Wrist Racers were introduced in 1979 by Knickerbocker Toys. The company, which had been around since 1850, was mainly known for producing stuffed animals and dolls like Raggedy Ann & Andy, as well as more girl-oriented plastic figures like Little Orphan Annie. However, they dabbled in toy cars and action figures, most notably the figures for Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings.
The concept for Wrist Racers was a Matchbox-sized car that was stored inside a plastic bubble attached to your wrist like a watch. When you wanted to play with the car, you set your hand on a flat surface, like the kitchen floor or the dining room table, extended the ramp from the front, wound up the car, then pressed the release button on the back that caused the plastic bubble to pop open and your car would run down the ramp. This was fun for a while, but after that initial launch, most of the time you just wound up the car and set it down.
While Wrist Racers came in a variety of generic muscle car designs, most people remember the Dukes of Hazzard line from 1979. You could either get the Duke boys’ General Lee or Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane’s Hazzard County police cruiser. Both cars had a special feature – The General Lee would do a wheelie and the police car would spin out! Unfortunately, many moons ago, I broke one of the wrist pods, so I only have one in my collection now.
Around this same time, Knickerbocker put out Finger Racers, which were kind of the same concept, except you wore the car and its ramp as a ring on your finger. These also had a special “crash” feature where the top of the car would pop off whenever the front bumper ran into something. I never owned any of these, but here’s a photo of The Dukes of Hazzard versions to show you what that looked like.
At some point, ERTL took over production of Wrist Racers and came out with a few more pop culture tie-ins. KITT from Knight Rider was sold in 1982, The A-Team van came out in 1983, and a Batmobile came out in conjunction with Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989. I never owned any these either, but, man, I wish I had.