Car Tunerz


Tonight's guest review is from Kevin Apgar, and covers an area that just doesn't get enough reviews around here - die cast cars!  It's all your's, Kevin...

How long has it been since I’ve bought a toy car? Not since I was a kid and my brother and I would use his old Hot Wheels City playsets. Once in a while, though, I do find myself in the Hot Wheels/Matchbox aisle at a local store mostly as a study in human psychology. Those toy car collectors are more rabid than any Star Wars toy collector I’ve ever seen. And they come in all ages, too. My local Target will usually have two or three guys that are at least sixty years old waiting outside the main entrance for the employees to open the starting gates at which time they hightail it at speeds that would make Mario Andretti cringe.

Well, I’ve finally found a reason for me to go to the car aisle to buy something. Hot Wheels new Car Tunerz line. The first series has four different models in including a 2000 Honda Civic Si, a 2002 Chevy S10, a 1997 Toyota Supra, and a 2002 Cadillac Escalade. The box back shows two different colors available for each model, however I have seen one extra color available on the shelf for the Civic.

I have no idea what the name Car Tunerz is supposed to mean. There are no tools to use on the toys and they are not remote control. In fact, they are pretty standard toy cars save for them being 100% plastic and over exaggerated in their proportions. I do know that these cars, as billed on the box, are supposed to be representative of “The hottest cars on today’s street scene” which, to me, translates to capitalizing on the popularity of The Fast and the Furious just in time for the sequel, 2 Fast and 2 Furious.

Packaging - ***
Very cool. There is a spinning tire in the background behind the slightly Terminator meets Metallica lettering reading “Car Tunerz” on the front of the box. The bubble is very large and makes it quite easy to see the car inside. 

The back of the card shows a close up of the specific car in the package as well as a few details about the customized version of the real deal. For example, the Supra card has bullet points on it reading “285/35 R19 Wheels” and “Twin Turbocharged 3.0L 16 VVT-I Engine” and “0-60 MPH/96KMH 2.6 Sec” among others. I guess this is there just in case you should actually have the money and cojones to street race on your own. Not sure how many parents are gonna like this. 

I did mark the score down by one star because of the near impossibility of releasing the car from the display inside the bubble. Yes, unlike normal Hot Wheels cars which are packaged loose on the card, these are twist-tied to a plastic display. Two twist-ties, in fact. There is one for each axle and it is not only attached to the display, but it is wrapped very snugly around the axle. The only way to get this twist-tie off is by wheeling it around using the tires. If you look closely at some of the pictures, you may be able to see that the tires butt up very closely to the body of the car. So you can imagine that spinning the twist-tie around is a bit of a chore.

On top of this, there are also two thin, nearly transparent rubber bands wrapped around each car holding both the wheels and the spoiler in place. I didn’t even notice these when I first opened the Civic. I thought that the thing just wouldn’t roll until I finally saw them and struggled to take them off.

In other words, no, this package is not kid friendly and parents should take the time to unwrap it all for them.

Paint - ***1/2
I can handle the paint ops. Very clean lines in the color shifts and all the logos and detailing are painted on instead of stickers being used which is becoming increasingly common these days.

The half star off is for the spoilers. While I don’t have a beef with the appearance of the spoiler on the Civic, the Supra’s spoiler looks out of place. It is a dull black finish while the rest of the black on the car is high gloss. The silver spoiler on the Civic is pretty nicely balanced with the rest of the car’s coloring. Yet a discerning eye might notice a little difference.

Sculpting - ***1/2
Again, very nice. The over exaggeration of the look of the car is really well done and not over the top. It adds a nice surrealism to the vehicles which is kinda how real street racers tend to look… a little different than your average car. The wheels are nice and big with narrow tires and huge well-sculpted rims. Air intakes on the hoods of each car are well placed. 

The half star off is again for the spoilers. Both are separate pieces instead of being permanently attached and can be removed way too easily. Once off (and likely lost by little kids), the peg holes make the car look cheap. They could have at least glued them on. Parents beware.

Accessories - ****
I figured I would leave in this category just for kicks. Yes, these are toy cars and accessories should not be a valid category. But I did dig on the pack-in sticker that each car comes with. The Civic has an orange one with a Modern Image Signworks logo on it while the Supra comes with a ToyoTires logo. Both are die-cut stickers and high gloss and would look nice on a collector’s case or on a toy-car repair kit. Ah, the little things.

Value - *
This is where these cars take a big hit. Each one cost me $2.97 at a local Wal-Mart. Considering they are nothing special in the features department – no R/C, no pull-back-and-go motor, etc. – they are not worth that much green. When you figure in the fact that real Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars range from 70 cents to a buck and are die-cast metal, then these become even less appealing. Luckily, there are only four in this first series and no word yet on new lines, so collecting them all won’t break the bank entirely. But, still and all the same. 

If you find them for $2.50 or less, add a star. 

Overall - **
I really do dig these cars despite the price. I dunno if I will actually buy the Escalade since I’m not a big SUV fan, but I will probably buy the S10 since it’s the closest the series comes to the Ranger that I personally drive. Plus it looks very similar to Brian Spillner’s (Paul Walker) Ford SVT150 Lightning that he drove in The Fast and the Furious.

So, if you like cool-looking cars, would like to see something with a bit of flair in your collection, and can do without an action figure or two this week, then check these out. 

Where to Buy - 
One again, I’m a bricks and mortar guy and I got these at Wal-Mart. I would assume that Meijer’s and Target carry them as well. You may need to weed through the throng of toy cars out there since these are not likely to take up a lot of shelf space due to a limited number of different cars available.

Update on the Name:
I've done a bit more looking into this line of toys and think I may have figured out some things about the name. Primarily, these smaller scale cars are meant to accompany a line of larger model cars (I believe 1:18 scale or something similar) that are truer to the real look of cars instead of having the over exaggeration of the mini line.  These larger scale vehicles also have interchangeable parts that you can swap out to customize (or "tune" up your car, per se) such as wheels and tires, hood, door panels, spoilers, etc.  These toys run roughly $20 each and can be found in the model car aisle at local department stores like Wal-Mart and Target.

About the Reviewer:
I’m a part-time toy collector only who loves Legos as well as the occasional Muppets or Simpsons figure. If something else out there catches my eye and I’ve got some extra cash, I may pick it up as well. I never really know.

Figure from the collection of Kevin Apgar.

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