Every Minichamps Ever – All in One Place!

minichamps-scales

We’re excited to announce that top diecast makers Minichamps have partnered with us to build a one-of-a-kind archive of every model they’ve ever made!

Now only on hobbyDB you’ll find detailed information on thousands of their cars dating back to the company’s origins in the early 1990s. Originally know as Paul’s Model Art after Paul Lang, the founder of the company, Minichamps has pioneered producing high quality models in several scales. The first Paul’s Model Art diecast car by Minichamps was made in 1990, and by 1995 Minichamps was manufacturing more than 100 different castings with hundreds of racing liveries. Details like badges in the center of steering wheels and hubcaps, and separately molded parts for windshield visors, door handles, air vents, headlight lamp lenses and more help set their models apart. Their most popular sizes are 1/43 and 1/18. In fact, they often produce the same car in both scales, which is a popular trend for collectors.

Porsche 904 GTS - Boehringer/Wuetherich - Class Winner Rally Monte-Carlo 1965

Porsche 904 GTS – Boehringer/Wuetherich – Class Winner Rally Monte-Carlo 1965

Minichamps’ Paul Lang stated that he is “excited that with hobbyDB’s help, diecast fans from all around the world will now have an interrelated archive of everything Minichamps, a resource that we’ve never been able to provide until now.”

One of their best-known specialties is Formula 1 cars, particularly those from recent years. The attention to detail on these F1 cars is amazing considering a model might only represent an exact iteration of a car that ran in a single race. That means changing wings (front and rear), livery, even sponsor decals and tire types if necessary. For further attention to detail, many of their F1 cars include a driver figure with accurately detailed helmets.

Mercedes-Benz MGP W06 Hybrid - Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes AMG Petronas - Winner USA Grand Prix 2015

Mercedes-Benz MGP W06 Hybrid – Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes AMG Petronas – Winner USA Grand Prix 2015

Taking things to another level, some models even feature the drivers striking iconic celebration poses (like Lewis Hamilton on the nose of his Mercedes) or caught in the action of driving. There are also several dioramas showing pit stops with the entire crew in action.

Many other racing types, such as endurance, rally, and touring cars, mostly European marques, are represented as well with the same eye for detail. In many cases, these are the only scale models ever made of these cars.

BMW Z4 GT3 - Stuck/Sandritter/Bruck/Rostek - BMW Team Walkenhorst - 24 Hours of Nurburgring 2014

BMW Z4 GT3 – Stuck/Sandritter/Bruck/Rostek – BMW Team Walkenhorst – 24 Hours of Nurburgring 2014

Minichamps also offers an extensive line of concept cars including several American models from the 1950s. If you want a model of the Chrysler Norseman or the 1956 Buick Centurion, these are about the only one’s you’ll find. The real concepts seldom shared parts with other cars, so the models have to commit to the same standards. Considering that these cars were usually only painted one color scheme in their lives, there can only be so many variants to produce in miniature. Minichamps is committed to making that happen anyway.

1965 Mercedes-Benz O302

1965 Mercedes-Benz O302

Since Minichamps cars produced in relatively small quantities, discontinued models can be hard to find. If you don’t see one for sale on hobbyDB, you can create a Wish List of the ones you’re looking for which will alert sellers that you are in the market for that model. With the data coming directly from Minichamps, everyone will be able to know exactly which version of a model you want and you’ll get an email as soon as your desired model goes up for sale.

1956 Buick Centurion Concept

1956 Buick Centurion Concept

A look through their archives will show a mind-boggling array of other types of models as well… drivers’ helmets, crew figures, buses, tractors… There is a rich world of miniature vehicles and accessories to explore in the Minichamps archive.

Arai Helmet S. Vettel Suzuka 2010

Arai Helmet S. Vettel Suzuka 2010

 

 

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Slot Car Track Evolved For High-Speed Racing

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

A few days ago I wrote about some Aurora Model Motoring slot car track pieces that were tied to the hobby’s roots in simulating driving instead of racing. By the late ‘60s, the preferred intent for slot cars was racing at higher and higher speeds on increasingly ridiculous courses. Wider cars, stickier wheels and magnetic traction assist combined to offset the rise more powerful engines, resulting in flat-out speed with less skill required.

As the Model Motoring era of slot cars subsided, several new brands of cars, track and accessories took over the hobby. Here are some track segments that signaled the new trends.

aurora banked hairpin

The Model Motoring Banked Hairpin Track Curve was one of the final hurrahs for the old brand. This single piece of track was a very tight 180 degree curve featuring built-in lane barriers. But even with the newer Aurora Tuff-Ones chassis, the cars still weren’t very fast or exciting.
lionell starting gateLionel, best known for their O-scale trains, dabbled in HO scale for a bit in both areas. This Racing Start Track piece was one of their innovations. The sharp transition angles suggest they didn’t quite understand some of the forces that slot cars might be subjected to. In recent years, Lionel Racing managed to remain a small player in the slot car game.

aurora afx hairpin squeezeAurora went back to the drawing board with their AFX line of equipment. The new cars featured modern racing amenities mentioned before, and their new track system featured easier to assemble and stronger connection bit. (The bad news was this system was not compatible with the old track, making it obsolete.) Pieces like this Hairpin Squeeze Track were symbolic of the new ideal. The snap on red and white rumble strips are necessary for additional sliding clearance, and for added safetly, guardrails were a wise idea.

aurora afx flex track

tyco loop

One constant of track design has been curves that bend in combinations of 45 degree and 90 degree angles. In an attempt to free up the hobby even further, AFX introduced Flex Track, a strip of infinitely bendable and bankable track. It was cool in theory, but was very bumpy to drive on, and the springs that replaced the solid rails were uneven as well, so it never became that popular.

Many model railroad companies tried their hand at slot cars as a possible extension of the brand, but only a few thrived in both hobbies. Tyco became one of the dominant brands in both until their demise as a company… luckily Mattel bought them just in time to rebrand the slot cars for their Hot Wheels themed sets. The trains did not survive, however.

Tyco offered an innovative loop system in which 8 sections of track combined to make the full circuit. With some creative thinking, course designers could add extra segments to make the loop taller, or even have it climb walls.

tyco us-1 trucking airport

Lost somewhere in Tyco’s racing and railroad history was the US1 Trucking slot series. These were set up for slow moving, realistic “action” including backing up trailers into docks and side spurs such as this elaborate Airport Terminal set. Fun in theory, but kids decided racing slot semis was even more fun, this series only lasted a few years.

hot wheels tyco slot car loop

As for the Hot Wheels connection, someone figured out that making the track orange and adding loops would be a brilliant bit of marketing, so we got crazy set ups like this crazy double loop piece. A close look shows that each single lane loop also acts a as a lane changer. Mattel’s current sets usually come with minimal track for small, inexpensive layouts that serve as a nice introduction to the hobby.

micro machines slot car set

Speaking of crazy loops, Galoob entered the slot car market in the early ‘90s with their Micro Machines sets. The cars were larger than the standard Micro Machines, but significantly smaller than the “HO” offerings from most brands. Their layouts, such as this Cyclone City set, also came mostly pre-assembled in small cases, with only a few bits to set up to get running. For a variety of reasons, these never really caught on and were only available for a few years.

life like crash intersection

Remember the Four-Way Intersection piece with responsible pavement markings we saw last time? Life-Like figured out what kids want, so their version of this piece was called the “Crash Intersection” and was marked with a big ol’ explosion graphic. Give the kids what they want, right? Life-Like was one of the early companies that succeeded long-term in both hobbies and stayed relevant with such thinking. It remains one of the few brands you might see represented in both areas on modern toy or hobby shop shelves.

lifelike squiggle track

Another cool Life-Like track was the Skid Straight segment. The older versions of squiggle track featured both lanes swerving in parallel fashion, but this one has a much more random set of curves. Their first version was three inches wide like regular track. Later ones added a “shoulder” to give a bit more space. The most recent one isn’t even black pavement, but is decorated in a blue swirly water pattern that Van Gogh might approve of.

lifle-like tyco afx adaptersWhile everyone’s cars are largely compatible with different track brands, the track from one brand to another is not. Life-Like figured that out a way around that and created a set of short adapter tracks to solve that problem. One version connects their brand on one end to Tyco on the other, and another version goes from their brand to AFX. These are highly recommended bits to own, allowing the best of all worlds. Auto World now offers the same adapters. The course my family set up for Thanksgiving break this year includes track from all three brands thanks to these pieces.

Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be any adapters to go back to old Model Motoring track, so you’ll have to rely on vintage stock for that. But a recent trend in slot cars has been to offer the old ThunderJet chassis with new body designs, so at least you can see if slow and steady can indeed win the race on a new course.

