Hot Wheels Legends Tour: Little Cars, Big Dreams

For many, the love of cars started with Hot Wheels; the Hot Wheels Legends Tour it life as builders vie for the chance to have their creation added to the permanent collection

The Hot Wheels Legends Tour Dallas Winner, A De Tomaso Pantera. Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz
The Hot Wheels Legends Tour Dallas winner, a De Tomaso Pantera. Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

The ultimate fan-fest delights the kid in all of us.

The chance to see our favorite toys come to life, the Hot Wheels cars we dreamed of in childhood now made of metal and roaring engines is a car fan’s dream come true.

And for those builders and creators who dream of having their creations immortalized as a Hot Wheels model is the ultimate prize. But that’s what the Hot Wheels Legends Tour is all about: Inviting car builders and modifiers to compete to be one of a few to have their custom builds preserved as a small scale replica and sold along side all other Hot Wheels models.

Hot Wheels 69 Camaro

Hot Wheels 69 Camaro. Photo: Hot Wheels

This is Where Car Dreams Began

Many have been dreaming of a world of life-size Hot Wheels since that first dark blue custom Camaro rolled off the line in 1968, a miniature toy car in vibrant colors with detailed designs and innovative features. Hot Wheels set the toy world on fire. And it isn’t just kids who were captivated with the miniature marvels; collecting them became a craze among adults as well.

Introducing new models has been a constant for Hot Wheels. Early designs include the Twin Mill, the Red Baron, and the Snake and Mongoose drag racing duo. The cars not only look incredible but perform exceptionally well on Hot Wheels tracks, adding an exciting element of racing to the playtime experience. The brand’s success has led to countless special editions, collaborations with automotive companies, and a dedicated collector’s community.

In its sixth year, the Hot Wheels Legends Tour brings car culture to life while searching for the next top model. The Tour is making stops in several states before the Grand Finale Livestream event on November 11th that will announce which build will be worthy of being immortalized as a 1:64th scale Hot Wheels die-cast vehicle. More than 10,000 cars are expected to compete in 2023.

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Car Wrap On The Batgirl Jeep. Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

Car wrap on the Batgirl Jeep. Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

Hot Wheels: an American Cultural Icon

The Hot Wheels Tour will narrow down the thousands of entries to a single custom car build to be inducted into the Hot Wheels Garage of Legends and built as a die-cast model and sold around the world. Past winners include one-of-a-kind creations with one thing in common: they all are unmistakably Hot Wheels, extreme and exotic iterations of road-going cars.

Previous champions include 2 Jet Z (2018), 1957 Nash Metropolitan (2019), 1970 Pontiac Trans Am (2020), 1969 Volvo P1800 Gasser (2021) and the “Texas Toot,” an ultra-custom 1992 Autozam Scrum micro truck (2022).

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Replica Of A Hot Wheels Volkswagen Surfer Van. Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

Replica of a Hot Wheels Volkswagen Surfer Van. Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

I was a fan and judge at the Hot Wheels Legends Tour

Stepping into the vibrant world of Hot Wheels as a judge at the Dallas event was almost like walking through a portal and into a miniature universe buzzing with car excitement and passion.

At the Legend Tour’s sixth stop in Dallas, fans and builders arrived early excited for a morning of innovation and ideas. As a judge, I felt an immediate rush of nostalgia, surrounded by a sea of colorful Hot Wheel cars and dedicated collectors. The air was filled with the scent of rubber tires and buzzing conversations about the creativity and craft that went into each build.

A builder approached me and could not contain his excitement as he pulled a bag out of his pocket and showed me a well-loved Hot Wheel beach van complete with removable surfboards. I looked up to find we were standing next to his own creation inspired by his childhood toy.

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&Quot;Burning Rubber&Quot; On A Miata 'Car Camper.' Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

“Burning Rubber” on a Miata ‘car camper.’ Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

To Be Part of the Hot Wheels Legends Tour Community Is an Honor

Walking among the rows and rows of custom creations, my first task was to evaluate the design and craftsmanship of these life-size wonders. Each car, like its owner, had a unique personality, from sleek and polished to rugged and customized. I looked at creativity, paint, decals, and intricate details.

The camaraderie among the participants was heartwarming. The dedication and hours they have poured into their cars were astonishing. The stories I heard throughout the day were as delightful as the cars themselves. The owners shared tips, engaged in friendly banter, and had pictures to share of the process of their build. Despite the competition, there was an unmistakable sense of community, a shared love for these wonders that transcended age or background.

@Itslifeofannie With Her Prized Nissan 350Z. Photo: Tabatha Chavonetz

@ItslifeofAnnie with her prized Nissan GT-R. Photo: Tabatha Chavonetz

The Tough Part: Choosing the Winner

As the morning rolled into noon, it was time for the judges to convene and deliberate. We all agreed on one thing: it felt next to impossible to have to choose just one winner.

Finally, after a tie-breaking vote, the winner was announced: a restored 1971 De Tomaso Pantera. This was a 14-year project of passion, from what the owner called a “rust-bucket” to a custom wide-body masterpiece. Seeing the joy of the winner Dave’s face and the admiration from fellow collectors was truly rewarding.

But stay tuned; the contest is far from over. There are stops in Phoenix and Los Angeles before the winner is named on November 11th. I, along with millions of others, look forward seeing the finalists, among them the Pantera, at the Hot Wheels Legends Tour Semi-Finals on November 2nd, which will also be live streamed.

The Hot Wheels Legends Tour Dallas Winner, A De Tomaso Pantera. Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

The Hot Wheels Legends Tour Dallas winner, a De Tomaso Pantera. Photo: Tabatha Chovanetz

At the end of the day, I left with this…

This event proved to be about so much more than evaluating cars. It was about being a part of a community that celebrated the art of cars, the thrill of competition, and the Hot Wheels brand. Hot Wheels are more than just a toy; they symbolize imagination, innovation, and endless possibilities, leaving a permanent mark on the hearts of generations. Hot Wheels reminds us that sometimes, even the smallest things can drive the biggest passions.

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I teach 6th grade social studies, travel the world in the summer, write auto/moto news between grading papers and... More about Tabatha Chovanetz