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Engineering Your Own Real-Life Hot Wheels

Hot Wheels: Ultimate Challenge is NBC TV’s competition show to build life-size Hot Wheels cars.

Dan Carney

June 16, 2023

10 Slides

Anyone who’s ever wanted to engineer a real-life Hot Wheels car can do so vicariously Tuesday nights on NBC by watching Hot Wheels: Ultimate Challenge.

It is one of those competition shows, but instead of cooking or sewing, the contestants are remodeling their cars to turn them into life-size Hot Wheels toys.

The show is hosted by car aficionado Rutledge Wood (from Top Gear US), and competitors have the aid of the show’s technicians, who are called “The Car Pool.”

The winner of each episode will take home $25,000. The final grand prize is $50,000 and in a case of art imitating life imitating art, their car design will be made into an official Hot Wheels die-cast toy car.

Players turn a nostalgic car from their past into the life-sized Hot Wheels of their dreams. It has the makings of solid entertainment, but car enthusiasts will surely wince at the sight of these very well-preserved examples of older cars being butchered into the kind of parodies that appeal to children.

The roster of victims, er, subjects of redesign is:

  • 1969 Dodge Charger

  • 2009 Chevrolet Camaro

  • 1990 Chevrolet K5 Blazer

  • 1980 Chevrolet C15

  • 1970’s Volkswagen Beetle

  • 1977 Ford Thunderbird

  • 1980’s Cadillac

  • 1990 Maruti Suzuki

  • 1990 Nissan Sentra

  • 2005 Hyundai Elantra

  • 1996 Toyota Camry

  • 1996 Chevrolet

  • 1997 Dodge Caravan

  • 1982 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

  • 1994 Dodge Neon

  • 1991 Ford Crown Victoria

Each week, Wood is joined by a rotating panel of celebrity guest judges who join resident experts Hertrech (“Hert”) Eugene Jr., an influencer in car culture and the drift scene, and Dalal Elsheikh, designer for the Ford Motor Company and Hot Wheels Brand Ambassador. Together, they review the transformations and crown a winner.

3D Printing Custom Cars into Hot Wheels Toys

Elsheikh said that she was impressed by the technical prowess demonstrated by the conversions, with special props for the “Buckaroo” car build. “Every build on the show went through a tremendous transformation inside and out,” she said. “In episode 2, Kevin's “Buckaroo” uses hydraulic mechanisms connected to each wheel independently to make his Hot Wheels buck like a stallion. It was incredible to see, just knowing how difficult it is to keep hydros functioning and to have them move so in sync. By reveal day, his build was movin' and groovin'!”

She added that, without spoiling the surprise, she did have a clear favorite among the creations.

“It was vibrant, full of life, and just one of those things that puts a smile on your face as soon as you see it,” Elsheikh said. “It had moving elements, told a story of a familial relationship, and taught us all something about another culture. While it wasn't the most engineered build we've seen, in my opinion, it was the most fun.”

We’ll have to tune in to see which car this is.

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