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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Hot Wheels = Good, Real Wheels = Scary!!!

I’ll be completely honest with you.  I only have a driver’s license that could be classified as a learner’s permit.  This wouldn’t be so bad if I were still sixteen years old and fumbling my way through eleventh grade algebra.  Unfortunately, I am twice that age and am currently fumbling my way through making weekly orders for dairy products.

And, here’s a shocking confession for you.  In my whole life (not counting the bumper car amusement park attraction), I’ve probably spent a grand total of only twenty-four hours behind the wheel of a the sixteen years and counting that I’ve been able to drive a car legally.

When I was in high school, it almost became a rite of passage for teenagers to go to the local DMV to get their license to drive a car the minute they turned sixteen.  Some of my classmates absolutely salivated over the idea of being able to drive a car.  Myself, I didn’t really have that strong desire.  I really didn’t have any interest in cars or driving whatsoever, so I never bothered to learn how to drive a car.

Sigh...but now that I’m in my thirties, I’m finding it harder and harder to get around.  Fortunately, I live in a small town, so getting around town by foot is not a problem.  It only takes me three-quarters of an hour to walk from one end of town to the other, which isn’t bad at all.  But I do have a desire of wanting bigger and better things for myself, and I freely admit that not knowing how to drive has been a major obstacle for me.

So, in May 2011...just days before my thirtieth birthday, I buckled down, and I got my G1 (which is kind of like the pre-license that one gets in Ontario before getting a full license).  And, as of 2013, I still have that G1.

It’s come to my attention that whenever I get behind the wheel of a car, I have complete anxiety behind the wheel, which is certainly not the best thing to have when attempting to drive a car.  Let’s be honest...driving with feelings of anxiety is equivalent to driving after consuming a twenty-sixer of vodka.  Neither scenario is ideal.

Here’s the thing.  I want to learn how to overcome my anxiety so that I can learn to drive a car so I can improve both my social and professional life.  But, I’m also discovering that I don’t have a very big support system in my life to help me achieve that goal, as the vast majority of my family and friends will not get in a car with me!  And, those who do are the type who will grab the wheel while I am trying to steer the car.  Yeah, here’s a tip for those of you inclined to do this with me.  DON’T DO IT. know, I wasn’t always this nervous around cars.  When I was a little boy, some of my most favourite memories involved cars, trucks, minivans, and buses. 

No, I didn’t spend my childhood playing in parking lots, nor did I attend every car show that came to town.  Truth be told, whenever the family decided to go to the car shows on the boardwalk, I was always bored to tears.  But, some of my favourite toys were cars and trucks...albeit cars and trucks that were a mere fraction of what the actual size should be.

So, this leads to my next question.  How many of you out there played with the toy cars known as “Hot Wheels”?  Because my little spiel about being afraid to drive has lead into the discussion for today!

Introduced by Mattel in 1968, Hot Wheels were unique in that the vast majority of the cars were made to scale.  The earliest models were built in a 1:64 scale (later changed to 1:43 as the years passed by), and the very first Hot Wheels toy that was manufactured was a dark blue Custom Camaro.

At the time of its introduction, “Hot Wheels” cars only had one major competitor...Matchbox cars (which were eventually bought out by the company that made Hot Wheels in the mid-90s!).  But both brands of cars had their distinct differences.  While Matchbox cars were your everyday, standard cars that you would see on any city street or rural route, Hot Wheels were considered to be the cars that represented the “After” models in that television show called “Pimp My Ride”.

Anyway, when Hot Wheels first came out, there were sixteen different models to choose from – eleven of which were designed by American car designer Harry Bentley Bradley!  Here is the list of the original 1968 models that were released.  Check your collections at home, guys and gals.  They may be a collector’s item!

-         Custom Barracuda

-         Custom Camaro

-         Custom Corvette

-         Custom Eldorado

-         Custom Firebird

-         Custom Fleetside

-         Custom Mustang

-         Custom T-Bird

-         Custom Cougar

-         Custom Volkswagen

-         Deora

-         Ford J-Car

-         Hot Heap

-         Python

-         Silhouette

-         Beatnik Bandit

PERSONAL CONFESSION:  I certainly wish I had a Beatnik Bandit growing up!  Just the name of it alone sounded awesome!  Alas, most of my Hot Wheels collection dated back to the 1970s, when I inherited a huge collection from my tomboy of a sister. 

The initial sixteen were sold in various toy and hobby shops and became such a huge success that the following year, Hot Wheels added several more cars to the line-up.  By 1974, there were at least one hundred and fifty different styles and makes of Hot Wheels vehicles.

Perhaps what made Hot Wheels even more popular were the various Hot Wheels playsets that were sold alongside the cars themselves.  Perhaps one of the most successful Hot Wheels playsets ever manufactured was the 1970 Mongoose & Snake Drag Race Set, pictured below.

TRIVIA:  Would you believe that as late as 1990, the original playset was selling in some places for as high a price as five hundred bucks?  And, this was before websites like eBay became popular!  Thankfully, Hot Wheels modified the original design to make it more affordable!  Not quite the same, but a nice compromise.

Over the next few decades, Hot Wheels underwent several modifications.  One modification that I particularly loved growing up was the Hot Wheels that could change colour depending on the temperature of the water.  I owned three of these cars, and I even remember what colours they changed to!  One car changed from red to yellow, the second car changed from white to blue, and the last car changed from dark green to lime green.

(The green car was my favourite!)

And, today, Hot Wheels are still very much a popular toy for both boys and girls, with new models being introduced each year.  And, it’s not just kids that are getting into the magic of Hot Wheels.  More recently, adults have now jumped on the collecting bandwagon.

In fact, while it is estimated that the average child will own approximately 41 different Hot Wheels cars in their lifetime (I had at least a hundred and fifty), the average collector will have a collection in the thousands!

And, I suppose I should tell you the main reason why I loved playing with Hot Wheels so much as a kid.  It was because I knew that I could flip them, turn them over, crash them into a wall, and drop them down a flight of stairs without having to worry about getting hurt.

(Well, unless I forgot to pick them up off of the staircase and someone in my family stepped on one and took a nasty spill.  To my eldest sister, if you’re reading this, I am terribly sorry about that Hot Wheels slip and fall that you sustained back in ’85 or ’86.)

And, while I can’t really apply my fun with Hot Wheels to the fun of driving a real car, I suppose if I think about it, it sort of has the same principle.  I could after all control the speed, direction, and force that I used when playing with the toys...there’s no reason why I couldn’t do that with a real car.  And, I use pump trucks and carts at my workplace all the time and haven’t had any major accidents with those things in years...well, aside from the Christmas 2004 incident where I took out an entire display of Febreze with an out of control pump truck.  At least the floor smelled like pine needles and cinnamon for several days afterwards.  J

I guess in my case, it is mind over matter.  If I put my mind to it, I can get my full license.  I just need a car that I feel comfortable driving, as well as a person who will not go into hysterics when teaching me how to drive.

And, if all that fails, I guess I can always go on the below television series...

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