Understanding Spectraflame [The Year of LaLD]

In honor of the upcoming 1st Anniversary of Live and Let Diecast! I'm going to run some memorable articles from the past year. Despite expanding to cover diecasts produced by virtually every company and in almost every scale, Hot Wheels built to 1:64 remain overwhelmingly the most popular. This article from Enginerrrrrrr gave us the most comprehensive history of the paint used on those very first Hot Wheels: Spectraflame. -Jeff

HW Red Line Pick of the day: What is Spectraflame? Edition.

Most of us on here get all a twitter whenever we see a Spectraflame paint job on our HW. I didn't know exactly what spectraflame was, so decided to figure it out in case others over here had no idea either.

From 1968 to 1972 Hot Wheels used the famous Spectraflame paint jobs on their cars. It was based on how hot rodders were able to get fantastic shines on their paint schemes. It all starts with the body. They are zinc plated, but the Spectraflame takes it a step further. We have seen lately the Zamacs and their bare metal paint schemes:

But the main difference between these and the Spectraflames is that the body is polished (not too much, making a mirror finish will give it a different effect) on the Spectraflame jobs.

(picture courtesy of


You can obviously see the difference.

By using the shine already available from the bare metal, it's easy to get a good shine on a Spectraflame car. Once the base was polished, a transparent lacquer would be painted over it, allowing the metallic shine to come through. In 1972, the Spectraflame paints were banned, apparently lead paint is bad or something.


Currently Hot Wheels uses a vacuum-metalized finish covered in a semi-transparent, water-based lacquer. Since this process is expensive, Hot Wheels is also looking into coating the cars in a metal liquid then applying a pigmented translucent paint.

To see the difference between old and new:

Old (Original Red Line Turbofire):

New (Hot Wheels Classics Corvette Stingray):

Old and New together:

How do you think the new stacks up to the old? (Also remember the Turbofire is over 40 years old)

And here's a video of some spectraflame refurb:

Prepping the body:

Doing the paint:

Don't worry, I have no clue who that guy is, it's just the best videos I could find that go into all of the details of the job. Yes...it can be a bit dry...


So there ya go! The famed Hot Wheels Spectraflame paint and how it's changed over the years and how to do it. So customizers, I expect you to work on something like this yourselves. Get some polishers on those dremel tools!