How To Build a Diorama For Your Hot Wheels

The first thing you are going to need is the shelf itself – or whatever flat surface you are choosing to utilise as your diorama base. Obviously a shelf is a great option because … well it’s obvious why so I’m not digressing any further :p

The next thing to note is that every item you see on my shelf was purchased through eBay – save for 3 trees which I purchased from my local Hobby shop.

The key ingredients for your diorama shelf are the asphalt and grass matting which form the base of the entire diorama.
This base will also be our template on which we map out roads, trees, shrubbery, carparking areas and buildings, service stations and other fixed objects.

The matting itself is Javis brand Scenic matting. Its about 10bucks a roll and looks like this:

road matting 1 road matting 2

The grass is the same brand and is available in a range of shades. I opted for a lighter one so as to help the customs stand out better. I recommend you do the same.

*Note that sandpaper could also suffice as a suitable road surface if you cannot get your hands on the above items.

The Diorama Roadblock

The Biggest hurdle we need to overcome is the fact that finding all of the afore mentioned trees, shrubs, people and other diorama accessories in 1:64 scale is almost impossible – they simply don’t make it for us Hotwheels aficionados sadly.

The answer lies in train scenery designed for 1:87 HO Scale model train enthusiasts – because what you will find is that a lot of the scenery produced for them is actually in 1:75 scale (yeah I dunno either?) and that is a scale that we can work with. Shrubbery and trees are easy to obtain regardless of scale and what I recommend is buying through eBay where you can get a pack of 50 ready made trees in varying sizes – in which at least 20 can be utilised for your diorama. These packs are usually less than $30 so you are still getting a very good deal (IMHO anyway) shrubbery and flowers are not a problem because they are so small that they tend to look to scale no worries mate 😀

Other items like park benches and people are also available in 1:75 scale but out of the 200 people I have purchased (I paid like 5 bucks so whatever) only about 20 are tall enough – and even they are probably on the smallish side. BUT…

Superglue them randomly on the sidewalk as I have done so they appear out of focus in shots and you don’t notice  😉

The other item I purchased that is fixed are the streetlights, which actually work – if I could be arsed to wire them in …which I clearly can’t :p
Again you can purchase lights from eBay by searching for them under the model train HO Scale category. There is a whole range of styles to choose from – it’s like a real bloody lighting shop LOL.

OK now that we have our items sorted and ready it’s time to make a diorama shelf (yay)

nissan skyline hakosuka hot wheels diecast cars

you cant even tell they are not the right scale

Making a Diorama Shelf

First off I apologise for not providing images along the way. I actually did document the process when I built this shelf originally but have since lost the phone on which they were stored and as such can only show you completed diorama pics. Anywho, it is what it is so let’s get a wriggle on shall we 😉

EDIT: I found a couple! – These images should give you a much better idea of what I am talking about as I continue to ramble on below :p

diorama WIP from way back 1

diorama WIP from way back 2

All The Things Steps!

  • Lay all your asphalt matting down across the entire surface of your shelf… I don’t care that yours isn’t a shelf – stick with the program already… OK so we literally cover the entire surface in the asphalt type matting and stick it down using PVA (wood) glue.

I recommend getting assistance so that while someone else holds the end up you can gently press it down using a large book so as to leave a completely flat bubble free surface.

  • Now you have a road surface and you are ready to design your layout.

You will need to purchase a white graphite artists pencil or any white marker that draws on the rough surface you are working with (do not use chalk as it will likely flake and blow off over the course of a few days) 

  • Now Draw out where you want the roads and carpark etc etc.

When I designed mine I chose one straight road down the front that was 11cm wide (5cm each lane and another 1cm for the lane markings and side embankment (room for error basically)

 What Else Did I Do Specifically?

I then drew side roads off of this and a carpark where I laid out parking areas etc etc.
In terms of buildings, I already had a Tomica Hypercity Honda Dealership and a RealToy (I think?) Caltex servo.  I Placed them where I thought they would suit best and drew the roads around them, allowing for a rear entry to the servo since the design called for it.

  • Once all the roads and other areas are marked out it is time to take your grass matting and lay it over the areas where you need it. Basically you want to use the grass to help outline and reinforce where the roads are.
  • Once you have done this you then drill holes into the shelf where you want the light poles and trees (most of the trees do not have a base) and add shrubbery, flowers, people, sidewalks (I had some sidewalk spare from the Honda Dealership that I chose to use separately ) I actually used white [blue] tac as the additional sidewalk that curves past and follows the road behind. I really should remove it and use epoxy putty now that I know how to use the stuff but as a tip, the bluetac stuff works a treat 😉

Finishing Touches

The final step in making your diorama shelf look the part is to add a background. I could only source one (through eBay) but now that I have access to a quality printer I will be printing out different backgrounds including cityscapes and farm scenes… a different scene for each day perhaps?

The point is that once you have added your chosen background it really does set your diorama off and complete the picture. Don’t take my word for it. Check out some of these photos I found from the early diorama days and see for yourself how it just looks well, incomplete 🙁

Caltex servo - diorama early days

Caltex servo - diorama early days 2 closeup

Add some background – and some decent lighting and you get a much better picture… literally!

JDM Meet 8

delivery truck bringing me my Kday specials

Kday special datsun 620 ute

a diecast world in a 1:64 scale diorama

a diecast world in a 1:64 scale diorama

a diecast world in a 1:64 scale diorama

a diecast world in a 1:64 scale diorama

a diecast world in a 1:64 scale diorama

life on the shelf is a custom diorama in 1:64 scale

life on the shelf is a custom diorama in 1:64 scale

all japan day on the diecast cars diorama shelf

Taking Your Dioramas to the Next Level

Once you have everything in place you can then achieve in greater pictures by adding some photoshop magic or by utilising other editing tools/apps. I have shared many an image where I have incoporated the diorama and then added blur effects to make it look like the cars are moving – or hovering as I did with the Delorean. Anyway, I am not harping on about this so I can show you my edited pics – you can see them throughout this website. No the reason I added this extra section is because I wanted to direct your attention to a Japanese fella on Instagram who creates THE MOST AMAZING DIORAMA ACTION SCENES you are ever likely to see. His feed is a beauty to behold and whether you are on Instagram or not, this link works and will take you to a diecast world in various scales that will leave you gobsmacked.

His name is Takuji and he is best known as @Takupon0816 and just to give you an idea of what you can expect, here are a few examples of his work. Click the link @his name above or follow the link below the images to see his entire feed and marvel at his work.

Takupon0816 diorama action 1

Takupon0816 diorama action 2

Takupon0816 diorama action 3

Takupon0816 diorama action 4

Takupon0816 diorama action 5

Takupon0816 diorama action 6

See more of Takuji’s work on Instagram HERE




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