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Friday, 23 April 2021


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Thursday, 9 March 2017

Dave Chang of KustomCity Adds Official Archive to hobbyDB

kustomcity dave changThe latest Official Archive on hobbyDB is as much about a diecast model  company as it is about a designer and customizer. Dave Chang has added KustomCity as well as his extensive history to our database, and we couldn’t be more excited!
hot wheels scrape modifiedHe’s worked for Hot Wheels and Muscle Machines over the years, creating wild graphics for a wide range of models. For Hot Wheels, he is best known for the Scrape Modified, a heavily customized 1939 Lincoln coupe, and smaller scale models like the the 2003 Redline Club Drag Bus.
kustomcity evo drag busMore recently, Dave is best known as the mastermind behind the KustomCity Evo Drag Bus series. If you aren’t familiar with these models, imagine if the Hot Wheels Drag bus were crossed with a streamlined steam locomotive. These 1/64 models were designed from the ground up, a totally original take on the modest Volkswagen Bus. The long, sleek, aggressively tapered body work suggests an fiercely fast vehicle designed to do one thing: Go very fast in a straight line.
kustomcity firewagenHowever, on closer inspection, the Evo Dragster is designed for more than that. Besides, the Bus variant, there is a pickup version that has been further tricked out for all kinds of uses. There’s a tow truck model, from the “Big Tow” series. And a fire engine (the “Firewagen”). Actually, there are several versions with built in cargo, such as motorcycles or surf boards (the “Surfwagen”). But who are we kidding here… these things are anything but utilitarian.
kustomcity surfenwagenDave has created an enormous number of different paint schemes including candy chrome hues (aptly named "Over-Chrome"), drab military schemes that defy the word "drab", and wild murals of crazy graphics. Depsite the limited production numbers, there are even rarer "chase" versions. With their large areas of relatively flat surfaces, the Evo vehicles have been popular with other customizers as well.
david chang diecast hall of fame
Dave Chang (lower left) and the rest of the original 2009 Diecast Hall of Fame class.
Dave is also a member of the inaugural class of honorees in the Diecast Hall of Fame from 2009, which should come as no surprise. In the almost decade since that honor he hasn't slowed his roll one bit.
kustomcity evo drag bus

Thursday, 20 October 2016

JimBo Powers, Customizing from Full-Size to 1/64

Our friends at hobbyDB have been running a series of articles about diecast customizers on their blog. Some of the names will be familiar to Darthvaderr readers, but it's always nice to check in for an update. 

jimbo powers 1:18 hot wheels drag bus custom
This 1/18 scale Drag Bus has an amazing iridescent finish!
jim powers cgs kustoms logo
Jim Powers (or JimBo, as he perfers to be called) has been customizing diecast models for over 20 years, focusing on trucks, vans, the kinds of vehicles with ample room and smooth sides for big, wraparound graphics.

His first project was a 1/24 scale VW Beetle, which remains his favorite scale to work in. But he has moved up and down from that size over the years. You'll find several of his smaller scale designs on hobbyDB under the name CGS Kustoms & Design (originally known as JP Kustoms). The Hot Wheels 55 Chevy Panel is a favorite to work on.
Just in time for Halloween!
JimBo also works on bigger models such as the1/18 scale VW Drag Bus. In its original form, the model looked sort of toylike, but with his swirled, iridescent paint and extra detail, it becomes a masterpiece in miniature.
He has bigger interests as well. "I collect real VWs, Cadillacs and mini trucks," he says. "I tour the country with a Top Alcohol Dragster Team that I'm a partner with. And I enjoy building vehicles for the annual SEMA Show." In other words, he'll work in just about any scale including full-size.
Depending on the complexity of the model, his projects take anywhere from a week to a year. If you can't wait that long, you can find several of his models for sale on hobbyDB.
Jim Powers Hot Wheels custom Quick D-Livery

We’ve featured a number of customizers who make models of wild hot rods, stretched, chopped, and reassembled into strange new rides. In most cases, the cars start with a familiar model from Hot Wheels or some other company and details are added, subtracted, and mixed in.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Darthvaderr and hobbyDB Want to Show Off Your Customs!

We’re looking for a few good customizers!

