AutoMatters+: Full-size Darth Vader Hot Wheels car & “Guardians of the Galaxy”
By Jan Wagner
One never knows precisely what to expect at San Diego Comic-Con but one thing is certain. Look around and you will find some very cool vehicles. They may be of Earth, outer space, real or imagined.
The Darth Vader car is all of the above, designed by Bryan Benedict and launched at Comic-Con to celebrate Hot Wheels’ new collaboration with Lucasfilm and Disney. With Vader’s iconic helmet protecting the fully enclosed passenger compartment, it is a full-size, sleek and sinister, low-slung, high performance sports car, ready to race in a super-sized section of orange Hot Wheels track.
Bryan studied at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and designed “real” cars for ten years before coming to Hot Wheels, where he is the creative visionary behind character cars.
His designs capture the essence of popular characters that everyone knows and loves, as Hot Wheels vehicles. The first of these was a line of character cars for “Toy Story 3.” The Darth Vader car is his latest creation.
In designing the Darth Vader car he wanted to create something that is timeless because Darth feels timeless – somewhat ancient, in a way, but also futuristic. Star Wars is that way. We think of Star Wars as being in the future, but it is really from a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. Bryan wanted that timeless quality to be reflected in the car.
The initial sketches were done in November 2013. By December they were tooling for the 1:64th scale toy. The full-size build began in April.
Billy Hammons’ PCW Brands (www.pcwbrands.com) built the car for Hot Wheels, combining over 30 years of car experience and 20 years in the film industry. Billy has worked as a mechanic in the IndyCar Series, built other full-size Hot Wheels cars, and rigged and built vehicles for car commercials and stunts. Speaking of stunts, watch Tanner Foust and Greg Tracy tackle the Hot Wheels Double Loop Dare at http://pcwbrands.com/double-dare-loop.
Riding on a modified Corvette chassis, the body of the Vader car is primarily fiberglass with carbon fiber components. Looking out from under the brow of the helmet, it is easier to see out of than you might think. With 526hp and a top speed of 150mph, it is set up for high-performance driving, yet it is completely street-legal and registered in California.
In addition to Darth Vader’s signature helmet (which raises up for access to the door-less interior), other features include red-backlit lightsaber side pipes and a functional Darth Vader chestplate on the hood.
An official Hot Wheels video of the car (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDCx0PeVOTo) was shot a week before its appearance at Comic-Con but, since Bryan is a perfectionist designer, after the shoot the car was taken apart so that it could be rebuilt with improvements. They finished it very, very late the night before Comic-Con’s Preview Night on July 23rd.
In it you can see a nod to Hot Wheels’ heritage. There are elements on the car that feel very much like the original Hot Wheels line – cars like Twin Mill. Bryan wanted to capture that quality, but also to make it feel sleek and futuristic at the same time.
To learn more, go to http://www.hotwheelscollectors.com/news/ and look for the story entitled: “Darth Vader Takes Hot Wheels to the Dark Side.”
Comic-Con was just the beginning. The Darth Vader car will go on tour, where it will be shown and driven.
I look forward to writing about some of the other 25+ full-size vehicles in the Hot Wheels fleet.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” is an action adventure movie packed with danger and intrigue. It centers on a quest for a mysterious, powerful orb. Aiding adventurer Peter Quill in this quest, as they struggle against the evil, genocidal Ronan, are the revenge-seeking Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon – a feisty, gun-toting bounty hunter, and a likeable, tree-like creature that repeatedly proclaims “I am Groot” throughout the movie. Fortunately for the audience, since we do not understand this odd language, Rocket translates.
Set in a spectacular galaxy, featuring amazing spacecraft and with a bright, upbeat sound track of pop singles that were made popular a few decades ago (and played by Peter from audiocassette tape!), “Guardians of the Galaxy” is a laugh-out-loud, whimsical, highly entertaining, Marvel comic book brought to life in 3-D. A sequel is already in the works.
As always, please write to AutoMatters@gmail.com with your comments and suggestions.
Copyright © 2014 by Jan Wagner – AutoMatters+ #344
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