This is the greatest love story in Hot Wheels History and one that I am truly blessed to have been a part of. How the story unfolded however is something that even a Hollywood script writer wouldn’t have seen coming, [Insert ‘TheBold & The Beautiful’ amazed face close up] but like all good stories it’s probably best if I start from the beginning…
The Email I Almost Didn’t Read
I get a lot of requests for customs and although I would love to say yes to them all I learnt early on that between managing the website, the Facebook group, the Decal store AND maintaining a fulltime job, I simply didn’t have the time to do them. Add to this the fact that most people winced at the prices I quoted (if you expect a custom for less than AUD$100 you are clearly unaware of the time and effort that goes into a custom build) and it got to a point where I sometimes didn’t even feel like opening the emails to begin with!
The request I received from Michelle looked no different from the rest. The subject line read ‘Custom 1978 Trans Am Firebird Request’ and as such it made it clear what Michelle wanted.I opened the email only because it is rude not to reply and very quickly realised that even if I didn’t have the time to do this, I was going to…
My name is Michelle- I was wondering if you could do a custom hot wheels job for me.
I apologize for the late notice, but it is for our wedding coming up on May 5th. It’s a little inside joke that we have that we could only get married if Hot Wheels came out with a black 1978 Trans Am Firebird with the firebird on the hood. (which I doubt they ever will, but we’re getting married anyway!)
Maybe it was because I’m a romantic at heart (shhhh) or maybe because I love quirky eccentricities like those transposed in Michelle’s words above – whatever it was I said yes and replied as such. What followed however was an additional request that made me totally fall in love with this couple and really (really) glad that I had said yes to her initial request.
License Plates & Dinosaurs?!?
I do have a special request.. Can you put our wedding date as one of the license plates? (050516) And I have another special request: Is there anyway that you can hide a velociraptor in the car somehow? It’s something silly that we’re doing for the wedding. We hid a raptor in our save the dates wedding cards, on our invitations, the favors, and even in the cake (a little plastic raptor in the back destroying and munching away at the cake)! It doesn’t have to be large, just something small and inconspicuous that just the three of us will ever know about. 🙂 I’ve included the picture of the raptor we’ve been using.
Oh my gosh I love this girl! How insanely quirky is that for a request/thing to do?… I LOVE IT. So I set about making the custom – although as I was in the middle of a lot of other things I told Michelle I would start on it in a week or two.
The Wedding was not until May 5th so technically I still had a whole month… she’ll be right (I think)
Designing and Printing a Custom Card
What My Custom Hotwheels Post would be complete without a How-To thrown somewhere in the middle… and I reckon this looks pretty close to the middle so without further ado;
Part of the initial email discussion (that I chose not to include above) included the mention of a custom card as I had advised Michelle that a personalised Hot Wheels backing card and blister would complete the look and really make the custom stand out as a one of a kind gift to her soon to be husband (Ivan). Michelle of course agreed that this was the way to go and so I set about designing the card.
Creating My Custom Hot Wheels Card Art
The first thing I did was Google ‘Hot Wheels Card’ and was lucky enough to find the image you see to your left. If I had been unable to find an image of a card straight on then I would have simply taken a photo of a card myself and used that as the basis for the new design*
Funnily enough it wasn’t until after I downloaded and looked at the image for a few minutes that I realised this image I found on Google was not only dead straight on, it was also sans blister making for the perfect template. [AS SUCH I HAVE PROVIDED THE FULL IMAGE FOR YOU TO DOWNLOAD AND USE YOURSELF AS A TEMPLATE WHEN DESIGNING YOUR OWN HOT WHEELS CARD ART – Simply right click and ‘Save Image As’]
*You obviously don’t need to start with a Hot Wheels Card, in fact the last card I designed for my Custom C3PO Kool Kombi was done from scratch – but in this instance I knew Michelle wanted a Hot Wheels car and so I felt a similarly designed card would work better…. and (IMHO) it did!
Once I had the initial template I opened Photoshop and set about removing the Chevy badge from the top of the card as well as the writing from the bottom and side (which I have taken the liberty of doing for you already). I didn’t bother removing the car because it would be easier to add the Trans Am Firebird and then photochop any of the Camaro that stuck out the sides… like so:
The Back of the Card provided me a lot more creative freedom and as such I decided to let my romantic side take over, opting to use one image provided to me by Michelle as the background and adding some ‘touching words’
I also managed to ‘hide’ a Velociraptor within the image thus addressing all points of the brief – before I’d even started the custom! (Go me LOL)
Ivan Loves Michelle a Latte was a hashtag I found through their Instagram account as well as through various Facebook feeds, and the Hot Wheels Rule hashtag well… ummm yeah OK I need to get out more OBVIOUSLY.
