My World Of Custom Hot Wheels
Tiny Cars, Big Personality

Hello everyone! Where to begin? I guess I can start off by telling you that I’m Luke Baumstark, a 24-year-old from Rancho Cucamonga, California. I work as a woodworker and a waiter at a local steak house, and I’m also a part-time student.

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Cars have been my love for as long as I can remember. They have always intrigued me and they continue to fascinate me still to this day – no matter what kind. Four wheels and an engine is all it takes.

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I’ve been buying and collecting diecast cars for as long as I can remember, as they are a fun and fairly inexpensive way to surround myself with different kinds of automobiles.

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My father was a diecast collector before me and my folks started helping me collect Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars when I was born. We didn’t have much money growing up with as many as four kids in the house at one time, but they always saw a way to slide a few bucks for the dollar diecast market.

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Over the last 20-odd years I’ve amassed a collection upwards of 6,000 cars and counting. Until a few years ago I didn’t have a clue what to do with all of my duplicate cars. I always thought to myself, ‘how could this car look better?’ and ‘how can this be improved?’ I slowly started taking the cars apart and began customizing them to my liking.

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It all started with changing the wheels and adding the sort of details that aren’t in the manufacturing budget for a $1 toy. Then I began painting them and adding rubber tires to make them more realistic.

Luke's hot wheels -2

Soon I was buying cars just for parts like engines, wheels and bodies – whatever I could use to change the look of another car. Over the years I’ve amassed an arsenal of parts and pieces to tailor cars to my own design.

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There’s always been something about customized cars that I’ve loved. It was the ability to see someone’s true love, character and craftsmanship translated into a cool machine.

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It’s so inspiring to see someone’s passion crafted into something they are proud of, regardless of what anyone else thinks about it. To me, that can be more beautiful than any car bought off the showroom floor.

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At this point in my life I don’t have the money, time or the know-how to start doing this for myself – so I started doing it to my $1 diecast toys, and I’ve been having a blast creating the one-of-a-kind cars that I have thought up so far.

The Process
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So much of what I’ve learned has been from trial and error. There’s so much more to it than just simply painting a car a different color, or changing its wheels now.

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Each car I modify goes through its own process from beginning to end. It all starts from the casting and works its way through various color scheme options, ride heights, accessories and wheel choices – things that ultimately decide the character of the car.

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Once an idea is started the car gets drilled apart and paint is removed with an aircraft paint stripper. Examining the quality of the casting itself is next, and here I look for tags or unevenness on the metal before filing and removing all the bad pieces off. It’s important to get the casting looking as nice as it possibly can at this point because paint will show every flaw.

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After that the casting is usually polished with a wire wheel and then buffed to smooth the casting out (depending on the paint chosen for the car). Once the car is cleaned up it’s time to drill into the original posts and tap them so the car can be reassembled with button-head screws, as opposed to tacky glue or permanent rivets.

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Now it’s time to start the custom work. All of the lowering, lifting, engine fitments, exhausts, and other accessories are mocked up and sorted out. I do this all beforehand to avoid handling the finished paint too much as that comes with the risk of ruining it. After getting the car looking the way I want with the right wheels and parts for the scheme I’ve envisioned, it’s time for paint.

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First a nice easy coat of a fine model primer to make sure the paint will stick and the casting is suitable for paint. Once dried, it gets a few coats of the chosen paint, which is usually a model car lacquer. I find the quality and pressure of most higher-end spray lacquers do a great job on this scale with the right technique. After it’s cured and ready to be handled, the long and tedious job of being fully detailed from the headlights to the window trim and interior begins.

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Sometimes a patina look is needed, or hand painting designs and water-slide decals are applied to complete the look of the car. After it’s all cured and dried, each car is given a few separate clear coats to protect the paint and give it a nice glossy finish or matte coat if desired. After that it’s all a matter of assembling the car to be enjoyed!

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With each new build I complete, the number of customizing steps seem to be growing.

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I’ve had so much inspiration from fellow customizers, collectors and designers. The designs of Larry Wood and Jun Imai have always captivated me. Their attention to detail and creativeness have always been so outstanding. Every day I’m inspired by something I see – whether it’s someone’s car or someone’s vision and interpretation of something meaningful to them.

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I’m learning something new about customizing every day and I can’t wait to see how far I can go and start pushing the envelope. I can’t thank all my family and friends enough for how much they have helped me. I’m looking forward to seeing what is next for me in this hobby!