Let us know if you have some favorite pieces of slot car, early or modern, that we didn’t cover here!

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Celebrate the Holidays with the hobbyDB Thanksgiving Sale!

It’s been an incredible year for us and that’s all thanks to you! So we wanted to make sure we showed our appreciation in an appropriate way – big discounts on collectibles! We’ve partnered up with our sellers to bring you some great deals on all sorts of awesome stuff, from posters and books to models and magazines! Enjoy the hobbyDB Thanksgiving Sale through Monday!

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Early Slot Car Track was Designed for Driving, Not Racing

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

As I mentioned in yesterday’s column, Thanksgiving week is a time for setting up a slot car track in our household for some good family racing fun. While modern slot cars are capable of ridiculous speeds through wild courses, that wasn’t the case in the early days of the hobby. Slot cars were not originally designed for racing, but for simulating a real driving experience, similar to the way model railroads did. These earliest slot car designs were mostly based on regular production cars, although some of them were sporty models. These cars moved at a much slower pace than modern slot racers, and the track reflected those conditions.

aurora bump track

Aurora Model Motoring was the dominant brand of HO scale slot cars in the U.S. in the 1960s. Their track was also made to emphasize skill over speed, with the Bump Roadways section being a perfect example. Heavily magnetized modern slot cars might be able to hug the pavement going over this hump at maximum throttle, but even at low speeds, the old ThunderJet cars could get airborne at the pinnacle.

aurora culvert track

They probably wouldn’t sail across the room at those velocities, but they’d likely get enough lift to lose their bearings and crash. This track segment came with warning signs and later versions even had lovely culvert decoration.

aurora junction track

The Junction Turnout track gives you a good clue about the intention of these early sets. A knob on the side of this segment made it possible for the car to make a turn off the main track and onto some other adventure in civilized driving. It’s not clear how someone could hold the controller on one side of the layout while reaching across to turn the knob, so some teamwork was required.aurora y split track

The Y-Split track shows another feature that most modern slot enthusiasts don’t think about… Model Motoring was designed as a single lane experience. In fact, most layouts at the time were created not for side-by-side racing in one direction, but for each lane to run in opposite directions like a public road. So the Y-track was designed not to separate race cars, but to allow a median between single lanes going in opposite directions.

aurora squeeze track

The original Squeeze Track also takes on a different meaning when you think of city driving versus racing. On modern tracks, especially with the much wider car designs, a squeeze track usually moves both lanes inward, creating an opportunity to intimidate your opponent in a game of side-by-side chicken. Here, only one lane swerves, designed to test your reaction as a car suddenly veers towards your lane from the other direction.

aurora cobblestone track

Cobblestone track segments were designed to give a different look and theme to the track setup, but also required a perfect touch in order to not get bogged down between the bumps. The old cars didn’t have a lot of torque, so stopping here wasn’t a wise idea.

aurora spiral roadway

Here’s something that isn’t really a piece of track, but a useful (and now rare) accessory… The Spiral Roadway Support allowed the creation of 360 degree (or more) climbing turns. While that sounds like an exciting prospect, remember, without the benefit of magnets or banked curves, responsible driving was still the ideal. Play it safe, kids!

aurora slot car intersection

A turning point in the hobby may have come with the introduction of the Four-Way Intersection track piece… as you can see from the photo, the track was intended as a four-way stop, complete with markings on the pavement. Clip-on stop signs were available too. But it took kids about thirty seconds to figure out that it was way more fun to try to beat the other drivers through the crossing without stopping. …And then another three seconds to realize that crashing the cars was even more fun. And thus, the era of responsible miniature motoring ended in a series of horrific but amusing collisions.

aurora raliroad crossing

…Then Aurora really upped the ante by creating the Railroad Grade Crossing section. Hey, if smashing two cars together was a hoot, then beating an HO scale train across the road was buckets of fun, and causing a major derailment was a sheer delight!

aurora speed curve

Aurora also offered the Speed Curve set, which was a set of barriers designed to separate the two lanes of a curve. When different radius curves were nested together, and the cars were all set in one direction, this encouraged high-speed, four-wide racing action. Yep, the race was officially on.

aurora daredevil obstacles

The cat was completely out of the bag with the release of the Daredevil Obstacle Course Accessories set. These yellow pieces fit onto various straight or curved track segments to create jumps, teeter totters, and miniature bumps. They weren’t electrified, so speed was of the essence. Skill was still necessary, but safe, sensible driving was pretty much a lost cause at this point.

