Model Cars Posts

Thirteen Awesome Hot Wheels Cars Based On Not-So-Great Real Cars

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

For almost half a century, Hot Wheels vehicles have fueled the imagination of kids with their cool, innovative, wild toy car designs. While many of them are pure fantasy creations, a lot are based on real cars. And in a few cases, they are based on regrettable, forgettable, even horrible cars. Here some examples of when the folks at Mattel turned head-scratching automotive duds into head-turning models.

Poison Pinto (Ford Pinto)

Hot Wheels Ford Pinto Poison

Unreliable at best, explosive at worst, the Pinto was a disaster waiting to happen, especially when tapped from behind. This miniature panel wagon hot rod at least looks like it could outrun anything trying to hit that rear bumper/trigger.

Open Fire, Greased Gremlin, Gremlin Grinder (AMC Gremlin)

Hot Wheels AMC Greased Gremlin Open Fire

In retrospect, the Gremlin wasn’t a really terrible car, it just wasn’t terribly reliable or sturdy. Heck, you could even get one with a Levi’s denim interior. Hot Wheels has tried to redeem this compact hatchback with several versions, including the six-wheeled Open Fire shown above.

Front Runnin’ Fairmont (Ford Fairmont)

Hot Wheels Ford Fairmont Stocker

Remember the Ford Fairmont? Of course not, because there was nothing noteworthy about the styling or performance. It was perfectly… adequate. They were used for stock car racing in the 1980s, so Hot Wheels created a version that could at least be painted in lots of cool liveries.

Custom V-8 Vega (Chevrolet Vega)

Hot Wheels Chevy Vega

The Vega redefined depreciation in the 1970s by rusting while still in the showroom. But hot rodders had all kinds of fun modifying them, and the small scale model represents one of those hopped-up, tricked out cars. Also, diecast metal doesn’t rust, so that’s an improvement.

80 El Camino (1980 Chevrolet El Camino)

Hot Wheels Chevy El Camino 80s

For a vehicle allegedly designed to haul things in style, the last generation El Camino was underpowered and not very exciting to look at. That didn’t stop the designers at Hot Wheels from lowering the suspension and raising the hood bulge to make it a little bit more desirable.

Amphicar (Amphicar 770)

Hot Wheels Amphicar

What’s not to like about a floating car with a built in propeller? In theory, it’s fantastic, but in reality, it was a poor boat and an even worse car. The Hot Wheels version has a much bigger motor in the back, so it should be able to pull some skiers at least.

Chevy Lumina Van (Chevrolet Lumina APV)

Hot Wheels Chevy Lumina APV Van

The APV van was an odd spaceship-looking contraption, and when you sat in the driver’s seat, the steering wheel was actually a couple inches off center. Yuck! Hot Wheels didn’t alter the basic design much, but at least they gave it some cool paint jobs.

MetroRail (Nash Metropolitan)


The Metropolitan is a delightful little car if you don’t mind driving something that looks like Donald Duck’s jalopy. But stretch that front end to dragster proportions, and you could really burn things up the race track.

Packin’ Pacer (AMC Pacer)

Hot Wheels AMC Packin Pacer

American Motor’s Pacer was an oddball… significantly wider than most cars, and very glassy, it resembled a fishbowl on wheels. All that interior space was the perfect place to stuff a monster engine, however, so Hot Wheels did just that.

Chevy Citation (Chevrolet Citation)

Hot Wheels Chevy Citation

Really, we’re not trying to pick on Chevy here, but the “First Chevy of the Eighties” was really the “Worst Chevy of …. Ever!” The miniature model doesn’t change the basic look much, but if you squint, it does sort of look like James Bond’s Lotus Esprit submarine car. Sort of.

Whatta Drag (BMW Isetta)

Hot Wheels BMW Isetta

Sure, everyone smiles when they see one of these bubble cars on the road… until you actually drive one. “Underpowered” is an understatement. Hot Wheels turned it into a stretched three-wheeled dragster so cool that someone actually built a running real sized version of it!

Got any nominees for other Hot Wheels vehicles based on lame real cars? Let us know in the comments below!

Diecast – There’s more to it than you think…

I remember setting up and taking the first few 1:64 scale diecast pictures that I shot back in 2009. My desk was by a window in my office. I would shoot pictures on a piece of white printer paper only when the sun was shining. At that time, it was all that I had. We had an old Polaroid ‘point-and-shoot’ that we used as a family camera – I would borrow it and burn through countless AA batteries…


I began participating on a few forums and was floored by some of the images I was seeing from others. Quickly, I upgraded my setup. I have always been interested in the whole DIY (Do It Yourself) thing so I decided to build myself a lightbox. Halfway through 2010, I purchased my first DSLR and tripod. This enabled me to do many more things than what the trusty old Polaroid was capable of. I could go on and on about equipment and lighting setups but let’s talk about the subject. Diecast.

