Changing the belts on a hot wheels car turns a cheap toy into something more

Collecting Hot-Wheels cars is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to tangibly appreciate automobiles. Like most hobbies, you can go completely crazy with these things, getting creative with customizing them and building cool dioramas to park around. But if you want a little more artistry on your 1:64 scale cars without doing too much work, try putting on some pre-made custom wheels.

Changing the wheels on a real car is one of the best ways to make a big visual (and sometimes performance) impact. The Konig Countersteer Type-X brass wheels I have on my Montero give it a definite Japanese tuner look, while the steel bead-style wheels on my Scout make that truck look a lot meaner than how much was from the factory. This was in the back of my mind while I was admiring my Hot Wheels collection the other day. I have hundreds of cars on that scale, almost all of them are at least somewhat beautiful and special to me. But many of them have the same problem: Although the body of the car looks great, the wheels look like cheap junk.

This is definitely a cute little model and pretty accurate, but something is missing. Those wheels really take away from the realism.

“Hah, I wonder if they make Volk TE37s in 1/4 inch diameter,” I joked to my dog ​​Bramble as I pulled one of my cars out of her mouth. I thought about another beat and opened the eBay app. Of course, not only can you get little TE37s, but you can get just about any style of tuner, muscle car, or off-road wheel you can imagine in a multitude of different colors.

Here you can really see how much cooler the aftermarket wheels are than the stock ones. Get some that come already mounted on axles like this one for easier installation.

I ordered this set of “TE37 6 SPOKE v2 LIMITED Real Riders Wheels” for $5.99 from eBayer mod_my_ride, which I will link because they were very communicative and I knew right away what car they would go with. This second-gen Mazda RX-7 I found at a yard sale in Maine had a solid body with great skates, but small, grubby wheels. I had no doubt that a set of six brass spokes would turn this inexpensive toy into a table-worthy collection.

In many small and inexpensive car models, the left and right wheels are held together by paperclip-thin axles driven into place in the plastic chassis. You will need to separate the chassis and body to access those axles. There are many tutorials for this online, but this video is my favorite because it includes cut-out images that nicely illustrate the project:

Don’t be too intimidated by the complexity of that clip, though—it can be done quick and dirty with good results, too.

Hot Wheels cars are usually held together by a plastic tab at the back and a rivet at the bottom near the front. Like, below where the radiator would be in a real car. This is what you need to kill to disconnect the machine. I just drill it, starting with a small drill, then working my way up to the larger ones to completely destroy the rivet, and from there it takes very little force to remove the body from the chassis. Having done this twice now, I think it’s a perfectly acceptable way to share a Hot Wheels car. Mine just came together with a pinch between the fingers and I guess you don’t see the bottom when it’s on the shelf anyway. Full disclosure: If you’re planning on giving your car to a kid to play with, or if you just want the underside to look super clean, scroll through YouTube and check out some other methods that can be less messy.

Once the body is off, you’ll be able to see how the axles are held in place by more small plastic tabs. Be patient here – those tabs are small and can become fragile. I found that a very small flat head screwdriver was perfect for bending them just enough to pull off the old RX-7 miniature axles and then accept the new ones.

With the new axles and wheels in, I simply put the interior, windows and body back on the chassis and snapped them together with my fingers. The seats and “glass” (it’s clear plastic) were simply held by the body. And as I said earlier – in the two Hot Wheels cars I’ve disassembled so far, they’ve both felt pretty tight together with only finger force pushing them back into assembled status.

Are you looking at this wondering if the second-gen RX-7 had rear seats in real life? In fact, there was a 2+2 variant. I had a non-turbo ’89 that I put back seats in from a junk car so I could fit more friends on board to ride through high school.

Once the RX-7 was put back together, I was very pleased to see that it looked just as cool as I had imagined.

You can take this project a step further by adjusting the ride height with some glue or something, or set the track width with some micro-sized spacers. And of course, a Hot Wheels car body is very easy to paint once it’s off the chassis. But you don’t even need to do that much work. Simply swapping out Hot Wheels gives you a great return on your labor and investment dollars if you want to add some custom flair to a 1:64 scale car.

As you can see here, the new wheels can slide a bit side to side on the axles. If you really care about the details, you can add some kind of small metal spacer to place the wheel track. Also, yes, this Mazda model is a Maisto brand toy, not Hot Wheels. But the same assembly techniques and methods apply.

Get yourself a new 1:64 scale diecast car, order some rolling stock and have a blast. Heck, get some of these and make some with your kids or friends. Then let me know how your project turned out in the comments section!

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