Automobile - - Ethos -

IT MUST BE the eas­i­est job in the world, right? Man­u­fac­tur­ers send 3-D ren­der­ings of pro­duc­tion cars to the Mat­tel De­sign Cen­ter then artists hit the shrink ray and scale it down from 1:1 to 1:64, add a snazzy paint job, and clock out.

“You would think you take a car and shrink it down 64 times, and you have a Hot Wheels car,” Wu said. “The funny thing is, when you look at cars and you look at 1:64 scale, it’s hard to get the essence of a car when you’re just shrink­ing it down. So there’s a lot of cre­ativ­ity, there’s a lot of de­sign that goes into that.”

Ev­ery li­censed Hot Wheels model you’ve ever shot down the fa­mous or­ange race­track or rolled across your desk was de­signed from a clean sheet. Pic­tures and 3-D ren­der­ings of the ac­tual car are in­valu­able ref­er­ence ma­te­rial, but the fi­nal de­sign is all orig­i­nal. For ex­am­ple, look closely at Hot Wheels’ ver­sion of the 2018 Ca­maro SS: It’s not a car­bon copy.

“When you scale some­thing down, it loses its char­ac­ter and its drama, so you have to ex­ag­ger­ate some as­pects of the car at that small size to keep its char­ac­ter,” said Adam Barry, se­nior cre­ative de­signer for the real ex­te­rior of the

sixth-gen Ca­maro. “In gen­eral, what they do is they make the wheels a lot big­ger, crush the roof down, maybe even widen it, and they dis­till the de­sign down to its car­i­ca­ture.”

Con­cepts and pre-pro­duc­tion cars present the largest chal­lenge.

“Some­times the man­u­fac­turer re­leases an im­age be­fore the car is ap­proved for pro­duc­tion,” Man­son Che­ung (above), a Hot Wheels de­signer and 3-D mod­eler, said. “So we’re get­ting a ba­sic im­age, with no ex­tra an­gles, and I have to trans­late that into 3-D; it’s not ideal. The [C7 Corvette] St­ingray was one of the tougher ones. It changed so much be­fore the of­fi­cial launch; I started with a C5 or C6 as the base and had to mod­ify as the con­cept changed.”

In a way, Hot Wheels re­verse-engi­neers the car back to its raw form.

“We have to do that in a cer­tain way when we de­sign a real car, too,” Barry said. “So what we do is, when I draw a pic­ture of a car, it’s also a car­i­ca­ture. It’ll be wider, lower, sleeker, big­ger wheels and tires, meaner-look­ing. Now, I know it’ll never be as cool-look­ing as I drew it. But the thing is that my job will then be­come try­ing to re­tain as much of that vibe and feel­ing of that sketch through the five years of de­vel­op­ment and all the re­quire­ments

of cov­er­ing an en­gine, rolling down a win­dow, crash­ing into a bar­rier for safety, aero­dy­nam­ics, per­for­mance tar­gets, and all these things that they’re go­ing to throw at this shape.”

The same top-down process ap­plies for Hot Wheels Orig­i­nals. These wild fan­tasy mod­els ac­count for a lit­tle less than half of the yearly lineup, rang­ing from sim­u­lacra of hot rods and mus­cle cars to a big-block-pow­ered shop­ping cart or a four­wheeled cy­borg shark. Although not as pop­u­lar among se­ri­ous col­lec­tors, Orig­i­nals are a big part of the com­pany’s ap­proach.

“It’s a fine bal­ance,” Wu said. “Hot Wheels is such a spe­cial brand; it’s got such wide ap­peal and depth. And while we have ties to au­to­mo­tive au­then­tic­ity, we also know that we are a kids’ brand as well, and we have to make sure we’re mak­ing stuff that kids want to play with.”— CG

PAD TO PRINTER What starts out as a dig­i­talsketch then turns into a 3-D-printed pro­to­type, which even­tu­ally tran­si­tions into a diecast test model. Above: Dmitriy Shakhma­tov be­gins the process.

Larry Wood’s de­sign sketch of an early Hot Wheels Orig­i­nal, the 1973 Hot Wheels Zowees Goin’Fish­ing.

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