The following article was originally published in the June 1, 2001 issue of Toy Shop magazine and is reprinted with permission. For more information about Toy Shop magazine, visit our web site at or call 800-258-0929.

BOMBS AWAY! How Will 'Custom' Rear-Loaded Beach Bombs Affect Hot Wheels' Most Coveted Casting?

May 21, 2001

Sharon Korbeck

"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 hobby.

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 Brook, Ill.

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 colors.

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 "customs?"

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 them in."

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 forgery."

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 customs.

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
For more information about original rear-loaded Beach Bombs, visit the reference site

Sharon Korbeck is editorial director of Toy Shop magazine.