Actually, we’re looking for a bunch of you. We’ve been presenting a series of profiles of diecast customizers over the last few years (that’s why you’re here, right?) and we’re always looking for a few more who want the same kind of exposure. 
Custom Kool Kombi tank by Tony Szuta, Brew City Customs
So here’s the deal… our friends at hobbyDB have been building an archive of everything that people collect. There’s a huge focus on diecast vehicles, including just about every Hot Wheels vehicle ever made. And we mean EVERY one… every model, every color, every little difference in wheels, window color, you name it. The site shows almost every authorized Hot Wheels model ever made in their database.
That’s where you come in. hobbyDb and Darthvaderr want to help you share your work. Share your stories. We want to show off your sweet custom rides and even help you sell them if you like. (And if you don’t work in Hot Wheels, that’s cool too… we want to show the possibilities of any and all diecast brands!)

What do we want from you? It’s actually pretty simple. 

First, get in touch with us. Shoot us an email, say hello in the comments below. Take us to your website or your Facebook page, where we can see your work.
Custom Drag Bug by Jon P Wood
From there, it works like this:
• Display some of your customs on hobbyDB.com. We can help you set up an archive on the site that puts all of your models into one place where people can search and cross-reference your every model. Don’t worry, it’s actually pretty simple once you’ve got the hang of it. Heck, we’ll even help you get started. And, no… it doesn’t cost anything to show off.

• Let’s do an interview. By phone, or by email, whatever works best for you. We just want to learn more about your inspiration, your methods, your plans for the future. 
• And then we’ll write up your profile. We’ll post the finished article here and on hobbyDB. Then you can share it online, in social media, on your own site… It’s good promotion for you and for us!

Custom models and packaging by Jimmy "Boxman" Chavez

As long as your cars are on display, maybe you want to sell them, too. Yep, we can help with that... but we're getting ahead of ourselves. For now, just contact Ron (ron@hobbyDB.com) and we can let you know more. 

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Get On The Drag Bus With Liberty Promotions

Our friends at hobbyDB have been running a series of articles about diecast customizers on their blog. Some of the names will be familiar to Darthvaderr readers, but it's always nice to check in for an update. 

liberty promotions header
We’ve run several features about die cast customizers over the last few weeks, but this week’s entry is a bit different in several ways. Liberty Promotions might work with small models in limited runs, but nothing about their operation is small scale.

The company is best known for their exquisitely decorated Hot Wheels Drag Buses, ranging from holiday-themed models to special events to company promotions. And even though they are “limited editions,” they are a big time operation. Consider that they have produced almost 300 different variants of just the Drag Bus.

“We’ve purchased over 375,000 buses directly from Mattel,” says Lee Perlman of Liberty Promotions. “These include promotional models for All Tune & Lube, Penske, & Jiffy Lube, as well as some “mistake” models and some CD-ROM packaged ones which were liquidated to us by Mattel. Additionally, we’ve purchased overstock from other sources, leftover quantities from various runs, such as the military and VW club releases (such as the Rhode Island Hot Wheels Club GTO below) , as well as more of the CD-ROM buses.”
Hot wheels 67 gto
liberty promotions cordOne of their best non-Bus models is the Hot Wheels ’36 Cord 810. It was produced to celebrate the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Festival held at the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum in Auburn, Indiana. "The ’36 Cord was offered to visitors of the ACD Festival on Labor Day weekend, as well as a very limited number on our website."
Most of the customizers we profile make their models one at a time,  a maximum of maybe 50 cars per run. Maybe fewer, Liberty Promotions is in the business of providing efficient short runs for a variety of clients.

In fact, when you visit their website, they first ask you if you want to see their previous offerings or if you’re interested in having your own custom design produced. The process is not cheap, and can take a while (just locating enough donor cars to repaint can take weeks), but consider the past alternatives: If you wanted to get, say, 500 models of a particular vehicle with your company or event logo on it, well, faced had an uphill battle. You had to go directly to the toy manufacturer and order probably a minimum of 10,000 pieces, all identical, and not cheap.

Liberty offers much shorter runs along with the ability to create “chase” vehicles. As a bonus, their Rebel Run vehicles represent anywhere from 10 to 20 percent of the overall production of some models.

Some of the chases are easy to spot, such as a big difference in one of the main colors (like these 2013 Christmas buses).
liberty promotions christmas drag bus
Or in the case of the Cuban Series Drag Bus, the Rebel Run version has red trimmed surfboards and red tinted windows. Speaking of those surfboards, on this particular model, they are designed to look like cigars. Now that’s attention to detail!
liberty promotions drag bus cuban
The Civil War chase variants are really hard to spot… if you look at the back of the vehicle. the only difference is a tiny portrait of the General Grant on the Union version or General Lee on the Confederate variant (would that last one be a Rebel Run Rebel Bus?)
liberty promotions civil war drag bus
Liberty Promotions now hosts their historic archives on hobbyDB, with many of their models for sale on the site.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

What's the Rarest Model You've Ever Modified?

