Customizers Posts

John “Spanky” Stokes, the Stroll and a New Vinyl Art Database

The world of vinyl art toys is full of weird, wonderful creatures, some of them mass-produced, some limited, and some that are truly one of a kind. Thanks to John “Spanky” Stokes, hobbyDB has an influx of many of these characters, especially from the rare end of the spectrum.

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From every direction, Stoke’s studio is full of wonderful, weird creatures.

spankystokes stroll

Stroll, the lovable mascot of Spankystokes.

Stokes runs his own blog, Spankystokes.com, about vinyl art characters, with an emphasis on unusual custom jobs. “The philosophy behind my site, from the very beginning, has been to spread the word about the Designer Toy world,” he said.” To help promote artists who don’t have a voice and to just share how cool and unique all of these amazing creations are!”

While his website is frequently updated with news about cool new items, none of it is cataloged and cross-referenced to make it very searchable. That’s where hobbyDB comes in providing his site with a  handy database. So far the database covers Kidrobot and Superplastic but there are plans to expand it adding eventually every designer Spanky wrote about (which will then also come to hobbyDB!).

spankystokes custom“When I first got into the Designer Toy scene, I started my site as a personal blog and did not post much Designer Toy news on there,” he said. “But as soon as I became more and more fond of the scene I not only started to write about the things I found interesting but also dove into the customizing scene.”

spankystokes dunnyHis interest in such figures stems in part from his own custom work, too. The site’s mascot is Stroll, a cycloptic, furry yeti.  “I created monsters, really furry ones with gnarled teeth and drool. My dad liked the way they looked so much that I guess it crept into his subconscious,” Stokes said. “Dad named him Stroll, a combination of Stokes and Troll. Stroll has been immortalized by Kidrobot in Dunny form.

Stokes started customizing in 2007, going strong until 2014, when his daughter was born. “I really want to get back into it as I crave that creative outlet… but having recently moved, I am waiting to build a new studio so I can have a dedicated space – once again – to get back into the swing of things.” So for the past few years, his blog has been the focus of his hobby.

Luckily, since he had a website for those years, he has a pretty detailed record of his work, straight from the horse’s mouth but without the fog of time. His new database will really enhance his ability to keep it all organized.

spankystokes collectionHis work really revolves around creatures, kinda gruesome for the most part. “I have a lot of fun making those as I can manifest the cool monsters that I have been dreaming about since I was a young child. I always loved fantasy/sci-fi type things growing up, and played my fair share of AD&D along with Magic The Gathering, and on top of that – so many rad comic books and movies have inspired me as well.”

He started customizing with Kidrobot Dunny figures, mostly with decoration. His figures have become more complex and scratch-built ever since. “I start off, most of the time with a base platform… Dunny, Munny, MAD*L and everything in between, then build on top of that with a 2-part epoxy called Magic Sculpt,” he said. “I normally have some type of eyes involved and those are cast glass, so they find their way into the epoxy compound as well. Then I paint using acrylics along with airbrush vinyl paint. Lastly, I cover certain parts of my creations with faux-fur.”

spankystokes stroll variants

Stroll, the cycloptic yeti spokes character of many colors.

More recently, he has worked with resin casting so he can create limited runs of his creations instead of one-off figures. As his daughter gets older (she is five now), it’s likely he will find time and inspiration to get back into his studio and create. And when he does, expect to read about them at spankystokes.com!

As for his nickname, he got it in high school. “My offensive line coach though I looked like Spanky from ‘The Little Rascals’… and from that point forward, it’s followed me through all stages of life,” Stokes laughed. “Thirty-eight years old now… and everyone calls me Spanky.

spankystokes friends

Stokes has made a lot of friends in the vinyl art design world.

After a decade of running a Designer Toy blog and being involved with the scene in general, most artists, (“who I used to fanboy over”) are now his close friends. “I love having pieces by all of them in my collection as it reminds me of the great times we have all had… it’s also awesome to surround yourself with so many fantastic creations – I soak up this stuff like a creative sponge – looking around my office at all the unique creations really brings me joy! 

 

 

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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 there from the start. 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.”

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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.)

The Most Outrageous Nerf Gun You Wish You Had When You Were a Kid

Introducing the Nerf Sentry Gun, created by Cornell University students Jeremy Blum and Jason Wright, in 2009.  Blum and Wright submitted this tricked out Nerf gun as their final project for their CS1114 Matlab Robotics class.  Not only did this duo pass their course, their professor awarded them with the :coolest final project.”

nerf vulcan sentryThis one-of-a-kind Nerf gun began as an off-the-shelf Nerf Vulcan Automated Rifle.  The duo then began to rebuild the gun, and develop a software system that would help anyone win his or her next Nerf battle.  Their elaborate toy gun features a motion-sensing camera, trigger and barrel movement control, as well as facial recognition software.

The partners opened the plastic case of the gun and added multiple circuit boards, enabling the gun’s fine motor skills.  They moved the internal battery pack to be external, thus reducing the overall weight for the motor controlling the gun’s movement.  The webcam is able to track the movement of the target, directing the gun to move both vertically and horizontally.  Using facial recognition software, the camera is also able to differentiate between a moving object and a human.  The software is also capable of working in a manual mode where the user presses the arrow keys of the computer to direct the gun.

This unique weapon is also capable of acting as a gate guard.  The duo demonstrated this capability when one approached the gun.  The gun demanded, “present badge.”  The young man showed his physics textbook to the gun, programmed as the ‘badge’, and the gun responded, “access granted.”  Next, the other partner approached the gun without the ‘badge’.  The gun identified this individual as the intruder and opened fire with its foam bullets.  The gun also features a panic mode, blaring a loud siren to ward off an intruder.
They humbly explained that the software is very rudimentary and that they may have stolen a napkin holder or two, from the dining hall to use in place of a gun stand.  No matter how much the creators may downplay their work, this is easily the most outrageous Nerf gun you probably wish you had when you were a kid.

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

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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!”