BY STEVE BUTLER
Few toy versions of hot rods were made in the U.S. While there are likely others, two designs from three makers most easily come to mind. In order of their appearance herein, the makers were Saunders, Unknown and Marx.
Saunders Tool & Die Company of Aurora, Illinois (see last month’s article) introduced a limited line of plastic toys probably starting in 1950. That year was deduced from the copyright year printed on the original box for their initial and most popular issue—the #400 Hot Rod.
In a circa 1954 factory brochure, Saunders touted their hot rod as having a: “SOUPED-UP” motor…adding that: IT RUNS — IT CLIMBS — IT JUMPS. Their toy description continued with: Hottest, fastest action of any mechanical toy. Stripped down plastic body. Aluminum color motor and grill. Rubber tires with nylon wheels. Size: 71/2″ x 3 3/4″ x 3″. Individually boxed.
Two points regarding scarcity. The more observant readers will have noticed that the wheels on the pictured example are not nylon —they are turned aluminum and indicative of the earliest and more limited issue. Second, the hot rods were distributed (at least around 1954) in cases of all red or mixed red, yellow and green. (Blue is also known to exist.) Thus, fewer hot rods were issued in colors other than red.