Luke Baumstark

Photos by Matt Fong

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149 comments

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1

Hot wheels car aren't as good anymore. Most of them aren't real cars, but mostly make-belief ones based of insects, and I get the feeling they spend more time thinking up a pun to name the car, rather than actually designing it :(

2

Not really man, it's just a matter of choice, from the first time i started buying Hotwheels its been always real cars. I even bought a Camaro ZL1 with a Speedhunters livery on it!

3

Bima Leksono Same here. I've always leaned toward the more realistic cars, but I can appreciate some of the more fantastical themes. And I've got a couple of the Speedhunters Camaros, too.

4

Enjoyed the article. Thank you for sharing. 

I, like many others, started collecting when I was young. Recently, the bug to start customizing bit and this is definitely inspiration.

5

Love that GTO gasser

6

inb4 people complain these cars aren't fast and everything on here needs to be a 10000000000 horsepower drag/drift/race car that can't have ay negative camber even if it would be helpful to handling.

7

Quite a topic to discuss. I start collecting HM almost twenty years ago, most of them are in their original blister. As Luke sometimes and only in selected (REALISTIC) models I buy two pieces of the same model one stays for the collection and the "spare" is set free to get some improvements. Is great to find the speedhunters logo in some of the best HW cars. (FE; datsun wagon).-
Great article,GREAT BUILDS Luke! 
Unfortunately for some of us not everybody is able to build ground-up true scale modified cars.-

8

Gawddang, these are maginificent! Love them, especially the VWs. I so wish I had this kind of talent. Just awesome!

9

Great article! I am also a HW collector who started when I was a little guy, and have since started to explore the customization realm as my collecting as really slowed down. I can honestly say Instagram was the catalyst for me, I happened to be searching car photos and stumbled upon some really awesome die cast shots. Before I knew it, I had my own die cast dedicated profile and was following all of the die cast enthusiasts I could find on there, including Luke's incredible profile! It was great for inspiration and the all around spirit of the community, sharing ideas and feedback, much like that of a scale automotive forum. I've since put together a handful of custom builds, and taken some creative shots of my favourite Hot Wheels castings. As mentioned in another comment this is a great way to satisfy the car building itch when you just don't have the resources or experience to work on full scale vehicles. Really happy to see Luke's work on Speedhunters! Thanks for the article.

10

I love custom toy cars. This cats work is top notch. There are few people out there doing this and I amazed by the steady hand and patience of these people. If you want to check out this other guy on FB called, Wicked Wonkas Chop It Faktory.

11

James Cray You have to realize that they have a pretty diverse market to cater to, and everyone's tastes are different. I do find myself leaning towards realistic models and don't really care for the types of cars you're speaking of. But, I know that my nephew absolutely loves the fantasy type cars and he couldn't care less what it looks like as long as it rolls on his track. You should take a look at some of the Super Treasure Hunt cars they have done in recent years, some amazing wheel and paint combinations on real make/model renderings. Also, I have noticed a rise in classic JDM castings over the past few years, which are a ton of fun to customize!

12

As an artist I can appreciate the time, effort and unbelievable patience in putting the master pieces together. 
Awesome work and mucho props!

13

matthewyaa MInd sharing your IG profile name?

14

didnt know a hot wheel could look soooo good...lol

15

Luke, I've been following you for a good while now on Instagram. Awesome stuff! You even got me back in to Hot Wheels. I'm 29 now, and I haven't played around with Hot Wheels since I was probably 12 years old. It's amazing what you can get inspired to create with a little 3" long car.

16

angel_srt24 it's @mattswheels.

17

angel_srt24 it's @mattswheels.

18

silveradotx Bima Leksono Look out for the Datsun 510 wagon with our stickers on it too!

19

These are awesome! Thanks for sharing your story with us Luke! Great images too :)

20

SO cool!

21

thank you thank you thank you! speedhunters for covering this, I have a collection of somewhere in the late 4 digits of hotwheels and alot of the time I love the car but not the paint design or just the layout of it. This gave me a whole new look on my collection that are out of the box, oh hell yes :DD

22

And thank you Luke for the immense amount of inspiration, the furthest i've gotten with modifying my hotwheels was caving in the roofs with rocks so they look like they were in a horrific accident, that was when i was 6 hahah

23

SEE MORE ON INSTAGRAM @Lukeshotwheels !!

24
joe_rodriguez86_ce01

Congrat brotha !!!! This shows for all ur hard work and time u send for ur customs Hot Wheels . As u know im a big fan of ur customs Hot Wheels . Keep doing what u doing brotha .
Joe Rodriguez @joe_rodriguez86CE01

25

Loving the work man!

26

why would a steak house need a woodworker?

27

@wackawacka Why would a woodworker need extra money? Because school.

28

Love this stuff! Amazing attention to detail, and what other websites would you stumble across this?!

