Customizers Posts

8 Real-Life Customs That Became Hot Wheels Vehicles

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

If you had a chance to see the Hot Wheels Legends Tour this summer, it was an amazing gathering of customs, hot rods, stock cars, whatever’s cool in car culture. Each stop on the tour featured lots of local cars, but there were also several amazing customs that made it to every location.

In addition to being a good-time festival, it was also a competition among some very serious customizers. The grand prize included the winning car being miniaturized by Mattel and turned into an actual 1/64 scale Hot Wheels diecast car.

hot wheels legends the nashFor 2019, the winner is The Nash, a slightly modified Nash Metropolitan by Greg Salzillo and Dave Ford. By slightly modified, we mean the original 40 hp engine was replaced with a Small Block Chevy 305, cranking out 300 horses. It also has unique headers coming out of the fenders, dice shaped coves on the velocity stacks, old school stock steel wheels, and original bias-ply tires that stick way outside the fenders.

This isn’t the first time Hot Wheels has commemorated brilliant real-life customs like this, of course. Here are some others.

hot wheels beatnikEd Roth’s Beatnik Bandit – Most collectors know that some of the early fantasy designs for Hot Wheels were based on actual custom show cars. One of the very first and most famous was the Beatnik Bandit by Ed “Big Daddy” Roth. Some of his other designs would be miniaturized later, but the Bandit is the pioneer.

hot wheels paddy wagonTom Daniel’s Paddy Wagon – Another legendary customizer/hot rodder of the 1950s and ’60s, Daniel created many wicked hot rods that were turned into model kits. And some of them would also make it to 1/64, such as the Paddy Wagon, one of the “just outside the Original 16” offerings.

hot wheels fleetsideHarry Bradley’s Custom Fleetside – Many of the customs have been turned into Hot Wheels cars over the years, belonged to Mattel employees. One of the Original 16 cars, the Custom Fleetside was based on a custom El Camino owned by designer Harry Bradley. In fact, this car inspired the mild custom look that was shared by many of the Original 16 and beyond.hot wheels larry woodLarry Wood’s Ford COE Truck – Wood joined Hot Wheels one year after their debut, but he may as well have been. Among the hundreds of designs he has contributed, his actual custom ’38 Ford Cab Over Engine Truck has been replicated in 1/64 for the Hot Wheels premium line.

hot wheels vetuskeyBrandon Vetuskey’s Custom Firebird – More recently, Brandon Vetuskey has been one of the lead designers at Hot Wheels, turning out all sorts of new classics. His real custom ’67 Pontiac Firebird became 1/64 legend a couple years ago.

hot wheels zarnockMike Zarnock’s Altered Roadster – Zarnock is not a Hot Wheels employee, but he may as well be. He is one of the prominent historians of the brand and also a part-time drag racer. Mattel decided his pedigree and design skills should be honored with a 1/64 model of his red dragster.hot wheels 2jetz Luis Rodriguez’s 2JetZ – This is the second year of the Legends Tour competition. For 2018, a completely different kind of car was the winner. Luis Rodriguez’s 2JetZ custom car, a completely scratch-built jet fighter/salt flat racer-inspired ride, was the winner. That car should be on the pegs any day now as well.

The exact release date of The Nash has yet to be determined. “We’re extremely overwhelmed, proud and excited over what Dave and I created with The Nash,” says Salzillo. “I can’t wait to see my kids’ faces when they see their dad’s car turned into a real Hot Wheels toy.” Best of all, these cars will be part of the mainline collection, so they will be affordable and available to most collectors.

Expect to see The Nash in stores sometime as part of the 2020 series.

 

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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