An enchanting view of Mandarake showcases at Nakano-Broadway-Building entrance.
a spacial feature on HotWheels
They lift my spilits.
I introduce Mr.AE this time.
I keep his anonymity for a certain reason.
A top collector who has an extensive collection,and plays among various toys every day.
“A Toy player” born in 196X.
In the childhood, he awakened to a toy by the fateful encounter with a miniature car.
In the boyhood, he flowered as a toy collector, through gathering of SF toys of Takara (:Japanese toy maker).
Afterwards, he has advanced his toy road intently.
Although he was temporally addicted to the dark side of some Action Figures, he returned to the essence of toys by the Force of a Doll love.
Now he devotes himself to collecting of items for a museum.
He will talk about Hot Wheels of Mattel.
With the inauguration of Trump as president, discussion over automobiles between Japan and the U. S. has become active.The topic is that it is unfair that the Japanese are always selling their cars to the United States but don’t buy any.
Of course I have an objection as a Japanese.But I am daunted by the fact that such anger has been bred among the general American population for a long time.
Harry Bentley Bradley, looking back on the mid-1960s, said as follows.“There was a real passion on the part of Detroit designers to come to California, because the Japanese were coming into the United States with these grotesque little cars. The quality was high, the fuel economy was excellent, but they were pretty strange looking. A lot of us believed if you could come to California where the Japanese had set up headquarters, you could start a pretty good business doing design consulting to these companies.”(Randy Leffingwell “35 HotWheels years of speed, power, performance and attitude”)
Now, Mr. AE, who will be talking this time, is one of the most profound toy-enthusiasts in Japan as far as I know.His enormous collection built up by his prominent aesthetic sense and intuition consist of dolls, softvinyl-figures, robots, and various other toys.Among them, there are miniature cars. (;die-cast cars)
They are the origin of his toy experience, and the reason behind his ever-growing collection.
Miniature cars. To be exact, Hot Wheels, of the American company Mattel.Mr. AE was addicted in particular to the series of the tire called “red line” which lasted approximately ten years from its release in 1968. More strictly speaking, Hot Wheels made between 1968 and 1973, a few years from their sweet beginning, which were made under Mattel’s co-founder Elliot Handler’s vision and Harry Bentley Bradley’s design.
The first miniature car Mr. AE encountered was not Mattel’s, but Muchbox’s Dudgecharger.
It was around 1970.
When 3-year-old Mr. AE woke up on Christmas morning, he found a miniature car by his bedside.
The palm-sized box was covered in lots of writing of an unknown language.
Peeping through the transparent window on the box, a tiny blue car could be seen.
A car is something that drives on a road…
Even 3-year-old Mr. AE knew that.
But how did such a big thing become such a small one that fits in his hand.
A person can’t get on this!
That was the first moment Mr. AE, who was destined to have a long relationship with toys, touched what’s called a toy.
Something big in real life becomes small and is placed on his hand.
He can touch it, fiddle with it, and play with it.
< I see. There is a way to enjoyment by making things small to play with.>
Child as he was, Mr. AE noticed that fact then.
It might have been a vague feeling, but one with extraordinary expansion.
We can miniaturize something and have it our own way.
We can put everything into our hands.
Such means exist.
It is this.
It’s a toy.
3-year-old Mr. AE was beside himself with joy.
It was a natural result, I guess.
Mr. AE, who had been greatly shocked by a toy, went crazy over miniature cars.
Day in, day out. A miniature car, a miniature car.
Some relatives said that when they visited his house without a minicar, they would be scolded.
One after another, Mr. AE memorized names of various miniature cars, like a sponge absorbing water.
When he went out, he could accurately name the car on theroad immediately, such as “That is Datsun’s Sedan”, which astonished grown-ups around him.
One day, when Mr. AE went to his grandparents’ house, hesaw a bizarre miniature car that he hadn’t ever seen before in the corner of a nearby supermarket.
At that time in 1970, miniature cars for sale were usually kept in a box.
However, this one was in a package made of a plastic coverwith paper backing, and was hanging on a wall. To be precise, it was tacked up with some drawing pins.
Later, Mr. AE learned it was a special type of packaging called “Blisterpackaging”.
