There are so many great aspects to this hobby of diecast toys, many that I didn’t discover until I joined Live and Let Diecast. The first aspect I discovered was the unity between everyone here at LaLD and what everyone brings to the table (also discovering other people besides me collected toy cars was pretty awesome), the second thing that I discovered was amateur photography, and the third was customizing. The commonality between these three are the creative outlet that it creates.

When I first heard about the Superfly Magazine custom contest I was both excited and intimidated. I mean there has to be thousands of customizers out there with a way broader skill set then I have. I’ve only been customizing for a little over a year now (though admittedly I did quite a bit of scale model building as a youth about 20 years ago). My second immediate concern was what was I going to build, what was I going to create? I believe it’s the same issue that authors have with writers block. Luckily, the internet is full of inspiration and I found mine while browsing Instagram one day. My original plans were to build a Porsche 935 K3 but I quickly scrapped those when I saw this:

My concerns of inadequacy toward the contest quickly disappeared as I was now motivated and inspired. I came to realize by the end of this process that we are all winners when we create something that starts as an idea and ends up a reality, sometimes even better then we could have imagined.

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As the idea formed in my mind I now had to find the perfect subjects for this meshing of mechanical innovation. The answer came in the form of Hot Wheels VW ‘58 Panel Bus from a recent Pop Culture release and a Matchbox Blizzard Buster would provide the tractive effort for the build. As luck would have it the tracks from the Matchbox were the perfect wheel base and width. So I had my ingredients, now to start mixing it up a bit.

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Once I had both castings apart I could really start sizing up what it would take to put these two together. I was pleasantly surprised that the Matchbox tracks had a fairly similar width as the axle spacing on the Hot Wheels base. I simply just needed to cut away the excess on the Hot Wheels base and slip it in between the Matchbox tracks (which required only very slight trimming), with new coordinating holes drilled so that both bases could be attached using existing rivet holes. As far as the main Hot Wheels body, I utilized the existing front wheel arch and copied it to the rear and connected the two by drawing a line with a ruler and simply grinding the metal away, giving it a final finish with some filing.

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With the main body metal work done as well as both bases modified to fit it was time for paint prep. I was happy to find out that the Hot Wheels interior fit with no clearance issues so I set that aside for the time being. The body went into some paint stripper and the metal base went to the blast cabinet. Once that was squared away both bases and body were given initial coats of paint, semi gloss black and semi gloss white respectively. The interior also got a coat of white as older VW’s traditionally have body colored interiors on the dash and other surfaces. A few raw test fits were in order, things were really starting to come together.

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The next step I found to be the most intimidating and that was adding surface details to the painted pieces. I told myself with each new custom I would push myself a little further. For this build that meant using wet transfer decals, something that I never did even as a youth (if I did I clearly forgot as I went to about a dozen different YouTube videos to train myself). A quick search around Ebay and I found a vendor selling military/army themed decals. Up until this point it was going to just be a white VW bus on tracks like the original image I found on Instagram but I thought that giving it a theme would make it more convincing and unique. I was very happy with the end results, though I wish I was a little more careful in measuring and placement of some of the decals, overall not bad for my first time though.

Continuing on with the body details I added the front and rear fascia with my go to Sharpies. Something new I tried this time was using a fine tip drafting pencil with soft lead to fill/shadow in all the panel gaps and I think it worked well and less messy then an ink wash which I was scared to try on a white surface. With the metal base there was nothing to do, though I had filed away the original exhaust tips and added some larger silver painted brass tube ones in their place. With the tracks I simply added some silver detail to the treads and wheels, though I wish I add tried to give them a weathered look, something I’ll try on a future build. With the interior I simply shadowed the steering wheel, added some dash detail, and painted the bench seat brown, leaving the rest of the interior body color as you would expect on an older industrial vehicle. Exterior additions included an emergency roof mounted light (a tip of one of my paint brushes actually) and some driving lights donated from a Hot Wheels Ford Escort 1600.

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With that I assembled all the pieces and dubbed my new creation the Alpine Ambulance (Search and Rescue). A Hot Wheels based vehicle with a Matchbox utility feel, something that I think could have been an actual product on the Mattel production line. I had a lot of fun during this build process and am thankful for the Superfly Magazine contest for giving me that push to get out of my creative slump. I’m looking forward to seeing all of your future creations as they inspire me to do better with each and every build! Enjoy!

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