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It's a small world...part 4


Let's enter the world of customs. These customizers take collecting to a whole new level with articulation and design. Not simply just swapping wheels and paint, but full custom body kits to decals and full diorama set ups. Customs have certain come a long way compared to simple wheel swaps and repaints. Many customs are done for hobby purposes with just being able to take a hobby and push it beyond what anyone has thought of for its casting. Some customs are commissions for hobbyist looking for something specific from a casting and more of a unique, and one of a kind mold.

Simple things like wheel swaps from donor cars or other kits are the one of the easiest things to do, which also makes it a great starting point for customizing cars. Simply replacing the plastic tires with actual rubber ones. It usually requires the base to be removed by being drilled out on smaller die casts or usually held together by screws on larger ones. Paint usually is the next step with removing the current paint on the vehicle, polishing, then paint and priming over the cast. Full disassembly is required to do so correctly, but if done right, can change the look of each casting dramatically. Customizing today is a bit easy with the technology difference for decals and availability of vinyl for carbon fiber accents and such now versus 15 years ago.


Adding smaller pieces or creating accessories to you die casts and plastic modeling kits are another thing that can be done to give each casting a uniqueness unlike any other. Being able to create body kits, spoilers, and such will certainly differentiate from the original look, combined with the previously mentioned skills of wheel swapping, paint, and decals, you can create a look that you had envisioned for it, if not better. More skilled customizers can create these looks for commissions or to sell outright for earning a little extra cash on the side, most likely to go right back into the hobby they enjoy so much.

When customizing, time and patience above everything else, is what you need to complete these jobs. Rushing will only cause you problems and increase the amount of work you have to do in the long run. Especially when you plan on creating opening compartments like doors, hoods, and such. It takes precision cutting and critical thinking of linking up the doors or such in matters of ways to open and close while maintaining the look of an actual vehicle. Some have gone even further, like die cast customizer Gonzo Hookman, and add in actually flip up headlights that open and close just as the doors and hatch on the Mazda RX-7 pictured above. Not only that, but molding a body kit and adding a wide-body fender set as well. Overall, in does increase the stages of personalization to an entirely new level.


If you thought opening doors, body kits and such were extreme, wait until you see what customizers have been doing with engine compartments. For the most part, most plastic modeling kits and large scale models kits come with, something that would resemble an engine inside the appropriate engine compartment regardless of front, mid, or rear engine. But for smaller castings, many people are able to recreate a full engine bay with customized parts and looks from scratch. From strut bars, valve covers, forced induction, piping and such, everything is custom molded and painted. Many times, all being individual parts being glued together to create a realistic overall look to match the vehicle. A skill above many others as it takes time to research and development for placement of the motor within the engine bay and details of all pieces.

Another step in the world of die cast, particularly in smaller 1/64 scaled vehicles, is to combine castings. Something done quite often with plastic model kits, but not quite as often for die cast vehicles. Easiest way of explaining what is done, is that two castings are stripped of paint, and cut on certain points and eventually welded together. Sometimes, the bodies aren't used at all, but, just accessories like a flat bed are moved over to the desired casting. There are time when two of the same vehicles are combined in order to give a stretch or limousine variation of the vehicle. I have seen quite a few of finished variations for combined custom's as in movie replicated vehicles, Ute's, drift cars, haulers, trailers, and even mopeds of sort. Either way, it's always interesting to see the before and after photos of such castings and always impresses me every time.


With all of this time and effort being placed into the cars, why not take a little extra time into diorama making and take some nice photos or create something to properly display them in a real world, scaled down setting. Many collectors and customizers move into a setting of diorama to complete the look of their cars. It can be as simple as a garage setting, dealership, or replicated house from movies and/or television shows. Different ideas and different outcomes show creativity and personality of the collector. It also is no easy task as there are not many templates or designs and much of it is built from scrap with various amounts of materials. Some die cast companies sell pre-made set ups of garages and gas stations, but typically it is just the building itself.

Adding to the diorama would be to incorporate custom figures of sorts. Whether it would be mechanics, drivers, and such in a garage, or a group of friends hanging out in a parking lot meet. Model train "HO Scale" or even 1:75 scaled figures can be used pretty easily as 1/64 scaled figures and accessories are difficult to come by, even at hobby specific stores. With resources today, there are many on-line shops that tailor to collectors by making custom molded and custom painted figures. Many times, its finding the right design and template of the figure that is the most difficult part. Say for example, you're recreating a movie scene with a diorama display and vehicle, it can be quite a chore to find the correct figures to fit the scene appropriately. Why have an Initial D diorama, if you can't find someone that looks like Bunta or Takumi? Either way, you can really appreciate the time and effort put into any of these aspects.


All in all, none of these things are as easy as it seems and certainly take time to plan out before even opening the packaging to the vehicle. Having the right tools, and at least an idea of what to do, can be a headache in itself from time to time. The actual work itself is another thing in itself as for inexperienced customizers can run into quite a bit of trial and error. For some, it's an extra source of income. For some others, it's a hobby that brings enjoyment and something to share a common bond with others. Die cast cars typically are a big starting point for many car enthusiasts and for most, have stuck and become a part of us. The die cast community is one that is fairly large and reasonably get along with one another pretty well. Always recommending materials and giving supportive tips in customizing. Although, every group has their bad apples, the die cast community is stable and growing more and more. Thank you for joining me on the road with die cast cars and it's brief history. And more so, keep calm and collect on.


Photos provided by: Google, Gonzo Hookman, mobilkuadalima, My Custom Hot Wheels

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