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Toyota Hot Wheels: How do you design one?

Hot Wheels has become a global icon in the automotive world and beyond since its introduction back in 1968 at the New York Toy Fair. Now, a staggering 519 million Hot Wheels are produced every year (which works out at 10 million a week, or 16.5 models a second) and more than six billion have…

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Hot Wheels has become a global icon in the automotive world and beyond since its introduction back in 1968 at the New York Toy Fair. Now, a staggering 519 million Hot Wheels are produced every year (which works out at 10 million a week, or 16.5 models a second) and more than six billion have been produced in the company’s lifetime. With over 130 new car designs introduced to the line-up each year, a series of Toyota models have been specially chosen to be immortalised in diecast form.

To celebrate the launch of a new Toyota Hot Wheels series, we got the chance to speak with Steve Vandervate, Premium & RLC Graphics Designer, Hot Wheels, about what it takes to design and create a new line of Hot Wheels models, and why these miniature masterpieces have stayed so popular throughout the decades.

What sets the Car Culture series apart from the rest of the Hot Wheels range?

Steve: “The Car Culture range is a set of 48 unique cars specifically focused on automotive enthusiasts, the most die-hard fans of that car or that genre. They have a greater level of detail, specifically a more authentic recreation of the physical design and an enhanced level of graphic decoration from the paintwork to the packaging. It’s the most authentic and ‘on trend’ stuff that we can do within our schedule as it takes about 18 months between deciding on the product you’re going to do and by the time it comes out on the shelf. Hot Wheels has always been about staying true to our roots in automotive culture, and our partnerships – Toyota is a great example – give us access and leverage that allow us to prove that with every release.”

Is there a certain criteria that cars need to meet before being selected for the Car Culture series?

Steve: “The easiest way to explain why a car is selected for the Car Culture series is that the car needs to have ‘it’. I know that might seem like a bit of a non-answer but simply put, you have to feel it, the car needs to have a certain x-factor quality about it. The car in question doesn’t always have to be revolutionary or well known, but it has to have “that thing”. Whether it had “it” from the factory or achieved it in the aftermarket street or track world, it has to make your heart race when you see it. The Mk4 Supra from this set is a good example, as due to it being in films like Fast and Furious and having such a big impact on the aftermarket scene, it has become a car that everyone wants and recognises instantly as being from a particular era.”

What made you choose this selection of Toyota Hot Wheels models to add to the Car Culture series?

Steve: “Toyota is a huge brand in the US, and globally, and everybody has experience with and memories of Toyota vehicles growing up. Not always strictly in a performance sense, but they are a cultural milestone that everyone can connect comfortably with (just like Hot Wheels). For this round, we created two new castings – the Land Cruiser FJ60 (influenced by a car owned by our good friends over at japanesenostalgiccar.com), and the ‘81 Starlet KP61 (done as a tribute to a personal car of a partner at Hot Wheels Japan). The Supra, 4×4 Pickup and 2000 GT are about as iconic as a vehicle can get and are at the top of any sensible wish list, whether it’s a real car or diecast replica.”

How difficult is the design process to ensure the model cars remain as accurate as possible? 

Steve: “Fans of these cars know exactly what they look like so it’s our job as designers to reproduce them faithfully. Everything from headlights and taillights to emblem design and placements and authentic and accurate colours and graphics needs to be spot on because we are aiming these models at their biggest fans, who will spot if something is wrong or doesn’t quite look right. It’s something that Hot Wheels does quite well I think as we always try to hit the mark with every car, whether it’s a brand new model or something we have cast before. It always needs to be accurate because of who our audience is. The people buying these models are huge fans of the real thing.”

What research goes into selecting the colours for each of the models?

Steve: “It’s a tricky job making sure we get the colouring right for each car because that is the first thing everyone sees and picks up. If it’s wrong then our customers are vocal about it because they are so passionate about that car. It’s important we do the research beforehand and work with our manufacturing partners to match colours as closely as possible, whether it’s factory colours or speciality aftermarket finishes. But it goes beyond the paint on the car, especially for the Car Culture series as even the artwork on the packaging needs to be correct. For the Toyota Car Culture set the packaging mix was designed to follow the tone-on-tone aesthetic of the ‘70s Toyota print ads.”

Roughly how long does it take from a vehicle being suggested as a Hot Wheels model to ending up in store available to purchase?

Steve: “About 18 months, give or take from initial idea to it being available to purchase on a shelf or online. If we have a pre-existing cast of a car, say Supra, then it will take us a bit less time as some of the groundwork has already been done. But for a brand new model which we have never done before, that is usually about 18 months, which probably isn’t too dissimilar to a full-sized cars production cycle. We always have to work ahead because of this and have already finished next year’s model line.”

Are there any Toyota models, past, present (or future) that you would love to add to the Car Culture series at some point?

Steve: “There are plenty of classic Toyota models I’d love to add. Just a few off the top of my head would be the ‘60s FJ40 or FJ45V, ’83 4×4 Pickup, ’75 Celica GT, ’93 Chaser, ’76 Corolla Wagon, which might not seem that special to most people but its the car I learned to drive in so obviously has I have a special connection to that. In terms of present-day stuff, I’d love to do the GR Yaris and GR86, we have already done a few GR Supras in our other Hot Wheels line but the other Gazoo models would be a great fit too.”

