Dan Elliott from Sault records miniature car races in his basement, sharing videos online as his new hobby
What started as a virtual diversion during the first COVID lockdown in 2020 has become an annual local video event.
Dan Elliott of Sault is currently compiling videos from the third annual Hot Wheels Showdown Father’s Day race.
“When the pandemic first hit, everyone was locked down, and I saw videos on YouTube where guys were racing Hot Wheels cars, but they filmed it like it was a professional broadcast. They replayed and were commentators throughout,” Elliott told SooToday.
“I thought, ‘That’s cool; I used to do that when I was a kid.
“I had the idea just before Father’s Day 2020 to ask some dads I knew from friends and family what their dream car was, but I didn’t tell them what I was doing. I told them I was making a video, but they didn’t know what, they gave me their answers, and I went shopping in town and found Hot Wheels versions of almost everything they said. Then I made three or four videos of a Hot Wheels drag racing tournament. I set up about 20 feet of Hot Wheels track, dialed in a commentator personality for myself, and recorded in my basement,” Elliott explained.
Elliott shared the videos with friends and family.
Encouraged by the response, he decided to do it again for Father’s Day in 2021.
“The second year, instead of 16 pilots, I had 44 guys that I knew who had seen the first video and wanted to participate or other guys that I had invited. My sister and brother-in-law told me really helped make it more of a production. We narrowed it down to the top 16, and it went really well,” Elliott added.
“I wanted to do it again this year, in 2022. This year I have 56 riders, and I’m on my ninth video now to narrow it down to the last 16, and then the last 16 will be racing for the championship on Father’s Day.”
Elliott pushes all the Hot Wheels cars on the track himself and records, edits and posts the elimination videos on YouTube. These videos are available for viewing.
The Hot Wheels race among the final 16 dads, and the winner will be revealed in a YouTube video, to be released on Father’s Day June 19.
“We have a double elimination tournament. You are not eliminated until you lose twice. It was rather fun. I did a new piece this year. The cars are no longer on a single track. Now they can crash into each other and spin around. It made it a lot more exciting,” Elliott said.
“I got a lot more feedback from dads who are involved,” he added.
He also said that thinking of ideas for the track and finding the cars for competitors has become one of his main hobbies.
It’s just for fun, Elliott said, with no entry fees — all entrants enter the race by invitation or word of mouth — and, for now, no prizes other than a store trophy at a dollar for the winner.
“I think I’ve reached a sweet spot. Guys love competition, and they love cars, and a lot of us are still 10-year-old boys at heart. Playing with Hot Wheels is fun,” said Elliott, a daytime lumberjack.
The adult hobby of collecting Hot Wheels cars has grown over the years.
“The whole Hot Wheels car racing hobby has really grown during the pandemic. There are lots of videos on YouTube. I make mine unique and entertaining,” said Elliott, who does not race his own car in annual contests.
Most participants so far have been adults and men, although Elliott said there were two competitors in this year’s event who were running in memory of deceased fathers.
North Bay’s Andrew Nicholson, Elliott’s cousin, won in 2020, while Sault’s Nate Tulloch won last year.
“I really like how competitive the guys are, even though they have little or no control over the outcome. They told me their hearts flutter watching these little cars roll down the track,” Elliott said. .
As for Elliott’s favorite Hot Wheels car, he said it’s hard for him to choose one, and he tries to find something he likes in every car he sees.
“It’s a creative outlet for me. I really learned to love collecting cars and looking for specific cars, rummaging through stores. I really like to make people laugh in videos, so I try to make them funny. That’s the best part for me, thinking it makes people who have watched them smile,” he said.
Elliott said dads participating in the annual Hot Wheels Showdown Father’s Day race usually have an interesting story to tell about their choice of a Hot Wheels car to race, with their toy cars often reminiscent of the real cars they had when they were younger.
Elliott, a father himself, has a three-year-old daughter and a one-year-old son.
“My daughter loves racing the cars on the track with me. When my little boy is older I know he’s going to love it,” he said.