Customizers Posts

Studebaker Coupe Gets Nose Job to Look Like Tucker Torpedo

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Over the past two years, we’ve contributed articles to Die CastX magazine for publication on their website and in their quarterly print edition. We hope you enjoy reading about the back story of a couple of older Tucker and Studebaker diecast models.

Hollywood Stunt Double Gets Nose Job to Look Like Movie Star! Well, kind of. But now that we have your attention, read on.

Road Signatures Studebaker Tucker

The movie “Tucker: The Man and His Dream” is one of the more fascinating car movies that doesn’t involve racing or chasing. Only 51 copies of the Tucker Torpedo were made before Preston Tucker’s company went under, so director Francis Ford Coppola used his own Tucker and borrowed as many as he could from other owners, promising to take great care of them.

Tucker stunt car

But in one scene, a Tucker crashes and rolls over on a test track. If this film were made today, the crash scene would be simple to create in CGI, and filmmakers could wreck as many pixelated Tuckers as they wanted. But in 1988, when the film was made, that wasn’t an option. Neither was wrecking an actual Tucker.

So a 1950 Studebaker sedan was called in as a stunt double. With its similarly shaped bullet nose, suicide rear doors and fender bulges, the Stude was a good candidate for a little plastic surgery (sheet metal surgery?) up front and a nip/tuck to create the fastback rear end. No modifications were made to move the engine from front to rear, so the scene had to be carefully edited to prevent the undercarriage from showing too much.

Road Signatures Studebaker Tucker

If you wanted to make your own 1:18 scale version of the “Stucker,” Road Signatures has you covered. The Tucker was available as a basic version and a super-detailed limited edition, shown here. The rear mounted V-8 features extra paint detail with orange header covers and manifolds as well as additional chrome and silver bits. The car also includes four opening doors and trunk (it’s up front, remember) with luggage and a spare tire. Chassis details looks sparse at first, but remember, as a rear engine, rear drive car, there was no drive shaft to model.

As for the Studebaker, Road Signatures offered a 1950 Starliner coupe, which shared the front end with the sedan but looked completely different from the back. The model captures the complex curves of the car accurately. There’s not much detail under the hood, because the inline 6 takes up very little space. The trunk opens to reveal spare tire, and the sparse interior has good detail where needed. As you can see, the Studebaker required not only a nose job but a butt lift too.

Road Signatures Studebaker Tucker

A close look at the real stunt car shows it was crudely assembled, as it was only meant to be seen at a distance and at speed, so precision isn’t required in recreating it. Plus, it was also wrecked, which gives you even more latitude to make yours messy.

So with a bit of sheet styrene on the backend, and all the chrome details stolen from the Tucker, the Studebaker can be made into a reasonable miniature stand-in for the real stand-in for the real car.

Road Signatures Studebaker Tucker

Customizers Corner: What’s the Rarest Model You’ve Modified?

by Ron Ruelle

by Ron Ruelle

We’ve featured several diecast customizers over the last couple of months, covering works with a wide range of complexity and scale. Many of these folks start with fairly new, but not terribly expensive models (lots of Hot Wheels) and turn them into something more interesting and valuable. So here’s a question for all you customizers… What’s the oldest, most valuable, or rarest model you’ve torn apart, hacked into, or painted over to create something new?

Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby Boss Henry Blast Em

Full disclosure: I make no claim to be a great customizer, I just have a lot of fun doing this sort of thing. Here’s an example that I did recently. In the early 1970s, Kenner SSP cars were among the most popular toys on the planet, especially the Smash-Up Derby sets. The first and most common set pitted a 1957 Chevy Nomad wagon (blue with lime green fly-off parts) against a 1957 Ford Fairlane coupe (orange with magenta parts). These sets later came in other notable color combinations, but this is the best known version.

Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby 1957 Ford Fairlane Chevy Nomad

About a year ago, I thought it would be neat to make some different body styles out of these cars. I cut part of the roof off both cars and started swapping them around. The Nomad was the recipient of the Fairlane’s roofline, and with some further filling in (and a custom trunk piece), it became a Bel Air coupe, finished in taxi yellow and silver.

Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby 1957 Chevy Nomad Bel Air

What was left of the Ford made a nice start for a Ranchero pick up. This one required more work than the other car, with more fabrication of parts, such as the bed cover and tailgate, as well as moving the gyro wheel mechanism forward about an inch from the original position. Additional detail parts such as the Ranchero’s blown engine and interior and rear bumper were cannibalized from other models as well. It was finished in bright pink with dark blue parts. In both cases, I chose colors that had never been used on these models before, another attempt to create something unique.

Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby 1957 Ford Fairlane Ranchero

A Smash-Up Derby set retailed for about six or seven dollars back in 1970. Today, a mint or lightly played-with set of these cars, complete with ramps and other accessories might fetch $150 or more… there was even a Bicentennial version that sells for double that amount. If I had made these modifications when these were brand new toys, there wouldn’t be much of an uproar. These cars were designed for rough play, so they usually got damaged anyway. But considering the rise in values over 40-plus years, some folks were horrified that I customized them. Truth is, these were not nice, mint examples… they were already heavily battered, incomplete cars when I got them, so it was no great loss to modify them. The end result turned out pretty nice, I think.

Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby

So I ask you again, customizers? What’s the oldest, rarest, or most valuable model you’ve torn apart, hacked into, or painted over to create something new? We want to do an article highlighting some of them, so tell your stories in the comments! And you can even upload pics now!

Customizers Corner: Jon P Wood of Custom Diecast Replicas

Custom Diecast Replicas Jon P Wood

We’ve featured a number of customizers who make models of wild hot rods, stretched, chopped, and reassembled into strange new rides. In most cases, the cars start with a familiar model from Hot Wheels or some other company and details are added, subtracted, and mixed in.

Looking at some of Custom Diecast Replicas’ models, you might wonder what exactly was changed. Most of them look like fairly stock cars. The changes are sometimes as simple as new paint. (We say “simple,” but that task usually involves recreating graphics and other details that are lost in the process, so it’s a lot of work!)

Here’s the catch… most of CDR’s models are special ordered by an individual who wants an exact replica of his or her own real car. “I do 90% of all my work in 1:18 scale,” said Jon P Wood, who has owned the company since 2012. “I’ve ventured into doing some 1:24 scale replicas when there is not a donor or starter car made in 1:18 scale.”

Custom Diecast Replicas 1968 shelby mustang

 The challenge grows when the donor model is a slightly different year or body style from the target car. Turning a fastback 1967 Mustang coupe into a 1968 Shelby convertible involves a lot more fabrication than you might think.

“Every car has its challenges,” Jon said,” but I think the custom built Volkswagen Drag Bug was one of the most difficult.” It started as a regular MiniChamps Beetle. The running boards were cut off along with the head and tail lights. All trim removed and filled, filled and custom items were built from scratch.

Custom Diecast Replicas volkswagen beetle dragster

Custom hoods, spoilers, all kinds of details are often fabricated from scratch. “There have been some custom front and rear bumpers that I have done also that was quite time consuming,” Jon said. That’s how a GMP Pontiac GTO became this Holden Monero model below. (Oddly enough, in real life, the Holden served as the basis for the GTO.)

Custom Diecast Replicas holden monaro

Prices for specific models will vary with several factors… the cost of the donor car, the amount of time fabricating custom parts, and complexity of the graphics. You can learn more at their website or on Facebook.

Customizers Corner: Karl-Martin Karle Sanger of KrautCustom

Karl-Martin Karle Sanger Krautcustom

Karl-Martin Karle Sanger Krautcustom

Most diecast customizers started collecting model cars early in life, and Karl-Martin Karle Sänger is no different. Well, his story is a bit different, as he grew up in Dresden, East Germany, so it wasn’t as easy for him to get his hands on such things. “I often received as a child Matchbox and Hot Wheels from West Germany. But I’ve really only been a Hot Wheels ‘collector’ since 2003.” he said.

With the falling of the Berlin Wall, toy cars were easier to find, but he still mostly admired them from afar. “When I went shopping, I always looked at the Hot Wheels cars and was delighted with the cool designs,” he said. I’ve never bought them. But in  autumn 2003, my wife bought me the first Hot Wheels for my collection. It was the Steel Flame, No. 014, which I still own and hold in honor.”

Despite having “several thousand” Hot Wheels cars now, he limits himself to being a completist on only a few castings. One of them is the Dairy Delivery, a popular choice among customizers. You can probably see where this is going, right? “I started to collect Custom models and so had my first indirect contact with Bryan Pope, Chris Walker, The Boxman, Al Gonzales, and many others,” he said.

