Here’s a weird one – yes, this is a $10 Hot Wheels toy you can most likely find at any local Wal-Mart or Target. Size-wise it just so happens to be roughly 1/24 scale (or as close as we can get to that for a completely fantasy-based Hot Wheels original design) and is a Hot Wheels design that was an important part of my childhood.
It’s supposed to be a cheap motorized pull-back style toy, though it’s actually operated solely by the three buttons on the roof. It even has lights and sounds!
Obviously the exterior isn’t anything more than cheap bare plastic with some stickers and very few painted-in details – it’s meant to be a young children’s toy to survive play abuse, that’s expected.
The Hot Wheels logo-shaped button in the middle sets the car off on a nice little run, with a built-in wheelie leg up in the middle of the car that props it up during the end.
I’m actually still really impressed that this level of electronics can all be packed into a toy that literally retails for $10. I know I’ve been sounding disparaging towards this thing so far, but really for this price point you’re getting a lot of bang for your buck. Heck, if I had a kid I’d 100% be buying this kind of stuff for them, it feels like a lot of play value for the money.
Before I continue with the build, some background for those uninitiated:
Hot Wheels: AcceleRacers is a 2005 computer-animated series of four films produced by Canadian company Mainframe Entertainment, as a sequel to the 2003 miniseries Hot Wheels: World Race that aired on Cartoon Network.
Yes, it was an animated Hot Wheels show that was way too good for its time. Yes, it is a core memory from my childhood and I grew up absolutely adoring the series and collecting anything and everything related to it. Now that I’m grown I have the chance to build my own collectables as a homage to the series I grew up with.
This Pop Racers Hollowback is important in that it’s one of the only Hot Wheels cars that debuted during the Acceleracers era that was made into anything larger than its original die-cast 1/64 toy. We had the pleasure of seeing this car on-screen for 4 movies and by some miracle Hot Wheels actually chose it as a body model for this Pop Racers line.
The goal is going to make this thing as screen-accurate as possible, though taking some inspiration from its original 1/64 toy as well.
Hollowback has an interesting canopy/windshield design in that the front windshield is actually one giant piece that connects to the back of the roof, making it sort of a gigantic panoramic sunroof.
The Pop Racers car had to work around this with the inclusion of the function buttons on the roof, so they sort of split the windshield and roof to a more traditional-looking design. The nice part is that the body molding actually still includes the line for the roof as it were a window, so it was easy enough following that with a heat knife to cut out the button-cover roof.
With the innards being taken up by all the electrical components and motors, there was a lot to tear down to get the cabin area clear. I went to town with a heat knife to cut out all the plastic mounting points and battery compartment on the chassis floor, to clear up as much space as possible for my own interior.
Hot Wheels also weirdly adjusted the side windows so they were extra small on this body mold – the sills simply ride up too high and make the greenhouse proportions weirder than they already were. My solution was again, to take the heat knife to it and cut a strip out of the lower window sills to make the window openings wider.
Really didn’t like the headlight molding Hot Wheels used here – Hollowback’s lights are smaller and placed closer to the outside corners of the front grille. It was easier for me to cut out the entire grille section than attempt to sand the headlights flat and redo them.
The engine block is also more than a little exaggerated on this version of the car – the sides of the engine are molded in one clear red piece to allow for the lights function to show through, but of course we’re not keeping any lights or sounds so I didn’t have a problem cutting the red piece in half and shortening the inside so it doesn’t poke out as far on each side.
So…are these horns intakes or exhaust ports? Logically they look the most like ITBs (individual throttle bodies) from their shape and position, but in the show Tork literally used them as flamethrowers to ward off another car…maybe it’s best we don’t think too hard about fantasy car mechanics.
The “horns” had no actual opening detail in them so I went ahead and drilled each one out, starting with small pinhole bits and working my way up until they were completely opened up.
So obviously since this car came with no cabin detail whatsoever, I would be responsible for coming up with the entire interior on my own. Luckily after digging through my old projects and scrap pieces I came across the old Jada Datsun 510 I had built years ago for a group build. The model had since been put in storage, so I was lucky enough to be able to cannibalize its interior.
The dash actually ended up being perfect for Hollowback, since the spartan theme with no center console and just gauges against a plain wall is very accurate to how Hollowback’s interior looked in the movies. I did have to trim the sides slightly to make it fit, but once that was done it fit like a glove.
The rest of the Datsun’s interior was nice, with its full roll cage and Brides with Takata harnesses, but I wouldn’t be using any of that for this car.
At first I was really torn on the body color. The problem here is that the Acceleracers toys tended to vary quite a bit against their animation counterparts. Hollowback’s original 1/64 casting was a brighter satin metallic red, unlike the muted dull red the car wore in the movies.
I initially went with Tamiya’s TS-18 metallic red in an attempt to make it more toy-accurate, and I think the satin metallic is more interesting than dull red.
But after sitting on it for a night or two I decided to still go all in on movie accuracy, so I went with TS-33 Dull Red instead.
The livery took a lot more effort than I care to admit – I had toyed with the idea of actually masking the body and actually painting the design straight on, but after thinking about it that seemed like a terrible idea. Homemade decals aren’t exactly the best in quality and crispness, but in this case I don’t think I had a choice.