Our friends at hobbyDB have been running a series of articles about diecast customizers on their blog. Some of the names will be familiar to Darthvaderr readers, but it's always nice to check in for an update. This week is a little different... Customizers, we'd love to hear from you on this question!

by Ron Ruelle
by Ron Ruelle
We've featured several diecast customizers over the last couple of months, covering works with a wide range of complexity and scale. Many of these folks start with fairly new, but not terribly expensive models (lots of Hot Wheels) and turn them into something more interesting and valuable. So here's a question for all you customizers... What's the oldest, most valuable, or rarest model you've torn apart, hacked into, or painted over to create something new?
Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby Boss Henry Blast Em
Full disclosure: I make no claim to be a great customizer, I just have a lot of fun doing this sort of thing. Here's an example that I did recently. In the early 1970s, Kenner SSP cars were among the most popular toys on the planet, especially the Smash-Up Derby sets. The first and most common set pitted a 1957 Chevy Nomad wagon (blue with lime green fly-off parts) against a 1957 Ford Fairlane coupe (orange with magenta parts). These sets later came in other notable color combinations, but this is the best known version.
Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby 1957 Ford Fairlane Chevy Nomad
About a year ago, I thought it would be neat to make some different body styles out of these cars. I cut part of the roof off both cars and started swapping them around. The Nomad was the recipient of the Fairlane's roofline, and with some further filling in (and a custom trunk piece), it became a Bel Air coupe, finished in taxi yellow and silver.
Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby 1957 Chevy Nomad Bel Air
What was left of the Ford made a nice start for a Ranchero pick up. This one required more work than the other car, with more fabrication of parts, such as the bed cover and tailgate, as well as moving the gyro wheel mechanism forward about an inch from the original position. Additional detail parts such as the Ranchero's blown engine and interior and rear bumper were cannibalized from other models as well. It was finished in bright pink with dark blue parts. In both cases, I chose colors that had never been used on these models before, another attempt to create something unique.
Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby 1957 Ford Fairlane Ranchero
A Smash-Up Derby set retailed for about six or seven dollars back in 1970. Today, a mint or lightly played-with set of these cars, complete with ramps and other accessories might fetch $150 or more... there was even a Bicentennial version that sells for double that amount. If I had made these modifications when these were brand new toys, there wouldn't be much of an uproar. These cars were designed for rough play, so they usually got damaged anyway. But considering the rise in values over 40-plus years, some folks were horrified that I customized them. Truth is, these were not nice, mint examples... they were already heavily battered, incomplete cars when I got them, so it was no great loss to modify them. The end result turned out pretty nice, I think.
Kenner SSP Smash Up Derby
So I ask you again, customizers? What's the oldest, rarest, or most valuable model you've torn apart, hacked into, or painted over to create something new? We want to do an article highlighting some of them, so tell your stories in the comments! And you can even upload pics now!

Friday, 23 September 2016

Get a Model of Your Car from Jon P Wood of Custom Diecast Replicas

Our friends at hobbyDB have been running a series of articles about diecast customizers on their blog. Some of the names will be familiar to Darthvaderr readers, but it's always nice to check in for an update. 

Custom Diecast Replicas Jon P Wood
We’ve featured a number of customizers who make models of wild hot rods, stretched, chopped, and reassembled into strange new rides. In most cases, the cars start with a familiar model from Hot Wheels or some other company and details are added, subtracted, and mixed in.
Looking at some of Custom Diecast Replicas’ models, you might wonder what exactly was changed. Most of them look like fairly stock cars. The changes are sometimes as simple as new paint. (We say “simple,” but that task usually involves recreating graphics and other details that are lost in the process, so it’s a lot of work!)

