment of classic redlines against a backdrop of dancing flames. The heavy red underline of the title ends in a lit fuse. Inside, the various chapters are color coded on the edges for quick look-up. The book immediately looks and feel like a solid value for the money you are paying.
Inside, each model has a page to itself, featuring a large photo at the top of the page, and three more photos showing the car from different viewing angles. The text identifies each model, what it is based on, what years it was issued, and any special collector's information specific to the model. The values given are for mint loose and descend down the page from cheapest to most expensive. I like that they don't try to put a price on singular models, but merely state that the value of such models as the Ed Shaver AMX and the Rear-Loading Beach Bomb is "speculative." They also give values for collectors buttons and original decal sheets where applicable. Casting differences between U. S. and Hong Kong factories is noted, and often demonstrated with side-by-side pictures. Pictures are also used to demonstrate features such as moving parts, informing me about details I never knew about certain models I've never held in my hand for a closer look.
The format of the chapters separates the cars by year. The is a "class picture" at the start of each year with a write-up of that year's highlights. Separate chapters break out specific series, such as the Spoilers, the Grands Prix, the Heavyweights, and the Mongoose/Snake cars. The models used for photographs are all in good condition. I saw some minor toning, but no "Sandbox Specials". In satisfying a personal pet peeve of mine, the photos of the Tough Customer M60 Tank have the turret facing the front. The vehicle comes in blister with the barrel turned to the rear to allow the tank to fit in a standard blister. I don't think I've ever seen any other Hot Wheels guide with that turret turned correctly. Why has it taken this long for someone to get a minor detail like that right?
The section on Sets, Cases, and More is a real find. In addition to the track sets and accessories, there are all kinds of Hot Wheels related merchandise: coloring books, collectors cups, games, a Halloween costume, jigsaw puzzles and store displays. If it had the flame swoosh on it in any way shape or form, it's listed here. There's a lot of things here I would love to see re-released. Maybe the folks at HotWheelsCollectors.com will see these and get some ideas.
Are there areas the book could be improved? Sure. I would have liked to have had some more info on the designers, and I noticed some details not touched on, such as the experimental saddle-bag gas tanks that were tested on the open-wheeled racers to make them compatible with the supercharger sets, but were never mass-produced. Still, this is a dynamite piece of work for a first effort from these gentlemen. I highly encourage them to write again.
HOT WHEELS: The Ultimate Redline Guide, Identification and Values 1968-1977, by jack Clark and Robert P. Wicker, is published by Collector Books ISBN 1574323016 and retails for $24.95.