Recreating Racing Rivalries And Memories In 1:64th-Scale Die-Cast
Photography by Alex Sobran
Hot Wheels and other 1:64-scale die-casts were and are a staple of the budding car enthusiast’s living room floor/world of driving, and the pudgy hands guiding them through rug piles around the world typically move on to gripping full-size steering wheels instead of toys once they’re licensed, but I speak for myself and surely many many more in saying that a true fan never really outgrows collecting miniatures. Maybe you’ve moved on to (slightly) bigger things from the likes of Minichamps and AutoArt and whatnot in addition to real cars, but there is an enduring and endearing quality in finding a new casting of an old favorite for a buck at the supermarket checkout line.
The Hot Wheels and Matchboxes geared towards those with sticky fingers stuck in their noses don’t do it for me (for example: a rat on wheels with a blower sticking out of its ass isn’t that compelling if you aren’t five years old), but since the brand’s beginnings there’s been a steady stream of well done and thoughtfully chosen vehicles released alongside the goofiness to keep the more discerning collectors sated.
Even though I have real cars to play with now, I still regularly check the various die-cast websites to make sure I know to be bummed out when my local stores don’t have the new good ones in stock. I also probably spend more time at car events with vendor alleys scoping out the vintage die-cast bins than I do the life-size versions resting in the pits nearby. As the cliche goes, the hunt and the find are the source of the fun more so than playing with them (do you leave them in the box or take them out and “drive” them?), but every once in a while it’s fun to wipe the dust of a few of them and get the vintage track pieces out of the basement for some replica races.
I have a few hundred Hot Wheels at this point, but I chose just a few for this article; a mix of some of the better recent releases alongside a couple of aforementioned vintage swap meet scores to balance it out. Dumping out the box of old orange track, I decided to make a fully accurate rendition (please don’t take that seriously) of the Nürburgring to pit some old rivals against each other once more, only this time the biggest obstacles to victory included a mosquito landing right in the middle of the fastest straightaway, as well as a puppy who loves riding in real cars but would prefer to digest my toy versions. And you thought vintage motorsport was dangerous.
Maybe it is kind of inane and childish to play with tiny pieces of metal and plastic in the woods after you’ve passed the age of getting them in birthday party goody bags, but I don’t subscribe to the idea that certain aspects of our automotive interests need to be left behind; everything has its purpose, and there’s nothing that makes the imagination fizz like being the organizer, rule book, mechanic, track designer, and driver of the world’s greatest cars. Who cares if your Porsche 917 is only big enough for an ant to get inside? This is as close as pretty much any of us will get to the racing the real deal.
And sure, the advent of high-quality racing video games allowed us a portal into our dream garages years ago, but no matter how good the graphics get, the virtual version will always lack the tactile reality that can only come from a scale model. This is why I’ll be heading for the toy aisle when I’m a geriatric lump of liver spots in a wheelchair: because once you think you’ve “grown up” beyond playing with cars, that just means you’re taking it all too seriously. Seriously.
Besides, a 1:64th doesn’t require insurance payments nor does it need gas in the tank. And when’s the last time you got to drive a Miura through the forest on a high-G banked turn? If you’re reading this and thinking, “But you aren’t actually doing that, you’re just taking a picture of a toy you bought at Wal-Mart sticky-tac’d to a piece of orange plastic from the ‘70s,” then I guess this isn’t for you. But, if you enjoy indulging in fantasy and don’t mind pushing a child out of the way at said Wal-Mart to get the last said Miura on the rack, I think you’ll appreciate the ability to race tastefully for two bucks at a time.