May/June 2019 edition
Issue #5 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
The “Over Chrome Jewels”…..
Mattel had a sophisticated advertising department, with incredible success in using TV to help sell its toys, and of course newspaper and other print media were a vital part of the Hot Wheels success. With the introduction of these new toy cars coming to the stores in May of 1968, Mattel knew it had to show them in the best light. With that in mind, the plant manager in Hong Kong was instructed to make the first batch of cars shine like ‘Christmas Ornaments.’
And so they did, shining like no other toy car at the time; barrel plated and then painted, and their undersides looked like bright chrome. The plant manager told a fellow employee it took a long time to make these cars, and with orders of huge volumes of cars from companies like Kmart, mass production needed to be fast. So just that one special batch was made, no more. That one batch were the ‘Over Chrome Cars’ and I consider them to be the jewels of the hobby. They are exceedingly rare…. less than 20 are known to exist.
In 2001, I interviewed a former employee with Mattel who was a liaison engineer with the company. He always got the first batch of cars made, and was responsible for keeping them just in case a phone call came from Hong Kong needing advice from the factory floor. When he sold me his Hot Wheels cars, I was happy to see 6 of these sparkling jewels; I didn’t know their significance, but they sure did stand out. When I called him back to find out more, he said he didn’t know the exact reason they were made, but confirmed they must have been the first batch of cars, because that is what was always sent to him every year.
Decades after introduction, so few of these unique pieces had been seen, that when one would appear, it caused collectors to wonder what was going on? These “Over Chrome” wonders were so beautiful, and no reason for their existence was known. But then around 2008, an estate collection of cars came up for sale on eBay. The collection being sold was from a Producer who had made TV commercials for Mattel. Among the pieces being sold were about 6 “Over Chrome” cars! With these now surfacing, others acquired information, and some more research, the connection of Mattel’s advertising and the cars was then established.
A few other “Over Chrome” cars discovered and sold came from a former top executive at Mattel. Included in those was a one-of-a-kind strawberry red Mustang – probably the most valuable of the bunch known. If it was for sale today its price would exceed $40,000 easily.
Another short story of how 2 of these cars were found. In 1968 a young boy went to visit the factory, for a tour. When he arrived there, he was told that it was closed, no more tours. Crying, he begged for a Hot Wheels. The lady there ran back into the office, and handed him 2 cars, a Mustang and a Cougar. Both were “Over Chrome” cars! Sadly, by playing with them over the years, he beat them up bad. But even in poor condition, both were sold to a collector for over $3,000 each. Very few Hot Wheels in poor condition sell for that level of money, but the allure of these cars transcends logic.
These beauties also have rarer interior colors. An Aqua Barracuda with a purple interior sold for over $20,000. An Orange Cougar with a Brown interior sold for over $25,000. It just shows the prettiest toys also can cost the most!