Pairing your car, truck or SUV with another brand is a tried-and-true method to create the sort of positive association that sells vehicles, or at least gives them an attractive new look and higher margins. Ford knows this, having paired the Explorer and rugged apparel brand Eddie Bauer in the '90s with great success, and the F-150 with iconic motorcycle maker Harley-Davidson since 2000 (that partnership, however, has ended with the 2012 model year).
Not every partnership is geared towards making a vehicle appear more macho, though. The Fiat 500 by Gucci, for instance, matches the cute Cinquecento with a high fashion icon (something Cadillac tried back in 1979), and Lexus has a history of Coach Edition models that came with higher grade leather and matching luggage. Indeed, this 2013 Chevy Camaro Hot Wheels Special Edition isn't even the only pairing of toy and car, another example being the recent Call of Duty MW3 and Black Ops editions of the Jeep Wrangler. It isn't even the only Camaro co-branded with a toy – the 2012 Transformers Edition with Bumblebee paint job preceded it.
Pairing your automobile with something sold inside a Toys R Us, however, can be tricky. Fashion and apparel brands have more universal appeal among adult buyers than, for instance, the latest first-person-shooter video game. Partnering with a brand that markets primarily to children can also communicate the wrong thing about the person who buys such a vehicle – that he or she has a Peter Pan syndrome, not wanting to grow up, buy that sensible sedan and get on with life like the rest of us. Then again, buying a Hot Wheels Special Edition Camaro could just mean you remember the fun side of life and have the extra disposable income to show it.
The Hot Wheels Special Edition options package is a $6,995 question that needs answering when ordering your Camaro 2LT (V6) or 2SS (V8) coupe or convertible. The package includes Kinetic Blue metallic paint; 21-inch black aluminum wheels with red striping; the Camaro's RS appearance package; Hot Wheels badging, decals and embroidery; premium floor mats and a painted engine cover. Nothing here makes the car go quicker, turn better or stop shorter, which is fine, as the Camaro's got plenty of other packages and models that do that. This test car was also equipped with the optional dual-mode performance exhaust for $895 and navigation system for $795, bringing its out-the-door price minus tax to $45,720.
In creating this Hot Wheels Special Edition model, Chevy designers have done a good job walking the fine line between attention-grabbing aesthetics and gratuitously over-the-top looks. The Kinetic Blue paint pops, but not nearly as much as some other Camaro colors (remember Synergy Green?). The design of the wheels is a matter of taste, and they appear neatly inspired by their 1:64 scale counterparts, but no one will guess this is a Hot Wheels car by wheels alone. What will tip them off is the badging, which includes Hot Wheels logos on the grill, front fenders and the rear. I wouldn't mind if that badge count were halved, but wouldn't dare touch the wide single matte black stripe or subtle blue flames on the rear fenders. The red striping on the wheels that's mirrored around the grille and headlights is another subtle and appealing design touch.
I was less fond of this Camaro's interior, which sports huge Hot Wheels logos embroidered in the seat backs, large logos on the side sill plates and an eency-weency logo embedded in the bottom of the steering wheel. The branding message while entering the vehicle is a bit obnoxious that way. Speaking of the wheel, General Motors needs to move on to a new tiller design. We've seen seen this one for years in everything down to the lowly Sonic, which makes grasping it in a $45k special edition Camaro feel less than special. Also, this was my first experience with a navigation system in the Camaro, and while the MyLink system Chevy uses is fine enough, its application in this pony car's interior is a miss. More physical buttons to navigate the system, or more clearly marked ones, would help.
What you're ultimately buying with a Camaro like this is a burnout machine. While other models, particularly ones with the 1LE package and the top-shelf ZL1, are engineered specifically to expand the Camaro's handling envelope, this Hot Wheels model is basically an SS with wheels an inch larger in diameter than you could otherwise order. It feels neither particularly spry nor nimble when turning, which isn't helped by the Camaro's now-trademark tank-slit outward visibility. Not knowing the exact location of the car's front corners while carrying that much inertia made me feel less-than-confident while cornering, so I gravitated more towards having fun in a straight line. My colleagues in the industry appeared to agree judging by the amount of tread left on the car's rear tires upon arrival.
And what a performance the Camaro gives when getting on the gas. The 6.2-liter V8 producing 426 horsepower and 420 foot-pounds of torque is everything an American muscle car's engine should be. The optional dual-mode exhaust was a gloriously guttural flute through which to play the motor's music, and I often found myself throttle-goosing for encores of the performance. Power is available everywhere in every gear, and the six-speed manual transmission was not at all a bear to operate around town. It feels stout enough to handle the engine's fury at full bore, but the engagements are smooth and the pedal isn't too firm.
Would I buy one? The Hot Wheels Special Edition model is a limited edition, and Chevy has said when they're gone, they're gone. We don't know if all have been sold yet, but you can still build one using the configurator on Chevy's website, which suggests they are still available. Regardless, my answer would be no, this isn't the Camaro I would buy myself. As special editions go, I like its aesthetics a lot and a few less badges and logos would get me even more on board, though on some level, taht defeats the point of co-branding. But if you're a parent with a kid who collects Hot Wheels and feel a mid-life crisis is coming on, could there be a more perfect purchase than this.