Here’s Why Burnin’ Key Cars Were Better Than Hot Wheels

Back in 2019, the discovery of glitzy key fobs with hefty price tags prompted an exploration into the world of real-life car keys with aesthetic appeal. Today, keys hold a special significance for many individuals, perhaps tracing back to the 1980s. For the author, a Trans Am keychain used to dangle from his elementary school backpack, representing his very own toy car. This article revisits the nostalgia of classic toy cars from the past, specifically focusing on Burnin’ Key Cars from the ‘80s.

**Burnin’ Key Cars History:**
The origin of Burnin’ Key Cars can be traced back to the 1960s, with the establishment of Universal Group by David Yeh. In the late 1970s, Yeh introduced the Kidco brand, known for its Matchbox-sized cars equipped with a key-activated spring mechanism. Burnin’ Key Cars by Kidco entered the market in 1980, offering children the excitement of propelling the cars forward using a plastic key, similar to a real car key. With licensing deals from Hollywood, the line expanded to include iconic vehicles like KITT from Knight Rider and Magnum PI’s Ferrari 308.

**How Do They Work?:**
The brilliance of Burnin’ Key Cars lies in their simplicity. These miniature cars feature a spring mechanism activated by a plastic key, allowing kids to compress the spring and release it to propel the car forward. This hands-on experience not only provided entertainment but also made children feel like adults, thanks to the inclusion of lifelike keychains. The enduring appeal of these toys continues, with collectors able to find vintage Burnin’ Key Cars on online platforms like eBay.

**My Current Collection:**
The author recounts his rediscovery of Burnin’ Key Cars from his youth, including a yellow Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, a Chevy Monte Carlo police car, and C3 Chevrolet Corvettes. Despite some wear and tear, the cars still retain their functionality, with the spring mechanism and plastic keys functioning as intended. Through a series of purchases on eBay, the author managed to complete his collection, obtaining matching keychains for each car. An impromptu drag race between the cars revealed variations in performance, with the white Corvette emerging as the standout leader.

**Fix, Preserve, Or Pitch?:**
Initially considering selling the cars at a garage sale, the author ultimately decided to preserve his Burnin’ Key Cars collection. The affordability of acquiring additional cars and keychains, along with the compact size of the toys, makes them a convenient and budget-friendly hobby for enthusiasts seeking to relive ‘80s nostalgia. While the author may not actively seek out more cars, the allure of additional models like the Datsun 280ZX or Magnum’s Ferrari remains a tempting prospect. Ultimately, these simple yet entertaining toys represent a cherished memory from a bygone era.

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