Here’s the catch… most of CDR’s models are special ordered by an individual who wants an exact replica of his or her own real car. “I do 90% of all my work in 1:18 scale,” said Jon P Wood, who has owned the company since 2012. “I’ve ventured into doing some 1:24 scale replicas when there is not a donor or starter car made in 1:18 scale.”
Custom Diecast Replicas 1968 shelby mustang
 The challenge grows when the donor model is a slightly different year or body style from the target car. Turning a fastback 1967 Mustang coupe into a 1968 Shelby convertible involves a lot more fabrication than you might think.
“Every car has its challenges,” Jon said,” but I think the custom built Volkswagen Drag Bug was one of the most difficult.” It started as a regular MiniChamps Beetle. The running boards were cut off along with the head and tail lights. All trim removed and filled, filled and custom items were built from scratch.
Custom Diecast Replicas volkswagen beetle dragster
Custom hoods, spoilers, all kinds of details are often fabricated from scratch. “There have been some custom front and rear bumpers that I have done also that was quite time consuming,” Jon said. That’s how a GMP Pontiac GTO became this Holden Monero model below. (Oddly enough, in real life, the Holden served as the basis for the GTO.)
Custom Diecast Replicas holden monaro
Prices for specific models will vary with several factors… the cost of the donor car, the amount of time fabricating custom parts, and complexity of the graphics. You can learn more at their website or on Facebook.

Friday, 16 September 2016

Our friends at hobbyDB have been running a series of articles about diecast customizers on their blog. Some of the names will be familiar to Darthvaderr readers, but it's always nice to check in for an update. 

jimmy boxman chavez logo
We’ve met a lot of diecast customizers at hobbyDB, but Jimmy "The Boxman" Chavez does things a little differently. Living up to his “Boxman” nickname, the packaging is often the star of his projects. Standard blister packs simply won’t do for Chavez. His vehicle and card graphics are spot-on designs that look professionally produced. And then he takes things way further with innovative combinations of card shapes and blister forms that reflect the theme of the car.

Take his Evel Knievel Drag Bus for example. Cutting the corner of the card to reflect the shape of Knievel’s “Number 1” logo is a great idea. Putting the bus on a miniature jump ramp inside the blister?  That’s genius. Looking at it, you might think Hot Wheels had actually produced this in the 1970s.
Evel Knievel Mad Science Drag bus
Or how about his Mad Science bus? The overall graphic appearance ties together so well you almost don’t even notice the blister is the shape of a glass beaker, with the card following those contours on one side.

Chavez has been at this game for about 20 years, he said. "I started out turning Hot Wheels Highway Haulers into beer trucks.” He's currently adding his official archives to hobbyDB, and we hope to have some photos of those early efforts soon.

As for his most difficult project to date, he considers his House of Kolor Paint Drag Bus to be the winner. The vehicle itself was probably no more of a challenge than his usual perfect paint jobs. But the packaging… wow! “I put it in a real paint can.” he said. “I had to hand cut the display window with an X-acto knife.”
Jimmy Boxman Chavez House of Kolor drag bus
One of his most ambitious and best-known projects didn’t even include custom vehicles. To show off his collection of 2003 Red Line Club exclusive Hot Wheels cars, he built a diorama of a miniature auto dealership. With its checkerboard showroom floor and pennants hanging over the parking lot, it’s understandable if you thought this was an actual offering from Mattel.
Jimmy Boxman Chavez 2003 Red line club hot wheels
All of this precision and creativity looks like it should take crazy amounts of time. Nope. He said his projects run “a couple days including design” in most cases. Even when the case itself might be the most ambitious part of the project.
jimmy boxman chavez fire bug transformers
Of course Boxman works on things other than the Drag Bus, such as this Transformers Dairy Delivery and Fire Bug Custom Beetle.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Hadi Rochmansyah: The Madman of Madworx Kustom

Our friends at hobbyDB have been running a series of articles about diecast customizers on their blog. Some of the names will be familiar to Darthvaderr readers, but it's always nice to check in for an update. 

