Kevin Feeley got his first Hot Wheels cars when he was 8 years old.
It was 1974 and his grandfather, Robert Blackburn, gave him a Thundershift 500 race track along with a red Monte Carlo Stocker and a yellow Torino Stocker. Feeley has worn down the track and the cars, but his love for Hot Wheels is far from fading.
For nearly 50 years he has collected Hot Wheels cars, amassing a collection that has grown to over 30,000. the cars are largely shown at an angle so someone can see the details from front to back.
On Thursday, Feeley shared some of the cars he is most proud of, including his large collection of Drag buses, which have a roof that pops up to show off the engine, and his employee-only collection which is reserved for Mattel workers.
Feeley studied biology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and earned an MBA at the University of Colorado at Denver. He then worked as Director of Laboratory Services for the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District. Both father and grandfather retired last year after a 32-year career in the role.
He said he started taking his collection seriously after graduating from college. His goal: to collect all the varieties created by the toy manufacturer Mattel.
There aren’t many types that it doesn’t have, although it’s hard to say how many exist. Of his more than 30,000 cars, less than 12 are duplicates, and a few vacant spots in his storefronts mark spaces for the roughly 20 cars he’s still on the hunt for. He finds the cars online, at big box stores, at conventions and through personal connections with other Hot Wheels enthusiasts. Their cost depends on rarity and type, Feeley said. The cost can range from $1 to hundreds to over a thousand dollars.
Feeley is the president of the Rocky Mountain Hot Wheelers, a local Hot Wheels club that has grown from 100 to about 10 members. Feeley said he hopes by sharing his passion for cars he can inspire others to join and renew the energy of the club.
Peter Kistler, another collector and former president of the Rocky Mountain Hot Wheelers Club, said Feeley had “an incredible collection”.
“It’s right up there with some of the best I’ve ever seen,” Kistler said.
Kistler would know. The Thornton resident owns more than 25,000 Hot Wheels cars himself.
Part of what makes the collection so unique is that Feeley has cars that date back to when Mattel started making them in 1968. His collection also includes the red line era from 1968 to 1977. These cars have red stripes on the wheels, which is indicative. 60s hot rods with redline tires. What also makes the collection amazing is the way it is presented.
Only some Feeley cars remain in their original packaging. The rest are in wall boxes that can be opened, allowing someone to touch the cars, look at them, and play with them. Although some may appear to be the same model, a closer look reveals subtle differences and detailed design, such as different colored windows or a surfboard hanging from a rear window.
“Along the way, you go from ‘Oh, it’s a toy,’ to really appreciating that (Hot Wheels) is a cross section of time,” Kistler said. “You can see a car from 100 years ago and even how things were designed 50 years ago. When you start looking at the details, it’s really fascinating.
Feeley can’t say for sure if he holds any records. He says he’s met other people with 30,000 cars, but what makes his collection so rare is that most of the cars are unique, they’re all Hot Wheels branded and the same scale: 1/64.
Kistler said 30,000 is an impressive number of cars.
“Anything up to 1,000 cars is like a starter collection,” Kistler said. “If you have 20,000 cars, you’re definitely a crackpot.”
About 10 years ago Feeley was at a charity auction when he came across the same track, a Thundershift 500, that his grandfather had given him as a child. The set was also autographed by the designer, Larry Wood. Feeley won the track and now keeps it in a display case near his cars.
Among the cars on display are the first two to start his collection – the cars his grandfather gave him. On Thursday, knocking them down from their perches, Feeley pointed out worn decals and a missing hood scoop.
Feeley hopes to spark an interest in cars with her own grandchildren. He also strives to increase his club’s membership and create a place to talk shop.
“It’s a great place to swap cars, learn about the hobby, and just talk about Hot Wheels,” Feeley said. “It’s not something you can talk about every day to people at work or to your friends.”