If you’re reading this, then you’re probably exactly like me. As a kid you played with Hot Wheels, correct? I think I can honestly admit that I probably had more than 1,000 little die-cast wheels at one given point. But as we grew up into adulthood, we have to let go of our childhood ways… right? Well to some, their childhood dream didn’t stop at those tiny metal toys.
2018 marked a significant year for the most popular Mattel toy – celebrating 50 years, Hot Wheels wanted to do something special to honor its anniversary and bring people together from all over the United States in one big showdown kind of way.
In 1968, Hot Wheels launched what is known as the “Sweet 16” – it was these 16 cars that is claimed to be some of the most influential and legendary cars in automotive history. So, for their 50th Anniversary, Hot Wheels hit the road, crossing America from coast to coast to find 15 specific custom cars worthy of joining them as the Hot Wheels Legends.
Following the coverage, the tour started in El Segunda, CA – Mattel Headquarters where over 250 cars were on display and drew over 3,000 spectators. Hitting 15 cities all across the U.S. from Bentonville, Arkansas, Chicago, Illinois, Phoenix, Arizona and finishing in Pico Rivera, CA. This is where we got to witness first hand the closing of the Hot Wheels Legend Tour and obtain a small taste of the custom built world of cars that look like nothing else on the road.
From each city a winner is selected from a panel of judges, they looked at everything from the amount of detail, craftsmanship to even the story. In an interview with Ryu Asada, a Hot Wheels Designer and Judge, “we look at more than just the build, we look at the story. We don’t want somebody who went and bought a car and had it custom built professionally. We look for stories that bring people together – like a father and son build or someone who did the built in honor of someone special.”
To be a winner of the showing takes a lot of skills and creativity, Asada also said “they look for the craftsmen shift and the attention to detail, fit and finish, and ultimately what would stand out to a child.” That last part is an important detail as all 15 winners will get to be showcased at SEMA 2018 where one of the fifteen will compete to be the next Hot Wheels die-cast car and officially titled a Hot Wheels Legend.
To make each event something different, they used themes to categorize what kind of cars they like to see for judging. The one in Pico Rivera was “Low Rider” – and boy were these cars low. Some of my favorites were the old school delivery trucks that look like they were straight out of an old barn yard gangster movie from the 1930’s. The winner though was a 1930’s Graham – so low you couldn’t fit a piece of paper underneath the body work. The winner, Steven and Karla Howard, worked together at building their 1938 Graham, what started out as a lost cause of a French based sedan, Steven and Karla set out to turn this junkyard crusher into a beautiful, classic show stopper.
Ultimately however, there could only be one sole winner, and on a sunny Monday afternoon at the end of October, at a world renown custom car show known as SEMA, the next Hot Wheels Die-cast winner went to Luis Rodriguez and his “2 Jet Z.” Built to honor the men and women of the armed forces, the “2 Jet Z was built to resemble a fighter jet, with a body shaped like a bullet and the roof simulating a fighter jet, it unique build and outstanding 627-horsepower Toyota Supra engine ultimately won the heart of the judges.
Winners from Each Event:
Los Angeles, CA – Hot Wheels HQ: Mitch Allread – 1949 Ford F-5 Truck Dually Rat Rod
Kansas City, Missouri – Vicky & Randy Roeber – 1938 Dodge Superior Bus
Bentonville, Arkansas – Vin Erwin – “Rat Wrecker” 1954 Ford 2-Ton Tow Truck
Nashville, Tennessee – Suzy Bauter – “Flare Witch Project” 1963 AMC Rambler Station Wagon
Atlanta, Georgia – Robert Graham – “Surf’n Rod”
Chicago, Illinois – Brian Bergeron – “Wederstandsfahig 001” 1987 Porsche 944
Charlotte, North Carolina – Delton Hubbard – “Never Enough” 1994 Geo Tracker
Seattle Washington – Bill & Dylan Brinkworth – 1973 Datsun 240-Z
Detroit, Michigan – Jeff Peterson – “The Blue Goose” – 1947 Chevy Crosley Sedan
Dallas, Texas – Nestor Mendoza & Daughter – 1984 Datsun 1200
Miami, Florida – Tony Batterson – “Midieval 1”
Phoenix, Arizona – Dan Robertson & Father – 1966 Chevy Pickup Dragster
Washington D.C. – Aaron Buck – “Cab Over Evolve” 1936 Ford Pickup