Fireside Chat with Bob Rosas & Larry Wood – Part 1 on Hot Wheels history

At the beginning of October, the hobbyDB team journeyed to Los Angeles, California to attend the annual Hot Wheels Collectors Convention. It’s five days jam-packed with awesome cars, people, and events. We also were excited to host some of the informational sessions during the convention including a Fireside Chat with Hot Wheels designers Larry Wood and Bob Rosas. During the session, both designers spent more than an hour answering questions from Hot Wheels fans around the world. We loved getting to know more about them and their Hot Wheels adventures and we hope you will to. 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
  3. Hot Wheels – The Series
  4. Cars in 1:1 Scale
  5. Today

Before we get started, 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 first segment, History.

Transcript for Part 1

Christian: So we wanted to use the opportunity today to have two of Hot Wheels hottest Engineers sitting here. And what we did is we went out and put questions on about 25 forums and blogs and said hey, if you have a question that you’ve always wanted to ask, give it to us and then we’ll pass it on today. So I got 24 questions here which we will go through and if there is also time, then we will open it up to the room and with further ado, the first question comes from Cyprus from someone called Zuell – “He wants to know from you Bob. I’d love to know if any of the work you did on Barbie and Big Jim found its way into Hot Wheels”.

Larry: You worked on Barbie?

Bob: Yeah

Larry: Oh I didn’t know that!

Bob: Well we did a Barbie Hot Wheels, in fact we tried to propose it a couple of times, but it got shot down. Big Jim, yeah, we used the on the Fire Eater, we used the logo from Big Jim on the door. And there may have been another place. Look at the fire eater and you’ll see a Big Jim logo right on the door.

Larry: what you have to understand though, we were over in the corner, and Barbie was everything else. Hot WHeels was just a couple of guys over in the corner drawing cars, we didn’t even pay Barbie’s taxes, Barbie owned the place. SO if you got to work on Barbie, you were successful, if you were a Hot Wheels guy, it was two guys over in the corner and no one ever paid attention to us.

Christian: Did you ever try to get over to the other side.

Larry: No no, I never wore pink. Bob looked good in pink. Actually I had to do a pink shirt and I did actually do Barbie’s corvette. So that’s the only thing they had me do.

Christian: But you did do a lot of pink cars.

Larry: Oh we did a lot of pink cars, but they weren’t barbie cars. In fact, that’s why they wouldn’t sell very much because people didn’t want girlie cars.

Bob: They also did a Barbie GNC motorhome.

Larry: That’s right

Bob: And that was based on our little car.

Christian: The next question is from Andy Goodman who works at M2 and he wanted to know from you Larry – “One thing I’ve always wanted to know, why is Larry retiring when he did. Why then, he was at the top of his game, had control of the department, could have stayed full time, as long as he wanted, doing what he loved. Is there a reason why he retired when he did.

Larry: Well basically, I was already getting out anyway. I was only working three days a week which was pretty nice, and I was working on my cars in my shop on the other couple of days. And the department, the main reason was, that the whole area was going digital. And I just like the feel of pencil on paper. And when you do that, I did one car, the Passin’ Gasser, the only car I ever did a b-sheet on with a computer. And it was kind of neat because you could pull the wheel up this big, and put your logo on it and then shrink it back down, remember they compared it to trying to draw. But it just didn’t have a feel. And like I say, they used to say when they were talking PR, they used to say well, we’re almost all digital. And I’d think, yeah, that’s because of me. So when I left, they said, ok we’re all digital, it’s all yours. So basically that was it, it was just, and you stop thinking, the collector had hit it’s peak, the 18 scale was dropping off, the 24 scale was dropping off, everybody already had those cars, so as far as I was concerned it was perfect timing. I didn’t see any future in the collector end anymore, and like I said, the digital thing, it just was perfect timing.

Christian: Next question is back to you Bob. “After your great work at Mattel” This is DK47 from Ohio, “He wanted to know, do you stay in the model car business, or did you move to another industry and what did you do?

Bob: Yes I went to another industry, I designed appliances for a first Wolf range company. I don’t know if you’ve seen their ads, if you’ve seen them on commercials and stuff on tv. They’ve got big red knobs. And what I did for them was develop anywhere from 30 inches up to 6 feet double ovens, french tops, griddles, char broilers, got to know all that stuff, and became a certified gas engineer and designer.

Larry: My son and I actually had one of those stoves that we used to cook on. A big old wolf range with big red knobs. A beautiful piece.

Christian: Do the buttons still have flames on them?

Larry: They had flames as soon as you turned it, I’ll tell you that. Wolf!

– End of Part 1 –

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