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By Thomas Wheeler

So, why would I pick the Deora to do a historical review of? I'll admit, I have some personal reasons for this. The Deora was the very first Hot Wheels car I ever received.

Although introduced in 1968, the first year for Hot Wheels cars, I didn't receive mine until 1970, as a Christmas present in school. This was in the fourth grade. The teacher of the class, an otherwise intelligent individual whom I normally got along with, had the notion that since there was an equal number of boys and girls in the class, that they should get each other a Christmas present. That is, an anonymous boy would get an anonymous girl a gift, and vice-versa. The gifts, wrapped, of course, were piled into separate bins the last day of school before Christmas vacation.

This early study in political-correctness worked about as well as you'd expect such a hare-brained idea to work, for the most part, especially in the case of parents who were, such as in my case, raising an only child who was of one specific gender and didn't have the foggiest idea what to buy for the other gender. (And if the person who got that lame "Pick-Up Stix" game that my parents bought for me to give happens to be reading this, my sincerest apologies. Better late than never.)

I was one of the lucky ones. I got a Hot Wheels car. Specifically, I got a purple Deora. Despite the absurdity by which I had received the car, I actually liked it very much. Prior to this, I'd only owned a handful of Matchbox cars which, in the late 1960's, weren't exactly known for being sporty, flashy, fast, or really anything other than fairly accurate reproductions of actual real-life vehicles. This would soon change within a few years, but bringing the metallic purple Deora with the bright yellow and orange surfboards into the same proximity as the glossy-opaque painted, rather lumbering examples of sedans, construction trucks, and farm equipment -- well, the Deora mixed in with that crowd about as well as a pair of sneakers in a tuxedo rental shop.

And can we talk speed? Back then, Matchbox cars had fairly thick axles. The "Superfast" cars were still on the horizon. Nobody really expected a Matchbox Pipe Truck or Girder Truck to be quick. The Deora -- one gentle push across the kitchen floor and you were praying that it wasn't going to sail into the nether-realm under the refrigerator, never to be seen again.

I think the best comparison between Matchbox and Hot Wheels of the day can be made thusly. For Hot Wheels cars, you bought track sets. For Matchbox cars, you bought "Build-A-Road" sets, which allowed you to construct fairly accurate highly and roadway systems, complete with lane markings (which could be painted), intersections, traffic signs, and so forth. You could also buy garages and truck stops to use with the Build- A-Road sets. Actually, I rather liked them. But designed for racing they weren't.

(A side note -- just for laughs, after I typed this paragraph, I decided to look up the Build-A-Road set on eBay. I found three of them

I soon discovered the world of Hot Wheels on subsequent visits to local toy departments. And unlike action figures, which my parents despised, they didn't really object to my wanting Hot Wheels cars. And I had a lot of the really popular early models, complete even with those sharp-edged painted metal buttons that they used to come with, the sort of thing that if anybody tried to market it today, someone in the legal department would yell, "Are you out of your mind!? Do you know what sort of safety hazard that thing is!?"

What we call safety hazards today, I might add, were what we called learning experiences when I was a kid...

I had such classic vehicles as the Paddy Wagon, the Ice-T, the Don Prudhome Funny Car, the mail-order Boss Hoss Silver Special, the Red Baron, the Demon, the Nomad, the T-4-2, the -- okay, okay, you're right. Enough with the torture. If it makes you feel any better, very few of these cars survived to the present day. Including, unfortunately, the Deora.

I'm not saying those other cars weren't cool. Certainly they were. But I think we tend to remember many of the "firsts" in our lives, and for toy collectors, I think among those "firsts" are the first of any given toy line we purchase. My first G.I.Joe figures were Snake-Eyes and Flash, purchased on the same day. My first Gundam was Gundam Deathscythe. My first action figure at all was Captain Action, after a lot of screaming and whining. And my first Hot Wheels was the Deora.

It would take until Hot Wheels' 25th anniversary before the Deora would return, as part of the special Anniversary line that was produced that year. The car was pretty much the same as before -- this sleek, sporty, low to the ground, two-passenger surfboard carrier. But, while the Deora would return in several color schemes -- gold, green, magenta -- I never found a purple one.

