There are a few classic toys that have stood the test of time and stand to maintain that legacy for the next many generations to come. One of these toys is the good old Hot Wheels car, the popular die-cast toy car that’s enjoyed by boys and girls alike. Mattel, arguably one of the best toy manufacturer’s in the industry, has created a truly unique brand with Hot Wheels, as over 4 billion die-cast cars have been made in production since the beginning. Mattel has also created a unique brand image through the Hot Wheels logo, which has changed a few times since the beginning in 1968. Here’s a close look into the history and story behind the Hot Wheels logo.
1968 – 1969
Hot Wheels was created with the intention of competing against the Matchbox brand. American inventor Elliot Handler knew he could do it even though he didn’t get the backing from most of the people around him, including Mattel. Handler worked and pushed for the project, and the first Hot Wheels line was produced in 1968. The first logo was designed to evoke images of speed, fire, heat, and wheels. The flames on the logo are quite pronounced, and there are five distinct colors on the logo: red, orange, and yellow for the flames; black for the wheels/Mattel symbol, and white for the wordmark. The wordmark is a sans-serif font.
1969 – 1970
The first logo wouldn’t last very long. Mattel would give it a drastic change just a year later, with the focus largely on simplification. By 1969, the Hot Wheels brand had become a huge success. Hot Wheels interrupted the die-cast car industry, which forced other companies to rethink their strategies. The designers for Hot Wheels at the time were already ahead of the game, and the logo change was just part of the process. The new logo featured the same ideas on a cleaner frame. The fire is still there, only this time it’s just red. The white wordmark is striking against the red. The Mattel symbol exists inside a red circle, which stands for the wheel. There’s also a tagline underneath the main logo, which reads, “Fastest Metal Cars in the World!”
1970 – 1973
By 1970, Hot Wheels’ success became even clearer. The logo would again go through another series of changes, and part of that change includes the brand’s tagline. Hot Wheels’ new slogan became “Go With the Winner,” but the tagline no longer appears underneath the logo. It was as if the company knew it was no longer needed as well. The red flame became darker, which made the white wordmark stand out even more. The Mattel symbol also changed. The elaborate wordings on the red wheel circle were completely eliminated, and the name Mattel became the only resident in this space.
1973 – 1990
That logo lasted for about three years before Mattel would implement another change. This time, the biggest change came in terms of color and size. We saw a wider logo in 1973, but it was the red that was most noticeable—or the lack of it at least. The red was replaced by a rather gentle orange color, which reflected the slow movement in the brand’s production interestingly enough. Only three new models were released in 1973, and some iconic details were eliminated from the design. This was not particularly a good move for the company during this period
1990 – 2000
The 90s brought on a time for change for the brand. After 17 years of having the same logo, Hot Wheels would go back to red, a statement of readiness and boldness to move forward. Apart from the change back to the red flame, the Hot Wheels wordmark was also changed from white to a yellow-white gradient. The logo was also encased in a thin black border that followed the shape of the flame and the wheels. This was the time when the Hot Wheels collector numbers were started. This was also the era of First Editions for the brand, as well as the era when Mattel bought out its long time competition in the industry, Matchbox.
2000 – 2004
The new millennia brought on new ideas, new designers, and a new feel for the Hot Wheels brand. The logo during this period was similar to the previous except the black border was removed. More importantly, the Mattel symbol was also removed, which meant that there was no more red circle at the bottom right of the logo. This could be an indication of the absence of competition. When people thought of die-cast cars during this time, they only thought of Hot Wheels. The addition of yellow flames next to the “H” was also visible.
2004 – 2010
In 2004, the Hot Wheels logo would undergo a simple change. The logo was made skinnier, and the red color was made much darker. The wordmark stayed largely the same, but the formation of the letters changed slightly because of the shape of the red flame. The pointed tip at the bottom right of the logo no longer existed; it was replaced by an edge that we only see on this version of the logo.
2010 – 2014 – present
Hot Wheels would go back to its previous logo designs after 2010. The movement of the red flame returned, and a basic yellow replaced the yellow-white gradient of the wordmark. A slight change was added on in 2014, which isn’t really noticeable. The trademark ™ sign was replaced by the registered trademark sign ®. Everything else pretty much stayed the same, which essentially reflects the state of the company. Mattel’s Hot Wheels continue to dominate the industry, creating memorable toys to go with millions of family memories. Hot Wheels cars aren't going anywhere, and the brand logo is set to be remembered by many in the past and many in the future.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith