Not a toy anymore. Hot Wheels Camaro is now the real thing

A SIZZLER: Chevrolet’s Hot Wheels Camaro brings a treasured toy to life with specific badging and a unique interior.
A SIZZLER: Chevrolet’s Hot Wheels Camaro brings a treasured toy to life with specific badging and a unique interior.
BILL GRIFFITH

One way to upset folks in the sports department of a newspaper is to refer to that section as the “sandbox” or “toy department.”

Politics, labor unrest, drugs, big business deals, and the police blotter have been as much a part of the sports section as the rest of the paper in the last 30 years.

In addition, the office (or press box) never felt much like the toy department on Friday and Saturday nights when you were scrambling to file on deadline or remake the section long after the other departments were dark and silent. And the only sand was in your scratchy eyes when you were driving home from work in the wee hours long after your friends had come home from weekend parties and events.

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As for toys, we never really saw any outside of the annual Globe Santa appeal—the paper-wide event that touches all corners of the paper and the city.

That’s a long way to get around to saying today’s Auto Section has become the Toy Department for a day.

How else is one to refer to the life-size Hot Wheels Camaro we’re writing about in this space?

It was like Christmas morning when I told my grandson we were going for a ride in a “real” Hot Wheels car.

His eyes got wide when we walked outside on a chilly September morning and he saw it.

“Cool. It’s really cool,” said little Jackie O, who is filling in for Mrs. G, his grandmother, in tossing a few comments your way today.

“And, Papa, I’ve got one just like it except mine is red instead of blue.”

The blue of our test car is Hot Wheels-recognizable kinetic blue metallic, with the Hot Wheels badging, subtle flame decals on the fenders, a two-tone matte hood graphic that becomes a front-to-rear stripe, and a blackout rear taillight panel graphic.

Walking around the car, the youngster said, “I really like the wheels,” referring to the 21-inch, black-painted aluminum wheels with a red outline stripe. The big wheels carry low-profile tires that don’t lend themselves to the retro red stripe so the GM engineers did the next best thing and striped the wheels instead.

Then, running around the car, he squealed, “Look, it says ‘Hot Wheels’ on the side [fender] … and on the back [deck lid] … and in the front [grille]. And it says it again here when you get in [door sills], and it’s painted [actually. stitched] on the front seats, too. This is the most awesomist car I’ve ever seen.”

The auto industry may be struggling to put consumer labels on the generation called Millennials, but there’s a strong indication that their male offspring (shall we call this Gen Z?) still are in love with Hot Wheels.

Hot Wheels, for the record, are the 1:64 scale model cars introduced by Mattel in 1968. And, yes, a dark blue custom Camaro reportedly was the first car off the assembly line and certainly among the first group of cars produced.

However, 2013 is the first time a manufacturer has offered a full-size production version of a Hot Wheels car.

Of course, such a “toy” car is a bit more expensive than my grandson’s collection—although the boxes of them in his playroom certainly cost enough for a down payment.

The standard price for a 2013 Camaro 2SS coupe is $37,035, including the $900 destination charge.

Ours was powered by a 6.2-liter V-8 but instead of the standard 6-speed manual transmission, it had a 6-speed automatic with tap shift ($1,185). With the automatic, the engine is rated at 400 horsepower and 410 lb.-ft. of torque.

Like the original Camaros, it’s rear-wheel-drive. However, unlike the original, it’s got a full array of safety and stability features.

While there’s a neat retro-styled cluster of four rally gauges (oil pressure, transmission temperature, volts, oil temperature) low in the front of the center console, they’re not as easy to read these days. Instead, a higher display projects key speed, audio, and other data onto the bottom of the windshield. It’s so good it could make the speedometer expendable, too.

On the road, the Camaro is a fun cruiser with lots of extra muscle available. It won’t ever be confused with an economy car, being rated at 15 miles per gallon in city driving, 24 on the highway, and 18 in combined driving. We took it on a weekend trip, enduring some Friday rush-hour delays, and averaged 20.9 mpg—and got lots of looks from other motorists and their passengers.

From the outside, the Camaro’s low profile and minimal glass indicate that visibility might be a problem. Not so. From the inside, the six-way adjustable driver and passenger seats give you good sightlines and a rear backup camera gives both a good view and reassurance.

Besides the unique racing stripe, it has a ZL1 rear spoiler and a ZL1 front upper grille combined with a unique ground effects package.

On the inside, the black leather-trim seats have the Hot Wheels logo embroidered on the front seats and both seats and dashboard are black with red accent stitching.

The rear seat was OK for a six-year-old, but this is basically a one- or two-person fun car.

“Millions of us grew up playing with Hot Wheels,” says Chris Perry, vice president of Chevrolet marketing. “Offering a special production model of the Camaro Hot Wheels is an opportunity to bring those memories to life for kids of all ages.”

One of those “kids” is Felix Holst, creative vice president for the Mattel Wheels division. “It’s been nearly 20 years since I started designing cars for Hot Wheels, and I have yet to drive one home. Personally, I can’t wait.”

That original 1:64 Hot Wheels Camaro from 1968 remains an all-time favorite among collectors.

It’s hard to believe the full-sized version won’t be, too.

2013 Camaro 2SS Hot Wheels Coupe

THE BASICS

Price, base/as tested (with destination): $37,035/$46,010. Fuel economy, EPA estimated: 15 city, 24 highway, 18 combined. Fuel economy, Globe observed: 20.9. Drivetrain: 6.2-liter V-8, 6-speed automatic transmission, rear-wheel-drive. Body: 2-door coupe.

THE SPECIFICS

Horsepower: 400. Torque: 410 lb.-ft. Overall length: 190.4 in. Wheelbase: 112.3 in. Height: 54.2 in. Width: 75.5 in. Curb weight: 3,913 lbs.

THE GOOD

It’s a unique vehicle, an attention-grabber, and a fun cruiser.

THE BAD

The Hot Wheels version is pricey.

THE BOTTOM LINE

This is a guaranteed future collectible to keep for yourself or your grandson. It appears Hot Wheels—and Camaros—are here to stay.

ALSO CONSIDER

Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, any Hot Wheels product (assuming you have a magic machine to convert that toy into a full-size driver).