Jewish World Review July 29, 2011 / 27 Tamuz, 5771
He'll always be known as Hot Wheels Handler
By Dale McFeatters
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | You may not have noticed the death of Elliott Handler last week at age 91, and even if you did, you probably didn't recognize the name. But if you were the parents of small boys or a small boy yourself once, you would immediately recognize his signature invention -- Hot Wheels.
Elliott and his high school sweetheart, Ruth, went on to found what is now the world's largest toymaker. He is the "el" in Mattel.
Ruth Handler really launched the company into the toy stratosphere. She created the ageless and continuously reinvented Barbie doll. Elliott Handler counseled against the Barbie's original design, arguing that no mother is going to allow her daughter to own a busty doll whose equivalent measurements in real life would be 39-21-33.
Later Barbie was joined by her frequently overlooked consort, Ken. (Barbie and Ken were named after the Handlers' children. The takeaway: If you invent a popular doll, name it after somebody else; it will spare your offspring endless teasing.)
In the mid-1960s, when Mattel had soared into the Fortune 500, Elliott Handler turned to a field where, unlike dolls, he apparently had considerable expertise and a sense of his target market.
Hot Wheels offered a fleet of detailed and luridly painted muscle cars, sports cars, ticked out trucks, Indy cars, vans, hot rods, dream cars, custom cars, stock cars, dump trucks, fire engines, dragsters and even your father's Oldsmobile, if dad's Olds was a 442.
Many of the Hot Wheels are now collectors' items but most of them were brutally used toys, flying off ramps, aimed in deliberate collisions -- with appropriate sound effects, of course -- and sometimes neatly lined up in a display of automotive might.
Hot Wheels hasn't totally lost touch with its inner Barbie. One new design is the Danicar, said to have been co-designed by Indy car racer Danica Patrick.
Elliott Handler's name may be forgotten, but he will never be, not as long as an adult in bare feet steps on one in the dark while checking on the kids.
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