1988 Hot Wheels Color Racers ’55 Chevy

The Hot Wheels ’55 Chevy was first cast in 1982 and was released in around 30 different variations up until its inclusion in the Final Run Series of 2001. I recently rescued this example – the only one I have in my collection – from one of my reject buckets. It is from the 1988 Color Racers series and would have been found in one of many different 3-Packs.

Applying heat to this car turns it somewhat more to the yellow side of orange. (We can assume the effect would have been more dramatic when the car was new.) In this case, it mostly seems to lessen the contrast around the areas of chipped paint.

Hot Wheels | 1990 | 1440 | Color Racers 3-Pack | ’55 Chevy | orange to yellow with blue red and yellow trim | MY | bw

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1988 Hot Wheels Color Racers Ferrari 308

When I first started collecting vintage Hot Wheels, the Color Changers often had me stumped. The cars in the series, which debuted in 1988 as Automagic or Color Racers, have paint that will change color when heated or cooled. (This is typically done by placing the car in hot or cold water.) Since Color Changers are outside the Hot Wheels Mainlines, it is hard to find a listing for them if you don’t know what you’re looking for.

As an example, I picked up a pair of these Ferrari 308s quite a few years ago from the Dealer, and mistakenly listed them in my collection as the first-release Race Bait 308 from 1978 – even though the two have different tampo designs. Since then, I’ve gotten a little better at recognizing the tell-tale high-gloss-yet-somehow-milky paint of a Color Changer. So when I recently pulled this car out to feature it here, I realized my mistake.

Another challenge with the Color Changers is that they tend to stop changing color with age and will sometimes get stuck in one phase or the other. Since the Ferrari 308 was released in different color combinations such as red/pink, pink/red and orange/red it was difficult for me to determine which one I had. I consulted with my friends on the Hot Wheels Newsletter Facebook page, who suggested that if I put the cars in the freezer overnight, they might still change color.

There isn’t a huge change in mine, but the colder car seems to be more orange than the warm car. So I think I’ll go with red/orange (or “dark red to bright red” as I’ve seen it listed elsewhere).

A pair of frozen 308s.

Hot Wheels | 1988 Color Racers 3-Pack | 5607 | Ferrari 308 | red/orange with stripes on top and Ferrari 308 on hood | MY | bs

By the way, one of the best listings for all the many variations of Color Changers can be found on the South Texas Diecast website. Some of the other Color Changers in my collection include a Lamborghini Countach and a Camaro Z-28.

1988 Hot Wheels Color Racers Camaro Z-28

This Hot Wheels Camaro Z-28, which was in one of the cases I got from The Dealer, had been painted over, so initially I put it aside. But I pulled it out recently for a closer look. The paint had been applied very inconsistently with a brush and I could see enough of the original paint showing through that I was able to determine it was one of the Color Racers (cars that change color when hot or cold temps are applied.) I decided to run it under hot water to see if I could see any change in color. Much to my surprise, the brushed-on paint started to come off. So I grabbed an old toothbrush and started scrubbing, and a few minutes later I had it back to the fairly worn original.

The Hot Wheels Camaro Z-28 made its debut in 1982, and though there have been around 50 variations since then, this is the only one I have in my collection. This would have been found in one of the Color Racers 3-Packs from 1988. And by the way, the original paint no longer changes from bright red to blue, and like many of these old color-changers, it seems to be frozen in a kind of off-color state.

Hot Wheels | 1988 Color Racers 3-Pack | 1440 | Camaro Z-28 | red to blue | MY | bw

I have a bit of a personal connection to the real-life Z-28. When my brother John, who is five years older, graduated from college, he went straight to the Chevy Dealership and bought himself a brand new 1981 Camaro Z-28. Although he didn’t keep the car very long, it was a pretty sweet ride. This photo shows it parked in our driveway – adding some color to the North Dakota winter – shortly after he bought it.

The Case of the Sad Dad

Last summer, my wife and son and I stopped at a garage sale at the home of a 30-something couple. I saw this well-used 48-car case on a table of assorted goods. Expecting it to be empty, I picked it up to look it over and was surprised and excited by the heft of it. I flipped open the lid and a quick glance at the 2/3-full contents told me I had a good find, especially for the price on the sticker affixed to the lid.

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My son found a book he wanted and, as I usually do, I handed my purchase to my wife so she could pay for it. Now, my wife is a very committed haggler, but knowing what I had, I was a little surprised when she began to negotiate for a lower price.

“But they were my childhood cars,” protested the man, and with a glance at my son he added, “and we only have a girl.”

