Ask most people what their first car was and they’ll tell you it was some beater that their parents got them during high school or worked all summer to buy. It was the car they used to go to their first jobs with. They sped through the high school parking lot with it. It was what they used to go to parties. They used it to go on roads trips and to escape and hide from their crazy teenage world. My first beater wasn’t any of those things. My first beater cost me $0.96 and I bought it in a grocery store. I can’t resist glancing at those shiny little miniatures every time I go into the grocery store. Friends get embarrassed and people stare and smirk but I love every minute of it. Its how I hold onto my fleeting youth. If I look like a creeper hanging out in the children’s toy isle of a department store, your kids are safe as long as they don’t touch one of the cars I’m looking at.
“I don’t care if you’ve been saving all month for that boxed set I have more money and bigger muscles than you kid!”
The Hot Wheels dealerships, known to outsiders as grocery stores, have been around since 1968. I’ve been on the market for these hot little rods since I can remember but for arguments sake let’s just be safe and say 1992. The story is a little different for my brother, father and uncles. I remember hearing stories (to this day even) about bending axles and waxing wheels so that my father or uncles could beat a rival sibling. I still have many of these original heirloom cars in a cardboard box somewhere in a closet all dinged up and chipped, signs of good use and unfair play on the racetrack no doubt.
My brother, the primary reason why I’m as auto-obsessed as I am, has probably the oddest collection of chipped cars in this aforementioned box of autotopia. During my automotive formative years, when most big brothers were thrashing and crashing there G.I. Joes and cheesy-made Matchbox cars, my big ol’ bro was stripping, sanding and painting his cars. In a sense he was showing me a different kind of appreciation for cars. Not an appreciation for their power and go-fast abilities, but rather an appreciation for their aesthetics. There should to find out whether or not the die-cast car thrashing gene skips a generation or not. Although my big brother’s affinity for miniature auto body was respectable and should’ve been lauded, my 7 year-old self didn’t think so. I thrashed and chipped and “off-roaded” and crashed and dropped not only mine but his beautiful works of art all over the back yard and living room.
Encouraged by my father, my brother and I had tracks and would build our dream garages out of Legos and/or wooden blocks in the living room that would rival Mr Leno’s collection and grandeur. There were afternoons that blocks, Legos and track weren’t needed to have a good time with our little cars. I would often use the outlines of the rug in the living room as a track and would let my imagination go rampant with the result being the red car winning Indy all of the time.
My brother would sit in his room painting his cars up to whatever he felt was better than Mattel conjured up at the design studio. I still have one of his masterpieces, a 1970-something Chevrolet Van painted black with a big red “BULLS” painted onto both sides of the vehicle. This was inspired by his obsession with the 3-peat championship era Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan.
Today I still buy these little cars mainly for memory but partly from addiction and partly because let’s face they’re really cool. Now more importantly though we need to share this love of cars with the coming generations and Hot Wheels is a perfect place to start. Every car-nerd, grease monkey, and gear head I know has some deep enriching (okay maybe not enriching) story of how Hot Wheels was the beginning of their love of cars whether that love be large or small. My family is already initiated my young nephew into this auto-club of Hot Wheels. The love of cars and beaters, much like Hot Wheels, is an heirloom that should be passed down from generation to generation. What are you doing to help spread the word?
512 TR vs. Enzo
“Damn street racers!”
Da Bulls Van!
Ford v Chevy v Pontiac
GTR v GTR
Its only a Vista Cruiser
Don’t forget to send in you stories about your beaters to: firstname.lastname@example.org.