We take a break from the usual news reporting to bring you a story we just had to share. We are big fans of scale models such as Hot Wheels, but one Malaysian has taken it a step further, amassing a colossal 10,000 pieces of the iconic die-cast toy cars over a period of more than 15 years.
Meet Chia Joon Hock, also known as Uncle Hot Wheels. He has the largest collection of Hot Wheels models in Malaysia, and it’s so vast that he has had to rent an entire house just to, um, house them all. Unlike other collectors, the 65-year-old former engineer keeps his cars not in box files, but in transparent display cases and custom-made racks akin to tile shops.
Chia’s obsession with scale models began in 2003, when his brother gifted him a 1:18-scale Ferrari model – a car he had displayed on his desk and spent many hours admiring the details that replicated the real deal. The bug bit him hard, and he then visited 7-Eleven stores to buy more pieces, and soon after that, the weekend flea market at Amcorp Mall as well.
All in all, Chia has spent over RM100,000 to purchase the Hot Wheels models from places as far-flung as Indonesia, Japan and even the United States, and his collection is currently estimated to be worth between RM200,000 and RM300,000. A Nissan Skyline model from the Sweet Rods Premium Series is his most valuable piece, valued at a staggering RM800.
Of course, such a collection will garner attention, and Chia was selected as one of four Hot Wheels collectors for the National Art Gallery’s “Re-inventing the Wheel” exhibition last September; around 600 of his pieces were showcased there. Even Hot Wheels lead designer Steve Vandervate, who was in town for the recent Art of Speed show, had to stop by to have a look at Chia’s vast array of collectibles.
Chia’s knowledge on Hot Wheels models is encyclopaedic, so much so that he can distinguish on the models and the year they were made based on slight variations in their design – even through small details such as the rims and tyres. When asked about what drives his obsession with these cars, he gave an answer us enthusiasts will be all too familiar with.
“Passion. That’s the only word. I love everything about these models,” Chia said. “I can spend hours just sitting and admiring these pieces. I love it all so much that I can never choose a favourite. Everytime I pick one, I find myself drawn to another, then another, and then another!”