The Phantom Corsair-What Is It?
by Dave Weber, images by Doug Breithaupt

Since Hot Wheels issued this model last year, various friends have asked me, "What is this car? Is it imaginary or real; a production or concept model?" The only way to resolve these questions was to research various documents to present the following facts.

This most unusual car was the brainstorm of Rust Heinz, of the "57 varieties" manufacturing family. In 1938, he developed the idea to produce this very radically designed vehicle.

It has been in the collections of many famous people. In 1953, Herb Shiner, a famous radio personality, owned it. In 1970, it became part of the Hurrah Collection in Redo, Nevada. It is interesting to note that Hot Wheels is only producing their model in dark colors, which do not enhance the appearance. Whereas in a 1953 book from Trend, In. (which later became Motor Trend), the car is shown in a very light color in a black and white photo with Shiner as the proud owner.

Although it is the only one of its kind, Heinz had originally developed it with the intention of going into production. In 1939 it was featured at the New York World's Fair as "the car of tomorrow."

It was constructed with an aerodynamic design and was provided with a tubular frame from Cord, crash padding of foam rubber and cork, hydraulic bumpers, a five-passenger front seat, and push button electric doors that raise part of the roof for easier access. The original engine was obtained from Cord and was a supercharged 175 HP Lycoming V-8. In addition to unusual dashboard instruments were a compass and two radios. In 1953, the above owner indicated he was contemplating replacement of the engine with a powerful Cadillac engine and installing a TV and then repainting the car a "real dark Biscayne blue," which is probably why Hot Wheels first produced this model in the chosen color.

The body was constructed by famous coach builder Bowman and Schwartz. It was estimated to be sold, once production started, for $14,700, which is over fifteen times the cost of a production upper class sedan at that time! Don't forget this time span is about two to three years before WHEY was declared.

The initial cost to build it in 1938 was $24,500. Heinz had planned to begin limited production with an estimated price tag of $12,500 to the public. But his plans were cut short when this 23-year-old heir to the Heinz millions was killed in 1939 and with him his dream died.

Hot Wheels was not the first toy company to produce a model of this most mysterious car. Brooklyn Models of England introduced a 1:43 scale replica (BRK33) in 1991, which listed at 33.50 labs.-a substantially larger amount than what I paid for my Hot Wheels model. Now that some of the above history is available, hopefully you can develop a greater appreciation for this model.