29

@wackawacka How much chuck could a woodchuck chuck, if a woodchuck could chuck chuck...

30

Too cool Luke! Keep up the good work!
Love your family friend Priscilla!

32

Amazing job! I know him from instagram. luke has a unique style. Go on like these!!!

33

You are an inspiration my friend! Don't stop doin what you're doin!

34

man, that was awesome.

35

i follow this dude on instagram. he has some fun "builds". right on!

in regards to Hot Wheels/die cast cars, i love being able to stop at a Target, and walk out totally happy with a ¢.99 purchase.

36

WOW! These are just... WOW!

37

w3rrd Shutup

38

Not only are you super skilled at building these but your modification tastes are basically perfect.

Love the Mexican blanket seat cover in the Ford.

39
MatheusFelipedeFaveri

Amazing, man! Great skill, I wish I had that skill and patience to do something whit my own little models! 
Real great work.

40

This is RAD. I collect die cast cars myself and I've done the odd wheel swap on them, but nothing close to this. I might start getting into paintjobs after reading this article though.

41

Totally sick! Especially the Beetle hotrod and the green Riviera!

42

Best article in awhile. Love this. Amazing work.

43

awesome work dude............I can totally relate to this article........

44

MilesHayler  3-4 pounds perhaps?

45

How thick are the lenses on your glasses? Incredible...

46
HeathvanderWaerden

haha this guy has good skills and excellent taste!

47
HeathvanderWaerden

haha this guy has good skills and excellent taste!

48
OmarBaikSheshany

woooooooooooooooooooow!
awesoooooooooooooohhoooohohohohohoooome  !

49

This is a little hobby that I started a couple months ago, and what do you know, SH do a feature on an expert of the hobby! I love your work Luke. This is exactly what I have been trying to do with my hotwheels. Is there any way to contact you? There are some questions I would love to ask you!

50

That Malco GTO drag car <3

51

awesome detailing!  do you go straight to hobby primer or do you still use metal primer (like mr. hobby metal primer) first?

52

Speedhunters I haven't seen the 510 yet, but I'll be watching for it.

53

Speedhunters silveradotx Bima Leksono where can i buy one, i dont collect hotwheels or anything comparable, but i just have to get my hands on a SH 510 if there is the possibility!

54

Speedhunters silveradotx Bima Leksono where can i buy one, i dont collect hotwheels or anything comparable, but i just have to get my hands on a SH 510 if there is the possibility!

55

LamleyDLM will surely hunt for stuff like this.
SH, please find Rikmun Lim and feature him, as well as other good diecast modders out there!

56

Lol this makes me remember when I used to go nuts over Hot Wheels. That rat-rod Bug is seriously awesome!

57

Standing ovation!!!

58

Standing ovation!!!

59

Wow! Awesome job!!

60

Killer work. Should sell likeness of peoples rides.

61

As a diecast customizer myself, its been great getting to know Luke and being able to bounce ideas off each other for cars we're working on, whether its paint choice, wheels, etc. His builds are some of the best around, he keeps me motivated to build to the best of my abilities and I know help motivate him. That's the nice thing about this community, everybody helps everybod .

62

As a diecast customizer myself, its been great getting to know Luke and being able to bounce ideas off each other for cars we're working on, whether its paint choice, wheels, etc. His builds are some of the best around, he keeps me motivated to build to the best of my abilities and I know help motivate him. That's the nice thing about this community, everybody helps everybod .

63

Awesome!

64

where I can buy tires for this car scale
Alex.doktor@gmail.con
Thanks friend.

65

where I can buy tires for this car scale
Alex.doktor@gmail.con
Thanks friend.

66

An amazing story and great talent here, Luke. You need to create videos of your work, blog, build up a niche brand for yourself and try to make some money off of your passion - the ultimate result. I also thought too bad Hollywood has moved on from practical models and sets in favor of more CGI, although there are still stop motion projects every year. Great stuff! Kim Shugart, CEO: http://federalautoloan.com/blog

67

An amazing story and great talent here, Luke. You need to create videos of your work, blog, build up a niche brand for yourself and try to make some money off of your passion - the ultimate result. I also thought too bad Hollywood has moved on from practical models and sets in favor of more CGI, although there are still stop motion projects every year. Great stuff! Kim Shugart, CEO: http://federalautoloan.com/blog

68

WOW, these look amazing. Both the cars and the images! Congratz!
I recently gave my 4 year old son all of my old die cast toy cars (ranging from majorette to old school 1970's matchbox cars and siku die casts from the 80's)

some of the die casts are different today than they were when we were kids. Majorette cars aren't up to par to their old counterparts. This was one of the reasons for writing an article called http://kids-nook.com/matchbox-vs-hot-wheels-vs-majorette-toy-cars/

69

I am looking to make a personalized 55 panel for my husband for Christmas, can you help me with this??