Around the mid 1960s, it was apparent that kids wanted to race their slot cars, even if they weren’t that fast yet. Body designs started to include some even sportier production cars as well as famous race cars such as Ferraris and Shelby Cobras. Upgraded chassis and motor designs added a bit more speed, but traction was still anemic, as they still rode on skinny tires. But by the end of the decade, the parameters for slot cars had shifted towards pure racing. Track design started to reflect this new emphasis as well. We’ll take a look at some more modern specialized slot car track soon.

Let us know in the comments if you have any favorite old school slot car track that we didn’t list!

Comments (2 Comments)
John falk

I had this stoplight intersection track. I paid 4.75 for it 1972. I wish I till had it. It was an excellent and well designed accessory.

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Secrets of Hot Wheels Models with Bob Rosas & Larry Wood

Bob Rosas and Larry Wood

Have you always wondered the what the inspiration behind some of the most famous Hot Wheels designs? Discover more about your favorite diecast models in the second segment in our five part Hot Wheels Fireside Chat featuring Bob Rosas and Larry Wood.

If this is your first time checking out this Fireside Chat series, a little background. At the beginning of October, the hobbyDB team journeyed to Los Angeles, California to attend the annual Hot Wheels Collectors Convention. While at the convention, we got the privilege to interview two of Hot Wheels’ greatest designers, Larry Wood and Bob Rosas. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing parts of the live video interview as well as a blog post that includes the transcript. The videos are separated into five different segments:

  1. History 
  2. Individual Hot Wheels Cars (this one)
  3. Hot Wheels – The Series
  4. Cars in 1:1 Scale
  5. Today

As a reminder, a bit of background –

Rosas designed Hot Wheels cars from 1969 to 1988. He worked on developing many series including Mean Machines Motorcycles,  Steering Rigs, Ultra Hots, and Real Riders. One of his big contributions to the diecast hobby was working on improving the tampo process in the 1970s. The intricately designed graphics you see on model cars today wouldn’t be possible without his efforts.

Wood also joined Hot Wheels in 1970, and is still with the company as a consultant. His first design was the Tri-Baby in 1970. He also created the ’49 Merc, the Boyd Coddington collector set, the Ramblin’ Wrecker (which originally featured his phone number on its sides) as well as several school bus designs.

Rosas and Wood are both members of the Diecast Hall of Fame.

Please enjoy the second segment, Individual Hot Wheels Cars.

Transcript of Fireside Chat Part 2:

Christian: And now I have a lot of questions about individual cars. So, the first one comes from Sergio Goldvarg. Sergio runs a restaurant that has 10,000 cars in it, in Florida, worthwhile seeing, he’s also a guinness book record holder of the largest toy car collection. And he particularly collects Batmobiles, he has everything from 1:1 scale to 1:240 scale. He wants to know of all the many castings you guys did, which one did you have the most fun designing and which one did you like most at the end.

Bob: For me, I’ll never forget the Steering Rigs, the GMC Motorhome, you know some of the earlier cars from the early 70s, I mean the middle 70s actually, but the GMC Motorhome is quite a story. If you make it to scale, it wouldn’t fit in the packaging, you know with the 1:64. So it’s a little out of scale, plus I took 10 linear feet out of the middle, so that would make it down to three inches. I got the plans from GMC Corporation, they sent me the blueprints, and we were able to make a more accurate rendering. Because you know, it’s just a loaf of bread, there’s not that much to it, but I think Larry did a great job on the detailing and the tampo graphics.

Larry: One thing you have to remember, with Hot Wheels, the scale was the size of the package. So Volkswagen could be the same size as a cement truck. So when it came to this, we couldn’t do a little tiny thing that was real long, so we had to squash it and pull it up, so that was kind of fun.

For me, you know I got so many of them I love them all. But when the Bone Shaker, because of the guys that like the Bone Shaker, You know I learned to, the thing was just a sketch, and I think I threw it away once, and then I pulled it out of the trash, and then I looked at it again and thought, oh this might be kind of fun. So I took it from just a dumb idea into a dumb toy, and all of a sudden everybody liked it. So I’m sticking with the Bone Shaker.

Christian: And now you can drive it, they build one in 1:1 Scale, right?  

Larry: That’s it. But I’ll tell you the truth, I can’t fit into it. So they wanted to do a video.

