The Hot Wheels kenmeri Nissan Skyline in the Flying Customs series has been one of the hardest of Mattel’s Japanese classics to find. If you were lucky enough to score one, look inside. There were actually two different interiors: a full stock cabin with rear bench and passenger seat, and a racing cockpit with just one racing seat. Today we’re going to answer two mysteries. Why the two interiors, and why was it so damn hard to find?
First, where did all these kenmeris go? The short answer is, to hobby shops and likely overseas. Every year, in addition to the regular $1 cars on blue cards, Mattel releases a few premium series such as Cool Classics or the Flying Customs lineup of which the kenmeri was a part of. These cars sell for $3-5 and often come with special paint, wheels, suspension or an all-metal chassis.
They’re usually distributed in your typical big-box stores like Target or Toys R Us, who order a bunch at the beginning of the year. However, often times these higher end toys will see slower sales than the $1 cars, and impatient retailers will choose not to renew their orders for that particular SKU (bar code) before the entire series is released.
As we’ve seen with our own Hot Wheels X JNC releases, the time between production and appearance on shelves can be several months, so the cars already manufactured when a big box retailer cancels the remaining orders are stuck in diecast limbo. Instead of Target or Toys R Us, the cases are shipped to second-tier retailers like Big Lots, 99-Cent Stores, or TJ Maxx and the like. Sometimes they’re even shipped overseas to secondary markets.
That’s exactly what happened with the Flying Customs kenmeri, and that’s why you never saw it on the pegs at your local retailer.
This same scenario is why there are two interiors for the kenmeri. Back in 2012 the Vintage Racing series was another premium series halted before all the planned cars were released. The eighth and final wave of these cars were supposed to contain several of iconic Japanese race cars, but tragically, these had not moved far enough down the pipeline to be manufactured.
One day, if I’m given permission, I’ll discuss the other castings that were to be included in the set. They were really interesting but never went beyond the planning or printer stage. One car that was to be included in the set was the kenmeri, done up in its iconic 1973 Tokyo Motor Show livery and containing a single-bucket race interior.
Alas, it was never meant to be. Fortunately some of the cars in this lineup, like the Toyota 2000GT, did eventually see daylight. What a set that would have been! Instead, we commissioned Mark “Scalemaster” Jones to build a custom one. But with the way Hot Wheels nostalgics are flying off the shelves these days, there’s always hope the racing kenmeri gets reconsidered in one form or another.
Photos courtesy of John Lambert.