When Mattel launched the Hot Wheels brand in 1968 it probably had no idea the toys would make such a huge impact on automotive fans across the globe. The initial models, known collectively as the “Sweet 16,” are among the most coveted by collectors, but it’s the rare prototypes, those never meant to leave Mattel’s HQ, that demand the highest prices.
Born in 1961, Bruce Pascal has been a Hot Wheels fan since the beginning, but his collecting began in earnest when he stumbled upon his childhood collection about 20 years ago. Since then he’s amassed some of the most desirable die-casts the company has ever made.
His pink Beach Bomb VW bus is one of two known to exist. After much sleuthing, he tracked both models down and snapped them up. “I won’t say how much I purchased it for,” says Pascal of the pink bus, “but it is worth an estimated $150,000 today.” Pascal sold one to a friend and fellow collector and kept the most well-preserved version for himself, as the jewel of his 4000-strong Hot Wheels collection.
The pink Beach Bomb is rare not only due to its color—Hot Wheels were marketed to boys, and pink wasn’t thought to be a big seller—but also because of its rear-loaded surfboards, indicative of its status as an early prototype. The boards’ position seemed to throw off the balance of the Beach Bomb. A Hot Wheels has to roll smoothly after all, and this prototype didn’t pass the test. The production Beach Bomb featured widened quarter panels with a surfboard stashed in each side. Those heavier sides apparently helped lower the center of gravity and give the Beach Bomb better performance when scurrying around those trademark orange tracks.
The priciest versions of the VW bus, the 23-window variants, are worth nearly $190,000 in #1 (Concours) condition. That means that the rarest of the 1:64-scale models bests all but the most pristine, sought-after versions of the real thing. Maybe it’s worth peeking around your attic for some of your old Hot Wheels. Pascal is still in the market for rarities.