Japan, the world’s leading hotbed of toy trends, is brewing another hot concept–except this one harkens back a couple decades. If you were a kid in the early ’80s and toy cars were your bag, chances are you are familiar with Takara’s Penny Racers (called Choro-Q in Japan). What set the stubby little cars with pull-back-and-go engines apart from the crowd when they were released State-side in 1981 was that they had a special slot in the rear, just big enough for a penny. The shifting weight of the coin enabled the car to pop wheelies and perform all sorts of unpredictable stunts, and they toy got real hot, real fast.
After peaking in 1983, the Penny Racer fervor gradually died out in North America. However, the cars have continued to sell through briskly in Japan, moving more than 100 million units to date. To bank on this enduring popularity, Takara and Konami have come up with an updated version of the toy phenomenon and are looking to bring it overseas soon. Called DigiQ, the revamped model retails in Japan for US$73 and comes with a remote control that allows kids to steer, accelerate, brake and reverse.
The State-side market has already been partially seeded for the comeback. THQ’s Penny Racers video game–originally created for N64 in 1999–was updated and re-released for the PS2 console last month.