Christian: Is that why they cut off the roof at the end?

Larry: Yeah, the problem was, the steering wheel was here, and the door was here and your break wouldn’t work. Which is ok, you don’t care about the brakes. But they wanted to make a video with it. And I said I’ll drive it but you got to put me in a place where I don’t need the brakes. So I went out on an airstrip, I went and did donuts and everything, but had to downshift it and tried to get my foot over to the brake to finally stop it. Yeah, it’s tight in that car.

Christian: Excellent, so this is a question from Chicago. Lou227 wants to know on the redline Rolls Royce and Mercedes 280SL, the hoods open the wrong way (they are hinged at the windshields) but the Custom Corvette and Maserati Mistral have their hoods hinged correctly. Was it a mistake or was it intentional?

Larry: We can answer this real easy. We weren’t there. That was Harry Bradley and I don’t know who the engineer was at the time, but yeah that was before us. That was the first year.

Christian: True, sorry Lou.

Larry: I would tend to think, because staking, you couldn’t get to the little thin cowl, it would probably warp like crazy.

Bob: Yes the big piece, rigidity in the middle.  Maybe they had to stake it.

Christian: So the next question comes from HW Collector, he’s in San Diego: Whose idea was the Hot Seat? And why?! Did anyone complain about Hot Wheels making a toilet on wheels?

Larry: Luckily I had nothing to do with that. We weren’t there. I can’t remember who did it. Have you seen the latest, was it Mark Jones? Have you seen the newest one, the toilet seat moves as it goes down the track. Like the shark, got a new one. That must have been Jones. That seems like a Jones.

Christian: Alright, fair enough. Next question comes from Jason Duncan. This is for Larry. Since you designed the ’65 Mustang Convertible, and several other Mustangs, what Mustang casting is your favorite one to design, and why?

Larry: Well I worked in Detroit and I was there at 65 so I was working on the the 67, 68 on those Mustangs. I always drew hot rods with big hood scoops on them, and finally my boss came to me one day and said, you know cars don’t have that, this was the performance era luckily, cars don’t have that, we could never do that. So I showed him how it could be done, you just drain the water out here, you scoop it, you seal it, and it shakes, so it became the shaker hood scoop. So I gotta go with the 69 Mustang, the trouble is we never did one with the shaker hood scoop, but that’s the car that should have the shaker hood scoop on it.

Christian: Maybe there’s hope.

Larry: I was going to say, maybe that will be my next car.

Christian: The next question comes from London from Mighty Maverick, and he says I am a fan of the 1970 range (those were the first he got) and always wanted to know what were the stories behind the Tri Baby, the Mantis, the Peeping Bomb and the Whip Creamer – what’s the inspiration behind these?  

Larry: Well, we were doing crazy dream cars then, so I suppose there wasn’t really a reason for each car. All I can really tell you is Tri Baby is an easy one for me, because I came out of Detroit doing door handles, tail lights and grills and everything and the first day at Mattel I sat down, and they said, do a car. And I said, I get to do a whole car? What are you going to do, you’re going to do a sports car right? And then so, I’d worked in aircraft, so that’s where I got where I got the turbine engine idea in the back. That’s how the Tri Baby came about, it’s my first real sports car that I got to design.

Christian: And who came up with the names?

Larry: We had a guy named Sid, and that was his job. Kind of a strange guy, and he came up with some strange names, so it fit them.

Christian: Were they always accepted? Or you had a negotiation with him?

Larry: I don’t think we had an input then. Later on we finally did have the input.

Bob: The two things that we did put in got through. They had a legal guy.

Larry: Up until halfway through, they controlled the names, you can finally tell when they started naming the cars the right way is when we put our two cents in. We did all that work to do a really neat car, and then they had all these crazy names.

Christian: Any ones that you hated or loved?

Larry: The Bubble Gunner. It was supposed to be a bubble gum machine. That was the name, but it was not my favorite.

Christian: The next question comes from Jean-Philippe Coté, he’s from NY and writes – I always wanted to know why sometimes a model is based on a real car, but the name of the model isn’t. For example, Hot Wheels produced a Ferrari 308 but it was named Race Bait 308.  Do you only acquire the rights to the casting but not the name of the car?

Bob: They not very often used the real names. Usually it was something gimmicky.

Larry: We’re going to blame Sid.

Bob: Yeah it had to be something.

Christian: So what happened, Sid left and then you guys were suddenly in charge.

