In 1968, Elliot and Ruth Handler, the co-founders of Mattel, were inspired by their grandchildren to make a range of toy cars. They took on a team to help with the design process that included Harry Bradley, from General Motors. When Elliot Handler first saw Bradley’s classic Southern California hot rod in the parking lot he said, ‘Man, those are some hot wheels’. That is how the Hot Wheels brand name was born, combining the hot-rod theme with the car’s new suspension and wheel design. They were designed to run on an orange plastic track that could be looped. The cars were immediately popular on both sides of the Atlantic and Hot Wheels were UK Toy of the Year in 1969.

According to Mattel, over 15 million boys collect the cars in the 21st century, with the average collector owning more than 41 Hot Wheels cars. Somewhere in the world two Hot Wheels cars are sold every second. As with other collectable toys, Hot Wheels are popular with adults as well as children. Mattel have responded to this in recent years by reproducing the early cars that people remember from their childhood.