It’s been a few weeks since I first posted photos of this redline Volkswagen along with a few other cars a friend had given me. I had already identified it as a Wisconsin Toy Company promotional from 1980. But after I posted photos to a couple of online collector’s forums, the comments I was getting helped me realize there was a good story behind this little bug. It took a little while to find a source for the whole story, but eventually I found a page on the Hot Wheels Collector’s website in which collector Steve Griffin recounts a conversation with former Mattel engineer Bob Rosas who explains how the Wisconsin Toy Company redlines came to be.
It seems Mattel had entered into a promotional agreement with a “major soap manufacturer” sometime in the mid-1970s to give away unique Hot Wheels cars in specially marked packages of soap. As was done in these promotions, the unpainted metal bases were replaced with plastic – in this case black ones – to reduce cost. The cars planned for this promotion were the Volkswagen Bug, Swingin’ Wing, Dune Daddy, Warpath and a dark blue version of Buzz Off.
For some reason, after most of these cars had been produced, the promotion fell through and the order was cancelled. Apparently, the Volkswagen Bugs, Swingin’ Wings, Dune Daddys, and Warpaths were boxed up and put in a warehouse. It wasn’t until 1980 that the inventory was sold to the Wisconsin Toy Company, who sold them in plastic baggies with an attached header card. Hot Wheels, of course had stopped making redlines in 1977, so that makes these cars an unusual find.
So, whatever happened to that dark blue Buzz Off? Well, very few of those cars had come off the production line when the order was cancelled, not enough to make it worth boxing them up with the others. But a few of them managed to leak out making it a rare and valuable car. I don’t have one of those, but I do have a gold chrome version that I like quite a bit.