------------ From my point of view!
VIII - January 1999
by Dot Lang
This article was originally written in 1991 and first published in the Olympic Classic Thunderbird Club newsletter, "Northwest Wind" in May of 1991. I have revised it several times since as new information became available. This is the latest revision. There are some links to pictures highlighted within the article.----Dot
Mattel has now issued 6 basic models of the '57 T'Bird since the start of their Hot Wheels line in 1968. The first model appeared in 1969, the second appeared in 1978 and the third in 1988. . A fourth model of the '57 was acquired from Corgi and used during 1996-1997 as an addition to the basic line. The fifth mold was added after a takeover of the Tyco Toy Co and the 6th mold is in their Matchbox series, not the Hot Wheels series. Another model was tried of a composite 55/56 in a "micro" size but only issued once , in 1989.
The first model (#6252) appeared in 1969 with a "racing," aerodynamic headrest behind the driver's seat (much like the "Battle Bird"), grey or white(cream) interior, convertible style, opening hood with detailed, non-stock engine and various metal flake colors such as light blue, blue, teal, green, olive, orange, yellow, pink, magenta, red, purple, & brown (21 metallic colors may be possible to find). The tires have a red line around the sides and thus this model is referred to as a "red line." A mold date of 1968 appears on the bottom of the car. It is in 1/64 scale and was made in the U.S.A.
The second mold was copyrighted in 1977. This model is also 1/64 scale. It first came out with a porthole hardtop which was discontinued by 1983. Apparently the only colors found with the porthole hardtop are the #2013 in white or yellow with red & blue racing stripes,and a red metallic; all made in Hong Kong. In 1982, a modification was made to the mold - the porthole was eliminated. A datee of 1981 appears on the bottom of some of the cars issued: the yellow with red & blue racing stripes and a cranberry metallic - both made in Malaysia. These are the only two colors that I have been able to locate that used this mold date. Colors produced from 1983 to 1999 have used the 1977 date on the chassis. In 1990 Mattel started using more plastic in the cars. The "gold" metal-turned-look models have a plastic body and a metal chassis. Other cars are die-cast bodies with grey or chromed plastic chassis.
In 1998, to commemorate Hot Wheels 30th Anniversary, the porthole model was brought back into the lineup with a chromed chassis and made in "China." Then, at the beginning of year 2000, Mattel made another change to the model. The chassis was updated and given a 1998 mold date and made in China label.
The third mold was produced in 1988 as a four inch die-cast car with friction action and chrome racing engine sticking up through the hood. The package (#2415) calls them Hot Wheels "Giants," "Action Racers." They were made in China by ARCO, a division of Mattel. Their appearance on the market was limited as I found them only at one store for a short span of time. Two colors were available: 1) black with yellow stripe along sides and the word " '57 " in yellow and blue on sides and hood; & 2) light blue with purple, red & blue stripes (click on picture for larger view) on side & hood. In May of 1991, another color surfaced: as package #2441 - a color changer that changed fromm purple to blue to white. It had green and yellow graphics. It did not have the friction mechanism of the other two.
The fourth mold is an acquired mold from Corgi. Mattel started using this mold in 1995 or '96 as the first cars using this mold appeared during the Christmas shopping season in 1996. It is a convertible (topless) with a continental kit and the hood opens to reveal a plastic engine with a chromed aircleaner. The rest of the engine is usually the same color as the interior of the car. In some of the special editions using this mold, the engine has been detailed.
In the year 1999, Mattel introduced a 5th mold of the 57 Thunderbird to their line-up - this time as a slot car. This is actually the old Tyco Co. mold. So far, it has come out in 3 colors, yellow, 2-tone green with silver fairlane stripe, and now, metallic red. It has not been particularily easy to find so look for this slot car model to increase in value.
Mattel is also using a 6th mold of the '57 Thunderbird but not in their Hot Wheels line-up. This mold was acquired when Mattel purchased Matchbox in 1997. It is still just used in the Matchbox line.
There is another mold but I felt that it shouldn't be counted as it only appeared once on the market and is a 55/56 model, not a 57. Mattel tried to enter the micro market in 1989 with their "Micro Night Burners" series. A classic t-bird was offered in this series that was turquoise. It had a "light" button in the top and two holes in the front and two in the rear that light-up when the button is pressed. The battery in mine still works after 20 years! 2-pac pkg #7629-G1.
Update: In 2003, Mattel finally produced a 1/18th scale 1957 Ford Thunderbird - their 7th mold of the 1957 Thunderbird. It's in their Pro-Street series and came in 3 different color set ups - red with white hardtop, blue with blue hardtop and in 2004, black with no hardtop. The cars were set up to look like drag-racing T-birds - engines sticking out of hood, larger rearr wheels, and wheelie bars.
To view the other articles in this series click below:
I'm always looking for more information on the Thunderbird model.
©1998-2009 Dot Lang