This article and the images are provided by Dot Lang. For the full Hot Wheels Thunderbird stories, (highly recommended) please visit: http://www.geocities.com/MotorCity/Track/9557/hotwheel/hwtbird1.html. Dot has also done stories on other small-scale '55-'57 T-Birds, including a Matchbox story at: http://www.omniport.net/alinodot/Thunderbird_stories1.html. Dot's contribution to TofTC is truly appreciated.
Mattel "Hot Wheels" Thunderbird
by Dot Lang
Mattel has issued 4 basic models of the '57 T'Bird since the start of their Hot Wheels line in 1968. The first model appeared in 1969, the second appeared in 1977 and the third in 1988. . A fourth model of the '57 was acquired in 1996 from Corgi and added to the basic line. Another model was tried of a composite 55/56 in a "micro" size but only issued once , in 1989.
The first model (#6252) appeared in 1969 with a "racing," aerodynamic headrest behind the driver's seat (much like the "Battle Bird"), grey or white(cream) interior, convertible style, opening hood with detailed, non-stock engine and various metal flake colors such as blue, green, olive, orange, yellow, gold, purple, pink, magenta, red, & brown (13 or more metallic colors may be possible to find). The tires have a red line around the sides and thus this model is referred to as a "red line." A mold date of 1968 appears on the bottom of the car. It is in 1/64 scale and was made in the U.S.A.
The second mold was made in 1978. this model is also 1/64 scale. It first came out with a porthole hardtop which was discontinued a few years later. Apparently the only colors found with the porthole hardtop are the #2013 in white or yellow with red & blue racing stripes,and a red metallic; all made in Hong Kong. In 1982, a modification was made to the mold - the porthole was eliminated. A date of 1981 appears on the bottom of some of the cars issued: the yellow with red & blue racing stripes and a cranberry metallic - both made in Malaysia. These are the only two colors that I have been able to locate that used this mold date. All colors produced since of the non-porthole hardtop, both in Malaysia and Hong Kong, have continued to use the 1977 date on the bottom. In 1990 Mattel started using more plastic in the cars. The "gold" metal-turned-look models have a plastic body and a metal chassis. Other cars are die-cast bodies with grey or chromed plastic chassis.
The third mold was produced in 1988 as a four inch die-cast car with friction action and chrome racing engine sticking up through the hood. The package (#2415) calls them Hot Wheels "Giants," "Action Racers." They were made in China by ARCO, a division of Mattel. Their appearance on the market was limited as I found them only at one store for a short span of time. Two colors were available: 1) black with yellow stripe along sides and the word " '57 " in yellow and blue on sides and hood; & 2) light blue with purple, red & blue stripes (click on picture for larger view) on side & hood. In May of 1991, another color surfaced: as package #2441 - a color changer that changed from purple to blue to white. It had green and yellow graphics. It did not have the friction mechanism of the other two.
The fourth mold is an acquired mold from Corgi. Mattel apparently bought this mold in 1995 or '96 as the first cars using this mold appeared during the Christmas shopping season in 1996. It is a convertible (topless) with a continental kit and the hood opens to reveal a plastic engine with a chromed aircleaner. The rest of the engine is usually the same color as the interior of the car. In some of the special editions using this mold, the engine has been detailed.
Mattel tried to enter the micro market in 1989 with their "Micro Night Burners" series. A classic t-bird was offered in this series that was turquoise. It had a "light" button in the top and two holes in the front and two in the rear that light-up when the button is pressed. The battery in mine still works after 10 years! 2-pac pkg #7629-G1.
Mattel is also using a fifth mold of the '57 Thunderbird but not in their Hot Wheels line-up. This mold was acquired when Mattel acquired Matchbox in 1997. It is still just used in the Matchbox Premiere Series. This concludes the articles on Mattel's Hot Wheels. A new series will start up next month featuring the Matchbox Thunderbird Models.