Sizzlerking: Sizzlers History


(Author's Note: This article focuses on Mattel Redline Sizzlers produced from 1970 to 1978. Although Mattel did produce spinoffs of the Sizzler line, [Chopcycles, Hot Line Trains, Earthshakers, and Light Speeders] the scope of this article does not cover them.)

In 1973, this first grader was learning what many young boys of the late '60s and early '70s already knew, Hot Wheels were the coolest, fastest toy cars around. I had a few of them by then, but a friend of mine that lived around the block from me had some cars that I had never seen before. I didn't know what they were called, but they looked like Hot Wheels. And, you could fill 'em up with a "gas pump" to keep them going 'round and 'round the track. It was kind of funny, when my friends would be messing around playing outside, and I would hang out in their basement and race those cars for hours. My dad usually had to come and physically remove me from there. I just couldn't get enough.

It turns out these cars were Sizzlers, rechargeable cars that were designed by Mattel and introduced in 1970 to supplement their Hot Wheels line. They had redline tires and 1.2 volt rechargeable batteries. Let's turn the clock back to the beginning of the story . . .

"It was 1969 and a designer at Mattel toys, George Soulakis was working on a different breed of Hot Wheels called Sizzlers. They were unique and billed to be the Worlds Fastest Electric Cars. George went to General Electric to have a special battery made for these cars and they came up with the first rechargeable Nickel Cadmium battery. These 1.2 volt batteries took a 90-second charge that would run the cars for five to seven minutes. Subsequently, Mattel developed a longer and narrower chassis that required the development of a longer and narrower battery." 1

By 1970 the Sizzlers line was ready to hit the shelves. Cars were originally packaged on a cardboard pedestal covered with a plastic box. Because these boxes were designed to store and display cars, many of them have survived in remarkable condition.

Six 1970 models were introduced:

Angelino M-70
Firebird Trans-Am
Ford Mark IV
Hot Head
Mustang Boss 302
Revvin' Heaven

They were an instant hit. These cars were painted in several different colors. Although the Hot Wheels line used the Spectraflame paint schemes, most 1970 Sizzlers models were painted with straight enamel. Spectraflame was impractical and cost prohibitive for Sizzlers to do on a mass scale. This was because the cars had to be chrome plated first, and then painted. However, there were a few exceptions. The Angelino M-70 came in chrome and green chrome, the Firebird T/A came in a pearl white (see-thru white painted over chrome) and the Ford Mark IV came in red chrome and aqua chrome. I have seen other less-common chrome color variations as well. Mattel did many interesting things with paint and color schemes.

(NOTE: The Spectraflamed/chromed Sizzlers, and their chrome inserts were extremely susceptible to flaking and deterioration. This was due to the batteries corroding and discharging fumes that ate the finish away. That is why the inserts' chrome finishes are usually flaking off or completely gone. Most of the Sizzler "Spectraflame" car finishes I have seen are severely deteriorated. It is especially difficult to find a Pearl White Firebird Trans-Am that looks nice.)

Orange strip track sets were initially available for the 1970 Sizzlers. Single or double lane oval and figure eights made up the line.

1970 Track Sets included:

Atlantic Oval Set
California/8 Race Set
Daredevil Duel Set (extremely RARE)
Laguna Oval Set
National Champ Race Set
Newport Pacer Set
Pacific/8 Race Set
U.S. 8 Set

As with the Hot Wheels line, the Sizzlers line included accessories for their track sets.

1970 Accessories included:

Single Lane Speed Brake and Esses Pak
Dual Lane Speed Brake and Esses Pak
Power Pit
Juice Machine

The Juice Machine was patterned after a '60s gas pump and seems to be the most memorable to most of those who raced Sizzlers. For Juice Machine variations, click here

The Power Pit was the ultimate Sizzlers charger. It looked like a '60s service station, and plugged into the wall. You could then turn a timer, and it would automatically charge the cars for up to 90 seconds.

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