Designer Notes: Heller Ferrari 330P4

Lincoln Futura Philippe de LespinayPhilippe de Lespinay started with Heller, the French model kit company in the 1960s as a designer and project engineer. He also also worked for Cox, who are now known for their remote control and gas powered vehicles, but also created many kits over the years. More recently, he was the curator of the Los Angeles Slot Car Museum. And he’s on the hobbyDB Advisory Board, so yeah, he’s our kind of guy.

hobbyDB will be regularly sharing his insights on particular models he has worked on including production kits, never-produced projects, and his own custom builds. We hope you enjoy the journey through his career as well.

Read more about his history in the toy and model business here.


Heller Ferrari 330P4

Heller Ferrari P4 330P4

One of my favorites Heller kits was this Ferrari 330P4. It was drawn strictly from pictures, as I was never allowed to approach the actual car at the 1967 Le Mans race. The kit turned good but the pattern maker made a mistake in the roof line.

Heller Ferrari P4 330P4

I built this kit for the company to use in promotional photos, but used two sets of body parts so as to have the nose removable from the main body, which it is not possible in the actual kit.

Heller Ferrari P4 330P4

Heller Ferrari P4 330P4

Here I am at my drawing table in 1966, at the Heller design department, rue d’Hauteville in Paris. The pictures on the wall are the telltale of some of my favorite machinery.

Philippe de Lespinay Heller model

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Philppe de Lespinay, model designer and historian

[…] Designer Notes: Heller Ferrari 330P4 […]

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How hobbyDB’s Partnerships Bring You the Best in Data!

When it comes to collectibles data, hobbyDB wants to have the highest quality you’ll find anywhere on the net. That’s one reason why one of our biggest initiatives right now is our partnership drive. One of the best sources for data is right from the horse’s mouth so to speak, so we’re partnering with customizers, brands and artists to get their data onto the site in as complete form as possible.

Kidrobot Archive

The Official Kidrobot Archive now with more than 4,000 entries

Here’s how it works; the brand, customizer or artist provides us with the data in their back catalog in as much detail as possible, then our data elves get it all uploaded. In return, whoever provided the data gets an “Official Archive” subject page, a free storefront to sell their items on hobbyDB and major promotion across all our social media. Of course, not all these advantages are a fit for everyone, so they can also pick and choose from the menu! Some opt for just an official archive, others just a store and cross-promotion. But they all give us awesome data.

So far, we’ve had an awesome response to the program from a huge variety of places. Customizers like Brew CityChris Stangler and Liberty Promotions are on board, along with artists like Frank Kozik and brands including AutomodelloKidrobot and Kess! We’re even able to extend the program to work with institutions like The Shelby American Collection museum in Gunbarrel, whose content we plan to document. They also now host their official store on hobbyDB.

The Shelby Museum store on hobbyDB!

The Shelby Museum store on hobbyDB!

We think it’s a great way to get correct, quality listings, great images and offer mutual assistance to some of the entities which make collecting such an awesome hobby. It certainly seems to be working great so far!

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Inside Scoop: Meet Charlie McHose, Shelby Mustang Designer

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Anyone who’s interested in American cars can name the principle engineers of the Shelby Mustang. There’s Carroll Shelby, of course, and automotive journalist Brock Yates, who are usually cited as the folks who turned a sporty but mild-mannered coupe into a performance beast. But there were a lot of visual cues that set the Shelby cars apart, and you might not be familiar with the names of the folks who handled those aspects.

Charlie McHose Shelby Mustang

McHose with one of his design sketches.

Charlie McHose is one of those people. He kindly took some time to talk to hobbyDB about his days on the project and shared some photos from his archives as well.

Fresh out of college in the early 1960s, McHose went to work for Ford Motor Company in England. He did a lot of detail work on interiors and grilles for Cortinas and other European models before moving to Detroit. “I worked on the first Mustang a little bit and also some refrigerators.” Yes, Ford Motor Company dabbled in appliances in those days. “Then one day in 1966, I was told I was heading to California to work on a new project.”

The first generation of Shelby Mustang was designed as something of an afterthought, a way to spice up the performance and image of very successful but modestly performing model. Unlike those first cars, the 1967 Shelby was developed along with the incoming car, so McHose was involved from May through July of 1966. The skunkworks were set up in a couple of old airplane hangars at LAX Airport in Los Angeles. (Sadly, the runways were not used for testing, which would have been even more awesome).

“When I first arrived, we didn’t have any cars to work with yet,” he recalled. “So I started on aluminum wheel designs. After a few weeks, we finally got a couple of cars… a fiberglas body and one beat up metal prototype to work with.” The cars were not complete models, missing the interior, glass and trunk lids. (In fact, the steel body was misshapen because that particular car had previously been used for some rather hard seatbelt testing.) Charlie’s main order of business: get to work on the scoops.

