Hot Wheels on the Sidewalk!

My son Marco and I have been having the time of our lives ever since our first eBay shipment of Hot Wheels track arrived a few days ago.

I decided to get him the same kind of track that I got back around 1970 rather than the track Mattel sells today. Perhaps this is just for sentimental reasons, but I have another rationale: the old sets are just track and other parts that can be configured in myriad ways. The new sets have departed from the concept of modular parts, and are more like kits. This is similar to the change in Lego over the past few decades.This evolution in children’s toys is chronicled well in Howard Chudacoff’s Children at Play: An American History. Toys used to leave a great deal more to children’s imaginations than they do today.

Here's the old-style track, circa late '60s.

Here is an example of a set available now.  I really don't know how one would use parts from other sets to augment this one.  It's fairly self-contained, and can only be put together one way.

This means that we’re constantly trying to figure out how to improve our designs. We need to exploit our physical features, especially steps, and we always like to add creative flourishes (e.g. where to put the loop-the-loop?). So, we’re creatively problem-solving, and Marco is taking more and more of this on from me as he learns how things work.

In addition, we’re trying to make this a social neighborhood game as well. We’re setting up the track on our front yard and sidewalk, so we’re able to attract boys of all ages (including boys like me ; > ) to play with us. I’ll tell you – Hot Wheels is quite an attraction!

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7 Responses to Hot Wheels on the Sidewalk!

  1. gregory_gavin says:

    My best friend and I spent untold hours in the early 70’s adapting Hot Wheel tracks to the specific topographical features of the houses we lived in. High shelves for a big gravity start, pleateaus on tables, slopes on furniture. The course (particularly if you incorporated loop-to-loops) had to be continually adjusted to the meet the demands of gravity. This meant improvising by incorporating all kinds of household objects and hundreds of trials and adjustments to get it right.
    The forces of evil began to redesign (ie. ruin) the product pretty early on propably in the late 70’s. Even as a child I knew that adding the electic motor was the death of the whole concept. With that “innovation” there was nothing left for the child (me) to do and I knew it!

    Gregory Gavin, Riveropolis

  2. Nancy says:

    Where did you find the 60’s version of the track? Ebay? I love it and need it for my parent coop preschool.
    Nancy Peckler, San Andreas

  3. Mike Lanza says:

    Here’s a link to one set that I figure should go for $50 to $100 (yes, you must pay a big premium – is anyone at Mattel listening???). To find others, search “hot wheels” track on eBay.

    http://cgi.ebay.com/Hot-Wheels-Large-Lot-of-vintage-track-misc-pieces-L-K_W0QQitemZ290214599903QQihZ019QQcategoryZ1172QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem

  4. Michael Tarr says:

    Mike:

    Great! I had noticed this about new hot wheels – they suck – and I had been bummed Ben couldn’t do hotwheels like H and I used to! I forgot about ebay. Excellent. I gotta sort of disagree about LEGO though – you are right the kits have some more structure than before, but really not that much. Ben has tons of kits already and has been making “random” creations for a year now. The many different sorts of pieces all get piled together in a way that actually facilitates creativity – there are cool wheels, motors, windows, wings, etc. Some crazy stuff gets made. But ebay seems cool for vintage LEGO (which works with the new stuff) – it actually is cheaper than the new stuff and there are some really cool old kits. The one negative about new LEGO is how much of a focus on violence there is in many of the kits, so I can’t get Ben just some plain space stuff – it is all “alien invasion” etc.

  5. AltheaRose says:

    I agree that modular toys are better. We spent $50 two Christmases, for a Thomas set. After the second time that my son, then almost 2, took the track apart, we just left it apart. It takes up less room and he can design it and the buildings any way he wants now. It can go outside, int he bath tub or 2-3 pieces to church with him. I think it is better than just sitting there and watching it.

  6. joegreengel says:

    Check out http://www.BlueTrack.com – i think it’s the answer to what a number of you are wishing for. I share your disappointment in the tracks that are available today, and was excited to find bluetrack.com – I think I’m going to order a set from kids (and me 🙂
    -joel

  7. seanbrookes says:

    Great post. I stumbled on it while searching to see if Mattel was still selling tracks like I had when I was a kid. My son and I have started his car collection and I want him to have a chance to enjoy the same learning experiences (and fun) I had with the basic tracks.

    Thanks for posting this it captures my same thoughts (I wonder how many of us are out there)

    @jegeengel, I did some poking around and it looks like the link you meant to post above is: http://www.blutrack.com/