To Star Wars and Hot Cars

By Diane Brown, IU Communications Specialist

With Christmas just days away, classes out until the New Year, and workplaces operating at holiday speed, let’s make this posting merry, short and bright. No heavy intellectual stuff to confuse minds already absorbed with last-minute shopping and trips to the post office.

Instead, let’s turn our attention to things that are grabbing the headlines: toys and movies. We can simplify that even more by focusing on hot cars and “Star Wars.”

And by hot cars, I mean life-size and pocket-size versions built by international car maker Mattel.

If you have done any shopping for children this season, you are well aware that since before Thanksgiving, The Force has been with us in terms of “Star Wars” licensed merchandise.

1977 Star Wars Shadow Box

Star Wars Shadow Box

Back in 1977, “Star Wars” had its opening weekend in 43 theaters across the USA. Only one Indianapolis theater was included in that number, according to From Script to writer Michael Coate.

Unlike 38 years ago, when that first (or fourth, depending upon your timeline) “Star Wars” adventure opened quietly as far as marketing fanfare, this latest episode, “The Force Awakens,” has blown in like a tornado in terms of the availability of licensed merchandise for sale.

Store shelves have been stocked, and consumers’ pockets emptied, by a plethora of items including 4-foot-tall Stormtrooper dolls, R2-D2 soup, Princess Leia T-shirts, Nixon watches, cereal-box droid viewers,  diecast vehicles and others.

The opening of the “Star Wars” movie has reawakened interest in the vehicle I most admire: Mattel’s life-size Darth Vader car, a tribute to the saga’s Jedi who turned to the dark side. The car was a crowd-pleaser at its first public appearance at Comic-Con 2014 in San Diego:

Mattel's Hot Wheels Darth Vader vehicle

Mattel’s Hot Wheels Darth Vader vehicle

This week’s edition of “Jay Leno’s Garage” spotlighted the Darth Car, which Leno and the car’s builder, Billy Hammon, described as a “heavily modified C-6 Corvette.”

The car’s design picks up various elements from Vader’s helmet and lightsaber, and even has the sounds of his breathing — without coming across as dopey, its makers said.

The fully functioning car was built to celebrate Mattel’s collaboration with LucasFilms, said Mattel’s senior staff designer Bryan Benedict. The 2014 Mattel-Hot Wheels partnership that has now brought us such 1:64 vehicles as the First Order Stormtrooper, and character cars playing tribute to Chewbacca, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker and others.

Star Wars character diecast vehicles

Star Wars character diecast vehicles

“The Darth Vader car is a showpiece for the line,” Benedict said. “It makes the statement of what character cars are all about.”

The extensive lineup gives weight to Benedict’s words: “We are a real powerful force in the automotive world.”

Since its display at Comic-Con, the one-of-a-kind prototype vehicle has been around the world on display in places such as Germany and Mexico.

The Hot Wheels Collectors Nationals returns to Indianapolis April 6 to 10 at the Sheraton Hotel. Tickets are now on sale for the annual Nationals, which is the largest gathering of Hot Wheels collectors outside of California.

Perhaps The Force will be with us Hoosier toy-car-lovers, and the Darth Vader vehicle will show up for that event.

Have a Happy New Year!


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