What makes Sizzlers cars run?
Powering up Sizzlers cars in 1970 was done with several devices.
The Juice Machine is battery powered.
Juice Machine box art – front. Courtesy eBay.
Juice Machine box art – side. Courtesy eBay.
Juice Machine from 1970 Racing World Magazine. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
The Power Pit plugs into household current.
Power Pit box art – front. Courtesy eBay.
Power Pit front view. Courtesy eBay.
Power Pit back view. Courtesy eBay.
And Europe has its own version of chargers which include Power Paks/Power Pits. These chargers are battery powered like the Juice Machine but they look more like a U.S. Power Pit. In 1970, European power grids and plug in connections varied from country to country. It was simpler and more cost effective to manufacture one battery-based charger for the region rather than various plug in options.
The British charger is called a Power Pak.
British Power Pak box art – front.
British Power Pak box art – back.
In the rest of Europe this same charger is called a Power Pit.
The Euro Power Pit. Courtesy eBay.
A few words on pit stops. Charging electric cars in the real world takes time. On 110 volt household current most electric cars need all night to fully recharge. ”Fast” charging on 220 volts still takes a number of hours.
Charging a Nissan Leaf.
With Juice Machines, Power Pits and Power Paks we are talking about “dumping” in electricity in seconds not hours. This creates problems.
During the original release of Sizzlers, the cars came with 110 mAh (milliampere-hour) Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cad) batteries. Charge time was 90 seconds. In 2006 Mattel re-issued Sizzlers with similar NiCad batteries. Charging time was again 90 seconds.
The beauty of NiCads is they have a low internal resistance to incoming electricity which produces only a small amount of heat. Plus the chemical reaction inside the charging NiCads causes cooling. So “dumping” in a rush of Juice Machine power worked! Trouble is Cadmium is highly toxic and a significant environmental hazard, so they are being phased out.
L to R: Original 1970 NiCad, 2006 NiCad, and current NiMH batteries.
Today I am running 650 mAh Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries from the Sizzlers Shop. Although these new batteries can hold 6 times the electrical charge, the charge time is not 6 times longer. The internal resistance to incoming electricity in NiMHs is high and the chemical reaction inside the battery doesn’t cause cooling. So “dumping” power into a NiMH battery causes tremendous heat production. If you repeatedly charge these batteries to their capacity at one time, a 7 to 9 minute Juice Machine charge, you will dramatically reduce the life expectancy of the battery. The Sizzlers Shop suggests a conservative 2 minute charge with a Juice Machine for long NiMH battery life. The Sizzlerking has done limited testing with 3 minute and 6 minute Juice Machine charges. Car running times are 10 and 20 minutes respectively, but the effect on battery life of repeating these longer charges was not completely tested.
What about more completely charging NiMH batteries by repeating 2 minute charges over a period of time? The battery would cool down with each break and you would get closer to storing a full electrical load. Right? It’s brilliant ideas like this that get you front row seating in the School of Hard Knocks.
Exhibit A: “Honest. All I did was put in a 2 minute charge, wait 2 minutes and put in another 2 minute charge. That’s only half of the NiMH battery’s capacity!” As you can see from the picture below, there is something wrong with the middle of the Juice Machine after repeating this little charging maneuver several times.
Open up the back…and…Yikes!…the larger load in the NiMH battery was raising resistance in the Juice Machine’s wiring so high that the exposed, internal wire overheated and melted through the case.
A classic piece of Hot Wheels memorabilia ruined! Excuse me while I recite the School of Hard Knocks mantra: “I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot, I’m an idiot.”
Exhibit B: Repeat charging won’t work with a plug-in Power Pit either. Fortunately, I don’t have a Power Pit, otherwise I’d probably have combustion/destruction pictures to go with it too. The Sizzlers Shop tells me the internal diodes (circuits that restrict the flow of electricity to one direction – namely, from the Power Pit into the car battery) are only designed for 110 milli-amp loads and will get overloaded and burn out with higher loads. So don’t even try it!
Let’s change tactics. Can you trickle charge NiMH batteries to full power? Sure, but that requires a special charger for these small batteries that is probably hard to come by. Even so, can you imagine being in a race and making a 1 hour pit stop to take on a full charge? Waiting the original 90 seconds is excruciating enough in the midst of track competition.
For myself, I’ve developed a fondness for the Juice Machine. It’s simple and lets me put in a 2 minute-ish charge with ease. The Power Pak has a nice appearance like it’s bigger U.S. cousin, the Power Pit, and can charge cars with the flexibility of a Juice Machine. The only draw back with the Power Pak is the little red charge button. You hold it down with one finger. The problem with this becomes apparent about 30 seconds into the fuel stop. Your finger gets tired! With the Juice Machine you can use your whole hand, so keeping the power on for 2 minutes is easy.
Having a fresh supply of batteries on hand for the Juice Machine and Power Pak is easy too. I use rechargeable D-size batteries. Each one holds 2,500 mAh of power.
Here are the instructions for the 1970 Juice Machine (English and French language Canadian version).
Juice Machine instructions – front page. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Juice Machine instructions – steps 1-5. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Juice Machine instructions – back page. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Here’s my video for the 1970 Juice Machine.
These are the instructions for the 1970 Power Pit.
And the instructions for the British Power Pak look like this:
Power Pak instructions – front page. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Power Pak instructions – steps 1-5. The “HP2″ batteries are the same as North America’s D-size batteries. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Power Pak instructions – back page. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Here’s my video for the 1970 Power Pak. I’ll be using one of these for the 1970 Pacific/8 Race set, the 1970 National Champ Race Set and the 1971 Super Circuit Set.
So there you have it. The 1970 Hot Wheels Sizzlers chargers. They provide the power that makes Hot Wheels Sizzlers still fast. Still fun.
1970 Hot Wheels Collectors’ Catalogue. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Juice Machine box art – back. Courtesy eBay.
Power Pit in Pacific/8 Race Set. From 1970 Racing World Magazine. Copyright Mattel, Inc.
Power Pak box art – side.
Power Pak box art – end.
Power Pak front view. The blue Corvette image is from a Super-Charger. I put it on because I always liked it as a kid and I still do. Even though the box image shows a Corvette, the actual sticker contents don’t have it.
Power Pak front-top view.
Power Pak back view.
Power Pak side view.
Power Pak other side view.
Power Pak bottom view. “Made in England”
Power Pak internal view. Like the Juice Machine it runs on 2 or 4 D-Size batteries. Unlike the Juice Machine, the internal wiring is shielded by red and black plastic insulation.
1. For more in-depth battery information check out the Stefanv.com website:
2. For NiMH battery testing in Sizzlers cars you can look at the Sizzlerking’s website:
3. For more great Sizzlers information and to order Sizzlers cars/parts/batteries go to the Sizzlers Shop website: