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The first-ever Hot Wheels Legends Tour is currently making its way across the U.S. in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Mattel‘s iconic Hot Wheels brand. After kicking-off at the Hot Wheels garage in El Segundo, California back in April, this traveling car show is popping up in Walmart parking lots from coast-to-coast, and by the time it wraps back in Los Angeles on October 20th, 15 real-life cars will have been chosen to head out to the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas, where one car will be crowned champion and immortalized in diecast form as an actual mainline Hot Wheels toy car! For the Chicago date, I was invited by Mattel to serve as a guest judge, checking out the field with The Rock Daughters™ (my little Hot Wheels enthusiasts) along for the ride. It was a hot and rainy morning in Bedford Park, and while the rain may have scared away some participants, a great time was still had by kids and grownups alike, celebrating that after 50 years, Hot Wheels are no longer just a toy – but a lifestyle. At the end of the day, I had the honor of rockin’ the mic to say a few words to the hometown crowd, including the introduction of the winner of the day – Brian Bergeron and what began as a 1987 Porsche 944,  now completely redesigned for racing as the Widerstandsfahig #001-15. Check out the video below from Donut Media to see highlights from Chicago, the winning car and to hear more of Brian’s story…

Now, as for judging – that’s a tricky thing as the final decisions aren’t up to an individual, but the group as a whole. For the Chicago stop that included Hot Wheels Design Manager Dmitriy Shakhmatov and Designer Mike McClone, along with members of the automotive media, the manager of the Bedford Park Walmart, a rep from Kia Motors America, and yours truly. There’s some point-based criteria at play, but cars are a very subjective thing so it’s hard to compare cross-genre when you have hot rods and rat rods, JDM tuners, gassers, supercars and indescribable one-offs facing-off against one another. It was hard enough to choose favorites among the relatively smaller field at the rain-drenched Chicago stop, so I can only imagine how difficult it’s been in some of the cities where hundreds of cars have made the cut. Running in the background is the desire to showcase 15 cars that represent all of what Hot Wheels can be – which is different things for different people – but all in keeping with a mentality of “built not bought,” and being a model that Hot Wheels has never done before. Surprisingly, there has never been a Porsche 944 in the mix, and one customized to the level of the Widerstandsfahig certainly has not been done before.

Addie inspects the winning vehicle...

While my personal picks ranged from George Barris-inspired classics to well-worn pieces of Americana, The Rock Daughters were a bit more defined with their own tastes. In fact, each of my girls had a hands-down no-debate choice for their own favorite. For Finley, it was a metallic green hot rod pick-up truck…

Finley's Choice

Addie had her eyes set on Chris Hill’s 2016 Nissan GT-R…

Addie at the Nissan GT-R

While the Hot Wheels Legends Tour is about finding a new ride to become a toy, it’s also a celebration of the brand that brings together some of the rides that went the other way – from toy-to-life. These are famous vehicles like Bone Shaker and Twin Mill – vehicles from the Hot Wheels Garage that are being shown to families across the country, many for the very first time. Each date also offers fun activities and sponsor activations from the likes of Xbox, Mobil-1 and Hot Wheels Auto Care, so there’s a lot to see and enjoy. See more and find a date near you at the official site!