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By Thomas Wheeler

I'm not a Hot Wheels collector the way I am an action figure collector. And I'm certainly not a Hot Wheels collector the way a lot of Hot Wheels collectors are Hot Wheels collectors. Any action figure collector out there that thinks there are some really obsessed "nutjobs" in the hobby should attend just one toy collectors' convention that has as its emphasis Hot Wheels. It's almost enough to make you abandon the toy aisle forever and take up birdwatching.

That having been said, I DO like Hot Wheels in general, consider myself a casual collector, and will, when I see something interesting, and if I have the money at the time, purchase it.

On occasion, that "something interesting" comes in the form of a Hot Wheels 5-pack. These frequently "themed" five-packs generally present five previously-released-as-single cars, repainted in a new color scheme, in keeping with the stated theme of the five pack.

Let's take a look at these four sets individually:

AUTOGRFX - I admit it, I have an affinity for the weird cars. You can keep the Ferraris and the Cadillacs and the Corvettes. If a Hot Wheels car looks like something that even if you could build it full-size and in real life, you'd get laughed right out of the License department of your local Motor Vehicle Division, I'll take it. And this Autogrfx collection includes five very distinct contenders.

First off is easily one of the strangest cars in years. It's the HYPER MITE, a bizarre little piece of work that almost defies description. First issued in 2000, it hasn't seen a whole lot of use, probably because it's so distinctive. It's a bulbous little contraption that actually manages to have something of a spoiler across its top, as well as two huge exhaust popes in he back. It's small, it's weird, but it manages to look mean -- sort of like that deranged Pomeranian that lives in my apartment complex that thinks it's a guard dog. The original Hyper Mite was painted green, and then later purple. This one's copper.

The next car in the series is called the I-CANDY. This car manages an interesting effect in its design in that while being comprised of mostly curves, it still somehow looks angular, very sleek, and very fast. It's been out before in other color schemes, green with orange windows if memory serves, but the black and red that this version has is especially effective.

Third in the series is the MOTOR PSYCHO. Think of it as a crazy car with a built in manual spare. This oddball vehicle has a driver's cockpit, a huge motor in what amounts to almost a sidecar, and stashed safely behing a large "bubble" behind the cockpit -- is a bicycle. I guess is the car blows a tire or its motor or something, you can still get where you're going. This car was originally known as the POPCYCLE when it was first introduced in 1998. Not sure what's up with the name change.

Fourth is a car simply called the ROADSTER. Trying to describe some of these isn't easy, but this one almost looks like a reverse arrowhead, but the angular design of the car makes one think that it is capable of considerable speed without pulling much wind resistance. An impressive design.

Finally there's the GROUND FX, a low-to-the-ground vehicle that looks like it manages a combination of speed and protection. There are very few apertures on this car, except for a small window in the front, and the overall design of the car is such that again, one things that it would be capable of great speed, but enough protection from the body design that if you got into an accident with this thing, you'd walk away from it.

Overall, an impressive set.

The next five-pack I would like to take a look at is called SHINERS. There are three aspects of a toy that will almost always attract my attention. Usually this is in the world of action figures, but it workds for cars, too -- transparent bodies, chrome parts, or glow in the dark features. Hot Wheels already did the transparent bodies with its X-RAYCERS series, which I reviewed a little while ago. Now we have a five-pack of all-chrome cars.

Four of these cars have silver chrome, the fifth has gold chrome. I was briefly taken back to the early years of Hot Wheels, when, around about 1970, they had a special mail-in offer for a silver-chrome car with black stripes called the BOSS HOSS SILVER SPECIAL. It was one of my favorite Hot Wheels cars. I think it was the first mail-order item I ever received. Unfortunately, it didn't survive my childhood.

Although none of these cars have black stripes or racing numbers, they're still pretty cool. Four of the vehicles are fairly conventional models, based on real life cars. These include the CAMARO Z-28, an unnamed car with a 1989 copyright date on it (!), a CHEVY 1500 Pick-Up truck, and a 1957 CHEVY that's clearly had some "work" done to it. This is the gold chrome one, as well.

The fifth car is a bit more fanciful. It's a Hot Wheels model called the SILVER BULLET. Decidedly appropriate in this instance, since it's been given a chrome silver finish. Add to that the bit of black on the side of the car, leading to the underside, as well as the red windows, and the end result is one very impressive, futuristic, fast-looking car.