I started collecting redlines back around the same time I started the whole photography thing. History has always been an interest of mine and that led me to think….very few of my redlines are in ‘mint’ condition, but each one has a story to tell.


At one time they were new. Brilliant. Perfect. Hanging on the pegs at the local store, various hues shining bright in all their glory. Since then, days and days of play have taken their toll. Their magnificence is now long gone. ‘Beaters’. ‘Junkers’. ‘Fillers’. ‘Perfect for restoration’. These once loved toys are now referred to as many different names. The paint may be scratched, faded, and dull. The axles are bent and a wheel or two may be missing. The beauty – long faded away – but yet these toys are survivors.


The damage they wear is unique to their history, similar to how a scar is to you. That scar happened in a specific place and time. It can be linked to an event. When you look down on that blemish you tend  to remember what you were doing and where you were when you got it. These toys have a similar story to tell, yet they have no voice. In their silence, all they can do is lend themselves to our imaginations and ask for us to interpret their exclusive story in any way we’d like.


Photography has taught me to see everyday things in a whole different way. I challenge you to take a minute and really look at your collection. If you are fortunate enough to still have some cars from your childhood, step back and remember those moments and listen. I bet quiet a few of them have a story to tell.

How Do They Make Those Wonderful Toys?

Ever wonder how your favorite diecast vehicles are made? Well, here’s how Matchbox did it over 50 years ago.

These two short films come from the Pathé archives, a treasure trove of amazing old clips. See how many of these cars t you can recognize! (The Jaguar XKE is featured prominently.)  The idea that the prototype is built 5 times the final size and scaled down with a pantograph is mind-blowing!






Tomica 1/64 Cars Went From JDM to Worldwide Since 1970

Tomica started as a brand of scale models of Japanese cars for the Japanese market. But in the early 1970s, the brand expanded worldwide, and soon, Tomica 1/64 cars represented many European and North American models. Here’s a brief history of their production and expansion during the decade. By the way, Tomica designed their cars to be roughly the same size and stamped the actual scale on the chassis of each. We use “1/64” as shorthand for cars of about that size.

Tomica models made since 1970 by the TOMY Kogyo Co of Katsuka in Tokyo, Japan. The scale is about 1/60 or 2 ½ “inches long to fit a standard box size, similar to Matchbox or Hot Wheels diecast).

The first Tomica dieacast: #1 Nissan Bluebird SSS coupe (green in image above, last produced 1974), #2 Toyota Corona Mark II 1900 HT (yellow, ast produced 1975), #3 Toyota Crown Deluxe (brown-gold, last produced 1974), #5 Toyota 2000 GT (white, foreground, last produced 1981), #6 Nissan Fairlady Z (white, rear, last produced 1976), #7 Honda 1300 Coupe 9 (red, last produced 1975)

tomica police car

#4 Toyota Crown Deluxe Police Japan car (last produced 1972)

For 1971 they added 23 cars (20 cars was made in japan, 3 cars made in Hong Kong)

The Hong Kong models: #10 Honda NIII 360 (last produced in 1974), #11 Toyota Corolla Sprinter 1200 SL (last produced in 1974), #12 Mazda Capella Rotary coupe (last produced in 1974). Three cars made Hong Kong (new models at 1972) #30 Mitsubishi Galant GTO (last produced in 1975), #33 Nissan Cedric (last produced in 1975), #42 Datsun 1300 Truck (last produced in 1975)

In 1973 Tomica added 20 new models, in 1974 added 18 new models, in 1975 added 35 new models, and 1976 added 29 new models (15 new models of Japanese cars “black box “and 14 new models foreign cars “blue box”). The blue box line included more German, Italian, French, English, and American models.

tomica blue box

Japanese black box and Foreign blue box designs

After 1975, two models above (#11 Toyota Corolla Sprinter 1200 SL and # 42 Datsun 1300 Truck)  were made in Japan, while the 4 other cars were made in Hong Kong.

For 1977 they added 18 new JDM cars and 24 new model foreign cars.

Until 1988 there were 114 models of foreign car and 297 models of Japanese cars. By then, most of Tomica’s diecast models were made in China. But Japan still produced a few models.

tomica 1977 box

New box designs for 1977 Tomica vehicles.

In 1989, Tomica combined Japanese and foreign range still stands at 120 models.

tomica new box

Tomica offered 120 diecast vehicles in 1989.

Tomica grew every year after 1989 , they produced 12 new models car (12 new models, and 12 old models cars ). Their catalog shows 120 number car

At 2000 Tomica has celebrated 30 years of diecast. They produced reissue from the old models, with different boxes.

tomica anniversary box

In 2000, Tomica reissued some original designs in retro packaging.

