KOKOMO – Mattel first introduced Hot Wheels in 1968. After 44 years, the city of Kokomo is part of the ever-popular series.
The white 1970 Chevrolet Camaro has the Kokomo Fire Department colors, including a red “Kokomo” on the trunk lid and the KFD insignia on the doors.
It's one of 10 cars included in the “HW Main Street 2012” series, which also includes the communities of Roanoke, Va.; Monroeville, Pa.; Kootenai County, Idaho; Cranston, R.I.; Oshkosh, Wis.; and Austin, Texas.
Mattel recently sent 100 of the cars to the city of Kokomo, with each member of the Kokomo Common Council receiving one Monday.
Brad Myers, deputy chief of the Kokomo Fire Department, said he was contacted by Mattel about a year ago.
“I was surprised,” Myers said. “They were doing a series of those type cars from different communities. Somehow, we were included in the mix.”
Myers said the company wanted a picture of the KFD insignia on a vehicle. He said the company knew it would appear on a Camaro.
“I have several Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars,” he said, “but I'm not a collector.”
There are Hot Wheels clubs located throughout the nation – including the Kokomo Hot Wheels Club, which has 20 members and meets locally.
Collector Bill Degler sells, buys and trades Hot Wheels from his business, Degler Floor Coverings.
Degler said Mattel will automatically send him a Kokomo car as a collector.
“I didn't know about it until recently,” he said. “I don't know how they came to pick Kokomo.”
The city of Lafayette has been featured on two Hot Wheel cars.
Degler said Mattel will release 247 cars in 2012.
“A lot of people have called to ask if I have the Kokomo car,” he said.
Degler started collecting Hot Wheels in 1995. He has between 4,000 and 5,000 Hot Wheels cars in his collection and another 40,000 at the store.
“Sometimes I buy an entire collection at 25 cents per car,” he said. “I sell at different shows in the area.”
Degler said he has a set of the Treasure Hunt cars released in 1995, a series in which Mattel releases between 10 and 12 cars per year.
“They keep their value,” he said.
Degler said he started buying Hot Wheel cars for his two sons, who played with them.
The 1968 Red Line series is considered to be valuable to collectors, he said.
“If they were played with too much, they're worth between $5 and $500,” he said. “One in the original package could be worth as much as $5,000.”
Lawrence McCormack, Kokomo city attorney, said the Mattel Co. did demographic research and learned there were a high number of Hot Wheel collectors in the region.
“They wanted to target a high-demand area,” he said.
McCormack said the city received a blueprint of what the car would look like.
In the way of compensation, Kokomo received the 100 samples of the car and the recognition.