If you love bikes, less is more when you’re talking wheels. And Hot Wheels motorcycles have been capturing hearts and imaginations almost right from the start. Let’s take a ride.
The Early Years
If you’re of the Redline-era age, you cannot possibly have forgotten the Rrrumblers series – pretty much where the bike business for Hot Wheels all started. Almost as soon as they perfected the four-wheel cars, Mattel started in on these fewer-wheeled vehicles in 1971. Outrageous designs and clever names were the hallmarks for the series, but the most notable features were the riders, who added a new dimension to play and a sort of living personality to the toys.
|Rrrumblers, 2 Wheels||Rrrumblers, 3 Wheels||Chopcycles|
The following year, the Chopcycles series was added to join the ranks of the popular Sizzlers series of cars that you could “juice up” and they would run on their own power. Like the Rrrumblers, the Chopcycles featured wild designs, witty names and riders. But by 1973, the new Hot Wheels line was struggling, and both motorcycle lines came to an end.
Only two years later, a couple of new motorcycles would appear in the mainline – but sadly, without riders. The Motocross I and the Street Eater, each issued only once, are considered hard to find now. Larry Wood is credited for designing both. Then in 1977, Mattel would issue the 1:50 scale Mean Machines series of bikes, still with no riders.
Bikes Return, Blast Lane
After 1977, it would be 20 years before Hot Wheels issued any more motorcycles in 1:64 scale (although some larger scale motorcycles would appear once or twice during that period). The Scorchin’ Scooter would subtly appear in the mainline in 1997, but it would be very well received.
Hot Wheels designer Mark Jones recalls that by 2000 “We were really trying to do variety and differentiation of silhouettes.” Mark’s Blast Lane would join the Hot Wheels mainline and herald a new era for Hot Wheels two-wheeled wonders. How did it happen?
|Blast Lane Sketch – Mark Jones||Blast Lane, Exploded View||Blast Lane Editions|
Prior to joining the Hot Wheels brand, Mark had worked in the Motorcycle Design department of Honda. At the time, Mark recalls, “They wanted us to do more chopper-style, American-influenced stuff.” He even remembers helping motorcycle customizer Arlen Ness assemble a piece that Honda had commissioned him to build. Mark Jones became a bike enthusiast.
Mark joined Mattel in 1984. Working with Larry Wood, who was also a motorcycle enthusiast, both designers would occasionally ride their bikes to work. “One morning,” Mark recalls, “I came in and I tilted the thing over like the racer I thought I was… and slammed into the ground. When I tried to get up, I realized there was grease on the ground from one of the trucks. I limped in, sat down, and was talking to Larry. He asked ‘Did you feel that (grease) in the driveway? I almost fell down this morning when I came in.’ On his motorcycle. He made it without falling down, but I didn’t.”
When he designed the Blast Lane, Mark says there was a lot of creative stuff happening with custom bikes. “When you’re a car designer, you try to think of body work and start covering stuff up. From a motorcycle point of view, a lot of people want to see the mechanical things… the engine and all the details. With the Blast Lane, I was trying to minimize the body work and pull it right down over the engine. I went for the classic v-twin engine, ’cause most custom bikes would probably be based on that.”
|Mark Jones Designs||Scorchin’ Scooter Editions||W-Oozie Editions|
“On the original design, on the exhaust side of the bike, there was a carburetor tube sticking out, but that didn’t make it through production. On the non-exhaust side, I tried to indicate that there is a belt-driven overhead cam, as opposed to the push-rod typical of Harleys. I wanted the motor to look like a sophisticated European motor.”
Cranking Out Bikes
The same year (2000), over in the 100% Collectible line, Hot Wheels issued a four-piece Harley-Davidson set. The set includes the 1920 Racer, Buell, Fatboy and Panhead. Hot Wheels motorcycles were really revving up.
In 2001, two more bikes would join the mainline. The Fright Bike was one. The other was the Mark Jones-designed Outsider, which finally featured tiny riders. “We started adding a bike every year to the line,” Mark notes. “We found out that people really like ’em.”
|HWC Motorcycle Editions||Early Thundercycles||Later Thundercycles|
Over the next 10 years or so, Hot Wheels had added about a dozen motorcycles to their 1:64 scale lines, including the W-Oozie, the Pit Cruiser (which had debuted as a promotional piece) and the Bad Bagger (which had debuted in the Hot Wheels Classics series). The bikes were really cranking… but where were the riders?
In 2012, it finally started to happen. Several of the existing 1:64 scale motorcycles were released in a series of their own — with riders! The Motorcycles series continues, adding not only new riders, but also new motorcycles, including the 3-Squealer – named after one of the original Rrrumblers pieces.
|Various HW Motorcycles w/Riders||Blastous Editions||Tri & Stop Me Editions|
One of the more recent motorcycles to debut in the series is the Skullface, which features a pirate rider and is most reminiscent of the rare and popular Bone Shaker from the original Rrrumblers. The Skullface was designed by none other than Mark Jones.
Mark continues to contribute great designs to the Hot Wheels line, with both four wheels and two. He has just finished the Kawasaki GPZ 900R, a new bike for Hot Wheels that will debut in the Entertainment series this year. “I did a new Real Riders wheel for that which is kind of cool,” he tells us. “I tried to make it look like the Kawasaki wheel of that era. It’s a two-part wheel.”
|Harley-Davidson Fat Boy Editions||Fly-By Editions||Skullface, 3-Squealer|
Two wheels. Two parts. Hot Wheels Motorcycles are still on a roll, and it looks like easy riding from here.
— HWC Gary