Customizers Posts

Meet Matias Kalaka, Master of Action Figure Mashups

kalaka toys Bart Danzigkalaka toys matiasOver the past few years, we’ve introduced you to various diecast customizers. We recently discovered the work of Matias Kalaka of Buenos Aires, Argentina, who makes custom action figures and vinyl art toys. His crazy mashups of completely unrelated universes somehow make sense when you see the quality of his ideas and execution.

Kalaka creates single one-off, hand crafted figures, as well as very limited molded figures under his Kalaka Toys brand. “I’ve been making custom figurines since 2001, and serialized toys since 2010,” he said.  But his passion for tinkering with figures goes much further back. His earliest custom model along these lines was “a Jesus figure in a tin space ship made in the ’60s.”

Inspiration comes from all kinds of places. His mashup of ‘80s icons Mr. T and E.T. The Extraterrestrial was a natural given their names. “Mr. E.T., it was a fun mashup, so I’d say it’s fun what drives me and inspires me.” On the other hand, His Simpsons/Masters of the Universe mashup idea came from a friend. “They are characters that were present on a friend’s t-shirt brand, we spoke and I decided they were good enough to be made into toys.”

Other mashups don’t really have a particular theme other than crossing Bart Simpson plus Ronald McDonald or musician Glenn Danzig because… well, as he said, it’s all about the  fun.

kalaka toys Mr. E. T.

Mr. E. T., of course.

The original sculpts are done with a mix of found parts and existing components from existing figures. “Whatever works best… some are from scratch, sometimes I take some bases and work up from them.” Either way, the final product is made mostly of plastic resin. He tends to work fairly fast. “From the idea to the figurine, it can be quick or take weeks, as some ideas come out clear in my mind and others require more work to end them as I like.”

kalaka toys matias matt groening

Matias with Matt Groening of Simpsons and Futurama fame.

kalaka toys shogunFor a sense of scale, most of his figures are in the range between 11 to 25 centimeters (about 4.5 to 10 inches). “I don’t have a favorite, I work on the size that inspiration leads me to,” he said. Since they are limited editions, (and really high quality) they don’t come cheap, running anywhere from about $120 to 350.

Matias says his most difficult project was a Shogun Warlord figure (left). “The Shogun Warlord had a lot of development work, as it was produced in a toy factory it needed a lot of work before the matrix was made.” Being able to make slightly less limited runs makes his work more available to the masses and gives him good exposure. In the meantime, he promotes most of his work through his Instagram account at KALAKA_TOYS. Fans can also follow him on Facebook at KALAKA TOYS.

Other big things are on the horizon as well. “I think that in this year, my most prominent figurine will be released by Medicom.” He didn’t tell us what it is just yet, but it’s sure to be a great execution of a wild idea.

kalaka toys street greyskull

Castle Grayskull comes to life.

Mario Villarroel, a developer in hobbyDB’s South American office, conducted this interview in Spanish and translated the repsonses to English. (Yes, even the devs at hobbyDB are required to be well-versed and interested in various pop culture phenomena.)

New Ed Roth Rat Fink Dairy Delivery from Chris Walker and MCHOF

ed roth dairy deliver

ed roth rat fink

Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and his pal Rat Fink

Our good friends at the Model Car Hall Of Fame just announced a cool collaboration between Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and Chris Walker. Walker, one of the most prominent modern Hot Wheels customizers, has created a special limited edition design of the Hot Wheels Dairy Delivery honoring Roth. And if you hurry, you can get your hands on one!

Roth, of course, is a legend in car culture, both as a customizer of real cars and as the creator of many ridiculously proportioned but accurately detailed hot rod cartoons.

Walker chose Rat Fink, Roth’s creepy but lovable green spokescharacter, as the basis for the design, which also honors Big Daddy as a 2009 inductee of the Model Car Hall of Fame (called the Diecast Hall of Fame at the time).

ratfink dairy delivery“I started with the ever popular Dairy Delivery and painted it nuclear yellow,” said Walker. “Roth style designs and details were added along with his most popular creation on the roof, the Fink himself.  Final details include his year of induction in the Hall of Fame and name on the side panel. Very fitting and adds a touch of class as the first MCHOF ‘By Inductees, for Inductees’ piece commemorating Roth and the MCHOF.” Another nice detail is the lettering, done in a style that evokes Roth’s own personal font.

ed big daddy roth dairy deliveryIt makes sense that a Hot Wheels car is the basis for the project, as Roth’s own Beatnik Bandit served as the design for one of the original 16 Redline models. The custom Ed Roth Rat Fink Dairy Delivery is available from the MCHOF marketplace, but you’ll have to act fast… only 50 copies exist. You can find them at the MCHOF store on hobbyDB for $63, which honors Rat Fink’s first appearance in 1963.

ed rat fink roth dairy deliveryAs a kid, Walker was so inspired by Roth’s designs, giving him an early leg up on his customizing career. “As a Roth fan myself, who custom-built many of his creations that were never made in scale form, you just know I was more than excited to be a part of this project.”

chris walker stalker

Diecast customizer Chis “Walker Stalker” Walker

Walker himself was also inducted into the Model Car Hall of Fame in 2009, part of the inaugural class. “I’m sure Ed would love it,” Walker says about his custom. “Hopefully you guys do too!”

Customizer Ernest “Boulevard Aces” Garza dies at 51

Ernest Boulevard Aces GarzaA prominent member of automotive and diecast culture, Ernest “Boulevard Aces” Garza, passed away recently. He was best known for his involvement with custom cars and organizing lowrider shows in the Dallas area, but he was also the Founder and Creator of Texas Hot Wheels.

He loved to share his ideas with other customizers, including small scale ones, brainstorming on designs and graphics. He also just liked the camaraderie of collecting and talking about the Hot Wheels with other members. Garza was also a User and contributor on hobbyDB in its early years.

You can see him hosting numerous videos on Youtube talking about shows and other aspects of car culture.

Ernest Boulevard Aces GarzaRandy Castillo was one of his good friends and sent us this memorial image. “Ernest was so very happy when he received this Mike Lashley Custom Combo – 2 of his favorite castings – the 83 Chevy Silverado and the 55 Chevy Gasser,” said Randy. “He loved the pinkies!”

 

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!