Why do you think Hot Wheels are so popular, and have remained so popular throughout its history?

Steve: “The Hot Wheels brand has always been about aspiration. The first Hot Wheels model you get as a child is usually a car you aspire to get when you’re older. Seeing all these exotic and expensive cars on the internet or in magazines make them seem unobtainable but that doesn’t have to be the case. You see a Ferrari on TV and think ‘Yeah, I want that when I’m older’ and having a Hot Wheels model of that Ferrari feels like a step towards owning it. These are the cars you want, the cars you would own if you could, and we allow that to happen. It’s a starting point for a lot of people’s journeys into being a car enthusiast, and something which is now being passed down through generations, but also something adults can come back to later in life. The people with the biggest collections of Hot Wheels models are grown adults, but children can afford to have 20 or 30 at a time. Everyone has a memory of lining their Hot Wheels cars up on their bedroom floor and it’s such a relatable thing for every car enthusiast.”

Jake Weaver was speaking to Steve Vandervate

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Mountain bike bravery with a Proace

Perched on a blustery granite outcrop, Derek Evans sits astride his mountain bike and surveys the scenery. A few miles to the north he can see the Bristol Channel shining dark blue. Further to the south, he can just make out the English Channel through the midday haze. Fifty yards behind him a Victorian folly,…

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Perched on a blustery granite outcrop, Derek Evans sits astride his mountain bike and surveys the scenery. A few miles to the north he can see the Bristol Channel shining dark blue. Further to the south, he can just make out the English Channel through the midday haze. Fifty yards behind him a Victorian folly, hewn from the same stone, juts out abruptly from the scenery. And just below him, an unmade track winds its way through clumps of yellow gorse and past a white van.

There are many routes down from this 738ft high summit on Carn Brea near Redruth in Cornwall. Derek is spoiled for choice. But one thing is for sure – his descent will be fast. “I’ve ridden bikes off-road for as long as I can remember – since I had stabilisers!” laughs Derek as he dances his mountain bike onto its front wheel. 

He’s riding a very smart full-suspension, mountain bike which he built himself around a custom-made black carbon fibre frame. “I ride all over the country – often in the Surrey Hills and the Brecon Beacons in Wales. I’ve also cycled in Les Gets and Morzine in the French Alps” explains the 41-year-old vehicle technician.

His bike’s chain and gears clatter and click as he points his bike down the yellow stony track towards the van. The smart white Proace Compact is his. Perhaps he’s going this way so he can look at his van on the way down. “I love vans,” he said. “I always have done. I’ve always had a van. But I’ve been without for two years. 

“I bought this one from Parklands Toyota at Carland Cross in February after my girlfriend spotted it. Other manufacturers have a string of issues and are very expensive. This is the small Compact version. It suits me well with all the little country lanes around here.

“My dad was a car-nut and got me into Toyotas. I’ve always liked their technology. He imported a Mk 4 Supra from Japan about 20-years-ago. He drove it to Spain and all around Europe and I used it to go out on dates.

“I really like the look of the Proace. I’m going to make a few cosmetic modifications, and turn it into a proper day van so I and my girlfriend can both take our bikes out, have adventures and picnic in it. I’ve already fitted insulation so I can carpet it floor-to-ceiling. I’ll probably put 20-inch alloys on it and maybe a spoiler and splitter, but I don’t want it to be too showy.”

Derek’s Proace is an L1 manual in Comfort spec with leather seats. He paid £12,500+VAT for his immaculate three-year-old van with 80,000 miles.

As he loads his bike back into the van after an afternoon on his mountain bike, he looks fondly at his van and says: “I don’t see me ever getting rid of it”

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World Premiere of the New Lexus “UX” | Lexus | Global Newsroom

Lexus globally announces the new UX 200/250h. The vehicle is scheduled for summer 2022 launch. Introduced to the Lexus lineup in 2018 as an urban compact cross-over, the UX uses the “Creative Urban Explorer” concept, with the aim to be the “CUE” to exploring a new lifestyle. The muscular body exudes toughness and strength, while…

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Lexus globally announces the new UX 200/250h. The vehicle is scheduled for summer 2022 launch.

Introduced to the Lexus lineup in 2018 as an urban compact cross-over, the UX uses the “Creative Urban Explorer” concept, with the aim to be the “CUE” to exploring a new lifestyle. The muscular body exudes toughness and strength, while the flared fenders evoke agile driving in order to create a bold and refined exterior. The interior cockpit combines a sense of driving excitement with a visually expansive space. In addition, we have pursued excellent steering response, handling stability, and refined ride quality.

Since its launch in 2018, a cumulative total of approximately 240,000 units have been sold in more than 80 countries and regions as of the end of March 2022. The expanding lineup of electrified vehicles of Hybrid (HEV) and battery EV (BEV), achieved the percentage of electrified vehicles of approximately 80% of sales globally, making it the leading model in the Lexus electrified lineup. Going forward, we will continue to contribute to the practical spread of electrified vehicles toward the realization of a carbon-neutral society, while tailoring to the diversifying needs and lifestyles of customers.

