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Hot Wheels Camaro Interview: Design Chiefs David Ross & Felix Holst
Camaro5.com Interviews Design Chiefs for Hot Wheels Camaro!
Written by Mr. Wyndham
Felix Holst is Vice President of Hot Wheels Design, and David Ross is from GM design for performance and specialty vehicles. I had the pleasure to chat with them at-length this afternoon, about this new Hot Wheels production car that is the big Camaro news this Fall.
I’ve got to say, the more pictures they release, the more the look of this car grows on me. And after speaking with these two gentleman…It sounds to me like this process was lock step with the passion that the Camaro Team we know and love pour into their work. Both Felix and David share a combined enthusiasm for this project, Hot Wheels, and the Camaro in general. Below is a series of questions formed from observations of our own forum members discussing this new special edition. Their answers follow in a lighter text.
There have been many positive reviews on the bright blue applied to the hot wheels Camaro. What is its name, and is there any chance of it becoming a regular production color?
David Ross: “It’s called Kinetic Blue. It’s a one-time offering special paint color on the Hot Wheels Car. It’s an incredibly vibrant blue, very pure and bright. In comparison, Aqua blue had a lot more green in it. This is a very pure blue.“
With a radical design like the last year’s Green Hot Wheels concept that caught the Camaro-world by storm, what inspired the design of this year’s model?
Felix Holst: The really exciting thing about the production car, is that when you take away the two really over-the-top design cues of the green car; which is the Spectraflame paint, and the custom hood…a lot of the other details made it to the production car. Things like the black trim with the red stitching, the red pinstripe around the wheels, the red pinstripe around the grille opening, and the ground effects package and the rear spoiler which come directly from the ZL1. All of those things were featured, in some iteration, in the green car. So, when speaking of the Hot Wheels Production car, we’re very excited to have retained so many of the signatures from the green car.
David Ross: You know, obviously the Spectraflame Green Show car was spectacular, and it was meant to be a show car - it was meant to be spectacular. A lot of the reason it’s not a production car is because it’s just not feasible. But the Kinetic Blue works real well and it hearkens back to the original die-cast from Hot Wheels. The blue color is, obviously, a very popular request from the Camaro fans. A lot of the unique custom features bring their own character to the car, but it also retains a good deal of the excitement from the green show car, too.
Can you detail the defining features of this car? How can folks identify this as a hot-wheels edition Camaro?
David Ross: The redline wheels give it away immediately, and obviously, the great badging on the car in distinctive ways like the doorsill. And the steering wheel has a little hot wheels badge on the steering wheel, instead of the SS badge.
Even the stripe is unique, because it’s a combination of a flat, textured center with a semi-gloss outer border. It’s not as crazy as the hood on the show car, but if offers the customer something unique that we’ve never tried before, and not seen in the market.
The neat part of about this car, and we do a lot of great special edition cars, is that is has a custom quality. Things like the “Flame lick”, and the custom door sills, the striping package and the combination of parts. The car looks like it’s a custom, one-off car, without being garish or over the top.
Felix Holst: Of course, the badging. From any angle you can’t help but notice the Hot Wheels flame logo. But also, the redline detail. When we first started this project, the notion of taking the classic red line that Hot Wheels is known for, but moving it into a more modern performance graphic was where the red pinstripe around the grille came from, and where the red stitching on the seats comes from.
Really, one of the best details – that is really subtle, is the graphic we’ve put on the rear fenders. It’s a kind of classic muscle car graphic, which ends in the flick of the Hot Wheels logo. Dave’s team did a wonderful job applying it to the car so that you can barely notice it…but in the light it really pops.
How does the production model compare to the toy?
Felix Holst: It’s a neat story, really, because the two brands were birthed pretty much simultaneously. You know, the Camaro was launched in ’67, and right on its heels Hot Wheels launched in ’68. And one of the first cars that Hot Wheels did was the custom ’67 Camaro. And over the years, the brands have had a tight relationship over the years. If not every Camaro, we’ve covered every significant Camaro as a Hot Wheels die-cast car.
There will be models that accompany the production car. There will be a very limited edition model which we’ll call the “launch model”, perhaps numbering in the hundreds. And we’ll have the slightly less limited edition, that will be available as the car does the rounds at the Auto Shows. And we’ll eventually roll out the car as a basic hot wheels production model that you can get at any major retailer.
Will buyers get a Hot Wheels version of their car when they purchase?
