Real-life Hot Wheels Camaro

Real-life Hot Wheels Camaro

he only thing that separates men from boys is the price of their toys.

The Bulletin / Larry Printz / Sept. 15, 2018 (photos courtesy GM)

The old saw goes that the only thing that separates men from boys is the price of their toys. And so it goes with Hot Wheels, the little toy car that debuted 50 years ago priced at 59 cents, as well as the 2018 Chevrolet Camaro SS Hot Wheels Edition, starting price $39,290. Hot Wheels has always held the Chevrolet Camaro close to its heart; a blue Camaro RS was the first Hot Wheels car issued in 1968.

The toy got its start when Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler wanted a toy for boys, one as popular as Mattel’s Barbie, which was created by Elliott’s wife and co-founder, Ruth. So he hired Harry Bradley, a GM car designer to design a challenger to England’s Matchbox brand. Introduced at the New York Toy Fair in 1968, Hot Wheels went on to sell more than 800 models and 11,000 variations; eight are sold every second.

Surely Chevrolet wishes they sold that many Camaro SS Hot Wheels Editions, a $4,995 option package on the 2SS and 2LT trim level coupe or convertible. The package includes graphite stripes, a unique grill, embossed headrests, unique door sills, 50th Anniversary Hot Wheels badges on the fenders and steering wheel, black taillamp panels with the Hot Wheels emblem, unique floor mats and — in case you didn’t notice — orange paint and seat belts meant to commemorate Hot Wheels’ track color.

And while the Hot Wheels package is offered on the six-cylinder car, this car’s essence lies in the power produced by the 455-horsepower 6.2-liter LT1 V8, the same engine used in the Corvette and mated to a TREMEC TR-6060 six-speed manual or 10-speed automatic transmission. Its exhaust note is music to the ears, a symphony as this car reaches its crescendo, attaining 60 mph in four seconds, a trait that you will surely feel as your vital organs are being crushed against your vertebrae — or so it seems. Yet the engine is extraordinarily well mannered, laying low when you just need to putter peacefully without attracting undue attention, which is admittedly hard to do in a car the color of a traffic cone.

And while this car’s outlandishly fun wardrobe elicits longing glances from children disguised as adults, it’s the car’s chassis that brings the greatest satisfaction. Its solid feel allows for aggressive suspension tuning that provides excellent cornering ability without a bone-jarring ride, except for the harshest road shocks. 

This car’s appeal is not in its utility; its appeal is more primal than that. It’s the realization of a juvenile desire to have the hottest fastest car on the Hot Wheels track. These days, the car is bigger, although the race is on some parkway, not an orange track.

And the Camaro SS Hot Wheels Edition’s allure is the same, even if its charm seems so much more illogical than it once did once adulthood intrudes. Nevertheless, responsibility is something we all long to escape, and this is your best option for doing just that.

It’s one set of hot wheels.

Fast Facts

Each November about 16,000 car enthusiasts throw their name in a hat hoping to be among a lucky few randomly selected to buy the COPO Camaro muscle car.

Built by hand, the COPO Camaro is the most exclusive car Chevrolet sells. Each year, only 69 are assembled in a small factory in rural Michigan. This year, the car is even more special because 29 of them will be a Hot Wheels edition, marking the fabled toy cars’ 50th anniversary.