What do you do when you can’t land a license from a racing series, but want to produce diecast racecars? There are a number of different options, including historical cars and futuristic designs, but one of the most tried-and-true ones is to license real brands for fictional cars—especially if your endgame is to poach a license.
It’s something that Johnny Lightning did well with its Racing Dreams and .com Racers series in the late 1990s, a booming period for the brand that concluded with four years of Indy Racing League diecast offerings. Its pseudo-NASCAR models were so well done, in fact, that a casual fan would never notice the difference between those cars and the real-life ones from Racing Champions and Action. But also prevalent on store shelves was another, lesser-known brand: Track Stars Collectables.
I first became aware of these models sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s when they started showing up at Walmart. Featuring both stock cars and trucks on knocked-off Racing Champions castings, I focused only on trucks when I was only allowed to buy three (after all, Craftsman Truck diecasts were much harder to find). It would be nearly 20 more years until I found more, and even now, I’m still not quite sure of the breadth of scope.
You see, Track Stars was an Australian company, and as such, NASCAR models weren’t going to cut it by themselves. We didn’t see them in America, but the brand also produced its own versions of Formula 1 and V8 Supercars for worldwide distribution with a number of the world’s finest automotive brands.
We’ll start with the stock cars and trucks for familiarity’s sake, although I know I’m missing a handful of each. Primarily focused on Honeywell brands FRAM, Autolite, and Prestone, the lines also included cars featuring Turtle Wax, WD-40, and Castrol, among others. Track Stars fleshed out the lines with its own cars, featuring Track Stax, its tin-based storage system that served as a cool throwback to the days of Matchbox models actually coming in matchboxes.
The Formula 1 cars used the popular Tomica Ferrari F-1 casting, based on the 642 that Alain Prost and Jean Alesi raced in 1991. I only know of one of these cars that I haven’t located yet, another FRAM-themed ride, but the rest feature many of the same top brands as before, while also adding Valvoline, Eagle One, and Wynn’s.
But it’s the fictional V8 Supercars that really shine. Sure, they’re actually mid-1990s DTM cars (Alfa Romeo, Mercedes, and Opel are represented), but the Opel and the Holden were just different nameplates on the same model. With these rides likely less relevant outside of Australia, the list of brands represented here really opens up.
STP and Armor All grace a pair of Opels, while Gillette and Duracell are on dual Alfa Romeos. Well-known Australian brands like like Selley’s and Bob Jane T-Marts also show up, while Fujifilm and Havoline (with the Australian Caltex branding, no less) share the number 12, the only number aside from 1 to end up on multiple cars. Of course, the usual suspects also make their way onto a number of these models, including Turtle Wax on both an Opel and Alfa Romeo.
Finding more information about Track Stars has proven to be quite a chore, as the company has long since disappeared from store shelves (and the Internet Wayback Machine can only do so much). Hot Wheels’ own Track Stars series in its mainline can also make these cars a chore to track down. But for the collector who loves a little quirk in their display case, or just has a fondness for promotional cars in general, these models are worth every bit of time and effort spent tracking them down. They’re every bit on par with the Johnny Lightning cars, and most likely much harder to find in America.