Hadi Rochmansyah madworx
Hadi Rochmansyah cartoons magazine
If you're a certain age, you may have grown up reading CARtoons magazine (sort of like Mad, but strictly about cars). It disappeared in the early 90s, but over the last couple of years it's been making a comeback online. Hadi Rochmansyah is lucky enough to be one of the cartoonists in the revived venture, and he's also an amazing diecast customizer.
Hadi, who lives in Indonesia, got his start in third grade customizing inexpensive pullback cars. He also developed an early knack for cartooning and was able to turn that into a job as an illustrator for an automotive tabloid.
"I sold my first custom in 2005 (a 1:32 pullback VW bus)," he said. "In 2006 I did my first Hot Wheels a '69 Chevy truck with an opening hood. I start using 'Madworks Kustom' for my Garage's name and then changed into 'Madworx Kustom' in 2011. In 2014 I asked my brother to be a work partner and since then we've worked as a team."
Hadi Rochmansyah madworx
His workbench looks like a miniature version of the kind of shop that turns out chopped, channeled custom hot rods. There are piles of parts and scraps that might come in handy someday and just enough clear space to do the work. His cars can take several weeks to complete depending on the complexity, but he has several in the works at any given time.
Hadi Rochmansyah madworx
The Hot Wheels Boneshaker shows up in several of his customs, such as the Boneshaker V16 above, though you might have to look hard to find it in some cases, as he mixes in a lot of elements from other cars as well as scratchbuilt pieces. Many of his cars are finished with a rusty, weathered rat-rod patina complete with hand painted but realistic graphics.
Hadi's attention to little details is amazing. He often fills the cargo area of his pickup trucks with tiny cardboard boxes with labels and sealed with tape.
Hadi Rochmansyah madworx
He's also capable of creating immaculately finished models that make you look twice to be sure they aren't straight from the factory. It's hard to tell where the production model stops and the custom work begins.One of the newest castings from Hot Wheels, the Corvair Greenbrier van, served as the basis for a flip up body pickup dragster.
Hadi Rochmansyah madworx
Many of his cars are single shot one-of-a-kind models, such as the Dixie Danger below, so you have to follow him closely on Facebook to see the works in progress. And of course, we're working on archiving many of his earlier efforts on hobbyDB.
Hadi Rochmansyah madworx

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Zombies and PopCulture Mashups: Welcome to KrautCustom

Karl-Martin Karle Sanger Krautcustom

Our friends at hobbyDB have been running a series of articles about diecast customizers on their blog. Some of the names will be familiar to Darthvaderr readers, but it's always nice to check in for an update. 

Karl-Martin Karle Sanger KrautcustomMost diecast customizers started collecting model cars early in life, and Karl-Martin Karle Sänger is no different. Well, his story is a bit different, as he grew up in Dresden, East Germany, so it wasn’t as easy for him to get his hands on such things. “I often received as a child Matchbox and Hot Wheels from West Germany. But I’ve really only been a Hot Wheels ‘collector’ since 2003.” he said.With the falling of the Berlin Wall, toy cars were easier to find, but he still mostly admired them from afar. “When I went shopping, I always looked at the Hot Wheels cars and was delighted with the cool designs,” he said. I've never bought them. But in  autumn 2003, my wife bought me the first Hot Wheels for my collection. It was the Steel Flame, No. 014, which I still own and hold in honor.”Despite having “several thousand” Hot Wheels cars now, he limits himself to being a completist on only a few castings. One of them is the Dairy Delivery, a popular choice among customizers. You can probably see where this is going, right? “I started to collect Custom models and so had my first indirect contact with Bryan Pope, Chris Walker, The Boxman, Al Gonzales, and many others,” he said.So he got the urge to try it himself, calling his company KMS Krautcustom. And of course, the Dairy Delivery served as the basis for some his earliest custom work. 
Karl-Martin Karle Sanger of KrautCustom
Lorrie Davis and Karl-Martin Karle Sanger
He created his first real custom model for Lorrie Davis, a collector from West Chester, Ohio, sparking a lasting friendship. “We met for the first time on the SuperToyCon 2015 in Las Vegas. In my first ever event, I won a 1st and 2nd place in the amateur field. Nevertheless, my sales were very poor.” So Lorrie has become his manager and agent, and sales have picked up. He won another first and second at the Hot Wheels Nationals in Indianapolis in 2016, and this time buyers noticed his models for sale. His custom Datsun Bluebird Wagon was a popular model at Indy. KrautCustom Datsun Bluebird“I’m particularly proud of my VW Drag Bus "Star Wars Boba Fett" series.” At first glance, his Boba Fett models might look familiar. After all, Hot Wheels did produce a Boba Fett car resembling the “Star Wars” bounty hunter… but it wasn’t based on the Drag Bus or the Kool Kombi like his are. For these models, Karl-Martin cuts the front of the bus to look like the Boba’s helmet. Designs range from impeccably new to severely battered. The result is unmistakeable.Boba Fett Hot WheelsAlthough a lot of his models look beaten and weathered, he can also create crisp, pristine looking modes. as well. Many KrautCustom models feature hand-painted designs that are almost too perfect to believe. for example, the flowers on this Drag Bus are all done that way.KrautCustom Hot Wheels Drag BusMeanwhile, he has produced several very limited runs of custom models, anywhere from a single unique build 5o maybe 5 or so copies. He plans to be at the 2016 Super Toy Con, but no longer as an amateur. “I am very proud to be a Pro Customizer within 3 years,” he said.Custom Dairy Delivery zombie