As is the Custom: The incredible Vintage Hot Wheels-style customs of Sven’s World of Wheels

You know how it happens, especially on Instagram.  During a casual perusal, you come across a custom that really catches your eye.  You of course follow the customizer and then check out their account.  Before you know it you have spent the last 30 minutes scrolling through in awe of what you are seeing.

That happened to be with @svensworldofwheels.  I instantly followed Sean when I saw this:

It is honestly one of the nicest customs I have ever seen.  That of course led me into a deep IG dive of his work.  Three things come to mind when looking at his stuff – his immense talent, his specific vision, and his incredible output.

Sean Svendsen loves the look of vintage Hot Wheels Redlines, so he decided to create a fleet of cars that share the look.  He has given many older Hot Wheels a restored vintage look, but what is more interesting is how is converting many current Hot Wheels castings (and some Matchbox and others) to that look.  The results are stunning.

So much so that I decided to dedicate this week’s entire As is the Custom to Sean’s work.  It deserves it.  As always, As is the Custom is sponsored by the custom wheels of 7Eightoys.  Today’s wheel, the #78E:

Alright, let’s jump into Sven’s world.  I asked him to give us a little background, and it is a must read.  Sean gives a clear look into his approach:

I’m an industrial designer by profession and work as a product designer designing lot of different kinds of consumer products. I’ve also worked for over a decade in the hobby industry doing freelance work for Revell, AMT/Ertl, and Moebius Models as a box art illustrator and decal designer. While I’ve been a 1/25 scale plastic kit model car builder for over 30 years I’ve only been customizing 1/64 scale diecast cars for a little over a year. How I got into customizing diecast cars is a story by itself.

I’m a true lover of Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars and have collected diecast cars my whole life but I never really thought about customizing them. The prize of my collection are about my original early ’70’s Hot Wheels Redlines and Matchbox Superfast cars. I’ve had these cars since they these cars were new and many of them show the patina of 40 years worth of well played with affection.

I especially love the early Spectraflame Hot Wheels cars and I’ve always wanted to collect mint examples of these. I really wanted to collect some of the rare prototype cars too, but the astronomical prices were way out of my budget. A couple of years ago I decided that I was going to bite the bullet and start replacing some of my well worn cars with nicer examples. I put a few of my rougher ones on ebay and they sold quickly. While searching around on ebay for mint editions of the cars I wanted, I started to notice that you could buy replacement parts and reproduction wheels. Then I stumbled across a few youtube videos showing how to restore original cars and apply Spectraflame paint jobs. Upon seeing these, I got an idea. There were so many cool ’60’s and ’70’s car castings that came after the Redlines era but didn’t have the Spectraflame look I wanted, and I could by them for cheap. Why don’t I just build my own cars with the look of the originals and fill my collection with one-offs that Hot Wheels might have made but never did? So, I ordered up some reproduction redline wheels and started building my little “Phantom Redlines.”

It took some experimentation and building a few cars to figure out how to replicate the right look. The early Redlines have a certain visual DNA. There are some key signatures like the Spectraflame paint, the flat black roofs, and wheels. Spoilers cars also have stickers for number decals and tripes. (I could paint these details on or use decals but they wouldn’t look right to me, so I use stickers.) Also getting the right stance is important. All the newer castings have a lowered stance with the wheels tucked in to the body, but the early cars all sit up high and the wheels stick out from the body. I usually have to spend a lot of time modifying the chassis on these in order to get the right stance. Purists will probably cringe to find out that none of my cars roll. I don’t play with them. They sit on shelves and I don’t want them to roll off, so I fabricate brass rod axles and glue the wheels on solid.

I also take a very different approach to building these cars then I do for building 1/25th scale plastic model kits. When building model kits I try to make them look as realistic as possible. For my “Phantom Redlines” I want them to look like they came off the Hot Wheels assembly line, so I resist the urge to over detail them. For most of them, I do add a little bit of paint detail here and there to add some interest, but basically I try to keep them looking like a toy.

