Chris Watson, Winner, Hot Wheels Legends Tour 2023

Chris Watson is the Hot Wheels Legends Tour 2023 winner. In this edition of The Friday Five, Chris talks about the customized 1990 Mazda MX-5 — nicknamed the Chimera — that earned him the honour and shares some advice for those considering entering the annual competition.¬†

Tell us about the car you competed with in the Hot Wheels Legends Tour.

The build started as an early ’90s Mazda Mx5 that I picked up already lightly modified back in 2019.

I’m really into the cyberpunk genre — movies like Bladerunner and Akira — so I knew I wanted to build something cyberpunk before I’d even decided on a car. The Mx5 felt like a really good fit since it was a base that was already quite popular but still pretty cheap back then. I also knew I’d have no problem cutting into it and redesigning it completely.

I wanted to try a different approach to a lot of other car builds and so I treated this Mx5 as if it were a full-scale model kit. I’ve put together a small backstory around the car so when I’m designing it, rather than just adding things that are purely functional, I like to imagine what this car was used for and what the owner might have added or changed to it. It helps give everything a sense of purpose.

Over the years, I’ve evolved this car countless times and I use it as a test bed to try out new things and grow my skills, as I made everything on this car myself.

The Friday Five

What inspired you to enter the car in the Hot Wheels Legends Tour?

Something unusual about this car is that it was designed from the beginning to look like a model or a movie prop. Rather than building a miniature based on the car, I designed a car that was made to look like a miniature. I think for that reason, it works really well at small scale and it’s definitely got a style that nobody else was experimenting with. I think that originality and creativity are what make it a really good fit for a Hot Wheels diecast.

I entered the competition back in 2021 when the car was still in a pretty early state and I made it to the top-four in New Zealand but didn’t make it to the global semi-finals. Since then, I’ve changed just about everything on the car, and along the way I’ve had a lot of people comment how it looks like a Hot Wheels. I decided that I would try again and enter the 2023 competition as well, and this time it did a bit better.

The Friday Five

How does the Chimera embody the spirit of the Hot Wheels brand?

The cyberpunk theme plays a huge role, but also the transformation this car has undergone and the fact that it’s constantly evolving makes it really unique and that was my challenge to myself with this build.

I’ve built a lot of cars over the years and there’s sort of a formula to them, especially these days. When you go to shows or competitions you’ll notice that all the top cars, even though they are amazingly well built, all have a similar feel to them. I wanted to completely change that with this build and show people that you don’t have to focus on crazy engine swaps, carbon fibre, or immaculate glossy paint jobs.

I had basically no budget with this build so I made everything on this car with my bare hands in a shed. I think it’s important to show people that you can create something unique and impressive without a huge budget, no team, and no sponsors. All you need is the passion and desire to make something.

The Friday Five

What were some of the challenges and joys of the Hot Wheels Legends Tour competition process?

Honestly, I didn’t run into many challenges.

There are some builders out there who will look at a competition as their reason for building something — “I’m building this car to win at SEMA”, for example. I think that doing that forces you to compromise your vision and makes you rush things and you ultimately end up with a product you aren’t happy with.

The only person I’m building cars for is me and I don’t let deadlines or restrictions get in the way. I think like any unusual build, there was a mixed response to it. That was entirely the point. Building a car that everybody likes is boring. It’s much more fun to build a car that people have strong opinions about one way or the other. Despite not really building this car for competitions, I have entered it in a few, and it has never once placed higher than fourth. It was becoming a bit of a recurring joke and I was going to paint the number “4” on the door just to save the judges some time.

I entered this competition fully expecting to be eliminated in the top 10, so when they read my name out as the winner I had a hard time processing it for a few days. Now I’m just overjoyed that I’ve broken the curse, haha.

The Friday Five

What advice can you share with people who may be thinking about competing in the Hot Wheels Legends Tour?

Be creative.

I think the Hot Wheels Legends Tour is one of the most amazing opportunities because it really is a global competition that anyone can enter.¬†Throughout this whole thing my car never once left my own driveway — who you are and where you live doesn’t matter, everyone is on a level playing field when it comes to that.

In my opinion, a good build comes down to the uniqueness of the idea and the passion in the execution. My build shows that you really don’t need to throw thousands of dollars at a build for it to compete, you just need to do something that not everybody else is already doing. It has to be something that you genuinely want to make.

A car that is built just for yourself is always going to be better than a car built to win competitions or get likes on social media.

The Friday Five

Learn more about Chris’ automotive customization work on the Tofu Auto Works website.