I actually had to scour references online and piece together the livery first in photoshop, before sizing it and printing it on homemade water slide paper.
The problem with inkjet water slide decal systems is that inkjet printers don’t print white (since they’re designed to print on…white paper). The water slide paper is technically transparent, so you’re at the mercy of your printer quality hopefully printing crisp enough in dark colors that it’ll show up after the decal comes off the white backing paper.
I was bummed about not being able to get the silver outline for the black patterns on the decals (the color was too light to show up on print) but the black at least came out halfway decent after it was laid up against the body’s red. You can clearly see the edge lines on the decals since these homemade ones are so thick.
I hate scratch-building my own windows, always. For Hollowback I thought it would be easy enough – it’s just one long clear piece with one bend at the apex of the windshield where it meets the roof, how hard could it be? Turns out trying to bend 3mm of clear plastic cleanly is actually a gargantuan feat.
I ended up giving up on using the hard clear plastic and actually went with soft transparent plastic meant for thermal-forming.
My main issue with the soft thermalform plastic is that it’s not quite as clear as I would like – it has a hazy blueish tinge to it, but there’s nothing I can really do about that. I suppose I should just be grateful that it was easy enough to work with that it does actually serve as an acceptable windshield.
Test fitting the shortened engine block. The intake horns will be chrome’d later.
Adding some body details like the silver vents on the doors with decanted lacquer spray.
Moving onto the interior. The floor and rear firewall is built from sheets of pla plate.
Hollowback’s cabin in the movies is very bare – most if it looks to just be bare sheet metal, with the main feature being a full roll cage. It does also only feature one seat.
I wasn’t going to build a center console tunnel but figured it would just be too plain without it. A hole was cut out to shove the Datsun 510 shifter in from the bottom.
I always hated building roll cages.
This cage was particularly difficult since the cage is supposed to integrate into the dashboard, but with the way the body is assembled the dash needs to be part of the shell, not the chassis. This means I’m really not able to fit the a-pillar bar underneath the A-pillar and have it go into the dash as it should, it’s just going to end in front of it.
The pipe diameter I’m using here is also technically too thick for a proper in-scale roll cage, but it’s all I had at the moment. The front support bar is actually so low it’s directly in the line of sight of the driver, but it’s okay – it’s a fantasy car! Not being able to see out of the cabin should be the least of our worries.
It took me a while to figure out the wheel situation. I actually wouldn’t have minded if I wasn’t able to get movie-accurate wheels for this build – any sort of generic face design would’ve worked for me as long as the diameters were correct for both front and rear.
I had even played with the idea of keeping the original wheels Hot Wheels included with the toy, but then I stumbled on these 1/24 resin printed Torq Thrust wheels from a seller on eBay. Best of all – they came in double staggered sizes 21″ rear and 20″ front! Almost the exact sizing I needed.
I actually also found a set of 18″ Torq wheels on eBay and picked them up to test fit on the fronts just to see if it would work better. The 21″ wheels on the rear are perfect, but the 20″ in the front seemed just a tad too large. After test fitting though, the 18″ just looked too out of place with its stubbier spoke design and multi-stepped lip that didn’t match the deep non-step lip on the rears.
Going with the 20″ up front after all. It looks fine, right?
To offset the wheel being a bit bigger than it should, I shod the fronts in thinner tires.
Front headlight and grille surround painted chrome. There were no body lines to mark this distinction in the mold, so I just went at it freehand. There’s really no separation between the hood and the front grille.
And finally, the front grille itself had to be rebuilt from scratch since I originally cut out the mesh-looking pattern with the headlights out of the body. A slat-style movie-accurate grille was in order, instead of any sort of mesh.
For the headlights I broke out a pack of craft jewelry crystals – they happened to be the perfect size.
The inner lights are cut down to about 2/3 their original size before being glued to the corners.
To confess, Hollowback was probably one of my least favorite cars from Acceleracers – I never really cared for any of the Metal Maniacs cars since they were more of the American Muscle style team – I was all in on the TEKU tuner aesthetic. Still, it’s nice being able to bring anything that was such a core part of my childhood to life like this.
The original Pop Racers toy was so cheap I picked up another just to have some direct before-and-after comparisons. I may even use that extra toy to build another Acceleracers style Hollowback.
Astonishing what a difference the grille and headlight changes make huh?
One major problem I would’ve run into had I stuck with the original wheels is that they stick out quite a bit past the fenders out of the box, so I would’ve had to perform some major chassis modifications to fit them underneath properly. Thankfully that wasn’t necessary.
I do wish I could’ve gotten a better and shinier finish out of the main body. I applied probably over 5 coats of gloss clear in an attempt to smooth out the thick borders of the water slide decals and bring out more of a shine from the Dull Red.
But even after wet sanding with 3000 grit and polishing up from there, the glossiness is spotty at best. I suppose in a sense it’s more “movie-accurate” since Hollowback always seemed almost matte in the films.
Boxed up! I’ve actually decided to sell this build – Acceleracers has a surprisingly devoted following even today, so I know they’ll be a fan out there that will enjoy this piece immensely. Hopefully I’ll be able to get around to building another one for myself out of that spare Pop Racer.
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