Charlie McHose Shelby Mustang

From left: Early roof pillar treatments included windows and flush vents, but inspired by the GT40’s scoops, the final design was more aggressive.

Visually, some of the most important differences between the base Mustang and the Shelby version are the hood scoops (to help the engine gulp in more air) and the side scoops (to cool the rear brakes), and the roof pillar scoops (functional parts of the cabin ventilation, but mostly there to add extra visual interest). McHose worked on them all.

“The hood was a completely different part from the standard Mustang,” he said. “Not only was it fiberglass, but they decided to make the front fenders a few inches longer, so the entire hood grew as well.” So rather than bolt-on parts, the scoops are perfectly integrated into a whole new hood. “All of this was in the days before computer design,” said McHose. “We sketched, drew with markers, built shapes out of clay.” The roof scoops were add-on pieces that covered already functioning vents, but the fender scoops were designed to cut into the decorative vent-like character lines of the regular model and actually do some work.

Charlie McHose Shelby Mustang Designer

The longer front end required a bigger hood and featured McHose’s scoop designs.

Most of the engineering and interior modifications were handled elsewhere. McHose says he didn’t get to work directly with Carroll Shelby much. “By this stage of the project, Carroll had already made most of the engineering improvement decisions, so he just came around to check in and approve what we were doing,” said McHose. It’s not like Mr. Shelby was being indifferent to this project, however. He just had some other things going on as well. “Carroll spent most of his time in the next hangar over working on the GT40s, getting them ready for LeMans.”

Charlie McHose Shelby Mustang

The integrated rear spoiler was inspired by the tail of the GT40.

Speaking of which… SPOILER ALERT! Inspired by the tail end of those GT40s, McHose also helped design the integrated spoiler on the decklid and rear quarters of the car. The final roof pillar scoops also echo the look of the GT40 as well, instead of the rear-facing vents that had been proposed at one time.

While in California, McHose got to drive a first gen GT350… as his daily driver! And not just any old ’66 GT350… “This wasn’t a factory production car, it was prototype number one, according the serial number.” Lest you get too envious, the car had already been raced, tested, modified, and generally beat up to the point that it was not in pristine condition. “It drove like a truck,” he said. “It sounded like a tin can, except when you downshifted to accelerate. Then it sounded terrific!”

McHose’s participation in the project was done by late summer, and he didn’t see a finished car until that fall in Detroit. In fact, he says never owned a ’67 Shelby himself. “Back then, employees would buy a new car from the factory, drive it for six months, then sell it and get another new car,” he said. “I eventually got a ’68 Shelby for about six months and moved on to the next car.” Many of the features he designed had already been changed for the new year, so he has some minor regret not snagging one that he worked so diligently on.

Charlie McHose Shelby Mustang

McHose with his daily driver, 1966 Shelby prototype #1.

If participating in the creation of one of the most iconic cars wasn’t enough of a career coup, he also worked with a young designer named Larry Wood at Ford. Larry, of course, would go on to Mattel and become involved with Hot Wheels as their one of their chief designers, a gig he still does today. And after his days at Ford, McHose would reunite with Wood for several years at Mattel.

McHose is modest about his contributions to what is considered the most potent and beautiful version of the Shelby Mustang. “Pretty much all I did was work on the scoops. I’d been working in Ford’s show cars studio, and they could have sent any of us. They sent me.” he said. “Back then, one department worked on the front of the car, another group worked on the back, another created the interior. We had guys cutting out cardboard templates to gauge how the various shapes would align. It’s a miracle all the parts of a single car all fit together in those days.” That may be the case, but in the for the Shelby, oh, did they fit perfectly! And we have Charles to thank for parts of that.

Charlie McHose Shelby Mustang

Charlie owned this blue ’68 Shelby Mustang for a while before moving on to another new Ford. (All images courtesy of Charley McHose)

Charlie McHose Shelby Mustang

Comments (3 Comments)
kimberly Yu

I actually have a Poster from a bike show in La Mirada Ca with Charles McHose's signature on it. It looks like a son had it framed for his dad. It's from 1982.

I'm actually selling it if anyone is interested.

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Meet Frank Kozik, Designer of the Smorkin’ Labbit

Frank Kozik kidrobot labbit

If you’ve ever seen Smorkin’ Labbit vinyl art toys from Kidrobot, you might wonder what kind of person would design such a thing. With their hostile eyes and cigarette dangling from their mouths, they aren’t the friendliest creatures. It turns out Frank Kozik, the San Francisco artist who created the character for concert posters and other projects, is quite the opposite. And he was kind enough to chat with hobbyDB about his creations and the design process.

Like many successful artists, his career started out as something fun. “I would always invent characters, even as a child,” he said. “Things got serious around 1998 or so when I made the connections in Japan to have my works made as products. An amateur hobbyist goes pro, basically.”

