12-02-08: The dynamic new 2010 Ford Mustang is sure to delight car customers of all ages – including children ages 3 and up. On the heels of last week’s debut of Ford’s newest Mustang, Mattel is making plans to launch the Hot Wheels version of America’s iconic muscle car.
“Cars like the Mustang are a natural for Hot Wheels,” said Alec Tam, director of Design, Hot Wheels. “We choose cars based on their ability to meet our brand values, which are speed, power, performance and attitude. Mustang hits all four of those points.”
The 2010 Hot Wheels Mustang is 1/64 the size of the original. It weighs less than a pound and is just short of three inches long, compared to the full-size car, which tips the scale at approximately 3,500 pounds and measures more than 15 feet in length.
Aside from those obvious differences, the two products and how they are made share similarities.
For example, the same digital data Ford designers create for the actual car is used by Mattel’s Hot Wheels designers to model the toy version.
“We share Ford’s CAD (Computer-Aided Design) data, but we reinterpret it into a format that works for us because there is a lot of extraneous information that we don’t necessarily need for a 1/64 model -- like a headlight lens or a door handle or a trim piece,” explained Tam, whose background is in car design.
Once the data is translated, Tam says modifications are done to make sure the car meets a variety of safety requirements.
“Safety is our first goal. So a corner that looks sharp on a full-size car will not be sharp on a 1/64 car,” he explained. “You’ll also notice that our cars don’t have side mirrors. That’s because if a child steps on the toy in the middle of the night, there is a potential for injury.”
One of the things that Tam says might surprise most people is how much behind-the-scenes work goes into making sure the car works properly on the Hot Wheels race track.
“The real full-size vehicle wasn’t designed to work on our tiny little orange track. I don’t think Ford planned for the car to go through a loop,” he chuckled. “We have to adjust certain things on the car so that it will perform well on the track.”
A bit of fine tuning also has to be done on the wheels.
“Our wheels are much bigger than those on the actual car,” Tam said. “If you blow up the 1/64 car to full size, the wheels are probably 25- or 28-inches versus the stock car, which has 17- or 18-inch wheels on it.”
One of the biggest challenges designers faced, says Tam, was deciding which features on the full-size car to emphasize or de-emphasize on the 1/64 model, because those types of details will ultimately help customers distinguish the 2010 Hot Wheels Mustang from its 2005 Hot Wheels Mustang predecessor.
“It’s our job to make sure that we highlight as much of the original car’s flavor that we can,” he explained. “Otherwise, if you’re a 5-year-old and you’re standing five feet away from the store shelf, you won’t be able to tell the difference.”
Tam says seeing Ford’s 2010 Mustang at a special sneak preview in Dearborn helped him hone in on some of the vehicle’s most distinctive features.
“After seeing the car in person, we accentuated the haunches, made the nose of the car a lot flatter and adjusted the front end to sit lower,” he said. “We have to ‘grow’ some of those details on the 1/64 car so that you can actually see them. So if you took the Hot Wheels car and blew it up to actual size, it might look a bit cartoonish compared to the real thing.”
Once all the necessary modifications are made, the car is digitally shrunk down to 1/64 size and put through a rapid prototyping machine that spits out a basic gray resin model, similar to the silver models generated in the Ford Design Studio.
“The reason we do our models in gray is the same reason Ford designers do their models in silver,” said Tam. “It’s just dark enough that you can see the forms, but it’s light enough that you can photograph the car.”
With a physical model in hand, Tam says he and his team can see things that are difficult to spot on a computer screen.
“At the end of the day, the (computer) tube can lie to you,” he said. “What we see on screen is obviously much bigger than in reality, and we understand that our reality is a 1/64 scale car, which isn’t more than 3 inches long.”
The next step is the tooling process.
“That’s when our engineers create the actual parts of the car, like the windshield, the interior and the chassis, using the surface data that we provided with the original prototype,” explained Tam.
Once tooling is complete, designers decide on the decorations and graphics that will go on the car, such as the exterior color and logos. After an actual production prototype is approved by Ford, the eight-month design process is complete and the car is sent to the factory for production.
“Obviously designing a real car is much more involved and complicated, and it has real world ramifications,” said Tam. “Our main objective is making sure that kids can play with the toy safely and have fun.”
A limited number of Hot Wheels’ 2010 Ford Mustang will be given out on the Ford stand at the Los Angeles Auto Show. The toy is expected to hit retail stores Dec. 1, 2008.
Hot Wheels has been replicating Ford products in the hundreds of millions for the past 40 years. In fact, one of the very first Hot Wheels cars was a Redline Custom Mustang, which was released in 1968.
“When our Ford vehicles are replicated as toys, it enables us to build brand enthusiasm with children at a very young age,” said John Nens, manager, Ford Global Brand Licensing. “It also helps children form emotional bonds with Ford, which they will carry forward throughout their lives.”
Tam says the same is true for Mattel and its Hot Wheels brand.
“A kid can take one of our cars home and say, ‘Wow, one day when I’m 16, I’ll be able to drive a brand new Mustang,’ and he’ll remember that forever,” he said.