Collecting cars the size of Hot-Wheels is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to appreciate automobiles in a tangible way. Like most hobbies, you can go absolutely crazy with these things, get creative with customizing them, and build beautiful dioramas for them to park in. But if you want a little more art in your 1:64 scale cars without doing too much work, try installing some pre-built custom wheels.
Changing wheels on a real car is one of the best ways to make a big visual (and sometimes performance) impact. The bronze Konig Countersteer Type-X wheels I have on my Montero give it a quintessentially Japanese tuner look, while the beadlock-style steel wheels on my Scout make this truck look a lot meaner than it looks. was from the factory. It was on my mind as I was admiring my Hot Wheels collection the other day. I have hundreds of cars in this scale, almost all of which are at least somewhat enjoyable and special to me. But many of them have the same problem: although the body of the car looks great, the wheels look like cheap junk.
“Hah, I wonder if they make 1/4 inch diameter Volk TE37s,” I joked to my dog Bramble as I pulled one of my cars out of his mouth. I thought about it for another while and opened the eBay app. Sure enough, not only can you get tiny TE37s, but you can get just about any style of tuner, muscle car, or off-road wheel you can imagine in a bunch of different colors.
I ordered this set of “TE37 6 SPOKE v2 LIMITED Real Riders Wheels” for $5.99 from eBay mod_my_ride, which I’m going to plug in as they were very communicative, and immediately knew what car they were going on. This second-generation Mazda RX-7 that I found at a garage sale in Maine had a sturdy body with a nice patina but junky little wheels. I had no doubt that a set of six bronze spokes would turn this inexpensive toy into a desk-worthy collectible.
In many inexpensive small car models, the left and right wheels are held together by thin, paperclip-shaped axles secured in place in the plastic chassis. You will need to separate the chassis and the body to access these axles. There are many instructables for this online, but this video is my favorite because it includes cutaway images that beautifully illustrate the project:
Don’t be too intimidated by the complexity of this clip, though, it can be done quick and dirty with some pretty darn good results.
Hot Wheels cars are usually held together by a plastic tab on the back and a rivet on the underside near the front. Like, below where the radiator would be on a real car. This is what you need to kill to dismantle the car. I just drilled it, starting with a small bit, then moving on to bigger ones to completely annihilate the rivet and from there it takes very little force to lift the bodywork off the chassis. Having done this twice now, I think it’s a perfectly acceptable way to split a Hot Wheels car. Mine got back together just with a squeeze between your fingers and I don’t think you look down when it’s on a shelf anyway. Full disclosure: If you’re planning on giving your car to a kid to play with or really want the underside to be super clean, browse YouTube and check out other methods that might be less messy.
Once the body is removed, you will be able to see how the axles are held in place by other small plastic tabs. Be patient here, these tabs are tiny and prone to becoming brittle. I found that a very small flathead screwdriver was perfect for bending them just enough to pull the old axles out of my miniature RX-7, then out again to accept the new ones.
With the new axles and wheels, I simply stacked the interior, windows and bodywork on the chassis and put them together with my fingers. The seats and the “glass” (it’s clear plastic) were just held together by the body. And as I said earlier, of the two Hot Wheels cars I’ve taken apart so far, the two felt pretty firmly together with only the force of a finger pushing them back together in the assembled state.
Once the RX-7 returned, I was very happy to see that it looked as cool as I had imagined.
You can take this project one step further by adjusting the ride height with little dabs of glue or something, or adjust the track width with micro-sized spacers. And of course, a Hot Wheels car body is very easy to paint once it’s detached from the chassis. But you don’t even have to do that much work. Just swapping out the wheels of a Hot Wheels gives you a great return on your labor and dollar investment if you want to add a little custom flavor to a 1:64 scale car.
Get a new 1:64 scale diecast car, order some rolling stock and try it out. Heck, get a few and make some with your kids or your friends. So show me how your project came out in the comments section!