Hot Wheels superfan Mike has 30,000 toy cars

Paul Walker

Meet the man with the world’s largest collection of Hot Wheels toy cars – a record he’s held for nearly two decades.

Mike Zarnock, 63, is something of a celebrity in the world of collections, and keeps his 30,000 cars in 2,500 square feet of storage space in his home.

He started his collection as a child, and even bought cars on his first date with his wife Christina, 60, back in 1988.

A Hot Wheels superfan, he estimates he spends up to $10,000 (£7,390) a year on the brand – including accessories like socks, sunglasses, toothbrushes and underwear.

Now a grandfather-of-two, Mike has passed his passion on to his kids and grandkids by playing with them and encouraging them to start their own car collections.

The retiree, from Deerfield, New York, said: “I have spent the past 50 years trying to buy back my childhood with collecting.

“It brings me back to a point in time where I don’t have to be the grown up, I don’t have to be in charge, be responsible; back to that time where all I had to do was make my bed, and I would get my allowance and go buy more Hot Wheels cars.

“I’m ten years old again when playing with my granddaughter.”

Mike was ten years old when the Hot Wheels cars first came out in 1968, and fell in love the first time he saw them.

He said: “I was always going down to the store to look for the latest model kit, and I walked into the store and all of a sudden I look up and there are Hot Wheels.

“They had chrome everywhere, they had racing strips, big supercharged engines and I fell in love instantly. It was love at first sight.”



Mike Zarnock's record-breaking collection of Hot Wheels
Mike Zarnock’s record-breaking collection of Hot Wheels

The first two cars were the Beatnik Bandit and the Silhouette, both based on popular custom cars, and were part of the original “Sweet Sixteen” set of Hot Wheels.

Mike said: “Hot Wheels replicated the cars that we saw going down the road, and a lot of those cars you could hear them and feel them.

“They’d come down the road and when they went by the ground shook.”

The collection grew and one day a child asked him if he knew who had the world’s largest collection of Hot Wheels.

Mike said: “There was a guy that had 1,500 different model cars, and I thought I had more than that.

“So I counted up 3,128 cars at the time and sent it through to Guinness and got the Guinness World Record in 2003.

“It meant everything. I have this monster certificate on my wall that says I have the largest Hot Wheels collection in the world, it’s an amazing feeling.”

Now retired, Mike has over 30,000 different cars.

He said: “I’m a historian and the packaging is extremely important to me. I like the artwork that represents the different eras that Hot Wheels have been out.”

Mike travels across America meeting other toy car collectors and even acts as an ambassador for the brand.

The retired teacher and author said: “I collect Hot Wheels because it brings me back to my childhood. It gives me that wonderful feeling.”

For more stories from where you live, visit InYourArea.

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