70

i am looking to make a personalized ford f350 dually for my husband fro Christmas..is there anyway you can help me with this? please get back to me ASAP Thankyou

71
AnthonyJohnson2

I am looking for someone to make a personalized Dodge magnum to replicate my car, is it possible for you to do this for me?

72

Very Nice... Great job!!!!

73

I to love restoring and doing custom hot wheels.

75

I would like to buy cars from you. I have tons of Hotwheel cars that i could send to you for materials and make one for me
konkyl03@gmail.com
920-750-8691

76

Canyou make me a custom car i have hotwheels you can customize i could send to you please give me a call
920-750-8691
Or
konkyl03@gmail.com

77

Cool

78

Awesome

79

anyone wanting to restore old redline hot wheels should check out this site. http://redlineshop.com/

80

Where does everyone live i live in Wisconsin

81

Hello, I'm looking for someone to custom make me a 2013 hyundai veloster turbo (red) hot wheels car, would be a gift to my boyfriend. My email is: amandae@live.ca

82
tatiillustrates

Hello, Your are most talented. I would like to know if you would be open to making a custom car as gift to a loved on of mine.. I would not need the car until July this year 2015. The car is not a common one. It is a 1966 Chrysler 300. Please email me at  to discuss price and interest. Thank you.
Speedhunters

83
renaesexton2011

Do you do custom orders? Please let me know renaesexton99@yahooo.com

84

Can u please make some custom hot wheels for me buddy?i have a lots of fast and furious collection cars just need to be coloured like them u r the right guy for it

85

Can u make nissan pick up 97 red origanial

86
Peter Dimiceli

Hello. I've been trying to customize some of my Hotwheels cars, but I never can possibly figure out how to drill them apart. I tried my Dremel 4000 tool, but it doesn't work. What do you use to drill your Hotwheels cars apart?

87

Peter Dimiceli i use a Dewalt drill with variable speeds and a drill bit that is just slightly bigger than the rivet on the car

88

DustinChapman great job on the restoration

89

Amazing work. Do you know where to buy wheels?

90

Cool. Thanks.

91

Cool. Thanks.

92

U r amazing dude i lv u U0001f618

93

U r amazing dude i lv u U0001f618

94

I am working on a toyta IMPY 74 model

95

I am working on a toyta IMPY 74 model

96
97
98
99
100
101

Can u give me more ideas???

102

Can u give me more ideas???

103

I have a kind of unique request I'd like to know if you could help me with.  If you do custom orders please notify me at and we can discuss further, thank you.

104

I have a kind of unique request I'd like to know if you could help me with.  If you do custom orders please notify me at and we can discuss further, thank you.

105

Awesome post , nice collection . Thanks for sharing the information . Here are few more ideas , hope it helps http://www.motorfocus.com.au/home.php?cat=83

106

I have a friend who races drag cars and for Christmas I want to get him a replica of his car. I was wondering if you could help me with that. If you are interested please email me. Montanap919@gmail.com

108
109

Some outstanding work here for sure. I can sure appreciate the talent. I have been collecting diecast for over 50 years and restoring and customizing for the past 20 years or so, Love every minute of it but have to admit a few have hit the wall at 110 mph...LOL...
http://www.diecastfun.4t.com

110

My friend races and I really wanted to get him a replica of his car for christmas. Could you maybe help with that? My email is jesspom98@gmail.com if youre interested.

111

Hello,  I'm interested in getting a figure 8 car replica made for my brother that races.   Would you mind emailing get me?   wcso606wr36@gmail.com thanks danielle

112

How do we contact you about a certain car request?

113

Awesome work, do you take requests? I've been looking for a car that I'm pretty sure hot wheels never even made. A 1983 American Motors Spirit GT. White with black stripe package like it would've been from the factory and tan interior. My email is tcarringer93@gmail.com

114

I want and estamite on a 2014 mustang 5.0 all white , and how long it will take. I have a picture exactly how i want it to be. I hope to hear from you soon.

115

I am in desperate need of someone to build me a replica of this exact 1968 Dodge Coronet RT. This was my brothers car (my brother passed away Tuesday) & I want this car to carry with me in memory of him. Depending on price I would like 2 mode for sure. Please email me a quote if you are willing to help me out Michellerawkz@yahoo.com
Thank you,
Michelle

116

great.i collect hot wheels 2

117
JoelRobertRedlich

I've been collecting diecast models forever too, I was wondering if you would be willing to make me a pint sized version of my 2013 Camaro? You can contact me by email at joelredlich@gmail.com

118
fitzgeraldmatt11

Hey where did you get your tap and screws for putting your customs together and do you use 2 56 screws or a different size ?

