Video: Geek out with a real-life Hot Wheels designer

by Jeff Peek
5 February 2021 2 min read
Video: Geek out with a real-life Hot Wheels designer
Photos: Mattel / Hot Wheels

Brendon Vetuskey has a dream job. He gets to play with Hot Wheels all day. OK, so that’s not really his job, but it’s close – he’s a Hot Wheels designer who is responsible for many of the iconic 1/64-scale diecast cars that have reached shop shelves and fuelled the dreams of petrolheads young and old.

Vetuskey was a guest on a recent Hagerty Drivers Club Livestream, and he and host Brad Phillips talked about how the legendary toy cars came to be. Some are licensed replicas of cars that we know, and some are dreamed up by a designer’s imagination.

Photo: Brendon Vetuskey

Vetuskey has created plenty of both. He owns a silver 1967 Pontiac Firebird that he modified himself, adding (among many other things) an LS1 engine that’s mated to a T56 Magnum wide-ratio transmission. “It gets a lot of attention because it’s really different,” Vetuskey says .

The Firebird was featured on the cover of Car Craft magazine in October 2018… a year after becoming a Hot Wheels car, designed by Vetuskey, of course.

Speaking of different, one of Vetuskey’s wildest designs is a 2018 truck that he called “The Gotta Go.” It looks like a large toilet. “If you roll the rear wheels,” he says, “the toilet seat goes up and down.”

Once upon a time, Hot Wheels were created by building a model and scaling it down for casting. These days designs are drawn on a computer, and a 3-D printer allows the designer to check for accuracy and also access the need for changes – technology that Vetuskey says allows for more detailed vehicles.

In addition to partnering with major automakers and celebrities like Magnus Walker, one of Vetuskey’s favourite collaborations was with Gas Monkey Garage in Dallas. He worked with the GMG crew for three days to build an actual life-size “HiPo Hauler,” then he returned to his office and replicated it as a Hot Wheels vehicle.

Vetuskey not only designs Hot Wheels vehicles, he collects them. He owns some of the original 1968 versions – “the ones I can afford,” he jokes – and also collects a casting of every car that he has personally worked on.

His advice to other collectors? “If there’s a car that you like, focus on that,” he says, pointing out that Hot Wheels often produces several variations and colors of the same vehicle. “You can always expand on that. We’ll make more. There’s always another car you can get.”

The Livestream contains a lot more fun and valuable information, including the reveal of a future Hot Wheels release, so watch it in its entirety below.

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