Die Cast Diaries – Chapter 1
Hello WA family and friends!!!
Welcome to the first of many chapters of my new Die Cast Diaries. I am going to give you all a peek behind the curtain of the customization community of Hot Wheels and other diecast cars and trucks. I am going to introduce you to some of the best and most talented customizers that I know, that I have bought from and that I follow on social media. I plan on writing a small interview of a customizer and show some of their work for your viewing pleasure. So, without further ado, I want to introduce you to one of my favorite builders of some of the most incredible custom Hot Wheels semi trucks and trailers you’ll ever see in the 1:64 scale of diecast cars and trucks. His name is Mike Gunnels of Gunnels Diecast Garage.
Me: Where are you from?
Mike: I live in Knoxville, TN but I’m originally from Chattanooga.
Me: How old were you when you first started playing with Hot Wheels or any other diecast cars and trucks?
Mike: I’m 54 now, but I originally started playing with Hot Wheels before I was 5 years old. I still resent my mother for tearing me away from my car trails under the tree in the back yard to start kindergarten.
Me: How old were you when you started collecting?
Mike: I never really collected cars until recently. Probably around 3 years ago. My son was never into them, so I got away from cars. He was a video game kid so I did a lot of cosplay stuff for him.
Me: When did you start customizing?
Mike: A couple of years ago, I went to the World of Wheels in Chattanooga and bought a custom semi from a diecast dealer. I love his work and I wanted to recreate what he did. It took me a while to figure out what he did. Once I eventually figured it out, I built a few like his. I decided after a while that I could push them further and make them something more extreme.
Me: Why did you get into customizing Hot Wheels and more specifically your semi trucks?
Mike: I’ve always been into trucks because my dad was a truck driver. He had 7 at one point, so I was around them when I was young. Ironically he would never let me learn to drive them or even let me drive a straight shift because he never wanted me to be a truck driver. So, I’m sure that plays into my fascination.
Me: What is your background with cars or trucks that made customizing Hot Wheels easy for you?
Mike: Part of what made me want to do custom diecast was because I loved building plastic models, but they’ve gotten so expensive I stopped. Diecast turned into a more reasonable alternative for me. I really don’t have much of a collection for myself. Most of what I build now is either built for someone specifically or sold eventually. Which is fine, I like that I get to do and try different things. I usually have 3 or 4 builds going at a time. That way it gives things time to dry or set while I work on other things.
Me: Is Gunnels Diecast Garage a hobby or a business? If it’s a business, is it a full time business or just part time?
Mike: Gunnels Diecast Garage is more of a hobby for now. I would like to turn it into a business eventually. I’m a self employed carpet cleaner for the past 16 years. I’m in control of my own schedule so I can find plenty of time to work on my builds. I mostly sell on Ebay and now of Facebook. So, I guess the answer is part time.
Me: What’s your top 5 Hot Wheels of all time?
Mike: 1970 Rodger Dodger, 1976 T Totolar, big fan of Nomads, Convoy Customs and that old 1977 Mongoose Funny Car. I don’t have any of my original cars because I gave them to my little brother when I moved out of my parents house back in the day. He destroyed or lost them all.
There you have it folks, you have just met one of so many customizers that I plan on interviewing and giving you all a peek behind the curtain of the customizing world of Hot Wheels and other diecast cars and trucks. Mike Gunnels, owner of Gunnels Diecast Garage, is one of my favorite customizers and here are a few of his works of art!