Based on the “Always On” philosophy of continuous improvement through agile development, the new UX200/250h has further refined and exhilarating driving performance, enhanced its advanced safety systems by expanding the preventive safety technology functions and added the latest multimedia system.

To enhance the driving experience, structural rigidity was improved by adding 20 spot welding points on the body and the EPS and shock absorbers tuning was performed accordingly. It achieved refined and exhilarating performance and to further improve the refined, direct feeling and response through extensive testing at Toyota Technical Center Shimoyama.

For advanced safety system enhancements, we aimed to make driving safer and more reassuring by enhancing the functionality of the “Lexus Safety System +” preventive safety technology. The UX also features a new state-of-the-art multimedia system with a larger/higher-resolution touch screen display. Usability has been improved by optimizing the shapes and switch layout of the instrument panel and console area. Two USB charging connectors (Type-C) have also been added in the front of the console.

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LEXUS DESIGN AWARD 2022 Grand Prix Winner Announced | Lexus | Global Newsroom

TOKYO, Japan (May 12, 2022)―Lexus announced today that “Rewind” by Poh Yun Ru has been selected by the judging panel as the Grand Prix winner of the 2022 LEXUS DESIGN AWARD, the award’s tenth edition, which drew 1,726 entries from 57 countries and regions. The LEXUS DESIGN AWARD was established in 2013 with the mission…

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TOKYO, Japan (May 12, 2022)―Lexus announced today that “Rewind” by Poh Yun Ru has been selected by the judging panel as the Grand Prix winner of the 2022 LEXUS DESIGN AWARD, the award’s tenth edition, which drew 1,726 entries from 57 countries and regions.

The LEXUS DESIGN AWARD was established in 2013 with the mission of supporting and nurturing creators early in their careers to help shape a better future and enhance the happiness for all through design, while articulating the Lexus brand’s three core principles: Anticipate, Innovate, and Captivate. The Grand Prix winner “Rewind” contributes to a better tomorrow by using technology to help people stimulate their memories when their recall ability is challenged, for example by dementia.

The six finalists selected this January spent three months developing their original proposals and creating prototypes under the enthusiastic and highly skilled guidance of Sam Baron, Joe Doucet, Yosuke Hayano and Sabine Marcelis. Mentoring by the world’s leading creators was a once-in-a-lifetime learning experience for these young talents. This process facilitated the impressive evolution of the finalists’ projects, not to mention that of the Grand Prix work, “Rewind.”

Poh Yun Ru commented: “I feel immensely grateful that Rewind is now a step closer to improving the lives of more people. This couldn’t have happened without the unwavering support of my mentors, my team of dedicated engineers, programmers, healthcare experts, and users. This opportunity from LEXUS DESIGN AWARD to turn a project into a real-world product felt nothing short of amazing, and I feel heartened to have met and learned from so many passionate designers from around the world. It has been such a rewarding and inspiring journey, and I am excited to continue designing for a better world and a better tomorrow for all.”

In a new benefit for 2022, the finalists met one-on-one with the design world’s elite panel of judges: Paola Antonelli, Anupama Kundoo, Bruce Mau and Simon Humphries following the 10th LEXUS DESIGN AWARD event. After the judging session, the finalists received not only direct feedback on their work, but also career advice and tips for improvement. This beta-feature of the 10th anniversary LEXUS DESIGN AWARD turned out to be an extraordinarily valuable experience.

After the judging session, all four judges provided comments.

Paola Antonelli told of the overall importance of design in today’s world: “The LEXUS DESIGN AWARD 2022 finalists offer a wide range of products in different fields of design, employing different types of technology, but they all have one thing in common: care. Care for the environment, care for the elderly and differently able, care for the needs of families and communities, and more. They demonstrate that at a time of emergency in the world, design can offer suggestions that are poetic and beautiful, and also feasible and scalable. In the hands of great designers, doing the right thing―by society, the environment, the world―also becomes inspiring and elating.”

Anupama Kundoo and Bruce Mau commented on the Award’s feature of mentorship: “I particularly enjoyed the unique feature of the LEXUS DESIGN AWARD, namely, that the talented visionary designers are first identified, and then supported personally in their further development through dedicated mentorship.” Kundoo said, while Mau commented, “The LEXUS DESIGN AWARD’s process, where the finalists are connected to design mentors, is absolutely brilliant. And the impact was plainly evident in the final submissions.”

Simon Humphries praised all finalists for their creativity and imagination in addressing the judging criteria: “The power of creativity and its ability to enrich people’s lives never ceases to amaze me and this year’s entries only reinforced this further. Congratulations to all the finalists who showed such imaginative insights into challenging problems that many just take for granted.”

The six LEXUS DESIGN AWARD 2022 finalists’ projects will be shown at Lexus exhibit during Milan Design Week 2022, the world’s largest design event, to be held in June.

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