Many of the cars I’ve built have been pretty straight forward conversions. I have done a few cars that were a little more involved though. My ’66 Nova Gasser was a mashup of the ’66 Nova pro touring car with the chassis parts from the recent ’55 Chevy gasser casting. I also loved the Spoilers cars with their open hoods and exposed blower motors. I thought it would be fun to convert some of the newer castings that were weren’t made back then into Spoilers. I built a ’70 Road Runner with this look and I have a few more like it in the works. I have a bunch of ideas for some crazy hot rods too. I trying to imagine what Harry Bradley or Larry Wood would have designed back in the day and I try to build in that style.

Another thing I like doing is converting other brands of diecast into Hot Wheels. While Hot Wheels only made a limited number of different licensed castings in the early days, if you combine Matchbox, Tomica, Playart, Zylmex, Corgi, etc. there are tons of different options for more cars that can be converted. Besides aall the American muscle cars there are so many cool Japanese Classic cars available now that easily lend themselves to the Redline/Spectraflame style. I don’t think it makes since to convert just any car of course. To me, it still needs to feel like it could have come off the Hot Wheels assembly line in the early ‘70s. I occasionally bend my own rules though and build some exceptions. I have built a few modern cars too in this style like Camaros and Mustangs because these cars at least have a retro feel to their real heritage. I’ve also recently started converting some ’80’s cars with Spectraflame paint, but with white lettered tires instead of Redlines because I imagined that would be a logical progression if Hot Wheels had continued making Spectraflamed cars beyond the early ‘70s.

While I mostly plan to stick to doing Redline conversions, I’ve recently been branching out a little. My dad owned a real ’85 Honda CRXsi when I was in high school and I converted one of the recent Hot Wheels mainline CRXs into a replica of it. About the time I was building it, I got my hands on the new Hot Wheels Honda Odyssey minivan too. On a whim I decided to convert the minivan to match the CRX and then I decided to scratch-build a trailer too. I had fun building these and it gave me a chance to add a little more detail then I normally would. I will probably eventually build some others like it.

Compared to building plastic model kits these have a much simpler nature and can be built much faster. I build them in an assembly line style, usually stripping, polishing and painting dozens of bodies at a time. Over the past year I’ve built more then 100 and have another 50 in the works which led me to a problem. Where to store and display them all?

Again, I wanted a unique display that nobody else had. I decided my one-off “Phanton Redlines” also needed a one-off, never-existed phantom retail store display to put them in. When I was a little boy I loved going to the drug store and seeing Matchbox cars in their classic rotating “phone-booth” counter display. I wanted something like that for my Hot Wheels, so I bought the remnants of a real Matchbox store display off ebay and rebuilt it with new colors and graphics to convert into an imaginary Redline era store display. The top of the Matchbox display I bought was missing so I made my own by repurposing an old ceiling fan light fixture and my original Redline Rally carrying case.

I’ve really enjoyed building these little cars and plan on building many more. By the way, I really regret selling some of my old redlines on ebay because I now know I could have restored them. If anybody wants to let go of a Heavy Chevy Camaro Spoiler out there for cheap… let me know!

I don’t need to say anything else.

There is no way to put all of Sean’s work here, so I highly suggest you follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and bookmark his site.

For now, here are some of my favorites pulled from Instagram, but there is SO MUCH more.  Enjoy the pics, and many thanks to Sean for sharing.












4 Replies to “As is the Custom: The incredible Vintage Hot Wheels-style customs of Sven’s World of Wheels”

  1. Truly awesome, inspiring work! Neat, clean, and original. I love the way the deep dish Redlines were used and how some of these cars were created to look like they were original Hot Wheels Redlines.
    That ’69 Boss 302 kinda’ makes the Super Treasure Hunt version look tame IMO. Great ass work!!!

  2. Very nice classic look. One thing that catch my eye is how he makes those headlights really rounded and the headlight detail on the Odyssey. Can’t imagine being able to pull it off.

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