He was astonished at the amazing color too.
The coating was transparent and the metal base looked as if it were glittering.
He already knew about plating, but this one, where the car’sbody twinkled beneath the clear purple coating, was different from a plating’s shiny surface.
The design was also unusual.
The domed roof was see-through, and the cockpit was exposed to view.
He had not seen such a miniature car.
On the backpaper, it was written in enormous lettering which looked like a blaze of fire, “Hotwheels.”
Besides it, there was a mysterious phrase written.
“The world’s fastest miniature car.”
“The world’s fastest miniature car”?
What does “fast” mean?
Mr. AE wondered, and suddenly, he understood.”Oh, a car drives!”
At that time, most miniature cars selling in a shop were “Tomika”s. Tomika, which is a domestic miniature car maker, was good at making copies of real cars and sold various models, but they weren’t necessarily made to be run. The way to play was mainly static, such as by arranging them in a garage.
This new miniature car is very different from the one I know…Mr. AE thought.
When he timidly took it in his hand, he noticed it was much heavier than a Tomika.
A paper gimmick was carefully set so as to stabilize the article in its package.
Mr. AE looked at the back of it.
Incredible phrases were written there.
“Wheels are solid”
“Wheel bearings with little friction”
“Never a need for oil”
What is this?
Mr. AE was shaken.
< What is "friction"?>
< What is "oil"?>
< In the first place, how can I make it drive?>
The package continued.
“Play with a set, and you can make your car race faster and further.”
< What is a "set"?>
Looking up, he saw a huge “HotWheels racing something set”box placed in a high place beyond the reach of a child.
The expression “set” was also a first for him.
< This is not a single car, but it comes with something…>
When he saw an illustration of a car running on a narrow orange road, he gasped in surprise.
< I see! It comes with a road! We can “drive” our cars there!>
(“Did you know, boy, that a car’s significance is if it runs or not?”)
That was the Mr. AE’s first encounter with HotWheels.
Although Mattel was already a famous toy company for their Barbie Dolls, they took the market for miniature cars (:die-cast cars) by storm in 1968.
They released 16 kinds of cars as their “sweet sixteen” series and achieved wonderful success.
No, it was not merely “16 kinds”. There were 16 kinds of shape, but they had various coating colors for each of them and let children pick and match amongst their favorite shape and color, just like a grown-up places an order with a real car dealer.
As for the colors, Mattel brought in the technique of spraying a clear-color coat onto a die casted foundation. Thus, HotWheels came to be wrapped in a gem-like coating called “spectra-frame” or “candy paint”.
The design was also great.
It was influenced by American custom car culture “Hot Rod”, and had a unique aspect of being like a game of spotting the difference; it’s different from a real car somewhere. Though they copied a real car, they put “custom” at the beginning of its name. It was so hot.
Moreover, impressively, the development team gave HotWheels an attractive feature that was a world-first. It could drive.
( It’s all a matter of whether the car drives.)
Tires revolving smoothly around poly-caps made to reduce friction.Believe it or not, there was even a model equipped with four-wheel independent suspension using piano wire. The miniature car could drive with all four wheels touching the ground, even on an uneven surface like a table with biscuit crumbs scattered over it.
“When I put a HotWheels on a slightly tilted table, it would drive straight and continue running forever”
Mr. AE said joyfully, looking at < Python > (a red-line model) driving on a table in the karaoke box, the interview spot.
If they bought the set which was also imported into Japan, both track and miniature car were packed in together, so they could drive the car immediately.Of course some children had no money to buy it.
Some children were not fond of the car that was part of the set.In those days, they were able to buy 15 meters of just the track for about 500 yen.
Mr. AE bought it, and he tried driving Tomika on it at first.But it didn’t go well. Therefore he tried his newly bought Hot Wheels on it.That car drove so interestingly well. The structure was fundamentally different from a Tomika.
Since he was about three to when he was five-years old, Mr. AE always drove his Hot Wheels on their tracks all day.
How great this car drove! What fun!
Mr. AE gazed at the scene forever, forever.
On the interview day, Mr. AE turned over the HotWheels he brought and showed it to me.
