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How a real car becomes a die-cast toy from Hot Wheels


A Hot Wheels toy is similar to a real car.

Hot tires

For the past few years, Hot Wheels has hosted the Legends Tour, where owners of modified cars from across the country compete for the chance to have their car made as a real, commercially available, 1

/64 scale die-cast Hot Wheels toy. Last year’s winner was The Nash, a fantastic hot rod from 1957, Nash Metropolitan, built by Greg Salzillo, and we got a glimpse of how the toy version was designed and made.

Like a full-size car, the design process starts with sketches. The sketching phase is important in figuring out not only how to compress the design to a much smaller size, but also how to disassemble the car into its key parts. Each Hot Wheels die-cast is made up of four parts: the body, the windows, the interior and the chassis with wheels. Because of the Nash’s weird shape, it was also important to pick the right colors for each of these components in order to maintain the car’s color scheme.

After the sketching phase, the designers switch to digital 3D modeling. Designer Manson Cheung is part of the sculpting department and uses a “3D digital sculpting device” called the Freeform. It’s basically like virtual clay that allows him to shape a digital clay model of the car, just as a designer would do for a “real” full-size car. The 3D modeling process allows the designers to really tweak the details of the car and decide how it will actually be put together. At this stage it is easy to make changes and refine the design. They even model what the car will look like in the iconic Hot Wheels packaging.

The Nash’s wheels were one of the hardest things to replicate as the real car has those big, narrow tires that are different from those on a normal Metropolitan (or regular car). The standard Hot Wheels wheels would not work, so the designers had to use “thin wheels” that are rarely used by the company. Fortunately, these wheels were still available for production and fit the new die-cast perfectly.


Yes, car designers still use pen and paper!

Hot tires

Once the design is largely complete, prototypes are 3D printed to test the fit and see how the various parts and components come together in real life. The car can then go through further design changes based on what it looks like as a real toy. As you can see in some photos, things like the engine and hood were modified at this point. Once the design is fully fixed, a final 3D model is created and then fully painted pre-production samples are created, followed by the creation of the finished product and packaging.

Now that the toy is ready, The Nash is available for purchase in stores this December. The real car cost Salzillo less than $ 10,000 to build, including what he paid for the car, but the Hot Wheels version costs quite a bit less: just $ 1.09.

The 2020 Legends Tour was supposed to hit 18 cities in the US this year, but had to be canceled because of Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, Hot Wheels is keeping it digital so people can submit their rides online. So far there have been three “stops” from each of which a winner was selected and two more. A winner will be selected from these finalists at the livestream finals in November. This car will become a commercially available toy next year.

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