On May 9th, I established a new rule, a new metric by which all my diecast purchases would be measured: is it as cool as, or cooler than, the Baja Bone Shaker?
As you can imagine, this has decreased my number of diecast purchases significantly.
The Baja Bone Shaker is a 2013 modification of the stock 2006 Bone Shaker, which I believe is probably the first time that a motor vehicle with a chrome skull on the front, skeletal hands clutching the headlights, and a spinal column for a shifter was ever called ‘stock’.
Larry Wood and Howard Rees had both worked at the Ford Motor Company in Detroit as car designers. Neither were quite fond of the miserable Michigan winters and both wanted a change of pace; Rees went into designing toys, and joining him at an industry party in California, Wood found himself introduced to the burgeoning young line of Hot Wheels diecast cars, zipping around on bright orange plastic track. It didn’t take long for him to sign up, too.
Howard Rees released four designs, before deciding to retire from car design at any scale in 1975 to focus on painting. You’ll be glad to know he’s very happy with his decision even still, and he does fantastic portraits of cars. Larry Wood, however, stayed on for 40 years, earning the nickname of “Mr. Hot Wheels” from his increasingly prolific resume of original designs.
Among those was the Bone Shaker. In 2005, he drew a sketch of an open-top hot rod with a twist; a sneering, glaring, menacing skull at the front, clawing its way through the front of the machine, a ferocious leap forward. As he noted, it’s the kind of scary thing that kids would like.
He didn’t think much of it and tossed the sketch in the trash.
Luckily for us all, he had a change of heart at some point, and that sketch was fished back out and soon accompanied by a diagram of exactly how it could be assembled. It made it into the 2006 lineup, and was a hit with the kids... but it was especially a hit with the adult collectors. It’s not every day you get an iconic car that manages to appeal to every demographic.
Thus, the Bone Shaker became a mascot car rather quickly, alongside the likes of Twin Mill, Deora II, and the MS-T Suzuka. As a major part of Hot Wheels’ brand identity, it was only a matter of time before they wanted a 1:1 scale working vehicle of it to show off. Picture Car Warehouse took on that task, creating the 2011 Hot Wheels Bone Shaker.
This particular diecast is more a 1/64 replica of the 1/1 scale car (recursive!) than it is the original 2006 tooling. The top is closed, unlike the real car - where it’s necessary because, again, it has a spinal column for a shifter, which is so tall that it juts out of the roof.
In 2013, the HW Stunt line introduced the Baja Bone Shaker. The small-block Chevy engine of the hot rod Bone Shaker is swapped out, the suspension is way lifted, lights and mud guards and a spare tire are added, and newer printings have shiny chrome rims for good measure. The suspension doesn’t flex like it does on, say, the Experimotors ‘70 Dodge Charger, but then again, that was made to (replicate a vehicle that was made to) be dropped out of a plane, so to-scale, no real reason for it to have THAT much travel, I suppose.
I was introduced to the Bone Shaker from its video game appearances, namely in Rocket League and Forza Horizon 3's phenomenal Hot Wheels expansion (it was introduced to the Forza series in Motorsport 6, where it got in partially due to being a real car. To date, only three vehicles in that series are purely fictional). However, I felt the Baja Bone Shaker was a little more my style; I love the off-road look and feel. (It was also 88 cents at the supermarket.)
All in all, I find my love of this car a bit amusing in hindsight. Larry Wood was right; as a kid, this would scare the heck out of me, especially the early variants that had glowing red eyes. But as an adult, I appreciate it for being just that right level of over-the-top, with a distinct, unique character to it, and with the Baja variant, going above and beyond being just a variant to being something wildly, enjoyably different. That’s why this is the bar for me now.