How To Customize Cars With Metal Bases

Today I’ll be sharing something I have been asked on more than one occasion, and to be honest really should have posted earlier – I mean one cannot claim to have the largest repository of How-To guides relating to customizing diecast cars if one does not cover the all important (and often dreaded) metal base!

Hot Wheels release a good proportion of their cars (through the various Pop Culture, Retro, Garage etc etc series) with metal bases, and as customizers looking for real riders and decent wheel variations to add to our customs, the amount of cars we end up with that have these (bastard) metal bases ends up being well over 50%. It therefore gives me great pleasure to FINALLY answer your many questions and provide you with my personal tips and tricks on how to deal with Hot Wheels cars that have metal bases.

How To Take Apart Hot Wheels with Metal Bases

First things first, the taking apart of the car in question – and for this we simply turn to an existing guide (and video) that shows you HOW TO DRILL APART HOT WHEELS

The above link takes you to a guide where I drill apart a plastic base but as I mention in the post and subsequent video, the process I share is universal and is actually the most effective way to drill apart metal bases as well. If done correctly (and with a little practice) you should find that even the metal bases will ‘clip’ back together again without the need for screws or glue* – and the result of your drilling should look something like this:

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

Notice how the rivet has been drilled out so it remains flush with the metal base.

As you can see from the image above, the drilled out rivet is flush with the base and the line between rivet and base is but a faint hairline crack. This is essential to not only maintain a base that will ‘clip’ back together again but also so that if and when the base does not ‘clip’ back together you can resolve that problem easily*

* When the base does not ‘clip’ back together again you can simply apply a small drop of superglue to the indent left by your drilling. [This is why it is essential that you drill flush with the base – or the glue will leak down into the custom and end up God knows where – probably on the axle] To remove the glue at a later date you simply drill it out as if you were removing the base for the first time – except this time it takes all of a second for the glue to break up.

Now that you have the base removed it’s time to remove the wheels, and how we go about doing that depends entirely on what your intentions are…

The ‘I Only Want The Wheels’ Removal Guide

Considering the fact that the majority of our Hot Wheels with metal bases are being attacked for their wheels (as a general rule where there is a metal base there is a real rider wheel) it is fair to assume that for the majority of you reading this, learning how to quickly and easily remove the wheels is your only priority – so if I could hurry up and get to the point that would be appreciated right? Yeah OK then…

The most effective, quickest and by far easiest way of removing the wheels from your metal based Hot Wheels vehicle is to use a Jewellers Hacksaw. If you want to keep the axles then my only advice is to READ THIS GUIDE on making your own axles and then stop (wanting to keep them that is)

Once you have built a small bridge and gotten over your need for untouched axle rods you can simply cut the wheels off – much like I have shown below:

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

This will take you all of 5 seconds to cut each wheel/axle off. I find its easier to cut until the blade slips off, then I pull on the wheel and literally snap the axle in two (with my bare hands because I am a machine RAAAH!)

Of course, sometimes we REALLY like the axle width of our donor ‘real riders’ and would much prefer to make an effort to remove the entire wheel set and axle in one go – can you help me out Alex? Yeah sure – why not, I’m talking to myself after all 😉

How To Lift Tabs & Remove Axles From Metal Bases

So you’d like some tips on doing a wheelswap on a metal base AND you want to keep the wheels and axle in one piece?! SHEEEEESH … Actually that’s fair enough – it is an essential aspect to customizing Hot Wheels & Diecast Cars after all 😉

Now when it comes to lifting those bastard metal tabs there are a few different methods you could employ. Today I’ll show you how I do it – a method I have come to enjoy after trialling a few various (unsuccessful ways) of lifting the metal tabs and getting the axle out so it was still a straight line and not a paperclip on acid.

You’re going to need a vice – mind you if you are an avid customizer and do not have a vice then WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU BEEN DOING AND HOW HAVE YOU MANAGED UP TO THIS POINT?!

Using a Vice to Remove Wheels and Axles From a Metal Base

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

  • The first thing I do is place the metal base in the vice so that the tabs are 5 – 10mm above the top edge. I also want to make sure the vice isn’t crushing or misshaping the base in any way (easily done)

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

  • I then take a small flathead screw driver and place the flat end UNDER the tab (I find it easier to start with the double tab end and not the single as shown here) – the idea here is to use the vice itself as leverage to then push up against the metal tab as hard as you bloody well can.

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

  • Quite often you will actually be able to bend all three tabs back from this one position simply by twisting the screw driver head side to side (left and right turns of the wrist as pictured here) – assuming you have successfully wedged the thin head between the three tabs that is

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

  • Image above not the best but you can see (use your imagination people!) how I have started to bend back the lower right clip and the top clip simply by twisting the screwdriver head from side to side.

 

  • The following images show how I use the vice as leverage and literally wedge the screwdriver head under the tab and push down as hard as I can.
  • I push so hard that I actually shake and ALWAYS close my eyes as you’ll often rip the entire end off the tab and send a small metal tab flying God-knows-where

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

  • Here you can get a better idea of how I use the vice top as leverage and push the screwdriver down against the vice while the head is forcing the metal tab up and out.

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

  • Bottom tabs are now well and truly bent and the top one is almost there….

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

  • And Now it is completely out of the way so technically the wheels and axles should just….

How to take apart and customize hot wheels metal bases

  • Exactly.

How To Replace Axles and Wheels on Metal Bases

If you plan on reusing the metal base and therefore need to insert a new set of axles into the gap you are going to need a way to reattach the new axle – or at least a way to hold it in place – and since our metal tabs are probably well past the point of no return we need to look for alternative methods of holding the axle in place.

When I made my Custom Competition winning Volkswagen Tanker-Back I found a very effective way of holding both sets of axles down – by simply using a nail (in this case the end of an unused rivet) and lying it down over the top of where the axle sits. I then applied a small amount of superglue to each end of the rod and ‘hey presto’ – I now have axles that allow wheels to turn freely AND that will not move from their position.

You can also do the same thing with other shaped metals, or you could use a paper-clip – or you could even just use glue directly Note that if you choose to add superglue directly to the base you need to use the TINIEST bit – and even then you need to make sure the metal base and new axles are sitting completely flat or you’ll watch helplessly as the glue runs down your axle to hold an emergency meeting right where the wheel is…

“I called this meeting to make sure wheels were not turning freely and the owner of this creation cracks the shits”

or something like that anyway 😉

how to hold axles down using metal bases

Apart from that, attaching new axles to your metal base comes down to common sense and working with what you have got. The trick is to make sure you have removed or at least bent up the metal tabs in the first place so that you are able to insert and/or change the axles without having to stuff around with axle rods and other more advanced stuff that I’ll talk about sometime in the next week or so.

 

 

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Author: Alex

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