Man, I had a brilliant idea for a new Diecast 101. “What are the Treasure Hunts for the Other Diecast Brands?” Turns out it was so brilliant that BLAZINACE already wrote it over a year and a half ago. Damn. Enjoy.
The Chase Car, that is, a limited edition model shipped among regular cars at random, is one of the oldest tricks in the Diecast manufacturer's handbook. The concept is simple; tool up a more detailed model, add rubber tires, special paint and insert at random on your basic line cases, and the chance of finding a car that costs the same as a regular release at the store, but holds a much higher value later on, will drive collector interest through the roof.
With the exception of Matchbox and Tomica, every major small scale diecast manufacturer has or has had at one point their own chase cars and, since diecast seems to be all I talk about this week, I thought a small guide of what to look for could come in handy for those interested.
Hot Wheels practically invented the Chase Car with the release of their Treasure Hunt line back in 1995. These limited edition cars were chosen among collector's facorites and would receive a nice set of Real Riders, special paint and com packaged in a green striped package. The Green Stripe would go on to cause a massive commotion later on, with "true collectors" claiming it made Treasure Hunts too easy to be spotted by "non-collectors" AKA Scalpers, who would scoop as many as they could and sell them on ebay at inflated prices. Mattel reacted in 2007 by dividing their line into two tiers, regulars, with plastic wheels and regular paint, and Supers, with rubber tires and Spectraflame, and again one or two years ago, by eliminating the line and inserting hidden "superized" versions of regular mainline cars. Nowadays, they still come in two tiers, Regulars, clearly aimed at children, are regular release cars marked by a small flame logo and no non-chase versions exist, and Supers, which aren't marked at all, feature the better paint and rubber tires, with non-chase versions also available.
Johnny Lightning was the second to buy into the Chase concept when they released their White Lightnings. Originally sold as a separate line only through specialized Hobby stores, WLs featured flat white body paint, tires and chassis, and came in a distinctive packaging. Once the concept proved popular with collectors, they were moved to the regular line, and both chase and non chase versions coexisted. The typical White Lightning would come in an unmarked package and would feature two or three items in the distinctive white paint. Even the plastic interiors and engines, usually not visible without opening the car, counted, which made these a lot harder to spot on the fly if you didn't know what to look for. Later on, JL Released even more limited editions, called Lightning Strikes, which worked much in the same way, but replaced the white paint for matching body and tires in high impact colors, such as flat pink and blue. It was the popularity of White Lightnings that led Mattel to change their Treasure Hunt line to what it is, despite the clear divide in opinion among collectors.
Greenlight's chase cars, called Green Machines, follow the White Lightning model almost to a fault, with the only difference being the use of emerald green paint instead of white. While this particular shade of green is reserved for Green Machines, it hasn't stopped Greenligh from issuing regular cars in green, which always seems to cause some confusion when those get the Green Machine treatment. GMs are, as far as I know, the only chase units to feature the production numbers on the bottom, allowing collectors to calculate how many of each exist (usually 2% of a model's run). Greenlight issues Green Machines of both their standard lines and budget-priced Motor World line
While M2 Machines never named their chase cars with anything fancier than "chases", they're definitely some of the fanciest models out there, usually distinguished by golden features where one would usually see chrome, or chrome paint where one would usually see body paint.
Auto World, despite being new to the market, already has two types of Chase cars available. The first one, most common, is called Ultra Red and, much like White Lightnings and Green Machines, these are regular models painted in a distinctive shade of candy red. The second type of Chase is called UltraRAW, and features completely unpainted cars, though the Tampo prints are still present. Both Ultra Reds and UltraRAWs are available on all three of Auto World's lines, Deluxe, Premium and Licensed Premium.