On Saturday, September 10, Valley-wide auto customizers and Hot Wheels collectors will collide to compete in the Walmart Supercenter parking lot at 2501 South Market Street in Gilbert from 8 a.m. to noon.
Enter the Hot Wheels Legends Tour, a global contest that offers auto customizers an opportunity to have their customized vehicles — from lifted trucks and slammed imports to raked hot rods and nine-second quarter-mile running Teslas — immortalized into Hot Wheels toys at the Mattel manufacturing plant in Asia.
But there’s a process first to be considered a Hot Wheels prospect.
“There was an online form and area to submit photos and info about the vehicle,” he said in a recent Phoenix New Times interview. “I received a text when I was approved.”
The van’s Back to the Future theme complements his auto detailing business and affinity for the 1985 film. “I purchased the van bone stock three months ago,” he continued. Next, Jackson added custom wheels, undercarriage neon lights, a flux capacitor-looking doohickey, an 88 mph prop, and custom graphics. “And now I am looking forward to having it on display at the Hot Wheels Legends Tour.”
The judges, including members of the Hot Wheels design team, Walmart store managers, and automotive influencers, will scour the Gilbert parking lot to find the hottest rides, then cast their votes. They’ll seek builds that exude garage spirit, creativity, and authenticity.
Ron Howe, a metro Phoenix car builder, won the 2019 Hot Wheels Legends Tour in Phoenix with his 1971 Volkswagen Squareback. “I wanted something that nobody has potentially done before,” he said in a 2019 interview of his heavily modified red-colored VW, which has stacks protruding through its hood and the dual-2332-cubic-inch VW-motors grumbling below.
I interviewed Howe in 2019 at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas. At the same show, I spoke with Eric Han, the lead product designer at Hot Wheels. Many of the Hot Wheels Legends Tour finalists of each city met in Las Vegas for the final judging.
“Keep in mind that we have to make this in 1:64 scale,” Han continued. “So if we shrink it — will the silhouette be recognizable for the collectors? Or for a child: Is it fun enough?”
Unfortunately, Howe and his VW did not win at SEMA.
Han added, “I think the biggest challenge to a designer is when you shrink it (to about three inches), you have to make it proportional, so it looks all right on an orange racetrack used in the Hot Wheels toy sets. We try to account for all the little details, the tampo colors and the wheels.”
Tampo refers to how graphics adhere to the Hot Wheels toys. Howe’s VW had a “Too Cool” decal on its door.
At previous Hot Wheels events, also referred to as the “world’s largest international traveling car show,” they set up a larger-than-life Hot Wheels backdrop resembling the packaging of the 1:64 scaled die-cast toys. With the ginormous Hot Wheels display, vehicle owners can pull up, snap photos, and visualize what their vehicles would look like as a toy.
The Hot Wheels Legends Tour launched in 2018 to celebrate the toy brand’s 50th anniversary. It humbly began as a series of 15 car shows hosted at Walmarts around the U.S. Over the past four years, with the help of social media, the competition blew up and expanded internationally, now attracting the coolest vehicles in 13 countries and spanning five continents.
This year’s tour kicked off in April in New Zealand. After 13 additional meetups, the November 12 Global Grand Finale will take place at an undisclosed site, where the winning vehicle will be announced as the next Hot Wheels model.
In the last 50 years, Hot Wheels has made over 25,000 vehicle models — and it’s possible a metro Phoenix automobile could be the next one!
The September 10 roll-in is at 8 a.m., and the show is free of charge for spectators and competitors, but the vehicle must be registered online and approved first. The event goes until noon.
2501 South Market Street, Gilbert