Customizers Posts

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!”

 

The 5 Best Custom Lightsabers for any Jedi or Sith

Star Wars lightsabers

Picking your perfect Star Wars lightsaber is no easy task. You want to make sure it fits you, after all. Some people search for the perfect replica. Still, others search for something that only they will own. The ability to hold such an elegant weapon and duel with your fellow Force wielders is unbelievable. There are countless options for getting your hands on the perfect custom lightsabers, but for now, we’re going to focus on the big-name players. We deeply respect custom craftsmen, but as they tend to have longer waitlists — we want to help people find their saber a bit faster. (And for this list, we’re not looking at the inexpensive but fun mass-market models). We’re also going to focus on the custom saber, not prop replicas. We love seeing unique items in collections.

Despite Disney’s usual wild abandon with copyright suits, for some reason, they have chosen to ignore the long-standing custom lightsaber market. This means a great many small custom saber companies exist and compete to make Star Wars fans their dream saber. While most of the time, things will be plug and play, you will find enough combinations of parts, colors, shapes, and styles to make your saber truly one of a kind.

If your favorite didn’t make the Best Custom LightSaber list — Don’t blast us! We know there are countless small shops which produce highly detailed work, and we highly recommend you check them out too! With all custom items, look around and find the one that is perfect for you. This is your Lightsaber, after all. And it should be perfect for you.

Star Wars Light Saber

UltraSabers

If you’re looking for a cheap, duel ready saber, or your first custom saber to get into the hobby, UltraSabers is a great place to start. However, that comes at a cost. Their hilts are pretty dull. There we said it. If you want something that looks like it could be wielded by a Jedi on screen or in the comics, you probably want to look elsewhere. They are duel capable, but we find them best for beginners.

While their price is pretty good — about $65 for a duel ready saber with no sound to about $350 for a fully decked saber with multiple sound fonts. The thing is, they don’t use a chassis for their electronics. Which is a significant point against them. Why spend extra for a nice sound card when it’s going to get banged around while you’re dueling? We also recommend picking a different sound card. There are plenty out there from custom makers — and if you don’t know how to set it up yourself, you can pay people to install a sound card for you.

Star Wars Lightsaber

UltraSabers don’t usually use rechargeable lithium batteries, like most companies do now, and are still using AAAs. They also make you pay for the tool to tighten your blade, instead of including it in the price. Which makes us a little leary of them. Their hilts are also incredibly thick, like 2″ thick in most cases. Which makes them a little unwieldy.

We aren’t saying don’t get an UltraSaber — but really look into what you want before you commit.

Star Wars Light Saber

Savi’s Workshop: Galaxy’s Edge, Disneyland

With a price tag nearing $200 — excuse us, 200 Credits — a Savi’s Workshop saber surprised many more casual fans. However, that’s honestly at the lower end of the cost spectrum for a custom saber. The process is what gets this saber on our list. Where most companies simply send you a box with your finished saber, at Savi’s you make your own. You choose from four styles, which each have several options, and then build your saber from the parts selected. The parts feel sturdy and heavy, which gives them a nice hand feel and fit together with ease. If you get stuck, there are Disney staff on hand to help you.

What makes this worth the price, and such an awesome saber is the presentation. The theatrics of working with saber crafters to make your very own saber in a themed room. The lighting, theatrics, and ambiance really makes this a one of a kind experience. Choosing your crystal becomes a ritual, constructing your hilt is personal. While the LEDs and the sounds might not be the best on the market, the ritual of your saber’s creation is what makes the moment.

For your money, you will build a mid-grade saber, which will be mock duel capable. You can’t be as rough as some of the higher-end sabers, but it will hold up to more careful tapping combat. Kid-friendly combat we like to say. The biggest drawback to this system is that you also need to buy a day pass into Disneyland. This usually ranges from $104-$129 a day (it gets cheaper the more days you buy). This means you can actually bring in the cost of this saber to over $300 — not including the pricey Disney food. For the experience, we think it’s worth it, for the quality, you could do better.

