Hot Wheels is one of those indelible brands that will never go away. For generations, the nearly-impossible-to-break die-cast models have succeeded in brilliantly brainwashing kids everywhere to completely adore cars. They're as much a common thread in our collective past as LEGO or Etch-a-Sketch, but to those who truly love cars, they're so much more. Although this list is by no means exhaustive, these are 22 of the Hot Wheels pretty much everyone had as a kid.
1. Classic Cobra
It was almost impossible to grow up with Hot Wheels and not have a Shelby Cobra. It came in all sorts of colors, and headlined the "California Customs" line in the early '90s, which included sponsorship decals you could add on. This "toy" fueled a new generation of Shelby fans, who unfortunately, probably never actually got sponsored.
2. '40s Woodie
It's equal parts hot rod culture and Surf City and was one of the first "Hi-Rakers"—those Hot Wheels that had rear ends you could raise and lower... or break if you were a total klutz. Pro tip: some of these are worth a lot now, if you weren't a total klutz.
3. '40s Ford 2-Door
You could've sworn the flames on the side made this one faster. And that's because they absolutely did, probably.
4. Dumpin' A
Remember all those times you didn't have school and the only thing on TV was old reruns of the The Munsters? Oh, just me? Anyways this "Dumpin'" mobile definitely looks like Grandpa built a dump truck.
5. '65 Mustang Convertible
It was cool, because the hood opened, but also, it taught you a valuable lesson about how flimsy plastic can be compared to metal.
6. Turbo Mustang
A lot of Mustangs in the early 1980s featured turbocharged four cylinders. All that mattered for this one, though, was that you could "drive" the same car you saw. Well, except for the graphics.
7. The Original Speed Demons
Long before you knew the BMW 635CSi was the real Landshark, the Speed Demons were awesome. Also confusing, because that cat-like one on the right seems like it should've been a Jaguar. Whatever.
8. Dream Van XGW
C'mon, it's a van that came with a spare tire and had its own dog inside. How cool was that?
9. Sol-Aire CX4
Technically this isn't a Porsche, probably for licensing reasons, but even as a kid the resemblance to the 917 was obvious here. And awesome.
10. Cadillac Seville
This was only made for a few years, but it really showed the power Hot Wheels had. It made one of the worst Cadillacs ever built seem really awesome.
11. Flat Out 442
You didn't have to understand what 4-4-2 meant to know that this car meant business. In retrospect, it was probably the side exhaust that did it, since it seemed more like the Cobra that way.
12. Peterbilt Tank Truck
Problem: you want your cars to slide but the countertop's dry, and wetting it down is a surefire way to get grounded.
Solution: drive the tanker truck past first, then wet the counter top. It all makes sense. At least in the mind of a four year old.
13. Silver Bullet
The Silver Bullet looked like something out of the future, sounded like a beer commercial, and hurt like hell when you dropped the sharp end on the top of your bare foot.
Author's Note: I set up a science fair project in kindergarten to test the rolling resistance of several Hot Wheels models. This one won.
14. Baja Bug
The Baja Bug simply drove over anything. Especially seams between bricks, for some reason.
It always sucked when you crashed your Hot Wheels into each other and there was no damage. They were virtually indestructible, so it was beyond awesome when the company dropped an entire line of cars that actually showed damage.
The Hot Wheels verson of the Porsche 928 came in scores of versions over the years, including this "Predator". And if you ever played with it at bath time, you'll remember it sank just like the real deal.
17. Auburn 852
The Auburn (die-cast version) was endlessly mass-produced. It's not that it was so cool, per se, but it was just so plentiful. If you ever wanted to experiment and, say, try to repaint the car using your new acrylics kit, this was the one to try it on.
18. '37 Bugatti
As a grown up, you know this as one of the most rare and expensive cars to ever exist. As a kid, you didn't understand the big deal, since everyone had one, right?
19. '55 Chevy
In the real world, Chevy Bel Airs were the king of the hot rod scene for so long that either your father or your grandfather likely lusted after one with a passion...which in turn is probably how you wound up with this guy.
20. Jeep Scrambler
Funny how little this has changed, isn't it? It was cool then, and the full sized version's even cooler now.
21. Color Changers
When the Color Changers first came out they were absolutely amazing. Toys that could change colors? Holy sh*t! Then came the realization that you had to soak them in hot or cold water to make the colors change...and they're metal. They were still rad, though.
22. Stutz Black Hawk
Again, maybe it has something to do with the side exhaust, but the Stutz just looked like it was supposed to be fast. The fact that you almost never saw one on the road kind of added to the mystique...until adulthood meant realizing it was really just a run of the mill car, all fancied-up.
Aaron Miller is the Rides editor for Supercompressor, and can be found on Twitter. He literally had hundreds upon hundreds of Hot Wheels growing up, until 90% of them were lost during a move. He misses his Guardsman Blue Cobra with the rubber Goodyear tires to this day.