In 2009 Tomica moved production to Vietnam, with a new logo “TAKARA TOMY”.

Tomica made cars under other names for toys shops, Ikeda ( Nissan Bluebird SSS coupe made in japan)

Besides colors and tampos designs, there are many variants of Tomica models:


The original wheels from Tomica are called 1A wheels (japan production)

tomica 1a wheels

The original wheels from Tomica are called 1A wheels (japan production)

tomica 1e wheels

Second Japan production wheels there name 1E wheels ( japan production).

tomica 1f wheels

Tomica 1f wheels

tomica 1b wheels

Hong Kong Wheels have named 1B wheels (Hong Kong production)

tomica 2f wheels

2F wheels (left) and 2FG (Japan and China production)

tomica 18 alg wheels

The Construction Terex wheel loader has wheels name 18ALG (LG = Light Green)

In Japan, China production

tomica 1h wheels

The most popular wheels in Tomica 1 H wheels ( japan and china production)

tomica 12f wheels

Fat wheels we can found at some truck-like chevy pick up 12F and 12FW (W=white)

tomica 15a wheels

This Lamborghini Cheetah has 15A wheels.

Lancia Stratos 1 J wheels (left) and 1 K (notice the different, tampo too).

tomica 12f wheels

Fat wheels we can found at some truck-like Chevy pickup 12F and 12FW (W=white)

Tomica 10c 10d wheels

For truck the wheels 10 C, Japan only production (old wheels ) and 10 D (new wheels ) Japan and China production.

Like Matchbox Tomica offers some variation likes variation window, interior, or type model of lamp…

tomica poilice fire cars

Some variations include emergency lights (Cadillac) and sirens (Toyota Crown)

tomica landcruiser

Variaints of the Toyota Landcruiser by Tomica

tomica citroen h truck

Citroen H truck with variation in window, lamp, and color door.

tomica cadillac ambulance

Different color lights on these Cadillac ambulances

tomica toyota hiace

Different variants of the Tomica Toyota Hiace

tomica honda city

Honda City variants with interior color

tomica nissan bluebird

Tomica made cars under other names for toys shops, Ikeda (Nissan Bluebird SSS coupe made in Japan)

Tomica also offered a number of two wheeled vehicles.

tomica motorcycles

Models of motorcycles (Honda Dax, Suzuki Gemma, Suzuki Van Van, Yamaha TX 750, and Honda CB 750 F)

In 1975 Tomica began producing gift sets. Tomica made some themes, like transportation gift set, construction gift set, race car gift set, supercar gift set, police gift set, emergency gift set, etc. A very special and huge gift set is the 80 pieces Tomica Osaka castle gifset, ”Super Gift Set” issued to commemorate the 400 year anniversary of Osaka castle. Another rare one is the Wedding gift set. This was issued ONLY to guests at the wedding of the son of Tomy President in April 1983. The set comprises of eight pieces: Toyota soarer, Toyota Celica, Nissan Skylines, Nissan Skyline Silhouette, Honda City Turbo, Hino skeleton bus, Ford truck, and chevy van.

tomica gift set 1

Police gift set (made in Japan) and Transporter gift set  made in Japan)

tomica gift set 2

An British car gift set (made in Japan ) and Food car gift set (made in China)

tomica gift set 3

A Race car gift set  made in china) and Delivery Truck gift set (made in china)

As of today, Tomica has produced over one thousand models of car and over million variations.

Fabio Di Pane Masi, the Original Diecastlover, joins hobbyDB 


The hobbyDB family keeps getting bigger with the addition of Fabio Di Pane Masi. Some of you may remember him as the founder of Diecastlovers, an Italian based website of many different brands of diecast cars.   

For Fabio it all began in 2009 as a catalog of his own models, in particular his favorite brand Majorette.  In mid 2010 it became open for others to add their own collections and information.  Soon there were over 500 users and Fabio spend a lot of time making his site more user-friendly.  Later he introduced a Content Management System (WordPress, the same as used by this blog).  In 2014 the site had over 33,000 collectibles from more than 1,200 users with around 1,000 followers on both Facebook and Twitter.  A Marriage was followed by a daughter and suddenly it became much harder to realize all of Fabio’s ideas for Diecastlovers.  This is when Andrew, Christian and Fabio discussed working together and as a consequence Fabio is now not only contributing his expertise in Majorette and Siku but also his knowledge of the real cars of Italy (such as Alfa-Romeo, Ferrari and Fiat). He spend the last week with us here in Boulder, Colorado meeting everyone, assisting us with the transitions and even doing a shopping trip for Hot Wheels at a local Target and we have now migrated all data from Diecastlovers to hobbyDB.

Diecastlovers included some very unique collection management features, many of which we are going to incorporate into our site. By joining forces with Fabio, hobbyDB continues to grow into the biggest and best database of diecast vehicles on the web.