The next five pack among those I purchased is easily the strangest of the lot. It's called ROLL PATROL. This is a name that Hot Wheels has used for some time for cars that they give Police graphics to. Now, I have all the respect in the world for law enforcement authorities. They do a vital and dangerous job. But lemme tell ya, if I saw a cop approaching me in one of these weird contraptions, I'd start to wonder what was being put in the donuts back at the station.

Over the past year or so, Hot Wheels has gotten some very strange divisions among their single-carded "First Edition" vehicles. Blings, Tooned, FatBax -- cars with such massive rear wheels that they have to be packaged facing forward. All of these and more have decidedly pushed several envelopes of Hot Wheels designs. For the most part, these cars have been TOO weird even for me. But when you take some of them and give them POLICE markings -- okay, that goes from weird to silly, and is worth a review.

The first car in the series is the FAST FUSE, originally one of the CROOZE series, a cop car with a veeerryyy looonnng rear, and somehow manages to look like a cross between the Batmobile and the Jetsons car. Granted, it looks fast. I wouldn't want it behind me on the freeway.

Next up we have the NOMADDER WHAT. Probably the sanest car in the pack -- which granted isn't saying much -- it looks like what a station-wagon might look like fifty years from now. Angular and sloped downwards towards the front, it has a very cool black and red design to it. It's probably the coolest car in the collection.

This is followed by a CADILLAC V-16, no doubt a distinctly exaggerated version of a Caddy, since this thing has such a huge front end that I doubt very much the driver could see where he's going. It's representative of the HARDNOZE series. Of course there's probably an engine under the hood that's capable of zipping along at 400 mph, so you're either going to be speeding along in one of those very rare places on the planet where cars capable of such speeds are allowed and there are no obstacles, or you're going to collide with something at 400 mph, and chances are, "something" is going to win that one. Either way, seeing where you're going isn't going to count for much.

Next up we have the BRICK CUTTER, part of the "Blings" series that is notable for fairly small car bodies and absolutely immense wheels. I'm not really sure what the automotive advantage is here, let alone the law enforcement advantage, but it looks intresting.

Finally, we have a "Fatbax" entry, called the PLYMOUTH BARRACUDA. The markings on the car indicate it to be part of a "Dragstrip Riot Squad", but given the immense and wide rear wheels of this thing, and how upsloped towards the back this car is, I'd be afraid to drive it. Roll this car and you wouldn't likely crash -- you'd just bounce for God knows how long...

An interesting set of -- police cars.

Finally we have what I think is the coolest of the five-packs. Called BLACKTOPS, this series of cars are all painted flat black, with specific color patterns on their sides -- several with matching colored hubcaps
-- and they're all numbered 1 to 5. I like that sort of precision in a five-pack like this.

Top of the package has the PONY-UP, a not too implausible sports car design. The flat black body is highlighted with a transparent green canopy, green hubcaps, and cool graphics featuring the number "3".

Next is the SIDE DRAFT, a futuristic specimen that looks like a cross between the Batmobile and a race car. It has a red canopy and hubcaps, and bears markings with the number "1".

Third in the package is the BALLISTIK, a bubble-canopied car with a big motor in the front. The canopy is transparent blue, and it has blue hubcaps and markings with the number "4".

This is followed by THE GOV'NOR, a car that looks like what you'd get if you crossed a NASCAR with a limousine. It has a gold canopy and markings, with silver hubcaps, and bears the number "2".

Last in the box is the ASPHALT ASSAULT, a sort of squat car that looks like it's from some branch of motor sports, I'm just not sure what. It has purple windows and markings, silver hubcaps, and has the number "5" on its doors. It's also, interestingly, metallic black, whereas the others are flat black. But it still fits in with the set.

One note if you purchase any of these sets. Don't be too quick to throw the packaging away. That adjustable peg-hook in the top is attached to a colelctible card with a picture of a Hot Wheels car on it that you might want to keep.

I definitely recommend any or all of these fine five-packs of Hot Wheels cars, even if you don't find them as I did. Any of them are readily worth their full price (generally $4.00 - $5.00 in most stores), and I highly recommend them all as very cool Hot Wheels collections!