Even the most casual Hot Wheels collectors would have undoubtedly purchased one of the many recreations of Japanese car culture in miniature form over the last few years. These were the result of one man, Jun Imai, a designer at Mattel (Hot Wheels’ parent company), who has recently left the company, after 14 years, to pursue other ventures.
Dubbed the ‘Jun Imai era’, his time at Mattel marked one of the biggest shifts in the company’s long history, one that would open the doors to car enthusiasts and collectors around the world, with a focus on replicating real-life cars and cult classic models.
It wasn’t just Japanese classics either, with European models feeling the same love, and subcultures highlighted, such as bōsōzoku, Kanjo, stance cars, historical race cars, and all with a big focus on modification — bringing in real brands such as Yokohama, GReddy, Magnus Walker, and Japanese Nostalgic Car.
Imai was responsible for popular models like the Toyota AE86, Datsun 510 (including a version of his personal car), 620 pickup, Fairlady Roadster, Laurel, Mazda RX-7 (FB and FD), numerous Zs, the bōsōzoku-inspired Mad Manga (Laurels), Toyota 2000GT, and practically every generation of Nissan Skyline in various forms.
According to Japanese Nostalgic Car, Imai selected a strong team of talented enthusiasts that he leaves behind at Mattel to continue the legacy, so you won’t be missing any J-tin in future releases.