Tony and Carmen Matthews, Creators, Diecast Heroes Magazine

Tony and Carmen Matthews are the creators of Diecast Heroes, a magazine exploring the custom Hot Wheels community. In this edition of The Friday Five, the duo explain how documenting global car culture through SuperFly Autos led to their involvement in the diecast community and share how some customisers are turning their hobby into full-time work.

What is the genesis of Diecast Heroes?

When it comes to translating SuperFly Autos to toy models, it all goes back to our childhoods growing up with diecast cars like Hot Wheels and Matchbox.

We would play with diecast cars and dream of owning the real cars when we grew older. We would also have the ultimate poster car on our wall, showcasing the Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari Testarossa. The toy models we enjoyed as kids are the reason we do what we do today in documenting the global car culture lifestyle.

Before Diecast Heroes was created, we came across the custom Hot Wheels community in 2014 and started to showcase the builds through SuperFly Autos. We saw that this diecast community was doing the same as the real-life custom car builders. We wanted to showcase their builds to share the creativity within the community so we held a spot on our social channels each week to share some of the builders.

That caught the attention of the diecast community, whose members followed SuperFly Autos for inspiration for their own custom diecast builds. It got to the point where, when we attended car shows such as the Sema Show in Las Vegas, some builders would meet us in person and even gift us a custom diecast as a thank-you for sharing their passion with a larger audience and putting them on the map.

We then decided to collaborate with Hot Wheels in 2016 to create a global custom diecast build competition. We invited judges, Maximillion of Gumball 3000, and Magnus Walker, to be judges alongside us. We had over 280 entries and numerous sponsors contributed prizes.

We continued to showcase these builders until 2 years ago, when we wanted to do something more for that custom diecast community. As we have a background in creating car magazines, the idea was born to create a collectors A5-print and digital quarterly journal called Diecast Heroes. Each edition is themed and customisers build a custom diecast specifically for that issue. So far we have had the following themes: ’80s & ’90s, cyberpunk, video games, sci-fi, a mashup special (including not just Hot Wheels brands, but others as well), and the latest, which is a post-apocalyptic Gaslands theme.

We also host a Coffee and Diecasts Instagram Live show, where we bring out the customisers to share their stories and custom builds. Most of our audience is in the 25-to-60 age group. The Instagram Live shows have helped the community members to come out of the shadows, fully embrace themselves, and not be ashamed of being a grown-up still playing with diecast cars. We give people a place to share their passion — it gives many of them a purpose to keep enjoying their hobby.

The Friday Five

Tell us about the custom Hot Wheels community.

The custom diecast community is very strong and unity driven.

It is an international community with varied styles and interests. We praise and support each other, as people showcase their latest custom diecast. The community is very quick to help and support others who are just starting with the hobby.

We are not afraid to keep playing with diecast cars and many take their hobby very seriously as a form of art. Many of the builds we see are truly incredible in their creativity and attention to detail. Creators such as Jakarta Diecast Project, Gokart Mozart Customs, Masanong — to name just a few on Instagram — showcase a level of detail that is normally seen on life-size custom cars and jewellery makers. They want to be recognised in a non-egocentric way for their creative work, as it gives them a purpose in life.

Some creators, such as Jakarta Diecast Project, do this as a full-time job and generate revenue from their YouTube channel, where they showcase the build process. Some do commission work — if a person wants their car made into a custom diecast or has an idea for a customisation, it can be built for a price.

A significant portion of the community builds incredible dioramas using small display scenes with a custom diecast, such as a Batmobile in the Batcave, a car garage in which to place diecasts, and replicas of city streets complete with shopping malls and other details. This is a form of self-expression, a way to be creative outside of a typical day job.

We are all creative beings. This hobby is affordable; building a life-size car is far more costly. The people who participate in customising are those who have loved cars since childhood and love the fact that they can collect and customise as many cars as they like at an affordable price.

In every country, special events are being created by the customisers to meet monthly to showcase their builds over coffee. There are also Hot Wheels events around the USA, where collectors and builders gather to share their passion.

The Friday Five

What is compelling about the Hot Wheels brand to adults?

What drew people to Hot Wheels and got collectors hooked — more than other diecast brands — was the custom aspects of the vehicles, such as custom paint and wheels. The brand broke boundaries with innovative and creative diecast designs, such as Larry Wood’s Boneshaker.

Plus, for a dollar, they were very affordable for most kids.

Hot Wheels do have a nostalgic feel to them, especially in the custom community. Many customisers are in their mid-30s and it takes them back to their childhood days. They want to relive those days and take things to the next level. There is an international community that they want to be part of.

The Friday Five

How has that community changed over the past few years?

The community has moved from strength to strength, with an increasing number of people starting to collect and customise diecasts. This was magnified over the COVID lockdown period as people wanted to find a hobby to keep  from being bored and scrolling on social media. They saw customising diecasts as an appealing hobby.

The level of skill has gone through the roof. The detail and creativity are being taken to the next level — so much so that the Hot Wheels brand is paying more attention to the community and trying to adapt that level of detail through its unique Mattel Creations models. You can say that the community is also helping Hot Wheels to innovate their diecasts, so it’s a win-win for everyone.

The style of customs has become even more daring due to many customisers launching challenges each month. This helps to innovate every customiser’s skill, allows them to try new style,s and gives them more confidence to push themselves. That’s one of the reasons we have a theme for each issue of Diecast Heroes — it makes the magazine unique and gives the customisers more challenges.

The Friday Five

Where does someone start with the hobby?

Start collecting the diecasts you like and then search Instagram and YouYube using #CustomHotWheels to see what others are creating. Reach out to the creators — many of them will have information to share on where to start and where to purchase equipment.

The Diecast Heroes magazine features resources and is a great source of inspiration for getting started.

Come to this community with an open heart and mind. You will not be judged here for building something as a beginner who does not have the same level of expertise that the seasoned customisers have earned.

Don’t be afraid to reach out and share your builds — many will praise you and give good feedback for ways to improve.

The Friday Five

Visit Diecast Heroes to learn more about the magazine and community of Hot Wheels customisers.