Hot Wheels - July,
Some guys have all the luck. Many collectors spend their whole collecting lives searching for the Holy Grail of their specialty. Some find what they are looking for, and others go to their graves dreaming of the day when they will lay hands on the object of their desire.
Although Bruce Pascal attributes his latest find (in some small part) to luck, he admits that after buying his first pink, rear-loading Beach Bomb, he caught Hot Wheels fever and started doing his homework. Once stricken, he decided to try and acquire as many high-end Hot Wheels collectibles as he could. He has concentrated on early redlines, prototypes, and pre-production specials. This has led him to some wonderful cars.
Using his own special approach, Pascal works very hard to locate his next big find. This time around it culminated in the acquisition of a small collection of cars purchased from a former Mattel employee. I am fortunate to live a couple of doors down from Pascal, so he sometimes pops in to tease me with a box of Hot Wheels.
This time he came by on short notice and found me in my studio taking pictures of new Hot Wheels for an upcoming column. He plopped a box of cars on the table and opened it up. We went through a few nice redlines (this is an understatement), but there is too much excitement in his eyes for this to be the main reason for his visit. And sure enough, he unwraps a pink, rear-loading Beach Bomb...
If you know Pascal, you know he can be a practical joker. So I am thinking that perhaps this is a custom that someone has done for him. Or perhaps it's just his first pink rear-loader. But when I start looking it over, I can see that it is not his other car. And it is definitely not a reproduction. For example, the car has the toning typical of early redlines. The rivets are undisturbed. The interior, windows, and mold lines are correct. And like most rear-loading Beach Bombs, it has the unweighted, narrow base plate.
So the last laugh was on me. I spent the time loading my camera and producing the photos you see here, while Pascal had a chuckle at my expense. pascal also obliged me by bringing his custom Bright Vision rear-loader for comparison.
A Contest is Born
I thought it would be interesting to see if people could identify the real rear-loading Beach Bomb from a custom, so I proposed the idea of a contest to my editor. Sharon Korbeck was eager to have a contest, so I contacted Chris Meglio at Bright Vision (www.brighvision.com) to get more information about his rear-loader. Meglio and Tony Young, both lifelong Hot Wheels collectors, have been producing an incredible custom rear loader that is, perhaps, one of the finest custom Hot Wheels products on the market today.
Meglio and Young got the idea to make a custom rear-loading Beach Bomb to "reinvigorate the hobby" and give collectors a chance to own one of these rare cars at a fraction of the price of an original.
The Bright Vision rear-loader is made from the more common "side-loading" Beach Bomb. While these are valuable early redlines, they are nowhere near as hard to come by as the rear-loading variety. Meglio uses their original suspension, wheels and base. he uses new plastic, hot injection-molded windows and interiors, and polished and replated bases. he also applies automotive finishes. The side pods are removed from the body, and the roof is modified with an advanced soldering technique that seamlessly inlays the proper roof, unique to the rear-loaders.
While I was looking at the new car that Pascal found, we compared it to his Bright Vision rear loader. The two were hard to tell apart if you looked quickly. But the differences are there, and there are quite a few when you start to look closely. Meglio told me that they have intentionally left some of the differences so it would be easy for them to tell the real ones from their custom works.
Collectors Speak Out
I was interested in how long-time collectors felt about the pink Beach Bombs, so I contacted a friend in Las Vegas.
Mark Storms has been a friend of mine since 1995 when we used to do a lot of trading and messaging on the old Compuserve Collectibles message board. At one time, Storms collected all the new stuff like a lot of us do. In the last few years, he has been concentrating on old stuff, mostly redlines and vehicles from the early '70's. So I asked Storms what he thought of the real and custom rear-loading Beach Bombs.
"[I] couldn't imagine paying $72,000
for a Hot Wheel. I'm not much of a custom collector. I have only two customs that I'll
hang on to forever. There is a lot of nice work being done though. I'm envious of the
talent some of these guys/gals have."
Another collector and successful limited-edition producer was even more candid about his opinion of the custom rear-loading Beach Bombs. His comments were off the record. In essence, he is very skeptical about how the customs are being made and wonders about the legality of it all. And, like Storms, he worries about unscrupulous dealers selling customs as the real thing.
I must say that while I can see someone being duped by the customs, I do believe that if anyone is going to buy one with the understanding that it is original and pay a premium price, that person should seek the counsel of people like Pascal and others to verify the item's authenticity.
What are your thoughts on the real vs. custom issues? Would you pay upward of $500 for a custom replica, or is the real thing the only way to go? Drop me a note on your thoughts. As you can see by the comments in this column, opinions vary, and I'd be happy to hear yours!
Paul M. Provencher
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