Exclusive - March 2000
© 2000 Paul M. Provencher
ULTIMATE HOT WHEELS
When asked what car they would most like to have, Hot Wheels collectors almost unanimously say they want a "Rear Loading Beach Bomb". At the beginning of this year, the dream came true for Bruce Pascal, a commercial real-estate agent in Washington, D.C. When the deal closed, a new record was set for the most money to change hands in the sale of a single Hot Wheels vehicle. While Bruce will not confirm the amount, it is rumored to have cost him in excess of $70,000.
Notwithstanding the incredible amount of money that he parted with, Bruce is comfortable with the latest addition to "the collection". Although he has only been collecting Hot Wheels with zeal for a couple years, Bruce has been around automobilia since birth. His grandfather, Leo Pascal, set the stage when he became the Transportation Historian at the National Archives in 1935. By the time of his passing in 1962, the family patriarch had amassed a staggering 10,000-item collection of every imaginable transportation-related item; from a meerschaum pipe carved in the shape of a car, to exotic tintype vehicles. Leo's son and daughter-in-law continued the tradition and have built a collection that approaches 60,000 individual items. When Bruce was a kid, he pretty much had his pick of over 4000 toy cars. He went to numerous antique and car shows. He still has all of his own original Hot Wheels. So to say that the Holy Grail of Hot Wheels has found a good home would be an understatement. The Pascal's clearly have a love of the automobile. From the moment you roll up the drive to the 19th-Century home and catch a glimpse of the 1965 AMC Marlin parked side-by-side with the 1964 Honda 50 motorcycle, in front of the gas-powered child's replica of a Plymouth Prowler, you know this is a car-family.
Bruce is full of energy and excitement as he describes the history of "The Bomb". This car is from a collection that was owned by a former Mattel Employee. It is believed that Mattel employees kept almost all 16 of the rear Loading Beach Bombs know to exist from their factory days. They are believed to be prototypical predecessors of the production version with side-mounted surfboard compartments. According to Bob Rosas, one of the original Hot Wheels designers, changes to the prototype were made in order to assure that the Beach Bomb would work with the track accessories sold for racing the cars. Without the side pockets found on the production version of the Beach Bomb, the car was just too narrow to work with the power chargers that shot the cars around the tracks.
Another problem, corrected during experimentation with the prototype, helped keep the car from tipping over by making the base heavier. Distinguishing characteristics of Bruce's car include the clear windows, limited to the prototypes; a larger rear gate area above the exposed engine; and most significantly, a new style base, found on the early production Beach Bombs. Bruce thinks that his may be the only one with this combination of features. Oh yes, let us not forget that it is Pink, "The Color" when it comes to red line Hot Wheels.
So why spend this kind of money? Bruce says that he made a conscious decision to go for "quality not quantity" in his collection. He has a diverse automobilia collection that includes a Tucker ID-Plate for Tucker car number 3, a Preston Tucker autographed photo and 400-odd antique hub caps. So he began searching for blue-chip Hot Wheels items. He started by accumulating over 1000 top-shelf vehicles. Some examples include a complete Hot Wheels Sky Show set, a mint 1975 Toy Fair Super Van, a gold chrome plated GMC Motor Home, a rare Olds 442, and an original Jack-in-the-Box Jack "Rabbit" Special with the original decal still stapled to the plastic bag! Bruce read an article in Mobilia about Beach Bombs and read about them in various price guides.
So a Beach Bomb was on his list of things to acquire. And it was on Chris Marshall's list of things to sell. Bruce gave Chris a call. They came to an agreement after several months of negotiating sessions. All this was part of the fun for Bruce. "I enjoy the hunt". It would best be described as big game hunting by most people's reckoning.
With the deal done and the final exchange left to complete, the day came when Bruce and Chris met. At Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., Chris flashed a customized pink VW Bus as a practical joke to break the ice. Once they arrived at Bruce's house, the atmosphere was quietly electric. Bruce was charged with controlled exuberance and Chris seemed satisfied and maybe a trifle nostalgic. I can only imagine passing on the most sought-after Hot Wheels car to another suitor. Even with a tidy bank deposit at hand, it must have been a memorable moment, like watching that first love turning to leave for the last time, at once wishing they would stay, but knowing that they would not.
Sitting alone on the table was a glistening pink VW Bus. Unknowing observers would hardly separate it from the background of mint redlines and other miniature cars. So small that, from across the room, most people would not even notice it. But there it was... Once you see a collectible like this, it's hard to forget. It's at least 30 years old and it still looks like new. And given that this toy probably was sent through the gauntlet of prototype testing, it is remarkable that it did not get war wounds. It is exceptional.
It is not unusual for high-value rarities to be badly beaten up, valued entirely for their uniqueness alone, with little weight put on condition. When there is only one in the whole world, after all, just "being" is everything. Nonetheless, this piece holds no such shortcomings. It deserves the pride of place in a serious collection and that is exactly what Bruce plans to give it. "I want people to know it exists. I want them to see it and appreciate it. There is no value in keeping hidden away in a box where no one can enjoy it. Where's the fun in that?" So when asked if we could run it through the "Criss-Cross-Crash" set, seriousness wipes across his face and then the smile returns when he realizes that I am just kidding. He plans to take it on the road, visiting major shows whenever possible to give people a chance to see it.
Authorities on the subject abound. But Bob Rosas (http://www.digiweb.com/~hwsguys/), a former Hot Wheels designer for Mattel has seen the Beach Bomb and confirms that it is authentic. "It was first owned by a Mattel manufacturing engineer. They made trips to the Hong Kong plants and often got first shots of different vehicles that were being developed. It is quite likely that this gentleman asked to have this car made for him during one of those trips." Some experts raise questions about the color. They contend that pink was not used until a year later. Bob suggests that this may be true but it does not invalidate the piece. It was possible for someone to have last-years car put together with this-years color. It happened quite often. In fact, considering that the base of the vehicle is the later base, and that other examples with the later base exist, it makes sense that this is the case. Bob still collects Hot Wheels today and concentrates on the first tampo-printed models. He needs just a couple to complete his search.
Bruce Pascal is a terrific person to own this piece. He has a great respect for the history of it, as well as a developing interest in the history of Hot Wheels in general. During the photography session, Bruce wore white cotton gloves and tirelessly manipulated the Beach Bomb under the direction of the photographer. During a break in shooting, he meticulously packed it back up and put it out of sight lest one of the studio cats happen along and decide to play with it. After two hours of shooting he was as energetic as when the night began. You couldn't hope to meet a nicer guy. With his plans to show the world's only Pink Rear Loading Beach Bomb to people around the country, you probably will meet him and find, like I did, that he deserves the best. And for now, it appears that he has it!
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