The diecast community is not just about collecting the various brands and building the ultimate collection. There is another side of the diecast community that I didn’t know existed till recently, customizing your diecast cars and trucks. There is a huge community of customizers out there from all over the world. The one thing they all have in common, Hot Wheels. Custom Hot Wheels is one of the largest hobbies going in the diecast collecting community. It is so popular, that even I have started customizing Hot Wheels. It’s so easy to do and all it takes is the right tools, time, materials, cars and some creativity and you can building a custom Hot Wheels collection on top of your regular Hot Wheels collection. This post will give you the basics on how to get started and what you’ll need to make your first custom Hot Wheels car or truck a reality.
When I started to dive into customizing, I was told by a fellow customizer, who I have bought many customs from, that the best way to start customizing is to do a wheel swap. A wheel swap is taking the factory installed wheels off the car/truck and swapping them with other wheels and axles to give the car/truck a different look and stance. Most custom Hot Wheels have Real Rider tires, which are rubber, and custom wheels, but there are those customizers that don’t use rubber all the time. It’s a preference based on your creativity and what you like and want the car/truck to look like. There’s lots of websites and stores to buy these tires and wheels at, but most customizers will use wheels and tires from other diecast cars/trucks from other brands based on their looks and style they are going for. In order to do a wheel swap, you have to learn how to disassemble a Hot Wheels car/truck. You’ll need a drill, some drill bits, small screwdrivers and a little elbow grease. Once you get the car disassembled, then you can remove the existing axles and replace them with your custom wheels and tires. There are other ways of doing wheel swaps, that you can learn by watching videos, but I like to learn by trial and error. Reassemble the car with the new wheels and tires and you have created your own custom Hot Wheels car/truck.
Paint and Decals
Another way to make a custom Hot Wheels is by repainting them and adding new decals to make them look different than they did in the package. Painting is an art, and many customizers are true artists when it comes to painting and decaling a Hot Wheels car/truck. I’ve seen some amazing paint jobs out there and I’m a proud owner of a bunch of them also. You can use rattle can spray paint, which takes a little practice to perfect. Airbrushing is probably the best way to repaint a car/truck, especially in 1/64 scale. You have better control and can do so much more like fades and blends. Also, being able to paint stripes or flames is also a talent, but if you can get good at doing that, then your custom Hot Wheels are going to look awesome and attract a lot of buyers. Painting is a process as you know and should be done with the car/truck disassembled. First you must strip the original paint off the car/truck down to bare metal. Then you can sand and smooth out the metal to ensure a smooth finish. Next you decide on colors, if your going to do a fade, stripes, etc. Once you have your vision, you lay down your paint on the bare metal. Then you let it dry. If you’re going to add flames or designs using decals, those would go on next. After that, you have to clear coat the car to seal the decals and remove the edges. Once the clear coat is dried, you reassemble the car/truck with the new wheels and tires. The result is a brand new custom Hot Wheels which has a lot more value to it now that it is customized.
Chopping and Cutting
In the car world, especially customizing, chopping and cutting is a major change to the original car/truck, but makes it completely custom. Customizers chop tops, rear ends, quarter panels, etc. in real life on full size cars/trucks to change the way the vehicle looks. In the diecast vehicle world, we chop and cut more than just tops. For example, if you wanted to make an extended cab Silverado, you have to chop one in multiple spots in order to get the extra set of doors to make your extended cab. Tools of choice by most customizers are jewelers saw or a Dremel rotary tool. You’ll also need some epoxy and super glue in order to get the two chopped pieces to stick together to make your extended cab Silverado. Bonding the metal pieces together and making it look smooth and actaully part of the vehicle like it was originally made that way is a skill, but with most things regarding custom Hot Wheels, practice makes perfect. I’ve found that most customizers are car guys. They know how to do body work on real cars/trucks. That gives them an edge when making custom Hot Wheels, but not everyone has to have a car background to get really good at being a customizer. If you built models as a kid, which I did and loved, you’ll have no problems getting into this hobby.
So, now you have a newly painted and decaled vehicle, which you chopped the top and added an extra set of doors, with new rubber tires and nice shiny wheels. It’s time to complete the project by adding the small details and reassembling the car/truck. The small details consist of painting the tail lights, head lights, turn signals, under carriage, exhaust pipes, etc. Once those have all been painted, then you can put the car/truck back together completely. Then you take photos of your custom Hot Wheels and post the pics of your car/truck on social media for all of us in the customizing community to see. Most of us are sellers of our custom Hot Wheels, it’s an income stream to sustain being able to creating more customs. For some, it’s their only source of income. Most of us, it’s just a hobby and a side hustle for extra money to be able to buy parts and other vehicles we want to customize.
The Next WIP
As most customizers go, we always have another WIP, work in progress, on the table. I can assure you that once you get started making custom Hot Wheels, you’ll get addicted and won’t want to stop creating and building. If you love collecting Hot Wheels or any other diecast vehicle, you’re gonna love growing your collection by making custom Hot Wheels. Go on Google, Instagram and Facebook, search for custom Hot Wheels, and you’ll be amazed at what you find and see. That’s all it took for me to get hooked. Then, I started buying from builders all over the world and now I’d rather buy custom Hot Wheels instead of the originals.