Following my return from working the Olympic Games in Atlanta in 1996, I started collecting Hot Wheels. I had been at the Olympics for twenty-three days -- staying out late in the streets, buying and trading Olympic pins. After the Olympics were over, I guess I was going through withdrawal from the collecting of pins. I had bought and traded for the eight die-cast trucks that were produced for the games, and the transition to collecting Hot Wheels followed.
In 1997, while working for U.S. Sales and Marketing, I decided to marry my collecting hobby with my job responsibilities. I initiated work with RHW Enterprises of Darien, IL to procure promotional Hot Wheels for Lexmark to use as giveaways for trade shows such as COMDEX and PC Expo. We received our first order in June of 1998. It was for the black 3-Window '34 Ford with white hub Real Riders wheels. We had Mattel create boxes that resembled a Lexmark printer with the paper moving through the paper path. If you look at the earliest boxes, the Hot Wheels logo graphics actually picked up color as they appeared three times in the bottom, back and top flap of the box. All boxes featured a Lexmark marketing message on the rear of the carton.
We followed that with the red Fat Fendered '40. It was later featured on the cover of Toy Collector magazine. RHW had created the graphics for the first two.
My collecting was greatly impacted by my work on the Lexmark Hot Wheels editions. After we released our first cars, I attended my first Hot Wheels Convention, which was, by coincidence, the first one with a major Mattel involvement. I was actually in Orange County for a computer networking class as part of my Lexmark work assignment. I discovered that the Convention was going on in Anaheim, and through someone’s magic, I was allowed to register and attend the Convention at the last minute.
What a great Convention: the Fat Fendered '40, Tail Dragger, etc. on cards, plus that great baggie Tail Dragger as the finale car. Then there was the wonderful stuff from the Mattel store: the American Graffiti set, the great 1-of-500 ZAMAC editions, and the ZAMAC set. I still have all 25 ZAMACs, the four-car set and the ZAMAC Silhouette for sending in the questionnaire.
It was the start of some great friendships and relationships. Reuniting with my Convention friends is as much the reason I go back to the Conventions and Nationals as it is to get the souvenir cars. Attending that first Convention gave my collecting hobby a real kick in the pants and cranked it up, significantly.
My participation in the charity auctions at the Conventions and Nationals led to having Lexmark donate a printer for each of the charity auctions as part of Lexmark’s charitable donation program. It’s a small contribution to these events, but we are glad to have the opportunity to do so.
At the time we were working on the third piece, Lexmark was expanding its role in color printers. We wanted a car with graphics that emphasized color. We knew, as most do, that the rainbow is used as an indicator of color capability in the industry. We looked for a casting to which we could add rainbow colors and look natural in doing so. The first candidate was the '58 Corvette, but it didn’t work out to our satisfaction. The Purple Passion was a personal favorite of mine and, with its cove on the side, seemed a natural for what we were trying to achieve. After looking at the graphics on paper, we were happy with what we saw. This is still one of my personal favorites from among the Lexmark Hot Wheels editions. We were later told that this release was the first time that Mattel had used a rainbow graphic design on a car. This theme continued to appear on all of the remaining Lexmark Hot Wheels editions.
Another unusual feature of these first three Lexmark promotional Hot Wheels releases was that they all had the Hot Wheels 30th Anniversary logo on them. I guess we were the only promotional customer that asked for it. This logo can be seen on the rear of the Fat Fendered '40 in the picture.
Bob Whaley at RHW Enterprises acted as the intermediary between the manufacturer (Mattel) and me, and as a valuable consultant. He also became a good friend. The designs, beginning with the Purple Passion, were more of a collaboration of casting and graphics ideas between RHW and me.
As internal Lexmark organizations became exposed to the promos, I was getting more demand for the cars from other areas of the business. Other departments wanted them for various uses including customer gifts, department recognition, gifts for responding to direct mail campaigns, etc. When minimum order quantities increased, it was decided that we could run two colors of the same vehicle and count toward the new minimum. The outcome was the GTO and the Scorchin' Scooter being done in two colors.
We did a total of thirteen Lexmark Hot Wheels editions, including the black 3-Window '34 Ford, red Fat Fendered '40, Purple Passion, black Tail Dragger, white 3-Window '34 Ford, '68 Mustang GT, red, white and blue AMX, black and white '70 Chevelle, black Scorchin’ Scooter, white Scorchin' Scooter, Armored Truck, silver '67 GTO and white '67 GTO.
Some had special purposes. The red, white and blue AMX was done for Lexmark’s Government, Education and Medical marketing organization. The Armored Truck was done to emphasize security within Lexmark. The ’68 Mustang was done for Lexmark Canada, with the total quantity being shipped there for their marketing uses. Latin America was also a big internal customer for these promos through the years.
I believe the Lexmark AMX was the first use of a premium casting as a promo. It also carried the Hot Wheels New Millennium logo, as did the two colors of the Scorchin’ Scooter. We did the '67 GTOs because I am the original owner of a 1968 GTO.
These cars were well received by Lexmark customers, with relatively few actually making it to the secondary market. It’s been interesting to hear the stories from Lexmark sales reps for whom the little cars actually opened doors to customers that had previously been inaccessible to them. Strange, but true. (I have included several files containing original artwork from RHW, e-sheets, packaging design, FEPs and final product. I’ve even included some original artwork for designs that never made it to production.) You can enter many customers and Lexmark employees' offices and still see these thirteen cars on display on shelves and credenzas.
The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not of Mattel, Inc. Mattel, Inc. has not verified the facts stated herein and makes no representation as to their accuracy.