“This model is a relatively early one. Here, can you see? A piano wire goes through the tires.
Please take a photo of this at the highest resolution. If you can show the wire going through the square hole, I’d be glad.”
Piano wire that looked like a white tendon appeared at a hole in the chassis of the overturned HotWheels.
“One axis to one tire. A suspension system works for each tire.This structure is the same as a real car’s. Although I haven’t tried it myself for fear of breaking it, you can detach the wheels from the axes too.”
“….. I see. You can dismantle and modify it, can’t you?” I said.
Mr. AE continued.”And then, I want to emphasis this point exceptionally….”
He placed the HotWheels on a table, and put his forefinger on its roof to press gently.
“See, this car sinks, doesn’t it?”
It was very clear to my eye that when he pressed it, the HotWheels sank slowly and came back up again.
“Furthermore, even if I push each tire, they sink independently.”
… Oh! This is the “independent four-wheels something, isn’t it?”
“Yes, but since a little after, this system was left out in the succeeding models. “Red-line series” was changed into a type which has two tires to an axis and a suspension set to a plastic board like a Tomika. Moreover, afterwards, the suspension equipment was omitted.Although it’s for cost reduction, I feel sad about it.”
Mr. AE really looked so sad.
By the way, the interest of Mr. AE switches over from miniature cars to other toys as he grew up.
I will tell this story in detail sometime. Anyway, this child, young Mr AE, was consistently living for toys and learned social structure through toys. … If he wasn’t a good boy, he will not get pocket money. If he helps out his parents, he can get pocket money. To get a toy, he needed to be well-behaved.
What an awfully good education it was!
To buy a toy—that is what he lived for.
At the end of the 1980s, Mr. AE, who had forgotten about miniature cars, incidentally met one again in a toy shop.The characteristic design “Twin-mill”… it was without doubt a model of HotWheels.
(Come to think of it, there was such a thing as HotWheels… Well, why was it now in a box?” )
It was strange.
Hotwheels were being sold in a red box with the brand name Minica engraved in it. The tires had become firm and had lost its bounce. The sound was different, too.
When he noticed and looked around, the old Hot Wheels were nowhere to be found.
So where had the one which he knew gone?
Time passed by further.Mr. AE grew up as a full-fledged toy collector and started working.
The HotWheels he knew had disappeared completely.
One day, Mr. AE, feeling empty for some reason, rummaged his closet and found a HotWheels which he had played with frequently.The model “Silhouette” in purple spectra-frame.It was the one in the blister pack that he bought for the very first time.The coating had come off from repeated course-driving, and the wheels’ plating was worn down too.But when he placed it down on a table, the car still landed with a click and its suspension sunk in firmly. It was still active.
…Yes, this is the one !
A dear, nostalgic feel.This feeling ignited Mr. AE’s heart.
< I want to gather these HotWheels that are “true” for me, once more.
No, I will.I have gained economic power that I didn’t have in my childhood! I have gained strength to make things go as I wish!I can get any cars now that I couldn’t buy in the old days…>
Emotion, the driving force for most collecters, took possession of him.
<.. I will get Hot Wheels that have disappeared from my surrounding world before I knew it, back into my very hands!>
Mr. AE signed up in the international Internet auction site
Looking back on this, he says: It was not so expensive in those days.”But if only I could make a deal!”
No sooner had he started than he recognized that there were extremely large number of sellers who wrote they “do not sell internationally”.
Many people would not sell Hot Wheels to any place except the United States. Mostly it was because overseas trade was troublesome, but besides that, there was also a reason.”We won’t sell any HotWheels to Asia.We won’t sell in particular to Japanese.”
(You can’t understand HotWheels. You’ll resell it, won’t you?)
Moreover, those dealers were often the ones who would offer superb Hot Wheels on eBay.
Mr. AE already had ran into the mountain of Japan-U. S. car negotiations.
Now, what Mr. AE learned from eBay at first was that too many dealers didn’t want to sell Hot Wheels to Asia.
(They can’t understand HotWheels. I’ll bet those guys will resell them anyways.)
One day, Mr. AE saw a HotWheels he really desired at a personal sales site.
The dealer said to him, who was persisting in negotiations:”If you say so much, show your guts. Prove that you really love HotWheels.”
Quite by chance he was assigned an overseas business trip by his boss.
What a golden opportunity!
Mr. AE managed to adjust the duty and the area of stay to his needs, and flew to the United States for the first time! While struggling with his first overseas experience, he found a motel that allowed delivery services near his office and moved there.He contacted that dealer, now with thorough preparation.
“I came to the United States. I stay in this country now.What do you think? Now, it’s a domestic trade.”
“I just put some Hot Wheels that I want into my online shop cart. Well, tell me your deposit account. Let me buy your HotWheels!”
“You win”, the dealer said.
“I will trust you. You seem different from other Asians. I understand from the articles you put into the cart. You take no notice of the more valuable Hot Wheels in my list. You only buy your favorite things…I see. All you want to do is to buy your favorite Hot Wheels.”
That was right.Mr. AE’s taste was not for the Hot Wheels based on real cars that were generally seen as worthy.He intently crammed the “fictitious” cars into his cart…the “dream cars”, which were not so popular in those days.
American custom car culture, Hot Rod, converts a classic car, mainly Fords of the 1930s, by making the body lower and repaint with loud colors…
Harry Bentley Bradley, who led the initial design of Hot Wheels, achieved historical fame in the brilliant custom car culture.
When he joined Mattel and blindly felt his way around for his design of a miniature car,
Following designers bright as stars were not inferior to him. Futuristic designs which were not just reproductions of actual cars, which were bizarre and astounded people…such characteristics became the major attractiveness of HotWheels.
Mr. AE had unconsciously gathered the most impossible virtual Hot Wheels…The dream cars which were not sold in Japanese retail stores, and could only be seen in the catalogs.
* Mattel’s People
In the end, Mr.AE bought 80000 yen’s worth of Hot Wheels during his stay.
Even after he returned to Japan, the dealer let him buy all extra articles at hand. Thanks to him, Mr. AE gathered most of the models he had wanted in one year for around 500000 yen.
The dealer further advised Mr. AE, who randomly collected only his favorite ones, to learn about the cars with general value.He said “The real car models of Mattel looks usual at a glance, but something or other is peculiar without exception.”
Knowing this new charming conception, Mr. AE learned little by little, and realized that Mattel always elaborated on any real car model to become a unique one.Then, he gradually began to buy the real car models as well.
“They add a little tweak somewhere every time; that is the soul of Hot Wheels.”Mr. AE says.
He is fascinated by that.
Reality is not what simply accords with an actual fact.
It depends on what makes us feel a genuine soul on a different level to reproducibility.
It depends on the earnestness to substantialize an image and bring it into their hands.
Crazy imaginations and suspensions.Hotwheels made Mr. AE aware of what his own reality is.
A special hue of Hot Wheels spectrum-frame (candy paint).
“Pearly hot pink, this is special. Slightly tinted with blue, it seems a little purple.It’s wonderful!”Mr. AE said.
In the case of candy-paint, they spray a clear color onto the body.As the color is see-through, the undercoat must be particularly well-done.
For any model, this color is special.To have this color in hand is something to be proud of.Mr. AE showed me his honorable hot pink Hot Wheels.
It was when Mr. AE miraculously acquired a “Bye-focal in a brister pack” in perfect condition and was in high spirits.
He heard at a miniature car shop in Yokohama that Larry was to come to Japan.
The store owner said a car & miniature car-festival was to be held in Yokohama next month, and Larry Wood would come there.
Larry is a terrific designer of Hot Wheels.
Mr. AE, who was satisfied with daily intoxication by looking at his Hot Wheels, sometimes wondered what sort of people designed these miniature cars.
He thought…. I want to see the real designer; or perhaps I must meet him. I must say thanks to him. Yes, I must go to the festival to meet Larry….
On that day, Mr. AE lined up for Larry’s signature. Actually, he was supposed to buy the event’s limited product for Larry to sign on it.But hoping to get Larry’s signature on his treasured Hot Wheels, he prepared it in secret.
When his turn came, Mr. AE said “hello!”, and stealthily handed his favorite to Larry.