So he got the urge to try it himself, calling his company KMS Krautcustom. And of course, the Dairy Delivery served as the basis for some his earliest custom work. 

Karl-Martin Karle Sanger of KrautCustom

Lorrie Davis and Karl-Martin Karle Sanger

KrautCustom Datsun BluebirdHe created his first real custom model for Lorrie Davis, a collector from West Chester, Ohio, sparking a lasting friendship. “We met for the first time on the SuperToyCon 2015 in Las Vegas. In my first ever event, I won a 1st and 2nd place in the amateur field. Nevertheless, my sales were very poor.” So Lorrie has become his manager and agent, and sales have picked up. He won another first and second at the Hot Wheels Nationals in Indianapolis in 2016, and this time buyers noticed his models for sale. His custom Datsun Bluebird Wagon was a popular model at Indy. 

“I’m particularly proud of my VW Drag Bus “Star Wars Boba Fett” series.” At first glance, his Boba Fett models might look familiar. After all, Hot Wheels did produce a Boba Fett car resembling the “Star Wars” bounty hunter… but it wasn’t based on the Drag Bus or the Kool Kombi like his are. For these models, Karl-Martin cuts the front of the bus to look like the Boba’s helmet. Designs range from impeccably new to severely battered. The result is unmistakeable.

Boba Fett Hot Wheels

Although a lot of his models look beaten and weathered, he can also create crisp, pristine looking modes. as well. Many KrautCustom models feature hand-painted designs that are almost too perfect to believe. for example, the flowers on this Drag Bus are all done that way.

KrautCustom Hot Wheels Drag Bus

Meanwhile, he has produced several very limited runs of custom models, anywhere from a single unique build 5o maybe 5 or so copies. He plans to be at the 2016 Super Toy Con, but no longer as an amateur. “I am very proud to be a Pro Customizer within 3 years,” he said.

Custom Dairy Delivery zombie

Customizers Corner: Hadi Rochmansyah of Madworx Kustom

Hadi Rochmansyah madworx

Hadi Rochmansyah cartoons magazine

If you’re a certain age, you may have grown up reading CARtoons magazine (sort of like Mad, but strictly about cars). It disappeared in the early 90s, but over the last couple of years it’s been making a comeback online. Hadi Rochmansyah is lucky enough to be one of the cartoonists in the revived venture, and he’s also an amazing diecast customizer.

Hadi, who lives in Indonesia, got his start in third grade customizing inexpensive pullback cars. He also developed an early knack for cartooning and was able to turn that into a job as an illustrator for an automotive tabloid.

“I sold my first custom in 2005 (a 1:32 pullback VW bus),” he said. “In 2006 I did my first Hot Wheels a ’69 Chevy truck with an opening hood. I start using ‘Madworks Kustom’ for my Garage’s name and then changed into ‘Madworx Kustom‘ in 2011. In 2014 I asked my brother to be a work partner and since then we’ve worked as a team.”

Hadi Rochmansyah madworx

His workbench looks like a miniature version of the kind of shop that turns out chopped, channeled custom hot rods. There are piles of parts and scraps that might come in handy someday and just enough clear space to do the work. His cars can take several weeks to complete depending on the complexity, but he has several in the works at any given time.

Hadi Rochmansyah madworx

The Hot Wheels Boneshaker shows up in several of his customs, such as the Boneshaker V16 above, though you might have to look hard to find it in some cases, as he mixes in a lot of elements from other cars as well as scratchbuilt pieces. Many of his cars are finished with a rusty, weathered rat-rod patina complete with hand painted but realistic graphics.

Hadi’s attention to little details is amazing. He often fills the cargo area of his pickup trucks with tiny cardboard boxes with labels and sealed with tape.

Hadi Rochmansyah madworx

He’s also capable of creating immaculately finished models that make you look twice to be sure they aren’t straight from the factory. It’s hard to tell where the production model stops and the custom work begins.One of the newest castings from Hot Wheels, the Corvair Greenbrier van, served as the basis for a flip up body pickup dragster.

Hadi Rochmansyah madworx

Many of his cars are single shot one-of-a-kind models, such as the Dixie Danger below, so you have to follow him closely on Facebook to see the works in progress. And of course, we’re working on archiving many of his earlier efforts on hobbyDB.

Hadi Rochmansyah madworx