I always wanted to make my own Hot Wheels. The closest I got as a kid was dipping my cars in paint, but as an adult you can go all out.
Some wishes do come true
When I wanted to get creative with my Hot Wheels, my mom gave me some acrylic paints and a brush. Of course, that was enough for me at the time. I gave my firetruck a proper set of lights, I turned my white rocket car into a red rocket car and my NASA motor home turned into another firetruck (I had a thing for firetrucks). There was a time when just about every car got a new paint job. I wasn’t too concerned with performance, I just wanted them to look cool. Now lets scoot ahead a couple decades and I’m still customizing Hot Wheels cars, only this time I have a budget.
One of the best things about growing up is you can finally afford all the things you wanted as a kid but couldn’t have for one reason or another. For me, that included being able to make my own Hot Wheels. Painting cars was fun and all, but what kid didn’t want to design and build his or her own toy car? Now I can do all the things I ever wanted with minimal investment…and so can you! With a few cars, a drill, some paint, a free weekend and a little creativity, you can start making your own Hot Wheels…true one-of-a-kind toys.
Taking apart your Hot Wheels
The first thing you need are some cars. Thankfully, Hot Wheels are still a dollar and you can find them everywhere. Grab a few cars you think look cool and be prepared to throw one or two away, a lot of this is trial-and-error. Next, grab your drill and your set of drill bits. You’ll need a 1/16 bit and a 3/16 bit. Flip the car over and you’ll find two rivets, one in the front and one in the rear. With your 1/16 bit, drill yourself a guide hole. You don’t have to drill far, maybe a quarter inch. Once you have your guide hole, use the 3/16 bit and drill straight down on the rivet until you grind it down to the plastic. You’re almost done! Now flip the car back over and push down on the windshield.
If you’ve done things right, the car should just pop apart. If it doesn’t feel like it’s doing what you want, drill a little bit more on the rivet. It will take a few times to figure this out. Grinding down rivets might not sound too hard, but if you drill at an angle or don’t get the entire head of the rivet, you’ll just spread it out more, making it even hard to get the car apart. Once you get it, you should have a pile of parts in front of you that look something this.
Your own private Hot Wheels chop shop
Now that you have your car apart, you can pretty much do anything you want. The less-involved things include swapping out wheels and interiors. You’ll find many Hot Wheels cars share the same size axles and wheels, so if you see a car with cool tires you can take those and put them on another body, not unlike when you swapped out the bodies and legs of your GI Joe figures…or was that just me?
Of course, if you want to get serious, you’ll want to strip the body down to the bare metal and start there. I should disclaim that everything beyond some simple wheel swaps requires some items that aren’t child-safe, so be aware that you’ll need some safety gear and should be very careful when handling power tools and chemicals. Now that the warning is out of the way, we can get down to business.
To get your car into its birthday suit you’ll take one of two routes. The first route requires some sort of grinder or sand paper. I suggest using a Dremel – the hobbyist’s best friend – it just makes things easier. You can sand down the stock paint on your car and go from there, or you can just dunk your car into a can of paint stripper and it’ll do all the work for you. Aircraft remover paint stripper is some serious stuff that you can find at your local auto parts store. It’s used to remove real car paint but it will also remove other things, including plastics and even your skin…better wear some gloves. After 15 minutes in the can of goo, your car will come out naked and ready for paint.
The emperor’s new clothes
You can paint your car with any type of paint. I suggest you spray the metal body with a coat of primer first, it’ll help the paint stick and make the color stand out more. Acrylic paints will work but for the best results you’ll want to use some type of spray paint. If you want to go the cheap route, just get a big can of paint from your home store and give it a spray. There is also a wide range of model spray paints that you can find at the hobby store. They come in every color of the rainbow…some glossy, some matte, some with glitter and sparkles…the choice is yours. Make it as a crazy and cool as you want.
Congratulations, you just gave your car an awesome, custom paint job! Adding other things to your car from here is just icing on the cake. You’ll find water decals look great on the car and are very easy to work with. And don’t forget the fun of taking parts from other cars and adding them to another to create your own creations. With a Dremel in your hand you can do almost anything. Take a motor from a car and put it on the hood of another to create a blown engine. There are thousands of Hot Wheels cars out there so the combinations of awesomeness are endless.
Putting it all back together
But wait, we need to put our car back together! If you want your new one-off car to be sturdy and be handled, you have to glue it back together. Assuming you’re done grinding and painting, just put your car back together and flip it over. The holes you drilled at the start should lineup with the rivets you ground down to nubs. With the car together, just drop some super glue into the holes and wait. Although, if you want to go pro, get some stuff called JB Kwik at the hardware store, it’s liquid metal. Mix up a small batch and put some in your drill holes. After 10 minutes the stuff will harden and your car will be as solid as one that just came off the shelf.
Cheap fun for your inner child
All of this is just scratching the surface of what you can do when you treat Hot Wheels as little 1:64 scale car models. With a little Googling you’ll find some incredible custom Hot Wheels that it’s hard to believe started as $1 toys from the grocery store. I’ve found customizing Hot Wheels is an acceptable excuse to play with a beloved childhood toy because it requires power tools and man’s God-given talent of taking things apart. It’s a challenge, it’s cheap and it’s something you can show off with a smile…I mean, you just made your own toy! Not bad.