Kozik medicom labbit

Kozik has worked with several toy companies over the years, but is probably best known for his designs for Kidrobot. His favorite design so far is the Ride ‘Em Bob Labbit. If you don’t have one in your collection, that’s understandable… Kidrobot only produced 450 of the blue “Ancient Bob Slug” version.

As elaborate as that toy looks, Kozik says a different Labbit was the most complicated to produce. “Bony Bunny, the first skeleton Labbit with Medicom presented quite a few engineering challenges,” he said. Looking at it, it’s easy to see why. The top half of the creature is a removable shell to expose the bones, and lining keeping it lined up can’t be easy. “It was early in the genre and factories had not quite gotten it together, so figuring shrink rates for the separate pieces got complex.”

The skeletal theme continued with a simpler version for Kidrobot, this time with a Labbit that showed flesh/fur on one side and when turned around, the skeleton body.

Kozik kidrobot labbit skeleton

The angry eyes and smorking… er, smoking, themes carry on with a lot of his toys such as the Mongers series (anthropormorphic food). One of his recent departures from this them depicts a certain North Korean dictator as a whiny baby.

Kozik baby huey kim jong un kidrobot

He said the process form sketch to finished product can take six months to several years. “Average time when there is a system in place is 12 months.”

Kozik kidrobot labbit ride em bob

His outside interest include collecting “Original pre 1970’s Disney attraction posters as well as original art, books, vintage toysweird stuff in general.” His favorite toy is described as “a wooden rabbit pulling a cart from a tiny company in Oregon from the 1940’s.” Overall, he tries not to get too obsessed with collecting things. “Stuff is cool, but don’t define yourself by it.”

In case you were wondering where the term “Smorkin’ Labbit” means, Kozik has a wonderfully random explanation. “Several years ago, I did version of my rabbit with a company in Japan,” he explained. “It was supposed to be ‘Smokin’ Rabbit,’ but they printed it ‘Smorkin Labbit,’ which sounds about a billion times cooler so thus it became REAL.”

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Customizers Corner: Tony Szuta of Brew City Customs

There’s an amazing sector of the diecast collecting world populated by customizers who take mild mannered factory produced models and turn them into something more inspired and unusual. Some customizers create individual one-of-a-kind models, never to be reproduced again, while others create limited edition runs of identical vehicles. In many cases, the mods involve mostly paint and decals; others chop, mold, combine, and perform more complicated voodoo. 

Many of these customizers are profiled on hobbyDB, so we thought we would start highlighting them in greater detail here. Look for a new entry every Wednesday morning!


brew city customs logo

You might not recognize Tony Szuta by name, but you have probably heard of his diecast studio Brew City Customs. The Milwaukee based artist says he started tinkering with diecast vehicles only recently (2009), taking it more seriously in 2014, but it sure looks like he’s been doing this forever.

He started with swapping the wheels on a Hot Wheels Bone Shaker and has quickly moved onto more ambitious projects. His repainted models usually involve adding some texture, especially rust and dirt. Patina (often taken to the dingy extreme of that term) is a favorite theme for his vehicles. Many of them include extra added details, such as the for sale sign in this rusty bus or the tool rack on the Ghostbusters van. With its large smooth sides and iconic design, the Hot Wheels Kool Kombi is a favorite model of his.

brew city customs hot wheels kool kombi

The time involved “varies greatly depending on the work,” he said. “I can knock out simple customs in a few hours. For more involved projects, many many hours.” As for his most complicated custom so far, that would be the WWI Style Kool Kombi Tank. Just look at this thing!

Tony Szuta Brew City Customs WWI Kool Kombi

brew city customs hot wheels treasure hunt bookAs for other projects, “Right now I’m focused on 1:64 scale,” he said, “but I prefer 1:24/1:25. I can’t tell you the last time I built one, though.” He works in full-size scale with his other passion project. Szuta is an accomplished photographer, shooting just about anything, but with a keen interest in cars. As with his customizing, the photography is a fairly new pursuit. “I bought my first DSLR camera in 2010. I don’t really have a focus – I just like to shoot.” You can see some of his model photos in 2015 edition of  The Hot Wheels Treasure Hunt Price Guide by Neal Giordano.

And he has a few other interests. “Old toys and local history… I’m working on projects focused on both subjects. I collect, and I’ve got a soft spot for the old tin toys. And I also have a small collection of vintage bug sprayers. Yes, bug sprayers. You read that right.”

tony szuta 1936 ford coupe

Szuta has an amazing eye for photographing real cars, too.

He might sound like a busy guy, but consider this: His custom projects just happen to equal more family tome for Szuta. “My wife and both of my sons customize diecast. She focuses on hand painting the majority of hers. My oldest son has built quite a few already and is very proficient with the airbrush. My youngest son just started learning the airbrush.”

brew city customs hot wheels kool kombi

Custom models by Tony’s wife (left) and older son.

Here Szuta’s official online archive of custom diecast models.

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Marc Bosworth

Nice article. Congrats Tony!

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