Larry: Yeah we got in charge, to do the right names.

Christian: Sounds like cost cutting. The guy only did names?

Larry: Yeah, well legal, I should say. And, I’ll give you a story to show you where things went. We never had a problem with legal. We could do any car, we could do any graphics, we could do anything we want. I designed and worked on the car for ZZ Top, the Eliminator, the little red coupe, with the two Zs down the side of it. I won’t credit for putting the Zs on the side, but I designed the car. So Billy Gibbons, I met him because we were designing cars and everything, so I thought I’ll do Billy Gibbons’ car, he’d like that right? So I did the 34 Ford with the two Zs on the side. Well they got a lawyer and that lawyer really protected their brand, and that was the first time that we got in trouble for doing a legal thing that wasn’t legal. We had to pay him a bunch of money to keep the status ok with the company. And that was the first time. And from that point it just went crazy and you could imagine the legal hassles of doing a NASCAR, every tampo, every logo, every stitch, little tiny thing on those cars, because we are trying to do them accurate, had to be legal, had to be cleared. So legal went from not caring whatever car we went to, to every little dot on that car.

Christian: And when was that?

Larry: It progressed. But ZZ Top car was really the beginning of that.

Christian: And what year was that?

Larry: These guys would probably know the ZZ Top car better than I do. So late 70s. And then like I say, it just got bigger and bigger in fact, one of the biggest departments right now is the legal department. You have to clear the car, clear every tampo they put on the side, every name they put on it and everything, completely different.

Bob: I believe it was the 3-Window ’34.

Larry: Yep

Bob: You know there was another car that they went right down to using a dremel tool to taking name off the bottom and that was the NASCAR Stocker. I think they called it Mountain Dew Stocker, and then they said we can’t do that. So before we shipped them, they had to grind the name off. And then we called it the Racing Stocker.

Christian: Is that Sid again?

Larry: No this was us, by the time. But again this was a legal thing.

Bob: Then we couldn’t use NASCAR then by the end it was Racing Stocker.

Larry: Which everybody loves because they are hard to find, that’s half the fun!

Christian: True, true, the next question comes from Tom Kurtz, he’s from ParisI understand both of you worked on the Lickety Six which seems clearly based on the Tyrrell P34, was it changed as it was just a toy or was it difficult/expensive to get a license to model the actual car?

Larry: I think at that case, we probably didn’t want to go through all the licensing problems. We just did it on our own. I’m a little surprised we didn’t get called on that, because it’s pretty easy to figure out what car that is. I think we just sell the car on magazines, and it had six front wheels, and we said hey that’s unnatural, we should do something like that. So I think it’s just one of those things, we just did and hoped no one would call us on it.

Audience Member: I don’t think Tyrrell would have cared.

Larry: That’s just it, some people were glad that we did some, other people would just jump all over us.

Bob: There was not a lot of versions at the time. I think it’s 7 variations of it now. India, Mexico, and France.

Christian: As an engineer was this good on the track?

Bob: As good as any.

Larry: it had plenty of wheels to rub on the sides, so it actually was pretty good compared to rubbing diecast on the sides.

Christian: So the next question comes from Jonathan Johnson and he wants to know who came up with the Sizzlers concept and how did you choose a casting for the first prototype models.

Bob: What came from the Preliminary Design (Ed. an internal team call Preliminary Design or Prelim) was the major influence in engineering from George Solacus and my only involvement was towards the tail end, when they were trying the chrome version and this will have lights on it, just a little different. That was the last of them for a while then they came back again, of course, a few years ago.

Larry: I can remember when Prelim turned that thing over, it had a huge battery in it, because there was no battery that small at the time. So it had a big battery, wires and everything, and it just went around the track. And they said here it is. And I said, I can’t do a body around that thing it’s got this huge battery in it. So they went to a battery manufacturer and worked to get the battery down to the right size and I personally think that would be a great thing to come back. With technology now those batteries would probably run for a week!

Christian: Sure but this has a small battery.

Larry: And put that into a Hot Wheels, in a Sizzler, they’d go crazy you could probably even charge it on the run. So I’m actually going to propose it to Mattel.

Audience: There’s a new line of Sizzlers coming out this year, ten second charges. They are kind of like the XV Racers.

