Hot Wheels design legend Ryu Asada dies at 42 from cancer

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Cancer has taken another legend from the automotive community. Ryu Asada, who designed cars for Hot Wheels and Matchbox, has died aged 42 of colorectal cancer.

The announcement came via Asada’s Instagram. He had been battling stage IV colorectal cancer for almost five years, undergoing various treatments while staying on die-cast design teams. He died on March 23, 2021 with his longtime partner, Hazel Diaz Asada, by his side.

Asada was born and raised in Japan, then moved to the United States to pursue higher education. He graduated from the ArtCenter College of Design in 2004, when he immediately started working at Mattel as a designer of Matchbox cars. There he estimated he had created over 150 different die-cast models.

He joined the Hot Wheels team as a guest designer, his first design being the Gearonimo in 2009. He joined the Hot Wheels team full-time, where it was estimated that he created 20-30 1:64 models per year. He took over the $1 range in 2012. You can find a full list of his creations here.

But some of his shining stars of design have been the cars of his native Japan. Asada has helped fuel the JDM die-casting craze through his passion for his designs. Ever since, people have fallen in love with his Honda S2000 NSX creations, FC Mazda RX-7 and Lancia Delta Integrale HF.

Two of Asada’s most recent models were part of the J-Imports mini collection, which included several different Japanese classics. He was responsible for the custom 1970 Honda N600 and the 1999 Honda Civic Type-R.

Die-cast collectors around the world have been sharing kind messages about Asada, a man many of them hold in deep respect.

Asada’s loved ones are in our thoughts at this time. Cancer sucks.