Felix Holst: We’re working through that scenario. It’s something, that from the very outset, we wanted to do. Obviously, in muscle-car circles, numbers-matching is something that’s very important and we want to take that a step further.
We’re trying to look at the logistics that you’d get a numbers-matching, limited edition Hot Wheels car with your purchase of a real car. Logistically, it’s not as easy as you might think, but it’s something we’re still committed to try and work out, because we believe it would really be the icing on the cake.
Why did Hot Wheels choose to create and maintain such a strong relationship with the Camaro vs other vehicles recently?
Felix Holst: We have great relationships with everyone we do business with, which is essential because we cover nearly every make and model. The Camaro, though, really holds a special place in our hearts. It’s always been one of the very best-selling and collectible cars we’ve done. And at the charity auctions we do, it’s always one of the top earners.
Anybody that knows Camaro knows the answer, really. It’s the everyman’s performance car, it’s a world famous brand, it oozes power and aggression in every iteration. And that, to us, is what makes it a special Hot Wheels car. It’s not elitist in the slightest, yet it carries as much excitement as any car in any era, really – it’s a drop-dead gorgeous car.
I might be a little biased, because as a young lad living in New Castle, England in the 70s, I could draw a Camaro without looking at any reference. It’s just that coke-bottle shape, was so classic that I used to sit at the age of 6 or 7 drawing Camaros in my school books.
The Camaro really does symbolize all that’s good about Hot Wheels, and I would hope that Hot Wheels symbolizes all that’s good about Camaro, you know? They’re two classic performance American brands that both have a special place in our culture.
There have been some raised eyebrows at the cost of this option by forum members. Yet we realize there are a myriad of different types of Camaro buyers out there. Who are you trying to attract with this special edition?
David Ross: I think this car is going to be attractive to anybody that has a connection to Hot Wheels, or a connection to Camaro. I think it represents a different view of the Enthusiasts’ side of Camaro that the other offerings we’ve done don’t quite capture. And it’s like ‘Why can’t I have a real toy in my garage that I can drive every day?’
It’s not about the horsepower necessarily, although it has plenty…it really pulls at the heartstrings of the Enthusiast, of the kid in you. It brings a personality to the market, to the Camaro, that I don’t think you can get otherwise.
Felix Holst: Not everybody who goes out and buys a new car is the guy who wants to modify it. Not everybody knows how to. You know, what wheels to ask for, or what exhaust. But they might want to drive something that’s a little beyond the standard model. And this package gives you a custom car, with the performance, and you don’t have to mess around. It’s legit, right off the showroom floor.
There are going to be a few people that are THE most popular parents in the world
[Monte Doran, Chevy Communications was present, and he made a great point on the value of this package to consider]
Monte Doran: I would say two things, here. The first is – I don’t think it would be possible for someone to make this car on their own for $7,000.00. For that amount, you could not repaint the car, put 21” custom wheels on it, do a custom interior, and do all the cool details that are on this car. And I don’t know if you’ve ever been to an event like, ohhhh Camaro5 Fest is a pretty big one? But a lot of the people there customize their car and make it personal the minute they buy their car. I think that this is for somebody who wants a really distinctive Camaro, for them to buy one turn-key from the factory that is a custom, one-off spectacular car.
Secondly, I’d say that the photos don’t quite do it justice in terms of the details of the car. For example, you can hardly see the flame-lick in some of the pictures, but when you see it in person, it is just gorgeous. Or the flat black and gloss black combination on the stripe. Those little details are what I think make the car.
And that this car will appeal to a person to really loves Hot Wheels and really loves Camaro. This is an unprecedented opportunity to buy a Hot Wheels car that you can drive home and park in your garage.
Felix, This is the first drivable, production-model of a hot-wheels car. Does this have any special significance to Hot Wheels?
Felix Holst - Absolutely. We’ve built full-size cars before, but most of them are show cars. The notion of “Hot Wheels for Real” is something we’re standing behind, and you can visit Hot Wheels.com to see some of the things we’ve been doing like breaking the longest-distance jump record for a 4-wheeled vehicle, and the biggest-ever loop for a full-sized car.
You’ve got all these people between the ages of 20 and 50 who grew up with Hot Wheels, and nobody’s got a bad thing to say, but not everybody is a die-hard die-cast car collector. So this project is the absolute pinnacle and marks a turning point for what Hot Wheels is becoming as a brand. It means so much more to people now, than just toy cars. Whether it’s the content of the videos we’ve made around Hot Wheels, which you can see on our facebook page, or our world records; which are gradually transforming the notion of what vehicular competition can be.
Who had more input on the overall design of the Hot Wheels special edition, Hot Wheels, or GM design?
David Ross: I think it was actually a 50/50 split because the excitement was infectious for both sides. And every time we got together over the project is was a lot of “Oh, that’s cool!” And the inspiration for one side, inspired the other side back and forth. We all quickly agreed on what the car really wanted to be, and we all shared a vision – which came very quickly and easily.
Felix Holst: I think that was the thrill, how easy this project was. There were no arguments over whether or not there should be an engine out the hood, or what color the paint should be. GM did an absolutely phenomenal job of capturing the essence of what a Hot Wheels car should be, yet maintain the standard of a quality road car.
Felix, after taking hot laps in the car, you were quoted as saying, “It was insane. I was living every boy’s dream. My cheeks hurt from smiling.” In the Camaro world, we call that “Perma-Grin”. Can you try and describe the feeling?
Felix Holst: The story behind that is that while they were setting up cameras for the unveiling of the Hot Wheels car, I got to get a hot lap in a 1LE with Aaron Link. And that course up there at Milford is absolutely insane! I’ve done a lot of hot laps with a lot of very good drivers; you know everything from Ferrari to people like Tanner Foust. And that lap….was the hottest lap I’ve ever ridden in, it was insane!
I mean, heading up the hill, at 140mph as we come to the crest – and a squirrel decides to pop out and stand in front of us staring…that was certainly a big grin moment. The exciting thing is that you’re with someone who knows the track and the car inside out. Aaron didn’t even flinch.
[I'd like to add here, as Felix relived the moment, there was much chuckling and speaking through an enormous smile...I think the PermaGrin was in full-effect, here. ]
Among the growing club of special edition Camaros, such as Synergy, Pace Car, 45th anniversary, etc - how does the Hot Wheels Camaro rank among designers?
David Ross - I think it’s funny that you bring up all those other ones. We’re all Camaro Enthusiasts inside, too. And every time we do a new one, it becomes the “favorite one”. What’s really amazing to all of us about Camaro is that you can take this product from the enthusiasts’ standpoint, and the sky is the limit! When you go to a show like Camaro 5 Fest, what we walk away with is how diverse the culture is around the acceptance of Camaro. Everybody does their own thing.
SEMA’s been a great venue. We dominate the enthusiast market since we brought the Camaro out. Every year, it seems, we come back with an award for being the most accessorized car. And that really speaks to the enthusiast side of how the Camaro adapts to the personalization.
This Hot Wheels really is a favorite right now, of everybody.
David, Camaro enthusiasts want to know: many like to say the current Camaro design is “sex on wheels”. And while I’ve got you here, David, I’ve got to ask – what can we expect to see, design-wise, in future Camaros, specifically the 6th-generation of the car?
All I can say…all I know, is that the future for Camaro is very bright. It’s like I said, “the next one is always going to be better”. There’s a lot of excitement around Camaro internally, so stay tuned!
Is there any thing you’d like the Camaro enthusiasts, in particular, to know about the Hot Wheels production car?
Felix Holst – The key for me is…We are very proud of this car. I hope that the majority of Camaro fans will look at this car and see it for what it really is, which is an exciting interpretation of two classic brands. But also, this is Camaro and Hot Wheels. It’s going to be rare, it’s going to be limited edition and the car looks the part.
There’s no doubt that the Camaro Team has an absolute passion for their product. But the Hot Wheels team also has an absolute passion for the Camaro, whether that’s a ’67 Camaro or a 2013, and all Camaros in between – we love this car. So this definitely came from the heart, and there’s a lot excited people who can’t wait to see the car out on the road.
I for one know, that I will scream…like a little girl…the first time I see one on the road. It’s going to be a very exciting moment to see one out in the wild!
David Ross: I just want to re-iterate, as Camaro matures and we keep going forward, with every opportunity out there – the Camaro really fills the bill. This is another chapter for Camaro, and I think this car brings something different to the enthusiast that you can’t necessarily get with another product.
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I want to thank Felix, Dave, and Monte for giving us this opportunity to pick their brains a little bit. And I hope this interview provides a little more insight into the Hot Wheels Camaro for you all reading this.
Stay tuned to the homepage…tomorrow we’re in for a couple of Camaro treats from GM as SEMA. One rhymes with “Droptop COPO” (
), and the other is a blast from the past…
"Keep the faith."