In 2002, Alex Tam designed the Hyperliner. It was the first Hot Wheels™ vehicle I was aware of whose body could be separated from the chassis. I made this cutaway rendering to show off the inner workings.

My Photoshop Fixes

I  got into the Hot Wheels™ collecting hobby when I first went online in 1995. But by then I was already using Photoshop regularly, and auditing college classes in the use of the new Photoshop version 3 (now with Layers!) As I began photographing my little toy cars, I often found myself combining the two hobbies.

The examples below have rollover images— hover your mouse over one and eventually a "before" picture will appear. (Unfortunately, the photos are presented in low resolution to help this page load faster.)

'07 Shelby® GT-500™

The first Hot Wheels™ New Model for 2008 was this '07 Shelby, a casting designed by Phil Reihlman.

Four years earlier, Dave Weise's Mustang GT Concept design, like the real-life car, had a special glass roof. This feature didn't make it into final production, but I thought it was nifty. So did other people. Within two years,  Classic Design Concepts  began offering the Glassback® roof as an aftermarket accessory, and it's become quite popular.

I tried to digitally graft the roof from a Hot Wheels™ Mustang GT Concept onto this car; I thought it would be simple. But the roofline is just different enough in its curvature to make it look strange. Distort filters didn't work as I'd hoped on the odd shape, at a three-quarter angle. I had more success by using the see-through roof from a 2005 Matchbox™ Mustang GT as a source.

Instead of a "before" shot (that doesn't look much different), this image rolls over to a rear angle— just 'cause it's kewl.

'87 Buick® Grand National™

I loved the '87 GN since they first came out. When I started amassing collecting Hot Wheels™ I was surprised that they had not made one. I had to wait for more than a decade until Jun Imai designed this car for the 2007 line-up.

This GN had a neat feature— the entire front body clip (fascia, fenders, and hood) could be removed to show a chrome engine piece. But Hot Wheels™' mass-production style means that usually, removable parts or opening hoods show severe gaps in the casting. So in this photo, I removed the hood gap and relocated the emblem, and then basically lowered the car's beltline for a more normal look. The low-res image here doesn't show quite how much the photo was altered.

Low Riders & High Rollers

It seems that for the 2008 New Models, Hot Wheels™ designers were issued an edict to make the ride-height ridiculously abnormal. Phil Riehlman's '69 Dodge Coronet Super Bee was given a Pro Touring kind of stance, and Alec Tam's '69 Ford Torino Talladega was slammed to the weeds!

I had to fix 'em.

The '69 Pontiac Firebird T/A was one of Dave Weise's contributions to the 2005 First Editions. It had the opposite problem; a whole lot of space under the front end. It had more chin than Jay Leno!

Car design guru Larry Wood once said that working in 1:64 scale, you often have to sacrifice accuracy to get the thing to look right. So I made the wheel wells wrong, and put "Faster Than Ever" wheels under 'em. I also enlarged the windshield and made the headlights silvery; Hot Wheels could have done that if they weren't so cheap.

Changing wheels and cleaning up castings in Photoshop is pretty straightforward. The trickiest part is altering dimensions in a 3/4 view. And then, doing more radical stuff...

Mach 5

Warrensburg, Missouri in 1971 marked the high point of my childhood HotWheeling. Many days after school I would go over to my friend Tom Stage's house. In his basement, we'd set up the orange track while watching WDAF, the weird fourth channel on the UHF dial. Usually we'd catch part of a KC Royals game, or watch shows like Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot, Ultraman, and Speed Racer.

Twenty-six years later, the Johnny Lightning brand released Speed Racer's powerful Mach 5. I was elated, until I saw the casting. Collectors seemed somewhat pleased that a little diecast Mach 5 finally existed, but I was appalled. The design was hideous.

Eleven years after that, Hot Wheels™ got a license to make its Mach 5— but the Hot Wheels™ version was based on the car from the 2008 Speed Racer movie. To my purist's eyes, it was too bulky and the fins were completely wrong.

Just to show the way it was supposed to look, I took some photos of my 1997 Johnny Lightning car. I overlaid the profile with a screen capture of the cartoon car and found vast differences. Fixing all the inaccuracies took a lot of drawing!

In the end, I came up with these two images of how the car would look if it were correct.

1971 Plymouth Superbird

Once upon a time I had an MPC model car kit of the '71 Road Runner. It was a "3-in-1" kit; you could build the car as a factory original, a Super Stock racer, or a Superbird model (depicted on the box). I liked the extreme styling of the Superbird, and it wasn't until later that I learned there was no such thing as a 1971 Superbird. It had been planned, but Plymouth never made any.

The concept exists, though— not only as a model kit, but Gary & Pam Beineke have built a few, featured on their site.

The Hot Wheels™ '71 Plymouth GTX was designed by Phil Riehlman in 2001. When I eventually got a Classics series edition, I was immediately reminded of the phantom Superbird.

These images are retouched photos of my son's well-used Hot Wheels™ GTX, with grafts from a Johnny Lightning Superbird. The actual Hot Wheels™ 1970 Superbird was useless. But you should see how nice the JL version is...

Country Club Muscle®

Rob Matthes designed the Country Club Muscle in 2007. It appears to be based on a first-generation Oldsmobile Toronado, altered a little too drastically for my taste. Looked a little like a flattened Toro-pedo to me. So I shortened the nose, lengthened the tail, enlarged the greenhouse, and widened the whole car to get a more realistic look.

Redline Mach 1

Since I own an Ultracool 1970 Mustang, I was thrilled when Hot Wheels™ released this Phil Riehlman design in 1998. I bought almost every variation that came out, including this one from the "Classics" line.

But I always wondered what the '70 Mustang would look like as an original redline. So I started by getting rid of all the extraneous junk and casting details. I ended up re-envisioning the grille area as part of the base plate (typical for 1968-'72 Hot Wheels™ cars), and adding the "zoomie" headers & redline wheels.

'73 Ford Falcon XB

Ever since the movie Mad Max came out in 1979, I thought the MFP Interceptors were kewl, but nobody knew what kind of cars they were. Aussie car guys knew— 'cause they were Australian Ford Falcons, produced between the years of 1973 and 1976. They're definitely rare— only 949 were built.

Besides a copy of Mad Max, I had to get a DVD of Eric Bana's Love The Beast, a documentary all about his XB GT.

The Hot Wheels™ version was introduced in 2010. But, like all Hot Wheels™ dollar cars, it was crap. I tried to fix it, putting the First Editions body onto the metal chassis from a Hot Wheels Garage version, and adding wheels from a Drag Strip Demons car.

It looked a little better, rolling around on my desk, but still... I had to Photoshop it to overcome the lousy quality of the casting. So I made a lot of subtle alterations to the body, as well as the obvious change to the bizarre tucked-under wheel placement.

Way Fast

Bruce Baur designed the Way 2 Fast in 1997. The numeral 2 in the name was obviously a play on words, representing the twin engines. While I like the idea of two engines, I thought in this case it made the car look "2" extreme.

Going for a little subtlety, I removed an engine and lessened the chop of the roof a bit. Even so, it's still pretty radical. But cuter.

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