Christian: This question is from Pittsburgh it’s someone call 80’s Kid. In the 1980’s blackwall era, Hot Wheels made some for the brand unusual choices of cars like the Pontiac J2000, Omni 024, Cadillac Seville, Ford Escort, Renault LeCar, Peugeot 505 and also the Dodge Aries Wagon and Chevy Citation. These were done in realistic paint colors, without wild graphics. They’re cool models but they’re much more “ordinary” new and very different than what you had done in the past. What happened and why?

Larry: This is an easy one. We should explain that when we pick cars, some years we get to pick cars. Other years marketing gets to pick cars, it matters who has control that year. Most of these, starting with the Poison Pinto, there was a gas crisis. They came and said we were going to do gas crisis cars. And I said, these are Hot Wheels, they are going down a track, they are going fast. So they wanted a Pinto Winebago, well you know what I did with the Pinto Winebago (Ed. the Poison Pinto), but later on they said, well, we need regular cars. And that kind of extended from that point of having because of the gas crisis and continued, what we did regular dog cars for quite a while, and finally design got control back and did the stuff we wanted.

Christian: And how did that work, I mean what was the fight?

Larry: You can imagine, you pick a car, you fill a wall full of drawings and photographs end everything, and if you go in there right now it’s the same thing, there is a big wall with cars, for you know sports cars, hot rods, and you know, everybody’s idea goes up on the wall and you start coming back and picking things. Well if there’s a marketing guy between you that says no, we’re not doing that hot rod with a big engine, we’re doing the Peugeot or something. I think at that time we were trying to get into Europe as well.

Bob: We were required to do actual European cars back then.

Christian: I’m European, there are some better choices than the Peugeot 505…

Larry: But not what we were told. We were told that was the car that you should do.

Bob: But I agree, you know I used to walk into the store, and I would see the Aries K wagon, or the pegs were full with the Aries Wagon and the Packin’ Pacer, and they were the only ones that didn’t sell. For a while there, they are probably still in the back.

Christian: The next question comes from a user that calls herself, Rubber Ducky Chick and she wants to know from you Larry, when you used to put your phone numbers on the Ramblin’ Wrecker, how many phone calls you would get, and also what people would ask you?

Larry: Well the story is, I put my phone number on the Larry’s towing. I put it on there because I figured it would be kind of a good business card, right? Meet people and hand the Hot Wheels to them and you say give me a call if you want to do business together or something. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Well the first phone call came about 6:00am in the morning on Christmas Eve some kid that was calling for Larry’s towing “I just got this under the tree and I’m calling” and I say “are your parents up” “No, I’m playing with my Hot Wheels” and I said “Well put it back down, go back to bed” and you know and the phone rang a few more times, off and on for a little while. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was, I didn’t have an area code on it, so every area code in the United States started getting that phone call. So we got a call from a minister in Chicago, and for some reason, Chicago kids love that number and he said “I’m getting phone calls like crazy.” So as you can imagine, we were told to take it off.

Bob: I have something to add to that. The shield on the door, is also a Big Jim thing, we used that on the fire truck and fire eater, and this one here. A classic carryover, Big Jim.

Larry: I gotta to tell you a future story after that as a friend of mine who worked for Barbie, and he tried to sneak his phone number on Barbie’s bed. He got caught, he thought hey, you know.

Christian: Do you remember any of the calls? (to Larry’s wife)

Larry: Oh yeah, she was the one who usually got the calls.

Larry’s wife: One time a husband called, he was checking his phone bill and saw all these phone calls, and was suspicious of his wife was cheating on him. And she hadn’t done anything wrong.

Larry: He was checking up on his phone bill and somebody was calling me all the time, and so he thought his wife had a thing going. And it was the kid calling. I wasn’t in on that one.

Christian: The next question comes from Florida and he/she calls himself Lananeeneenoonoo and he wants to know Torero and Turbofire were the first original designs in the range. How did Hot Wheels decide to include original designs in the range? Was it always planned? How did this approach work out?

Larry: Again before us, I would tend to think that when they first started they did the custom stuff, took a regular car, and put a big engine in it, and everything, you know they are designers. They wanted to do something a little wilder. It was probably Ira who started doing the wild shapes because he did the twin mill and all those neat looking cars. He had a whole series of cool looking cars, and even the work horses, it was probably Ira.

Christian: The next one is one of yours. It comes from Ireland, user is call DeLorean fan Is it true that Hot Wheels was going to make a DeLorean back in the 80’s, but then had to modify the casting and released it as the Turismo? If so, what happened?

