Micro-Racers from Hot Wheels
by Doug Breithaupt

Fiat 500 - 1999

Whatta Drag - 1998

Metrorail - 2000

Mini Cooper - 2000

Baja Bug - 1983
Most of us think of race cars as somewhat brutish, and an anything but cute. Here are five micro-racers that are far more cute than brute. Say what you want about Hot Wheels, but could any other diecast producer offer the five micro-racers shown here?

The VW Beetle and Mini Cooper are ready to run the rally course while the Fiat, Isetta and Metropolitan are diminutive drag racers. Let's check the grid.

The VW Beetle is a split-window (pre-1960) with a Baja-style air box and off-road clearance. This casting has been around quite a while but it's too much fun to retire. The Baja Bug is no flight of fancy either as many just like it have run in off-road racing and rallying for years.

The Mini Cooper is the hot version of the famous Mini first offered in 1959. Mini Coopers were very competitive in rallying and were raced with much success in Europe and the U.K. Hot Wheels has offered a delightful twist on this model in that the body may be removed to view the racing chassis and roll cage, engine and interior. The front-engine, FWD on the Mini Cooper is a nice contrast to the rear-engine, RWD on the VW. Anyone want to make a guess as to which would win in a head-to-head contest? Offered in the 2000 series cars, the Mini-Cooper is an immediate hit.

The Metrorail is based on a real cars as well. The original metropolitan was built in England by Austin and badged as an Austin, a Nash or a Hudson. The Nash/Hudson versions were sent to and sold in the U.S. from 1954 to 1961. In 1957, the Nash/Hudson names were dropped and all Mets became badged as American Motors Corporation cars. The Met's 4 cyl. Austin motor was good for about 50 HP and anything over 50 MPH was a considerable effort for motor and brakes. The blown V8 in the Metrorail would provide a lot more punch. I hope the brakes were upgraded accordingly. I owned a '61 Met in the same coral and white colors. Also a 2000 series offering from Hot Wheels, the Metrorail is winner.

The three-wheeled Isetta makes the Met look almost stock. Can you imagine having that BMW V12 push you down the drag strip? The real Isetta was an Iso design that BMW produce under license in the 1950's. The front door opens on the nose and the steering wheel swings out. In the late 50's, Formula 1 drivers were provided with Isettas to commute to and from the race-track for the Spanish GP. Of course, they proceeded to race each other back to their rooms from the practice sessions. It's reported that whenever one started to get ahead, the co-passenger would release the door and treat passers-by with the unforgettable sight of the world's best drivers hanging on the the steering wheel over the front wheels. I cannot confirm that the drag-racing Isetta really exists but if it did not, it should. First offered by Hot Wheels in 1999, the Isetta is available in several colors.

Italy's favorite micro car is the Topolino Fiat 500. Topolino is 'Mickey Mouse' in Italian and the 500 was the much-loved transport of thousands of Italy's race-crazy drivers. Imagine what they could have done with the version shown here. Another blown V8 powers the baby Fiat. Is this based on a real drag racer as well? What a wonderful sight it would be to see the Met, Isetta and Fiat race for pink slips. First offered by Hot Wheels in 1999, the Fiat 500 is also available in several colors.

If Hot Wheels has not already considered offering these five cars as a special five-pack, shame on them. Driving these cars would be a bit on the wild side but adding them to your diecast collection is pure fun. Congratulations to Hot Wheels for producing such a delightful selection of micro-racers. Now, how about a demonic 2CV, macho Messerchmidt or a hard-charging Crossley to add to the fun?