119
fitzgeraldmatt11

Do you have an Instagram contact me on Instagram if you do at @fitz_customs

120

Hello, I've been trying to find a place where I can order two customer cars if possible by his birthday. My dad and I are a father daughter drag racing team and I wanted to give him something special for his big 50. He drives an 1962 F85 Oldsmobile cutless. And I drive an 1980 z28 camaro. I can send pictures if needed. My email is mariaalaureyns@gmail.com

121

Hi I have been trying to find someone that would build replicate of and modified race car my friend has we want to get one for his grandson as a gift! I could send you pictures of the car! Would really appreciate it

122
Michaela OMalley

Great post! Do you sell them? If so what price range? I made some mad max inspired rat rods from hot wheels (and other diecast cars) recently and I'm wondering how to price them, as there's been interest to buy them. Rousmodelcars.com

123

hi, i would like to replicate a car is it possible? i hope so i've been searching everywhere. i would really appricate if you do and if you send me a massage thanks.

124

Hey i wanted to know where can i buy all these type of tires.. real riders.. white walls etc. Please email me if you get time from your busy schedule! Love your work.. my email is - akshaymax03@gmail.com

125

Helo there i have been Trying to find someone to make a replicate a car.,your work is awsome!! I hope you can find the time to message me. i would really appriciate it.! Cesardall1988@gmail.com

126
CozzyCozbourne

AkshayGole 
They usually either buy extra premium HW cars to sacrifice for wheel donors or they'll buy stolen-from-the-factory axle/wheel combos on eBay.

127

Going out on a limb here but I've noticed a lot of other people comment asking you if you'll do custom orders. I'm curious of that myself. If so, shoot me an email, I've got a couple in mind I'd love to have done. erinwoodfin@hotmail.com
Thanks.

128

Can you please contact me. I need a replica done of my son's race car.
racinrup96@gmail.com
Thank you.

129

Congrats for your job...I will follow your job from now on... a friend from Brazil.

130

Just wondering what wheels and tires you put on the 55 Gasser. I'm doing a replica of a friend's real 1:1 Gasser and would like those same wheels and tires. Beautiful work!!!
Derek

131

Hello, I would like you to make me a replica, Do you have a system to sell then and send them to Mexico?

132

Hi there i would love if you could build a replica for me. I have a picture i could send you. Its a 1984 oldsmobile cutlass but its now hobby stock. A very dear friend of mine. Id love to get him a mini of his baby. Let me know

133

Luke you do awesome work. Truly an artist.  I see many asking for you to build them a car.  I rather see you post a few videos on your techniques so we can all build our own and one day be half as good as you!!!!

Julian

134

I have a Matchbox '62 VW Beetle. 1:58 scale. How much would you charge to have it painted and customized to replicate Herbie from Herbie Fully Loaded?

136

Well,I have customised my hw x-raycers bulletproof into a bat mobile,check this out!!

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137

And I have also painted my gasser too.....

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138

Some of these pix are just great. I particularly like the rat rods. But I have to ask- where did you find the red Schwinn bike that is in the pickup bed?

139

Your work is inspiring brother, where do you buy the tires and other parts needed to customize the cars?

140

I need to find someone to customize a hotwheel for me to give to my significant other as a gift where would I find that

141

Oh and how much would it be to paint it?

142

Nice job on customizing, superb! cheers
Mine not as perfect as yours, so cool, just amazed, thanx for sharing!

143

hot wheels rock! they are better than ever before

144
Mad Scientist Customs
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145

Luke, I love your work and photos. You really have an eye for detail. I also have been collecting for years all the way back to early hotweels in '68 and before with matchbox. I have modified a few, but just as concepts, not as works of art like yours. I have included a couple of shots. Wonder if you could give me some tips on how and where best to post pics to get feedback and suggestions. First one is a Gasser mod to a BDC90, the second started life as a Great Gatspeed. Thanks

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147

Are any of these for sale?

148

I don’t know how to do anything like what you do but I’m trying to find someone that would make my truck for me?. I have a 56 Ford I wanted to look like a barn find and I can’t seem to find anyone that will help me out?!. I can’t believe what great and beautiful work you’ve done with these cars.!. They look so real and so much detail and it’s so beautiful that it makes normal hot wheels and Match box cars look like crap

149

Hi
I was wondering if you can tell where I can buy these car kits to built my own little cars
Thank you

OFFICIAL SPEEDHUNTERS SUPPLIERS