Larry: Ok the original DeLorean was a mid engine car and they had built a mock-up of it, and they were testing it and everything else, so we copied that car, so the wheelbase was a little longer, the shape is a little nicer, it was a nice car. The trouble is, by the time that we tooled it, they had gone to the rear engine car and the wheelbase had moved and the car had changed shape. So DeLorean said “no you can’t do that car, you have to do the new car.” And weren’t about to do two DeLoreans so we modified it to the ugly grill, and added a few other pieces to it, to make it error.

Bob: After it was built, the EDM details had changed, but I have a few real ones.

Christian: We’ll need some images for those later. Excellent, so I guess you waited until the company went bust and then made it?

tursimo

turismo-back

Larry send us these photos after the event

Bob: Years later.

Larry: By now it’s worth doing. Back then, it was a car that we were pretty sure that it wasn’t going to be a big deal and it wasn’t worth doing two tools on it. Now it’s worth it.

Christian: The next question comes from Ohio, from Andy Cell and he asked,  can you talk about a few cars that you were going to make and did not or about Hot Wheels concepts that could not be done and why and what happened?

Larry: I know one car we didn’t make but we made a brass and we made a prototype and a toy show model. It was a Mercury Cyclone and I think it was the first year I was there. So it never went any further than that. In fact I’ve seen about, I personally know of about, 8 or 10 prototypes that never got beyond the handmade stage. And you know some of them were pretty cool and the Mercury, I don’t have the slightest idea, it’s a beautiful looking car. I don’t know why it never went any further, but maybe a legal problem.

Bob: I’ll tell you another one was a motorcycle, a prototype that was way different scale, even bigger than the Street Eater and the first motorcycle we did (Ed. the MotoCross), the one with a yellow seat, one with a red seat, but about a little bigger than that.

Larry: Yeah it was a good size. It would fit in the package.

Bob: Of course, they built the tools for them and carried it all the way to finish. I ordered some parts to put some together, just cause you know marketing might change their mind, and they needed to have some samples, so they sent them, printed, and finished up. That’s another one I can recall.

Christian: As the ones you remember, I know Bruce Pascal has a few of these early. Which one do you think was the coolest that should have been done?

Larry: Again I could mention a couple, but you’ve never seen them. They just disappeared. There was one where the wings came out, it was really cool, but it never was made. Trying to think of some other ones that we did, but again, sometimes we would go to the handmade model and you would look at it, and someone would say, we’re not going to do it.

Audience Member: More recent than those, was the Beatnik Bandit 2. I saw a resin about the time of the Silhouette II.

Larry: Ok, that would make sense.

Christian: The next question is from David Durovy. Was there ever a design or casting that you “fought” over?  Meaning… one you both wanted to design, one you debated on the HW “interpretation of,” stuff where you weren’t seeing eye to eye?

Larry: You do it.

Bob: No you do it.

Larry: We worked fine together. No, we had a great time. The two of us, like I said back in the corner having a good time playing with cars. So you couldn’t beat it. We had a little track where we could play with, you know try the cars out. Things like that. So it was no problem.

Bob: They only made six new ones a year, and we capped them at six, so there wasn’t a lot of cars, and it did take a long time to get the car to production, plus we had to go through all the preliminary sample sheet. Yes we made the first year, we had someone hand carve it, for many years.

Larry: Yeah you had to do a hand carving. You had to do a prototype for the toy shows all decorated up and most of those had the windows painted because they were solid.

Christian: So I hear all the time about this corner. How big was this corner? And what did you do, did you race cars?

Larry: Like I said we were just over in the corner with the partitions you know, the partitions were about here, you could stand up and yell at each other and everything like that. And I remember the rest of it was all Barbie. That’s not true, there was Big Jim and HeMan and all that of course every once and a while they would go hit, you know like all the sudden HeMan was a big department. Also in the very very beginning when we first got there, there was a department that was called Freelin, which was the idea place, where Sizzlers came out. My job was to make the car look good, his job was to make it, and make it go down a track and everything, so by the time it got to us, it was pretty much filtered down, but Freelin did crazy things. You would go in there and things would be flying around tracks and everything, but that was their job. Their job was not to make it, their job was to come up with the ideas, and what’s fun is to find the prototypes that they came up with. They look ugly as sin, but they do things, like Bob’s got plenty of those, you know do the wheelie, they weren’t went to look pretty, they were just meant to work, so that was kind of fun.  

– End of Part 2 –

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