Star Wars Light Saber

Kyberlight

There was a lot of interest in Kyberlight when they first appeared on Kickstarter. The company promised an indestructible blade and the brightest saber on the market. We got half of that promise. The blade truly is near indestructible. You can hit this thing on nearly anything and not worry. However, it seems, to us, that while the LED’s are so bright, you’ll hurt your eyes looking into them, they dim before they reach the tip. This might be because of the indestructible nature of the blade, but it could also be a design flaw.

While the brightness has improved version to version, it still hasn’t been fully corrected. Most blades have a little drop off before the tip, but it’s always seemed more accentuated in Kyberlight. The primary colors, blue, green, and red, are all incredibly bright. Still, the rest of the 20 promised colors are a bit dim by comparison. However, their blades offer flash-on-clash, which is fantastic.

A nice thing about Kyber is how easy it is to change out and customize parts. The handle is big. BIG BIG. Like inches longer than most, you can get your hands on. To some, this is nice, but we find it a little too long for us. However, onto that base, you can change out every other accessory. The grips come in different colors, the blade guards come in different shapes, and the pommels come in different styles. You can even buy a kit for $300 that includes multiple options. Its sounds are limited compared to others, but it offers an excellent mute option for those who want it.

For the price, it’s a good Saber. This saber will color switch quickly, and if that’s something you value, it’s one of the best. It will absolutely stand up to your dueling, but for around the same price, there are other options available.

Star Wars Lightsaber

SaberForge

There are some pros and cons to SaberForge. If you want a basic saber, that is a very basic handle, one color, and no sound, you can get a saber for $160. This makes it one of the least expensive custom sabers on the list. However, that saber is going to be incredibly plain and without much personal flare. It also lacks all the neat features many of the others do.

The thing is if you want something truly unique like a crossguard saber, or the even more expensive crystal saber (which exposes the Kyber crystal), you’re looking at $200 or $300 just for the handle. Not to mention the blade and all the parts. You could if you built a saber with their best parts and their highest end soundboard, be looking at $800 – $1000 for your perfect 100% decked out saber.

We will say their soundboards are mostly good. Still, they don’t use a chassis for the electronics, meaning that too many hits, or enough shaking, can cause things to go a little wonky — like UltraSabers. Saberforge is also known for having a lot of hit or miss quality control, and they are known throughout the community for removing negative reviews about their business. While some people swear by them, make sure you read the reviews before you make a judgment.

We really like their handles, don’t get us wrong, they are attractive. Even the low-level handles are good looking for the price, but with the quality control issues, make sure you really know what you’re getting into when you buy.

Star Wars custom Lightsaber

Vader’s Vault

If you’re looking for THE ultimate saber, Vader’s Vault is where it’s at. Their work is known far and wide for their quality. Their stuff is sleek, sword-like, and balanced. They also do not skimp on the details. All blades come with a sound card, and their colors are bright, vivid, and perfect. All of their blades will hold up to dueling, which is a huge bonus. There is no sacrifice, and their customer service is top-notch.

Their sounds are amazing, there are so many sound fonts to choose from it makes us giddy. They offer flash on clash (everyone’s favorite), and you can customize what color your saber flashes. Their basic models are a little basic, but with everything that comes with them — we don’t even care. All of their sabers also can be upgraded to having 16 color profiles that can be switched on the fly. Which is fantastic for the Force user who hasn’t settled on a side, who likes to change based on their moods (mood saber anyone?). With all the things we’ve said negative about the other companies, you have to be thinking, what’s the catch?

Star Wars Light Saber

Well, as they are one of the fan-favorite producers and a significant player in the space, expect to wait up to 16 weeks to get your custom saber. Every saber is made to order and carefully inspected. There are loads of people waiting in line, so it will take a bit.

There is also the price. Their sabers start at around $300 and only go up from there. Their master class Starkiller Lightsaber sells for a staggering $2,600 — without upgrades and is limited edition. Right now, they have sold out, but we’re sure they will eventually produce another model as it’s their flagship saber. For a genuinely nice saber, we would expect to pay $700+ for an upgraded Vader’s Vault. While this may seem like a lot, we honestly believe that it’s worth the price.

A few smaller shops worth noting. Genesis Custom SabersForceSabersUK (UK Seller!), KR Sabers, and Custom Diversions. If you’re looking for more information on the pros and cons of the big players, we can’t recommend the Lightsaber Reddit group enough. Their buyer’s guide is updated regularly.

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.