At first glance, Larry said “Oh! An old-casting!” and broke out into a broad smile.
“Why is this still here in Japan? Is it yours?”
He looked very delighted and nostalgic.
Mr. AE said, “I like this car the most among the ones you designed.Thank you for designing this car!”
This is the Bye-Focal that Larry signed on.
When Mr. AE push out the Brister pack itself, Larry seemed to hesitate for a moment, Mr. AE said. In the United States, they usually ask for a signature on the outside of a protector, I hear.
“OK, OK, all right. I want your sign on the actual item.”
Mr. AE told Larry and asked him to sign on it.
“Sizzler”, a sideline of HotWheels, was released in 1970.
Running by outside power is unsatisfactory; it’s desirable that a car should drive by itself… Sizzler is a model to realize such a hope.Anyway, it is said to almost fly out by great force.
“Hot Wheels accelerates by external power, but “Sizzler” has nickel-cadmium battery and motors piled up on it to run by itself. It drives at crazy speed in disregard to its sturdiness, and goes off course just to crash head-on into somewhere and get broken.”
“Mattel, not surprisingly, are car fools to come up with such an article.”Mr. AE said with an air of satisfaction.
But original Sizzlers as is don’t move.This is because their nickel-cadmium battery corrodes and deteriorates over time. It is said that there are?so-called “repair people” who recondition them to drive and sell them.
“It’s a very convenient service and reasonable. But the Americans seem not to care greatly for one which another person mended. Even if it was repaired very neatly, they prefer a jalopy left as it is,”Mr. AE says.
“I think both of them right.It just depends on how the enthusiast is. But I have a fondness for repair persons. They take the responsibility onto themselves to make the car drive. They won’t shift the responsibility onto anyone else. They say,
Many “repair persons” love repairing from the bottom of their hearts without attention to the profitability, I hear.Mr. AE asserts that there is not a bad person to take part in Hot Wheels in the United States.”All of them really love Hot Wheels. So they are warmhearted.”
Like the lines of an animation drama which Mr.AE loves,”It’s not cool! It’s hot!?It’s HotWheels!”
Mr. AE has recently come to reflect on his past.
His past of denying recent HotWheels that have lost their suspension system.
“I personally don’t like the recent Hot Wheel’s undercarriage, but it’s amazing that Mattel has provided children with these cars for over thirty years without really changing the price.
When you think of that, it’s hard to just criticize them for not running.
Nowadays, if you recreate a “Red Line” complete with a suspension system, it would easily cost more than 1000 yen. I think that Mattel is a really hot company for prioritizing children being able to freely buy them.”
Mattel is great.
I like Mattel.
I don’t want an existing character.I played with it in this way, I expressed it in this way.
A toy as a place where imagination dwells.
Hot Wheels, which embodies just that, ignites Mr. AE’s spirits, and continues to stimulate it from the bottom of his heart.
It sparks and stimulates him with its independent and free spirit.
We will summon our willpower, and will catch the imaginary world by our own hands.
That’s what a toy is. That’s what real is.In other words, it’s the real feeling of living in this world.
By the way, the person who poured the essence of American motor culture into Hot Wheels and contributed to its charm, Harry Bentley Bradley.
He said that he started the designs from “something that makes himself think that a car from 1984 came back to 1966”. (as previously mentioned)
Almost half a century has passed since then.
The future is not in a very good condition.
Mr. Bradley. I cannot know your actual intention in saying so.However, in the present where it is increasingly difficult to be diverse and where the will for freedom is being critically challenged, I recall George Orwell’s 1984 all of a sudden.
The United States, and Japan. Where will each of us proceed to?
In both countries, I suppose that many people read 1984 with uneasiness and fear.Many people strain their ears to hear the howl of the gloomy wind everywhere, I suppose.
In the innermost part of Mr.AE, Hot Wheels and dolls and softvinyl-figures…various toys grow into one, and shape his inner world.
A realization that living does not have a border, and the flows of our imagination are connected.
What keeps on attracting Japan’s current top collector who is possessed by toys, lives together with toys, pursues his genuine reality…That article is Hot Wheels by Mattel of the United States.