By Sajeev Mehta / Hagerty.com
We recently discussed the 2021 Hot Wheels Legends Tour, but it’s a totally different ballgame to experience it in person. It is one part Cars and Coffee, but substitute the brewed beans for the readily available sundries available at Walmart, the official parking lot providing partner. It’s another part Hot Wheels convention, where a proof of purchase (more on that later) gets you access to super geeky upgrades. But most importantly this event is also a contest, where one local winner gets the chance to compete on a national level to become the next vehicle immortalized as a Hot Wheels die cast toy.
The Hot Wheels Legends Tour has been in service since 2018, and last weekend it landed in Houston, Texas. While Hot Wheels often seeks inspiration for new product via OEM partnerships and custom car culture at a macro level, these events are a two-way knowledge transfer between Hot Wheels’ designers and the local communities that buy their products. Oh, did I forget to mention Hot Wheels brought some of their own 1:1 scale creations to these shows? Behold the Twin Mill, Bone Shaker, Deora II, and the Midas Monkey Corvette.
Because of Houston’s massive urban sprawl and oil-based economic prowess, we love our lifted trucks, art cars, and slabs: making for a show with a little more than your average smattering of classics, late-model muscle cars wrapped in vinyl, and whatever else you’ll see at any Cars and Coffee in the country. As Ted Wu, Vice President and Global Head of Design for Vehicles at Mattel said, “Houston is the perfect place to host the next live event stop in the tour, as its car culture is synonymous with customization.” That said, there was plenty of your typical (so to speak) Cars and Coffee worthy eye candy in attendance.
But you don’t always see art cars at local, Houston area car shows. Luckily the art car scene was well-represented at the Legends Tour, and this Vincent van Gogh themed Volkswagen van was a true masterpiece inside and out.
Perhaps you haven’t heard about the Houston slab scene yet, but don’t worry, we’re gonna dig deeper in a future Hagerty article. In the meantime, enjoy the neoclassic style of this Buick Riviera on traditional wire wheels, vogue tires, and a custom grille and 5th wheel Continental kit.
Here’s the thing, when you live in a large city, individual groups/cliques cross over and bleed into something unique. And there’s nothing like the part of a Venn diagram where Houston’s art car and and slab scenes come together to make a D-body Cadillac Fleetwood that’s beyond unique.
Perhaps you need no more proof that Houston has a unique, diverse and exciting car scene. And perhaps you’ll never need the rich tapestry of local content found on social media to get your fix of localized car culture. But Hot Wheels’ Packaging Designer Matt Gabe suggests social media is precisely how his company finds new sources of inspiration. And that’s how they make new friends along the way.
Because social media is how they connected with local Houston celebrity/activist/hip hop artist Trae tha Truth to create a special Hot Wheels for a worthy cause.
Trae knows a thing or two about Houston slabs, and his 1964 Lincoln Continental was faithfully recreated in Hot Wheels form, right down to the “elbow” wire wheels. Not for public consumption, the three die-cast reproductions of Trae’s Continental will be raffled off to benefit Angel by Nature. Trae believes his partnership with Hot Wheels is both special and historic, as never before has a rapper, or has someone from Houston, been a part of such a collaboration. And we can expect that, much like his personal slab, Trae will pass the memories created on this day down to his son (who is also named Houston.)
In many ways, everyone wins. But Hot Wheels designers Bryan Benedict and Matt Gabe were at the judge’s table to evaluate the real winner, on the basis of “authenticity, creativity, and garage spirit.” (The latter is a classy way of saying built, not bought.) In the end there was one clear winner, Michael Tran of Houston with his “Soo Sik C6” Corvette. What used to be a C6 Corvette is now a custom-bodied show stopper (even the headlights are custom) with “roughly” 1,000 horsepower thanks to a pair of rear-mounted turbos feeding the Corvette’s mill.
As with other Legends Tour winners, Michael advances to the Semi-Finals later this year, and then possibly to the Global Grand Finale. Winning the global contest ensures Michael’s masterpiece is immortalized as a 1:64 die-cast Hot Wheels sold around the world, so we wish him the best of luck. But, once again, but we think everyone in attendance won. Especially those that submitted proof of purchase.
In case one missed the signage, there were tasty treats for those with proof of purchase from Walmart. (Or Walmart.com for those with a fat data plan in the parking lot, ‘natch.) I made a quick trip inside the shop of our generous host and found stickers on the floor that not-so-subtly guided us to the bounty of die-cast automotive goodness. No, it was nothing like the stereotypical Black Friday sales. Instead it was a relaxing, casual and cordial affair where people were looking for their preferred way to spend the required amount of cash.
Make no mistake, this was one heckuva car show even by Houston standards, where we often have multiple events at various locations every weekend of the year, each catering to a different slice of our diverse population. But there’s one place where “we” all joined as one, and Houston can thank Hot Wheels for making that happen.
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