| ------------ From my point of view!
VII - December 1998
by Dot Lang
Little Bit of History:
Time for A little bit of History before we continue:
Hong Kong became a formal part of
China in 1997 (hope I have that history correct) and this fact meant a
significant change in the model business. Corgi, a United
Kingdom company, cut their ties from Hong Kong and now just make their
car models in Great Britain & other U.K countries. In the transition
period, apparently Corgi sold that mold to Mattel, as in 1996, Mattel started
producing the small, 1/64th scale, topless, '57 Thunderbird with the "Corgi"
mold including the fat continental kit and an opening hood..
To further complicate matters, Mattel bought Matchbox in 1997?
and thus acquired their 1/64th scale model of the '57 Thunderbird which
is also topless and has a continental kit. It will be interesting
in the next few years to see how Mattel uses these two very similar molds.
The old "Hong Kong" (now China) porthole Hot Wheel was brought back
to life as a 35th anniversary edition for 1998 and as a part of a special
set issued exclusively through FAO Schwartz for the 1998 Christmas season.
For a comparison* of the four molds:
|A - HW Porthole Hardtop
||B - HW Non-Porthole
||C - Corgi Convertible
||D - MatchBox Convertible
|Hong Kong or China or Thailand
||Malaysia or Hong Kong/China or Thailand
|Stock '57 bumpers
||Stock '57 bumpers
||extended bumper w/fat continental kit
||extended bumper w/tapered continental kit
|no opening parts
||no opening parts
||hood opens, engine
||no opening parts
|1977 chassis date or no date
||1977 or 1981 or 1998 chassis date
|| no chassis date
|| 1988 chassis date
* comparison is only for the models produced under the Mattel name.
The Mattel Specials and the "new" molds:
Specials from Mattel
1995 Treasure Hunt
In 1995, Mattel started a special series of models - Limited to an
issue of 10,000 for each model with a new model appearing for each month.
The cars in the series quickly became quite popular and thus difficult
to find and prices soared. The 57 Thunderbird was the fourth in the
series, coming out in April. It is a very dark purple metallic (almost
black) with clear windows, white-line tires and recessed grey hubs with
chrome outline; chrome plastic chassis, pkg. # 13352; white H.W. logo on
rear window. In the fall of 1995, J.C. Penny's issued the complete
series at a price of $300. Mattel has continued to issue a new set
of models in the Treasure Hunt series each year but the Thunderbird has
only been available in that first year. Update Feb. 2000 Mattel
plans to issue another Treasure Hunt T-bird this year.
1996 100th Anniversary of the Automobile
Another set of models which included
a frosty metallic pink "corgi" convertible, detailed engine and detailed
interior with black seats trimmed in white and a red Hot Wheel logo on
1997 40th Anniversary
of the '57 Thunderbird set.
This is a beautifully detailed set and worth having in everyone's collection.
Extra attention was taken to carefully highlight with silver paint the
door handles, hash marks, hood scoop trim, emblems, and "Thunderbird"
script. The "corgi" mold convertible is displayed with the hood up
and the engine is well-detailed, too.
There are two cars in the set with the other being the standard Hot
Wheel mold, however, this is only the second time that Mattel has had the
hardtop painted a different color than the main body of the car.
The Hot Wheel mold car is a dark red metallic similar to the cranberry
color used in the later 2013 models described in Article II. The
top is painted white. The trim around the windshield on both cars
is also detailed with silver paint. Both cars have "white-line" tires
and deep-dished chrome wheels. The "Corgi" mold convertible is in
dark turquoise with white seats, and dark turquoise steering wheel and
dash. The dash also boasts a detailed instrument cluster and the
horn ring is detailed with silver paint.
The cars are mounted in a special plastic display box with a backdrop
of small photos of the real cars and a large Thunderbird emblem (hood emblem).
The plastic box is enclosed in a special cardboard display box with
a cutout so you can view the cars from the front and top. On the
back is a very short history of the Thunderbird. The box number is
1998 35th Hot Wheel
To commemorate the 35th Anniversary of the Hot Wheel line of diecast
model cars, Mattel took one new mold from each of the years it has issued
cars and reissued that mold in its original packaging and color scheme
and boxed in a special display package. The 1957 Thunderbird was
used to represent 1978. This has been another hard to find Thunderbird
Because this car duplicated the original 1978 car, Mattel had to put
the porthole back in. Though this is supposed to be like the original,
it now has a chromed chassis. Since the original was produced
in Hong Kong and Hong Kong is now part of China, I suspect the chassis
is also labeled "China." This may be the way to identify the cars
in the future if you should find one out of its package. Refer to
Article I for a complete description of the 1978 car and picture.
The "New Mold" - originally by Corgi
Gas Station Playset:
Mattel used the "corgi" mold several times in 1996 and 1997. In
its small gas station playset,
an all-black thunderbird could be found.
In some sets you could find the blue metallic Thunderbird with the
This set also included the blue metallic Thunderbird
with the black interior.
Ford Dealership Playset:
An added highlight for this mold. Though it didn't have the Thunderbird
in the set, the "Ford
Dealership" Playset issued in 1996 was pictured with several of the
corgi mold Thunderbirds - an all-black model and a black with white
interior in the main picture, and a red model with black interior in one
of the small side-of-box pictures. However, the Ford
Dealership Playset issued in 1997 as
a Target Christmas special included the blue metallic corgi w/black interior
as part of the playset. This second set included a second car,
track and an additional service station playset.
Described in article Vb, the corgi mold
was used in the limited edition FAO "gold" series III for 1996 - in black
with a cream interior and gold plated wheels. In 1997, the mold was
again used in the 40th Anniversary set as detailed in
VII. It was also used in the Target Special "Motorin' Music"
set detailed in
Vb - yellow with a cream interior.
Near the end of 1997, the mold was finally made available in
the single model blister-pak as collector package #612. This model
has been a little more difficult to find as apparently it was only boxed
in so-called "half-boxes" sold to smaller stores and supermarkets.
The car is a beautiful dark turquoise (some call it 'green') with white
interior and white engine and a red hot-wheel logo on the windshield and
the Matchbox Mold:
The year 1998 has not seen any new colors or specials offered in the
Corgi mold. Instead, the Matchbox mold seems to have taken it's place
(if at all). Sometime in 1997, Mattel acquired Matchbox. The
only convertible '57 Thunderbirds that have been found new for 1998 have
been in the Matchbox Premiere Series.
Those packages now include the Mattel label - but not the Hot Wheel label
- so will not be discussed further in this Hot Wheels series of articles.
The Porthole Mold - 1998:
This ends the descriptions of the basic (1977) Hot Wheel colors/molds that
everyone is familiar with. Next month I'll start a very short series
of articles of the other Hot Wheels molds that have been available over
the years. If I have missed describing a Hot Wheel color, please
let me know.
In the first part of article VII, the porthole China (Hong Kong) model
was described for the 35th
Anniversary HW special. In a late development this year (too
late for Article V), this mold was also used in a new FAO Schwartz series
- the "Cruisin' the '50's" set. This is now the third time that Mattel
has painted the hardtop a different color than the main body. The
main body is the same color as the "Corgi" dark turquoise and the top is
white. Again, considerable attention was given to detailing this
car as in the 40th Anniversary set. The car has white-wall tires
and chrome standard wheels. The rear window has the chrome detailed
in silver paint. The chassis is chromed with "China" and "1977" molded
on the bottom.
To view the other articles in this series click below: