A collection is “an accumulation of objects gathered for exhibition or as a hobby,” but for Bruce Pascal, it’s both because he turned his hobby of collecting Hot Wheels cars into a private Hot Wheels museum.
Pascal got his first Hot Wheel in 1968, the same year Mattel introduced the toy cars, but it wasn’t until 1999 that the official “collecting” began. That’s when his mom gave him back his childhood toy cars (which should be a lesson to all parents not to throw toys away).
“Nothing is better than collecting something you have a connection with,” Pascal said. “And the fact I’m collecting my childhood toys is kind of fun.”
Pascal’s collection has since grown to include over 5,000 Hot Wheels, plus 500 unique items like prototypes, and over 2,000 paper items, like original artwork, blueprints (including the original blueprint for Mattel’s 1968 Corvette), and internal Mattel documents, all housed museum-style in a warehouse in Gaithersburg, Maryland.
“The collection outgrew my house, and my wife didn’t enjoy weird people (what she refers to us collectors as) coming to the house,” Pascal told me. “She asked me to find a small place, and because she didn’t say what ‘small’ was I bought a 4,000-square-foot warehouse – larger than our house.”
It’s a good thing he’s got all that space because, in addition to thousands of mini Hot Wheels cars, Pascal’s collection also includes a full-size lavender 1913 Model named “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster.”
Mattel used the roadster as inspiration for a Hot Wheel called “The Hot Heap” – and of course, Pascal has a Hot Wheels Hot Heap car on display in a case next to its inspiration.
So, what’s the rarest item in the museum? That’s the pink prototype of the Volkswagen “Beach Bomb” (which also happens to be Pascal’s favorite).
“They discovered it fell down off the tracks, so they decided to re-engineer it and sell a different version to the public,” Pascal explains. “So, this is the prototype; it’s considered the rarest Hot Wheel in the world.”
As with any collectible, sometimes acquiring rare items results from a happy accident, and that’s what happened with this hot pink beauty. Pascal told me that the prototype was part of a collection belonging to a former Mattel employee. The guy who bought it advertised in a full-page ad in 1999 and had a deal to sell it, but the deal fell through, so Pascal “jumped in to get it.”
Pascal says he finds items for his collection on eBay and at collector shows. Plus, he says, sometimes people looking to sell their collections find him online, so if you have Hot Wheels gathering dust in your attic or garage, there may be a home for them in the museum.
“Kids come here with their case of cars and want to trade with me,” he says. “I always have fun – and any kid who leaves always leaves with a few Hot Wheels.”
The Hot Wheels museum is not open to the public; however, Pascal will occasionally open on Sunday afternoons so kids (and kids at heart) can stop by. Just be sure to email [email protected] on Saturday to make sure he’s available to unlock the door.
Did you know Mattel is building a theme park in Arizona, complete with the Hot Wheels-themed Bone Shaker coaster? Click here to find out more.