There was a strong emphasis on racing in the early years of Hot Wheels. To make it happen Mattel gave you the equipment for real competition. This includes 3 different lap counters from the first 4 years of Hot Wheels production.
It all starts off in 1969 with the single-lane Automatic Lap Counter. You get 99 laps out of it and the return to “00” signifies lap 100.
For proper storage the one’s column must be on 0.
It doesn’t matter what the ten’s column is showing. If you have a lap counter that has been sitting for the past 40+ years on a number in the one’s column that isn’t zero, then you find that the ten’s column malfunctions.
Fortunately there’s a quick fix for this:
For 1970 the dual-lane Lap Counter came out. You get 20 laps counted in 2 lanes.
For proper storage the counters should both be showing “20”.
Anything less (and zero is the worst) means the spring mechanisms have been under tension for the past 4+ decades and will have stretched out. Then you’ll probably find that it works fine up to lap 16 or so, but the last 3 or 4 laps just won’t register.
Fixing this is problematic because you have to break into the glue-sealed case without causing major damage.
Finally, in 1971, we get the Sizzlers Lap Computer.
This slick device works on Fat Track and counts 100 laps for 4 cars. It is done by tunnelling the Sizzlers cars into a single lane where antennas on the back of each car tick off every lap for a given lane. The triggers for counting laps are located in the ceiling of the Lap Computer tunnel. After lap 99 comes the checkered flag.
For proper storage, all lanes should be showing checkered flags.
This is much like the dual-lane lap counter because the rewind springs are in the least tension when the checkered flags are visible. If you buy one of these that has the zeros showing, then 40+ years of storage will have stretched the springs and you will get decent counting up to lap 90 or so, but the last 10 (and certainly the last 2 or 3) laps will not register. It’s tough to be leading a 100 lap race only to get stuck on lap 97.
Repairing these is also very difficult because you have to break into the heavily glued sides of the lap computer.
So there you have it. Lap counters from 1969 to 1971. Let the racing begin.
It’s still fast. Still fun.
Here are the instructions for each lap counter.