Hot Wheels Design Boss Explains How Miniature Car Designs Are Selected

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As car enthusiasts, we are obsessed with statistics. But if you want some really impressive numbers, don’t bother with a spec sheet from Rimac Nevera or Toyota’s global production numbers. Watch Hot Wheels.

Since its opening in 1968, over eight billion Hot Wheels toys have been produced. The current rate is around 500 million every year… or just over 16 every second. And if you think Audi has a bewildering amount of product models each year, try the 200 or so model updates implemented each year from Hot Wheels headquarters in Los Angeles. One of them, thanks to the Hot Wheels Legends Tour, could be a 1:64 scale version of your own car.

It’s time to talk with Ted wu, the company’s design manager, to see what the process of shrinking a real car into a staggering toy involves …

Top speed: How does a licensed Hot Wheels car come to life?

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Ted Wu: We have a long-standing relationship with automakers that allow us to see models before they even appear in real life. So often we get very, very top secret CAD data and information start modeling so that we can take our vehicles out with them.

There is a lot of back and forth with them to make sure the design is correct at 1:64 scale. I think one of the misconceptions on Hot Wheels is that you just take a car, put it in a shrinkage radius, and all of a sudden it’s a small vehicle and we’re going to sell it.

But there is actually a lot of design work that goes into creating a vehicle that is small. Because when you look at a car that fits in the palm of your hand, things may not go smoothly if you simply scale it down 64 times. So our designers are really committed to getting the essence of the car. What is the personality of the vehicle? What is going to make this car look decent on this smaller scale?

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And what about designs unique to Hot Wheels?

We have a team of more than 40 designers, in many disciplines. We have transport designers, we have industrial designers, we have graphic designers, we have toy designers … there are very diverse backgrounds within the design community here. But many come from the automotive industry. So, you know, they worked for real car companies.

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One thing we take very seriously is making sure that every car we produce, even if it’s a silly car – we have cars that look like rubber ducks, cars that are literally toilets on wheels – we try to make sure that while these are fantastic bits, they are rooted in true automotive authenticity.

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Surely this is a new feeling of freedom for anyone who has worked within the limits of real cars …

Yeah, totally. Often times, when you work for a real car manufacturer, the work is quite limited. You might be designing a door handle or a piece on the dash, right? Here, the teams design complete cars, from the inside to the outside. And they design a lot of cars. They don’t just work on a car for two to three years. They produce tons of designs, from fantastic dragons on wheels to the next kind of American muscle car to the next exotic car. So I think there is a lot of freedom for the team.

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How long does the process take?

It is a process of approximately 18 months, from pen to paper to manufacturing. And the pace has become faster with the production of licensed cars online with the release of the real car. Hot Wheels sort of originated from American custom car culture in 1968. The first car we ever produced was a Chevrolet Camaro. These long-standing relationships really helped us gain the trust to have that first glimpse with many manufacturers.

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The other thing that’s been really helpful is the technology. Over fifty years ago our team made molds from wood and then clay, and now by sketching something on a piece of paper, in a matter of days you can get this from a 3D printer. in order to physically hold what you are modeling.

And how do you decide which cars to actually turn into toys?

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Each year we have over 450 cars in our “base” assortment, the kind of dollar car you might see in a grocery store. And of those 450, almost half of them are new for that year. Whether it’s a brand new model or a ‘redeco’ as we call them, a new paint job.

Over the past 50 years, we’ve got a pretty good idea of ​​the right mix of vehicles that we think will resonate with our consumers, who are both kids and adults. We try to choose cars that will be popular for everyone. But also, if you’re a car enthusiast, you’d be like, “Oh, they picked this car! Like, that’s the kind of car that’s in the present. That’s great. I’ll pick this up.

Most importantly: what is your favorite Hot Wheels car?

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I never do because I feel like we’re always releasing new stuff and every time I see the new stuff I’m like, “Oh man, this one is awesome.” Of those that are currently on the market, I would say that the Nash Metropolitan, the winner of the 2019 Hot Wheels Legends Tour (pictured above), did very well.

It’s a Metropolitan built by Greg Sazillow. He completely cut off the body. He pushed the wheels and the tires. There’s an engine coming out of the hood. He’s got a really nasty stance. When they won the Legends Tour, the team was a little nervous, like, “Oh my God, this is going to be a tough vehicle to create.” And it came out beautifully.

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NOTE: This article first appeared on TopGear.com. Minor changes have been made.

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