Deora (1968)

  One of the "First 16" Hot Wheels in 1968, the Deora is a customized "surfer truck" designed by Mattel's first Hot Wheels designer, Harry Bentley Bradley. 

Interestingly, in 1964 Bradley designed the real Dodge Deora in collaboration with the Alexander brothers.  The prototype vehicle used the A100 pickup, and incorporated parts of a 1960 Ford wagon and a sedan for the distinctive roofline.  Using Bradley's preferred moniker of the Dodge XTAB (eXperimental Truck by the Alexander Brothers), the design was created for Chrysler. 

Nearing completion on the project, model kit-producer AMT requested permission to produce a model based on the truck.  But what to call it?  The XTAB, while an adequate internal name, was just that.  Both AMT and Chrysler wanted a better name for the truck.

In Harry's own hand: The Deora Story! (Courtesy of Bruce Pascal)

Seeing opportunity, someone suggested a marketing ploy that would spur interest in the new kit: a contest where model-builders could send in possible names for the custom truck, and entries would be reviewed by a panel of celebrity judges. The deal was struck and an ad calling for entries ran in the September 1965 issue of "Car Model" magazine, accompanied by Bradley's renderings and in-progress photos of the project.

A panel of judges was made up of Chrysler's quarter-miler Don Garlits, Auto World's Oscar Koveleski, "Car Model" magazine Co-Publisher Bob MacLeod, AMT's Director of Marketing Len Bolton, and of course the Alexander brothers. The contest results were announced in the February 1966 issue of "Car Model".


Thirteen-year-old David Hagedorn's entry topped all the others. It was short and suitably exotic: DEORA.  David explained that it meant "golden" in Spanish (which is slightly incorrect; "de oro" is Spanish for "of gold").  Since Bradley's original plan called for finishing the project in gold, the name was perfect!  David was rewarded with the first AMT Deora kit!

A full-size version of the Deora on display at the Peterson Museum in L.A.

When Bradley signed on to be Mattel's first designer, he brought the Deora with him.  Elliot Handler's idea for adding two surfboards to the otherwise plain bed of the pickup gave the casting the "California Custom" look that Mattel was seeking for its new line of diecast toy cars.

The US and Hong Kong versions of the Deora maintain the characteristics representative of the factory differences throughout the Hot Wheels line: clear glass (US) versus blue glass (HK) and shiny chrome wheels (HK) versus a brushed silver appearance (US).

A comparison of HK (L) and US (R) Deoras.

Beyond that, there are a few other key differences.  The front of the US Deora chassis incorporates the front bumper, headlights, and "grille" area, as well as the tail light.  The HK chassis includes the headlights and front bumper, but not the "grille" area.  Headlights on the US version are louvered, while those on the HK Deora are smooth.  The HK Deora's front bumper is better defined than its US counterpart, and has a much thicker area of black paint on it.

Viewed from the rear, HK and US Deoras are virtually identical, with a slight difference in the brightness of the tail light paint (HK paint is slightly brighter), and that the HK tail light appears to be mounted slightly higher than on the US Deora.  On both US and HK models, the flat bed of the vehicle is painted flat black.  A pair of plastic surfboards clip into openings in the rear window.

US Deoras can be found with white, champagne, dark brown, and in a few cases, black interiors.  HK interiors come in white and dark, with white interiors being a bit more rare in orange and gold Deoras, and about 50/50 in the other colors.  The single-piece US interiors have a dashboard and steering wheel, while the two-piece HK interiors lack the dashboard, and have a steering wheel mounted to the driver's side door.  HK Deoras often have loose steering wheels (even on carded examples) that are rattling around inside the car.

Unlike all other Hot Wheels cars, the Deora came with four small size wheels.  Early HK Deoras are often found with four deep dish wheels.

A gold HK Deora with deep dish wheels.

The bases of US and HK Deoras differ slightly, mainly in that there are visible axle mounts on the HK cars, and round mounting holes on US cars.

Deora bases: US (L) and HK (R).

Very early production HK Deoras can be found with partially painted bases.  These cars are quite rare and have been found only in antifreeze and gold.

Above and below: a rare painted base HK Deora. (Courtesy of Jack Kaye)

A common feature among US Deoras is an unspun rear post (often referred to as the "rivet").  On the whole, unspun posts occur on about half of US cars, but this seems to be most common with blue, green and red Deoras.

A group of US Deoras.  Note the unspun posts on the cars at left.

Of course, a signature feature of the Deora is the pair of plastic surfboards on the rear bed. US-made surfoards are distinctive from their HK counterparts.  US boards are red and yellow, have a short skeg (fin), and have a part number on the underside.  Note that the first four digits of the part number match the Deora's casting number (6210).  HK boards are orange and yellow, have a tall, thinner skeg, and have no numbers on the underside.

The part numbers on the underside of these surfboards reveal that these are US boards.

The following two photographs show three sets of original surfboards and three sets of reproduction boards.  In the photo on the left, from left to right are 1) a very early pair made of resin and with large thin fins, 2) a pair of Beach Bomb boards with shorter fins and more "grip lines" and a circle near the tip, and 3) a set of common Deora boards made of plastic and with large thin fins.  The photo on the right, from left to right are 1) a reproduction board with thick fins and circles on the back side, 2) a pair of boards from the 30th anniversary issue of the Deora (1998), and 3) a reproduction board with accurate fins but cast in brighter colored plastic than the originals.

Know your surfboards!  The real deal (L) vs. reproduction boards (R).

Color chart

purple common
aqua common
red uncommon
green hard to find
very rare
very rare, if it exists

rare w/painted base
very rare w/painted base

A red Deora with original US boards.

A green Deora with reproduction boards from

A rare blue US Deora!

Photo & info credits: Phillip Davis, Thomas Siembieda & Albert Cervantes

(Additional reference: "The Deora Story" by Thomas Voehringer)


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