So Hot Wheels customising is something I thought I’d never do. Like, never. But as you slide further down the rabbit hole of Hot Wheels collecting, ideas start to pop into your brain. Ideas that rational people don’t normally have. Ideas that are a delicate blend of sheer genius and un-hinged lunacy.
I’d seen a bunch of images online of custom Hot Wheels and watched a load of YouTube clips of guys busting apart their Hot Wheels cars and creating their own miniature works of art. I dig it. I appreciate it for what it is. But you need some skills and a fairly adequate pair of balls to start butchering your beloved cars.
The ARISTO RAT made its debut this year as part of the 2017 Hot Wheels mainline and it has become one of my favourite castings. But I always thought it would look shit-hot with some Real Rider wheels on it.
My local Reject Shop was selling some Hot Wheels Grateful Dead cars for two bucks each. They’re fuck-ugly but come with the premium Real Rider wheels. I wasn’t going to get a chance to grab a donor car this cheap again so this was the perfect opportunity to dip my toe into the daunting yet cool ocean of Hot Wheels customising. It was time to man up and have a crack and see if I could manifest an Aristo Rat in the form I had envisioned.
The videos I had watched online made wheel swapping look easy. In theory it is but I made some serious rookie errors. Firstly, getting the Real Riders off the Grateful Dead truck was a total bitch. The rear axle came off pretty easy yet the front axle was less accomodating and as this car has a die-cast chassis, snipping the lugs that hold the axle on was tricky and I made a total balls-up of it. But I got the axle off intact eventually. Secondly, the Grateful Dead truck has a narrower wheel-base than the Aristo Rat. Now, I did compare the axle lengths by eye and thought they were a match. But at this scale, a millimetre or two makes a big difference. So rather than just swapping the wheels and axles as one unit, I had to use the Aristo Rat’s axles to hold the Truck’s wheels. This meant snipping the head off the axles to swap the wheels over. As a result, I had to glue one wheel on each axle to hold it in place. Not a huge problem, but not the proper way to do it. Despite this, the finished car still rolls great.
Once I got the new wheels and axles onto the Rat’s chassis I had to screw it all back together. I had some clearance issues with the axles for some reason meaning some filing had to be done first. But I got there in the end. The screws I used to hold the body to the chassis aren’t correct but they do the job and the car rolls really well.
I know there are going to be experienced customisers reading this doing a collective facepalm at my some of my botched methods but I reckon the end justifies the means. I think its quite apt that I chose a Rat Rod as my first customising attempt; my technique was not textbook and I bungled much of what should have been simple. The end result is really cool but not orthodox. True Rat Rod ethics at work.
Here’s the finished car. I slapped some paint on the headlights too. Just because I think they needed it.
UPDATE OCTOBER 2017
Well it’s been nearly a year since I did my first Hot Wheels custom/wheel swap and in that time I reckon I’ve done over sixty cars and become quite good at it. Several months ago I felt I needed to make amends for the butchery I inflicted on that original Aristo Rat so I had another go at wheel swapping the green variant which came out later in the year. Check out the pics: I also added some paint to the engine and air intake on the roof. No cut axles this time around!