Ultimately, I would. An original, incredibly enough. Someone offered one on eBay several years ago. It had a couple of very minor dings, but was otherwise in excellent condition.  While I found out just exactly how hard it was to buy metallic purple paint suitable for use on die-cast toy cars, I did find some, and was able to do a little patchwork on the Deora, and brought it up to speed.

But once the Deora had returned, it was destined to keep showing up. There was a metallic red one with fancy graphics on the side, of the sort that weren't really possible in the 1960's, that spelled out "Cowabunga".

Easily one of the strangest Deoras was an exclusive mail-in offer from Van de Kamp's, maker of assorted fish products. This Deora was Barbie pink with tennis ball green surfboards.

When Hot Wheels started producing NASCAR's, they decided to take some of the popular paint schemes, and translate them onto some of their distinctly non-NASCAR vehicles. One set of four featured the classic Deora. Thankfully, these weren't too hard to find.

Another racing-style Deora was part of the "Hot Wheels Racing Team" series, and featured a metallic blue Deora with race team markings.

One I DID expect to be very hard to find was the Treasure Hunt Deora. For those of you who don't know about Hot Wheels cars, Mattel releases twelve Treasure Hunt cars each year. These are cars that are deliberately scarce to an almost preposterous degree. There might be one in every eight shipping cases of 72 cars per case. And that's assuming some weasel in the stockroom doesn't get it first. I figured my odds of getting the Treasure Hunt Deora were about the same as my signing on with World Wrestling Entertainment and having Hulk Hogan take a fall on my behalf.

Well, maybe I should give Vince McMahon a call, because one day at Target, I was looking at and end-cap of Hot Wheels cars, and there, right in front of me, dead center on the display, and right up front where NO Treasure Hunt car had any business being -- was a Treasure Hunt Deora!

Yes, God can be generous at times.

Once I got over the complete shock of seeing the Treasure Hunt Deora, I made record time to the checkout stands.

The Deora hasn't turned up a lot since then. It's most recent appearance was part of a series of cars, police-like vehicles, called "Roll Patrol". Interestingly enough, there were two versions -- one with surfboards and one without. The one with sufboards was distinctly the scarcer of the two. Fortunately I was able to find one.

I suspect one reason for the sparse use of the Deora these days is because the Deora has a little competition. In 1998, Mattel introduced the DEORA II. Same basic theme, but a distinctly different car. Whereas the original Deora had very angular lines, the Deora II was more bulbous in appearance. This isn't a bad thing, necessarily. It's still a cool looking car. Maybe not quite as cool as the original, but cool enough.

And the Deora II has pulled some considerable duty, as well. It's had several color variations as basic single-carded cars, turned up as a Puerto Rico exclusive at one point, and even had a 1:18 version of itself made! It was part of the short-lived 35th anniversary line, as well. The most recent version of the Deora II is a bright metallic purple (there's an irony) edition in a boxed five-pack. But somebody stole its surfboards. I don't know why Mattel keeps pulling the surfboards out of the Deora. Safety hazard? Expense? Whatever the case, a Deora without its surfboards just doesn't look quite right, either the original or the Deora II.

There was also a "Tooned" Deora, which was an exaggerated version of the original. Looking more boxy and comical, this one frankly left me unimpressed, but it's also turned up once since its original version. I can't say I've been very enthused to acquire them.

Both Deoras have also had exclusives to Toy Fair. That these are the scarcest Deoras of all pretty much goes without saying.

The one thing I hope I never see is a Deora in the Final Run series. This is an abhorrent practice on the part of Mattel to try to give popular cars one last go-round. Then the destroy the molds, or so they claim. I find that sort of destruction to be pointless and wasteful, and if I ever hear that the Deora is being made as part of the Final Run series, I am going to have to do my best to resist the urge to drop in on Mattel's headquarters, find the bonehead that made that decision, and show him a whole new way to set up a Hot Wheels track set.

I realize this has been sort of a personal review. Even dedicated Hot Wheels collectors don't tend to fixate on one specific car. And I'm not trying to imply that the Deora is the most superior, fancy, coolest Hot Wheels car ever made. But I like it. And seeing it brings back some fond childhood memories. And really, what more can you ask from a longtime toy?