As car enthusiasts, our passion for cars sprouted from a certain point or memory in our life. For some people it was experiences like family outings to the track, or time spent working on cars with a family member; others it started with toys or collectables such as Hot Wheels cars.

For me it was the last of the three. Growing up I remember playing in the mud with my cousins, driving my little metal cars around and thinking how cool it would be to have them in real life. I recall saying to myself “One day I’m going to own a Lamborghini in real life”. Of course that never happened, but at that point in time my passion for cars and motorsport took off. Now at age 31 I am more into cars than ever and even have my own track car I am building. My collection of Hot Wheels cars has also grown quite a bit over the years.

I now have close to 1000 cars still in packaging and a couple hundred that have been opened for display. So for all those big kids that have real race cars but still like to collect the little ones like me, I’m going to fill you in on what to look for, what’s cool, what’s rare and hot to collect and show you some photos of some of my favourites in my personal collection.

First I want to talk about the history of Hot Wheels to give you some insight into why people collect them. The first lot of cars were released in 1968 by Mattel and only consisted of 16 castings (known as the original sweet 16) compared to the planned 400 to be released in 2017. These cars are known as redlines as they have a red pinstripe on their wheel. These cars if in mint condition can fetch decent sums of money. Sadly I don’t own any of the original sweet 16 but as the years have gone on, more and more redline series have been released.

Now I’m more of a japanese car fan and that’s mainly what I look for when buying new cars. But that doesn’t stop me from collecting any make or model. I tend to look more for collectable cars or colour variations that catch my interest. Some of the cool stuff I have found have been collectable series like these “Larry’s Garage” ’57 Chrysler 300 and ’33 Ford Roadster. These cars were some of the first I found with the real riders wheels on them. The real riders are realistic looking metal wheels with rubber tyres on them that come in multiple rims. The detail in them is pretty crazy with even the tread pattern in the tyre. These wheels only come on collectable sets unlike your normal plastic wheel/tyres that come on any mainline car.

In 1995 Hot Wheels brought out a new series called Treasure Hunts. These cars were still a mainline casting but were rarer to find. In fact one TH is placed in a box of 72 cars making it extremely rare and in some past cases, one of 10,000 made. But how did Mattel make the TH series even rarer? By introducing a super treasure hunt. Remember the real riders wheels i talked about above? Well the super TH also had real riders wheels and a special paint called spectra flame that looks more realistic like real automotive paint. One of the other cool things Mattel did was to not paint there casting at all and just add decals over a bare casting. These were called Zamacs and were not originally sold outside North America.

Now a really common past time with collectors is to modify there cars, just like in real life. I have spent some time customizing a few of my Datsuns by changing the paint and applying decals to change the look. Some people take this even further by completely changing the casting and adding new wings or motors to the car.

In my collection I have a few cars that are both valuable in terms of money and personal attachment. A few of them are the Vintage Racing series BRE Datsun 510 Bluebird. If you’re a Datsun fan you no doubt know what this car looks like in real life. The vintage series were created after real life cars and this casting is extremely valuable these days. It was again never sold outside of North America so in order to get one I had to do the old eBay bid. In the end it cost me $110 to get it here including delivery. A bit of cash for a little toy car but worth it in my opinion. One of the cars I have that hold a sentimental value is the Ken Block Ford Fiesta that was released a couple years back as a mainline car. Nothing too special about it except that I have had it signed by Ken himself when he came to Australia as a guest at the V8SC round here in Adelaide. Lastly another mainline that hold some sentimental value is this 350z, purely for the fact that it has Japanese tuning shop “Top Secret” printed on it backwards which was all the rage back in the mid 2000’s.

Recently I had a couple of good friends that went on holiday to America. Since I shot their wedding photos for them, they decided to bring me back a few small gifts. One of which was this cool ’32 Ford casting from the Peterson motor museum, of the real car designed by designer Chip Foose. The cool thing is this car was specially made to be sold only at the museum making it a neat part of my collection.

If you follow Formula one at all, Mattel actually partnered up with Qantas Airways back in 2000 for the Australian F1 in Melbourne and produced this limited edition F1 car that was limited to only 10,000 world wide. Pretty cool if you ask me.

Amongst all the Hot Wheels cars, I have also collected different brands of cars such as these Tomicas that were purchased on my last trip to Japan. The AE86 is of course everyones favourite Sprinter, the Fujiwara tofu shop 86 driven by Takumi in the cartoon series “Initial D”. The other two Datsuns are actually old castings that I found at a stall in the Tokyo subway for $5 each.

For the drift fans out there, keep an eye out for these rare Hotworks D1GP licensed cars. I initially struggled to find any of them until one of my local hobby shop’s had a few sitting out for cheap. Its always the places you least expect that you will find a gem in the collecting world.

So I hope this has sparked your interest in collecting diecast cars whether it be large scale models or down to the smaller Hot Wheels like myself. Whether you are into old classic race cars, or beefed up American muscle. Sexy looking JDM or bagged out Euro. There’s a make or model out there for everyone to have a small copy of their real ride. Get into it and enjoy the fun of the hunt. Feel free to send any photos of your collections also. Over here at Speed Nation, most of us have a small collection of our own and would love to see what you have.