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History 400 – Hot Wheels M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Hauler Prototype
There are several M.U.S.C.L.E. items that collectors would likely categorize as rare. However there is only one M.U.S.C.L.E. item that can be 100% authenticated as a prototype M.U.S.C.L.E. item – the Hot Wheels M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Hauler.
The Hot Wheels HiWay Hauler debuted as part of a collection called Workhorses. The collection began in 1980 and was discontinued in 1989. This collection consisted of heavy duty vehicles: dump trucks, bulldozers, cement mixers, etc. One of the vehicles in the collection was a semi-trailer tractor or tractor-trailer called the HiWay Hauler.
The HiWay Hauler was created by Larry Wood, who is often credited with creating more Hot Wheels cars than any other designer. The original HiWay Hauler actually outlived the Workhorses collection and continued to be released until 1991. In 1992 Larry Wood redesigned the HiWay Hauler which continues to be released (as of 2009).
There are 12 different production versions of the original HiWay Hauler.
1980 – North American Van Lines
1982 – Pennzoil
1983 – Mountain Dew
1984 – Mayflower
1985 – Hot Wheels Racing Team
1986 – Masters of the Universe
1987 – Goodyear
1988 – NASA
1989 – Pepsi
1990 – OP, Ocean Pacific Delivery
1991 – Goodyear
1991 – Wal-Mart
Original Pictures From: Hot Wheels Wikia
A Hot Wheels completionist collector may disagree with the number of trucks counted. There are several variations to each of the trucks (i.e., small logos vs. big logos), so the total number of actual production trucks using the original Hauler design could be closer to approximately 20 vehicles.
There are also 3 infamous prototype versions of the HiWay Hauler. There is an alternate version of the Mountain Dew Hauler, a Bob’s Big Boy version, and the M.U.S.C.L.E. version.
There are two main explanations often given for the M.U.S.C.L.E. Hauler not making it to production: (1) “legal” issues; and (2) the small lettering of “Millions of Unusual Creatures Lurking Everywhere” was too small for the tampo to handle.
The legal issue seems to be an odd reason. Mattel owned both Hot Wheels and M.U.S.C.L.E. Plus Mattel was able to produce a Hot Wheels HiWay Hauler using their Masters of the Universe brand. The only feasible “legal” explanation could be Bandai prohibited Mattel from creating M.U.S.C.L.E. product outside of the legal agreement. For example, Mattel was authorized to sell M.U.S.C.L.E./Kinnikuman figures, games, and wrestling related products. But using the M.U.S.C.L.E. brand on a toy car was outside of the agreement, which could have led to a breach of contract. Even if the Mattel lawyers saw the issue as a “gray area,” it seems reasonable to assume the idea would have been scrapped. It is unlikely that Mattel wanted to risk the time, effort, and resources on a flanker brand like M.U.S.C.L.E.
The tampo issue seems equally odd. Mattel was able to produce the Pennzoil logo without any problems. This logo was done at least three or four years before the M.U.S.C.L.E. hauler needed to be created, and seems to have equally delicate writing.
Mattel seemed to release a HiWay Hauler yearly, so the true reason for its non-release could be as simple as the Hot Wheels team deciding that Masters of the Universe was a more enticing brand for the Hauler. Based on the overwhelming popularity of Masters of the Universe, even today, this would have been an easy decision.
A M.U.S.C.L.E. collector could likely make a valid argument that M.U.S.C.L.E. would have been a better choice for 1987 instead of Goodyear. Unfortunately, Mattel’s handling of M.U.S.C.L.E. in 1987 suggests that it would not be given great support. While the M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Hauler might have helped M.U.S.C.L.E. it would not have been as appealing to car-loving Hot Wheels collectors. Again, not choosing M.U.S.C.L.E. would have been an easy choice in 1987.
The actual number of M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Haulers is often debated among both Hot Wheels and M.U.S.C.L.E. collectors. The general consensus seems to put the actual number at three M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Haulers. For a period of time a M.U.S.C.L.E. collector, Dr. Frankenstein, owned a copy of the M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Hauler.
In April of 2004 Dr. Frankenstein’s father, a Hot Wheels collector, offered another collector $1300 for the prototype Hauler. While the current owner declined new pictures of the M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Hauler suddenly became available.
The excitement from the possible inclusion of the M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Hauler encouraged a practical joke at LittleRubberGuys.com which gave way to the first M.U.S.C.L.E. Hiway Hauler in the community. Other customs started to appear, and even a custom using the new HiWay Hauler design appeared. One example of instructions for creating a custom HiWay Hauler can be seen at Rare MUSCLE Stuff, although there are many ways to customize the Hauler.
Approximately one year after the refusal of the $1300 from Dr. Frankenstein’s father he made another offer. He offered a mint condition Magenta Evil Weevil.
The other person agreed and Dr. Frankenstein and his father finally owned the M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay hauler. Below are some pictures the father and son shared:
In 2008, Dr. Frankenstein sold the M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Hauler to a Hot Wheels collector. All of the M.U.S.C.L.E. HiWay Haulers remain in the collections of Hot Wheels collectors.