My heart broke for the man just then. I’m sure the man loves his daughter, but I could understand his disappointment at having a kid who doesn’t appreciate his childhood toys. So I knew it was up to me to make a good home for his car collection. My wife glanced at me and I gave here a little nod. She paid the man and we were on our way.

The cars in the case range from the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s. Most are Hot Wheels but there is also a nice assortment of Racing Champions stock cars. A single Matchbox, a lone Pit Row and one nice old Yatming model make up the balance of the 32 cars. I’ll show the most of the Hot Wheels here and save the rest for later posts.

The Hot Wheels Speed Demons series was introduced in 1986 and brought us classic creature-based castings such as Fangster and Sharkruiser. The Sad Dad’s toys include the original Turboa from 1986 and a 1992 variation of Zombot.

1986 Speed Demons | 2061 | Turboa | yellow with green trim | MY | UH

1993 Speed Demons| 4346 | Zombot | blue chrome with pink chrome gun, red, blue & black trim | MY | UH

Another popular Hot Wheels series from the 1980s is the Crack-Ups. These cars have spring-loaded panels that switch from clean to damaged on impact. As the Sad Dad’s example shows, they were generally smacked around a lot, so these cars are hard to find in good shape. This is the 1986 Side Grinder.

1986 Crack-Ups | 2558 | Side Grinder | black with magenta, red & orange trim | HK | BW

In 1988, Hot Wheels brought us the Color Changers, and their sporty brothers the Color Racers. When run under hot water, the characteristically thick and glossy paint on this Lamborghini Countach changes from pink to off-white as it gets warmer.

1988 Color Changers | 2558 | Lamborghini Countach | pink with white & purple trim | MY | BW

You’ll notice several of the Sad Dad’s Hot Wheels have Ultra Hot wheels, which were first introduced in 1984 for the series of the same name and were used up until 1995. The rear wheels on Alien from 1990 are almost entirely shrouded inside its metalflake silver body.

1990 | 5026 | Alien | metalflake silver & red | MY | UH

The Hot Wheels Nissan Custom “Z”, with its opening doors and clear plastic headlights, debuted in 1990. Sad Dad’s collection includes the metallic dark red version from the first year and another light blue variation from 1997.

1990 | 7609 | Nissan Custom “Z” | metallic red with yellow trim | MY | UH

1997 | 18552 | Nissan Custom “Z” | light blue with purple, black & silver trim | CH | chrome lace

The Larry Wood designed Shadow Jet was first cast in 1988. Here are two identical metallic purple versions from 1990 and a green variation from 1992.

(2) 1991 | 9590 | Shadow Jet | metallic purple with green & yellow trim | MY | BW

1992 | 0477 | Shadow Jet | green with blue & yellow trim | MY | BW

This Lamborghini Diablo has very unusual blue-with-red-glitter paint.

1992 | 0460 | Lamborghini Diablo | glitter blue, dk blue wing | MY | UH

This is one of two wheel variations on the 1992 first casting of Flashfire – the other being gold Hot Ones.

1992 | 3156 | Flashfire | black with pink, yellow & green trim | MY | UH

My favorite car of Sad Dad’s collection, this coffin-shaped dragster is the 1994 first casting of Rigor Motor. When Hot Wheels released their 30th Anniversary collection in 1998, Rigor Motor was chosen as the model to represent 1994.

1994 | 4346 | Rigor Motor | burgundy with white HW logo | MY | BW

The original much-loved Hot Wheels Twin Mill was designed by Ira Gilford and was released in 1969 in all of your favorite Spectraflame colors. Twin Mill II was released in 1993 and, although this 1995 variation from the Dark Riders series does have nice metallic black paint, I’m not really sure why they felt the need to mess with a good thing. I’m not even going to mention Twin Mill III.

1995 Dark Rider Series | 13285 | Twin Mill II | metallic black with red HW logo | MY | black tint 7S

The GT Racer came out in 1989 and has seen many fun variations since then. This orange and black variation is from 1996.

1996 | 1789 | GT Racer | orange with blue and black trim | CH | chrome lace

Sad Dad had two Hot Wheels Dodge Viper RT/10s in his collection. First cast in 1993, both the yellow and green variations are from 1996.

1996 | 5205 | Dodge Viper RT/10 | yellow | MY | chrome 5sp

1996 | 5205 | Dodge Viper RT/10 | metal flake dark green | MY | gold lace

Finally, the collection includes a single McDonald’s promotional Hot Wheel from 1996, the Flames Series Funny Car.

1996 | McDonalds | Flames Series Funny Car | blue with flames | CH | black plastic