07 June 2011
Mike Pigott takes a look at the diecast model toy range of Rumblers released by Hot Wheels. ...
Get ready to Rumble!
Toy cars with working lights are nothing new… Dinky Toys, Corgi and Spot-On all produced models as far back as the 1960s that had working head and tail lights, flashing indicators or dome lights. Moving parts aren’t new, either. Regular readers will recall the Matchbox Rola-Matics from the 1970s. And, cars with electronic sounds have been done before… the Corgi-Tronic range from the early 1980s had vehicles with working, battery-powered sirens and horns. There have even been models with a combination of these features. In the 1990s, both Matchbox and Majorette made a range of models that had two-tone sirens and flashing dome lights that were activated by pushing down on the suspension.
Surprisingly, Hot Wheels – who was usually the innovator of this type of gimmick – didn’t do any models with working lights or sounds when its competitors did. It wasn’t until 2005 that they had some cars with working lights… and these were actually McDonalds ‘Happy Meal’ premiums. They were based on models from the regular range, but had working interior lights activated by a small switch on the base.
It wasn’t until 2007 that Hot Wheels brought out a range with working lights, but they went one better than previous efforts, and added sound effects and moving parts. Of course, technology had moved on quite considerably, and these models featured several bright LED lights inside them. The sounds were more than simple two-tone horns; each vehicle had a sound chip which could make realistic engine sounds, sirens or even music. Some cars could make more than one noise, playing a sequence of different sounds.
Hot Wheels – never a company to let a good trademark go to waste – named this range ‘Rumblers’. This re-used the name of the early 1970s ‘Rrrumblers’, a nice range of wild 1/32 scale motorcycles (although now spelt with only one ‘R’).
As we said, each Rumbler had three working features: lights, sounds and moving parts. The part that lit up was not the headlights, nor the windows, which were all opaque. Instead, each car had translucent body parts in coloured plastic that were lit up by concealed LEDs. The rear wheels were also in clear, coloured plastic and were lit up from behind. These clear components, which were mostly huge engines, also rocked from side to side as the vehicle rolled along. However, this function could be turned off using a switch on the underside, presumably to make the car run faster on Hot Wheels track.
The lights and sounds were activated not by a switch, but by turning the rear wheels. The sound feature is quite interesting. If you turn the wheels once, you will get a single blast of sound for about five seconds. However, if you continue spinning the wheels, or roll the car a longer distance, some will give you a sequence of different noises. For example, the police car, Siren Blaster, begins with the sounds of an engine starting up, then revving, next you hear the screech of tyres, and finally a realistic police siren.
There were four Rumblers released in 2007, followed by four more in 2008. Each is powered by three tiny watch batteries, and these can be replaced by unscrewing a compartment on the base. All Rumblers, except the first two, have wheels completely unique to that model...