At first glance, Bruce Pascal looks exactly like what he is: a respectable middle-aged commercial real-estate agent with a wife and family. But get him started on the subject of Hot Wheels and you can almost see the years peel away to reveal the little boy in a man’s body who hasn’t outgrown his love of the cars since they first roared into his life in 1968 when he was 7. His contagious smile and affability serve him well as one of the hobby’s foremost goodwill ambassadors.
Bruce Pascal poses with orange Ferrari P917 Hot Wheels and prototype Hot Wheel molds
Pascal is legendary as the chap who, in 2000, paid big bucks for a Rear Loading Beach Bomb—an RLBB in Hot Wheels vernacular—that had surfaced from a former Mattel employee’s collection. Both the find and the purchase price—undisclosed, but the asking price was $72,000—sent shock waves through the die-cast collecting community because this wasn’t just any Hot Wheels car: It was a rare prototype, never mass-produced because it was too narrow to work with a popular accessory, the Super-Charger, and had to be reconfigured in a wider design.
And not only was it a holy relic from Hot Wheels’ formative years, it was pink, which for collectors is like manna from heaven. Plus, it looked bran-span-new, with nary a ding betraying the rigors of testing it undoubtedly endured.
Pascal spoke to WorthPoint from his home in Potomac, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C., about his abiding passion for Hot Wheels.
How long have you collected Hot Wheels?
For 40 years, with a big gap in the middle. First from 1968 to about 1972, then from around 1999 till today.
Was it the intrigue over the pink Rear Loading Beach Bomb that rekindled your interest?
Yes. Every hobby has its king, and the RLBB had established itself as the ultimate Hot Wheels. And with very few trading hands, it was clearly on my list. When a pink one was for sale—and, at that time, the only one known in that color, then bingo, I felt it was the car for me to get.
The legendary pink Rear Loading Beach Bomb prototype
The obvious question: It’s just a toy car. Why pay so much for it?
Let me tell you the whole story. In late 1999, I read in article about a pink RLBB that been sold by Chris Marshall of Ohio for the record sum of $72,000. Understanding $72,000 was a lot of money, I thought to myself that if you compare that amount to other record-selling collectibles, then maybe it wasn’t such a high number after all. For example, the 1804 silver dollar, just a coin, sold for over two million. The Honus Wagner baseball card, an original penny item, sold for over one million. And look at all the paintings and sports cars selling in the millions. Hmm, maybe not so bad. But too late for me—it had been reported sold by the paper.
One month later, reading a different newspaper, I saw the same article, but with a different ending. That article said the deal should close soon. I knew something was fishy. I then tried to locate Chris Marshall, with no luck. So I tracked down the newspaper author, and he hooked me up with him. Wouldn’t you guess, the buyer had second thoughts, and after putting a deposit down, he still had not come up with the funds.
Chris and I negotiated a deal over the next few months. I was able to apply the down payment the other person had put down and negotiate a price that I was comfortable with. It was clearly a new record for a toy like this, but I had confidence the die-cast hobby for Hot Wheels would grow, and years later, I would look back to this purchase as a smart move.
Chris flew in from Ohio and gave me the car, and I gave him the check. He had a great sense of humor, too. I unwrapped the car and noticed he put a fake car in the tube. After my small heart attack, he handed me the real deal, and I have owned it since then.
Preproduction prototype Red Baron
Preproduction prototype Twin Mill (photos courtesy Bruce Pascal)
You’re never going to say how much you paid for it, are you?
Well, the seller and I signed a confidentiality agreement. He bought a Viper for cash afterwards back in 2000, though, so that gives you a clue!
The car’s had some pretty good exposure, hasn’t it?
A few years ago, I loaned it to the Petersen Automotive Museum in L.A. As one of the best automotive museums in the United States, I felt safe with it there, and it was seen by hundreds of thousands of people. The display was amazing. I have also shown it at automobile shows and Hot Wheels conventions. When not shown, it is kept in a locked vault at a hidden location. If asked and I am comfortable with security, I will take it to shows and allow people to photograph it with them holding it in a clear case.
You were lucky enough to find another rare pink RLBB, too.
Yes. A few years after I got the first RLBB, I was doing an interview with a former Mattel employee who said he thought he still had one of those models somewhere in his house. I called him four months in a row, and he never found the car. The fifth month, his wife answered, and she said she knew where it was. Bingo! And it was pink! I got it and sold it two years later for $55,000.
How many Hot Wheels total are in your collection?
Today, the collection includes about 5,000 cars. First are my favorites: about 120 Redline prototype cars. Then about 80 Japan boxed cars—the complete series, which took years to finish. Next, slightly over 1,000 additional Redlines and about 3,800 Blackwall-era cars.
Do you have any personal favorites?
My favorite cars are the design and development prototypes. Included in this category was a test car to see if a gasoline engine could be made small enough to put in a Hot Wheels car, a prototype of a car that makes noise as it rolls down a track. Or the cars with actual steering mechanisms added. Another favorite is production-testing cars with the entire chassis and base in clear plastic. They are exceedingly rare and hard to find.
Gasoline-powered Hot Wheels prototype (courtesy Bruce Pascal)
You have a lot of behind-the-scenes production items, as well.
Right. I have over 40 pieces of original early items that directly relate to the making of an actual Hot Wheels, such as the mock-up model used to show [Mattel co-founder] Elliot Handler the Custom Fleetside in 1968. Also, I have about 2,000 sheets of paper directly related to Hot Wheels production. These include original sketches from Hot Wheel designers Larry Wood, Harry Bradley, Paul Tam and others. Also the plans used for engineers to create the molds used in production.
Besides cars, what other paraphernalia is in your Hot Wheels collection?
Well, I’ve got perhaps 200-plus pieces of Hot Wheels memorabilia, from Jack in the Box restaurant cups, to watches, to Halloween costumes. Other paraphernalia includes original posters and gas-station banners promoting Hot Wheels giveaways, original proof-production labels for Hot Wheels products designed by [Mattel illustrator] Otto Kuhni from the late ’60s and early ’70s, along with original artwork by him. Also, some display stands. This category is the most fun to collect and harder to find than most Hot Wheels.
Hot Wheels Halloween costumes (courtesy Bruce Pascal)
Have you come across any rare Hot Wheels finds in 2008?
My best find included a clear interior Hot Wheels Redline Whip Creamer that had no side vents on the car. That means it was one of the earliest versions made before the mold was changed to add a new feature. I love getting a car that is different from all the others.
Your grandfather, Leo Pascal, was a legendary transportation historian at the National Archives from 1937-1962, and your parents are curators of the automobilia collection he started. How did this influence your mania for collecting?
No question, growing up in a house of automobilia collectors influenced me greatly. My father would show me toy cars made in Germany from 1918, plastic toys made in America in the 1950s and ’60s, and seeing hundreds of other car- related items made me see the value in being a collector. It is not just about having the items on your shelf. It is also the friends you make in the hobby, the places you traveled to buy an item and the history you learn about a piece. Collecting can be a great total experience.
See more of Bruce Pascal’s Hot Wheels collection at Redlineprotos.com.
Kevin Cook, a WorthPoint contributor, is still kicking himself for blowing up and setting fire to his first Hot Wheels cars.
Other stories by Kevin Cook:
Monster Mash discs: Graveyard Smash
The Truth Is Out There: X-Files Collectibles
Hot Wheels—Still Blazing at 40
Collecting Calendars: Fun New Year After New Year
WorthPoint—Get the Most from Your Antiques & Collectibles