"No one will ever be able to buy a rear-loaded Beach Bomb
again with confidence."
That's the impact one well-known collector feels some new
"custom" Beach Bombs will have on the Hot Wheels collecting
And although that particular collector requested anonymity, he did
admit he shelled out $500 to buy one of the custom rear-loaded Beach
Bombs made by Bright Vision of Murietta, Calif.
Bright Vision debuted the cars at the Hot Wheels Collectors Nationals
in April, and, according to company CEO Chris Meglio, they sold out of
40 "customized rear loaders" in 10 hours. Each retailed for
$400 to $600 each.
Rear-loaded Beach Bombs are generally considered the Holy Grail of
Mattel's Hot Wheels, with only 26 documented authentic examples in
existence. Prices regularly hit five figures for prime examples.
Although companies and individuals have been customizing Hot Wheels
cars for years, the Bright Vision Beach Bombs have come under
collector scrutiny recently for one reason — they're incredibly well
done. Some collectors have said these customs are nearly
indistinguishable from the originals.
"I looked at it and I said, ‘That is unbelievable,'" said
Bruce Pascal, a Maryland collector of Hot Wheels prototypes and
rarities. (In 2000, Pascal purchased a rare pink rear-loaded Beach
Bomb prototype for more than $70,000.)
"The first glance could probably fool people, [but] side by side
you can tell the difference," said Pascal, who purchased one of
the customs at the recent Hot Wheels Collectors Nationals in Oak
Illinois collector Brian Steder agreed. "As far as the casting
and the base, it's really hard to tell. Everything just seemed to be
‘right,' " he said. Steder, who has a collection of about 200
redline Hot Wheels, purchased an antifreeze Bright Vision Beach Bomb.
"It is one of my favorite castings, [and] I can't afford an
original," he said.
Steder said he's glad Bright Vision is making the custom cars because
collectors who otherwise can't find or afford an original rear-boarded
Beach Bomb can now add that coveted casting to their collections.
Likewise, Pascal said, "It offers an opportunity for 98 percent
of the collectors to put something on their shelf."
Mike Strauss, promoter of the Nationals and owner of nine original
rear-loaded Beach Bombs, said he didn't purchase any of the Bright
Vision cars, although he admitted the customs look "very, very
close" to the originals.
Although Strauss said he doesn't think Bright Vision deceives buyers,
he believes some buyers could be duped by others who may sell the
customs on the secondary market.
"I fear that's going to happen," he said.
Steder added, "I'm sure there's going to be a few guys trying to
pass them off as originals."
Since both Pascal and Strauss own valuable original Hot Wheels
rear-loaded Beach Bombs, are they concerned that values on the
originals will be lessened?
Pascal said, "It's going to hurt the lower-end ones (rear-loaded
originals)." But, he added, serious bidders who follow the hobby
will know who owns the originals. That provenance will keep the value
of the originals intact, he believes.
Meglio is proud of the custom rear loaders, especially with the degree
of accuracy. And while he admitted that the customs are "very,
very close" to the originals, he said, "A seasoned collector
could tell the difference.
"To us, the differences stick out like a sore thumb," Meglio
said. "The most obvious thing is the paint. You can tell this is
not lead-based paint."
How do they do it?
"We did not find some old mold," Meglio said. "We take
authentic side-loaders and turn them into rear-loaders. We have to
tool down the tops and carve down the bases," Meglio said. Zinc
is reapplied, and cars are also custom painted in incredibly accurate
Meglio said it takes about two weeks to make one custom rear-loader.
Why didn't Bright Vision mark the vehicles, which are sold loose, as
The quality of the custom surprised even Meglio. "We didn't think
it would be this close. We thought we'd sell two," he added.
Flattered that his product came out so well, Meglio admitted that some
people who buy his cars may try to resell them as originals.
Meglio, a collector himself, said, "We've told people we sell to
‘Please don't misrepresent these.' If we caught someone, we'd turn
He added that Bright Vision monitors eBay daily to check for such
fraud and that he hasn't heard of anyone getting duped.
While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, how does Mattel
feel about the Bright Vision customs?
Michael Kollins, a Mattel Hot Wheels designer who attended the
Nationals, said, "I've only heard about [the Bright Vision
cars]," but added, "If they are indistinguishable, that is
clearly against the law."
Strauss concurred. "If you do it with stamps, it's a
Pascal said, "I have a feeling if Mattel knew about it, they
might shut them down."
Whether collectors or Bright Vision agree or disagree on the impact of
the customs into the hobby, they all agree on one thing. There is
already a clear secondary market for the customs.
Just two weeks after the Nationals, one collector was seen at the Kane
County Antique Toy and Doll Show offering $900 for one of the $500
The cars are still for sale on the Bright Vision Web site, and based
on collector interest at the show, Meglio said, "I think it's put
excitement back into the hobby."
For more information on Bright Vision custom rear-loaded Beach
Bombs, call (909) 698-1550 or visit their Web site at www.brightvision.com.
For more information about original rear-loaded Beach Bombs, visit the
reference site www.hwprotos.com.
Korbeck is editorial director of Toy Shop magazine.