How To Print Your Own Custom Hot Wheels Card
The way I print my own custom cards is probably unique in that I’ve had to try and work around the fact I don’t have a fancy ass printer that can handle thicker paper bordering on cardboard, nor can it handle printing on both sides (and even if it did I doubt it would actually print the two images perfectly back to back!) and so I have created my own little hack method that kinda works a treat if I’m totally honest 😀
I use paper that is about as thick as a business card and as such is able to curl through the printer without issue. I have found that two of these sheets stuck together is exactly the same thickness as a Hot Wheels Card. Exactly 😉
By printing the two images onto seperate bits of slightly thinner cardboard/paper I not only solve the issue of not being able to print double sided, I also guarantee that both sides of my card will be perfectly aligned…. after we ‘perfectly align’ them that is.
Once you have cut out both the front and rear of the card you simply glue them together (I recommend using a glue stick or any non-toxic glue designed for children) and then use the scissors and/or your blade to finely trim any excess sections where the white of the card behind is showing through.
OK great I have a wonderfully designed card that will really help set of the cus.. tom. Shit! Knew there was something I’d forgotten to do :p
THE Custom 1978 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird.
1978 – yeah what a great year that was… anyway, where was I? Oh yeah – I was, well I was about here in terms of progress!
It had been almost 2 weeks since I had taken on the task of bringing Michelle’s dream to life and although I still had 2 weeks up my sleeve, it was hard to ignore the fact I had already let the last 2 weeks go by so quickly. Add to this the amazing progress I had made (insert sarcastic eye roll) and I was actually starting to worry whether I would be able to find the time to get it done!?!
No! Failure Was Not An Option.
If it had been for any other occasion sure, but this was for a Wedding gift – and not just any wedding gift. This was a reflection of Michelle and Ivan’s relationship and was as much a part of their story as the wedding itself will end up being. No failure was definitely NOT an option… but holy mother of God I sure made life hard for myself…
Of All The Castings To Use…
During our conversations Michelle had stressed how the 1978 (or 1977) Trans Am was slightly different to other years and to see if I could get as close to the image she had provided (left). Luckily I have literally hundreds of old castings and car parts in a large box and going through it I found a number of Matchbox and Hot Wheels castings – and the one that matched perfectly to the proportions and shape of the 1978 Trans Am was an incredibly beat up and old Hot Wheels casting.
This wasn’t Die-Cast it was Dead-Cast!
Finding it in the box I was lucky that the base was still attached but what I was lacking were windows and any sort of way of holding the axles in place. The base was a metal one and was a complete mess with no visible signs of either axle clamps or slots for them to sit in. I can only assume this used to have a metal plate running under the interior that held the original wheels and axles down. But I digress
Meh, it is what it is and so I set to work on creating this custom 1978 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird… well I will right after I tend to the other 65 things I constantly need to do these days!…
2 Weeks Until The Big Day!
It was April 19th – 5 days later and I still hadn’t even gotten around to addressing the window and axle issues, and I probably would have let another few days slide had Michelle not emailed me…
OMG If it’s the 19th and the Wedding is on the 5th – and allowing for at least 5 days transit… carry the 9… take away my neighbour’s best friend’s dog’s birthday and divide by the first number I thought of… That means I’ve only got…
I’d Better Get a Wriggle On 😉
From Crappy Casting to Tasty Trans Am
We’ll get to the custom itself shortly but first allow me to share with you how I addressed the lack of axle slots and more importantly the lack of windows – which was a real pain, no wait it was pane free – which of course was the cause of all my pain. Wait! What?
Finding Replacement Windows…
…was actually easier than I thought but with 200 plus castings to go through it was never going to be that difficult. Time consuming though? Holy Jesus it was like looking for a needle in a haystack.. if said haystack was a stack of diecast cars and the needle was a large plastic see through insert….. aaaaaand there were lots of needles not just one. AH SHUT UP!
It’s All About that Base (No Trouble)
And it really wasn’t. The lack of axle slots or any way to hold them down was resolved with axle rods (metal tubing) that I superglued down to the base and once this was done I didn’t have to do anything else….until I tried to add the real rider wheels and realised they were twice as fat as whatever wheels lived on this thing originally. Now where did I put that metal file?
11, No 10 Days Until The Wedding!
It was now the 25th of April and I finally had a day to devote to finishing this custom Trans Am Firebird – talk about cutting it fine! I had already found suitable window inserts for the front and back as well as readied the base for wider wheels and rolling axles and as such it was all down to paint and detailing (and decaling) – so yeah I went and did those things…
Velociraptor Approved and everything!
And Now To Put The Trans Am into a blister and onto the card ready for it’s new home – if it gets there in time?!
Now To Put This Custom Hot Wheels Into Her Blister
For anyone wanting to know how to remove a Hot Wheels car from the Blister and then replace it cleanly (which you will need to know so you can do the cleaning and the reapplying bit in this instance) then visit THIS LINK HERE which will open the guide in a new window.
But for the sake of providing everything in one place, the really quick version is this:
I remove the blister from the old card (whatever blister I chose – obviously something that allowed the Trans Am to fit snugly without being squeezed) and then used ‘Goof Off’ a graffiti remover that is like Nail Polish remover on steroids – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED (the Goof Off not the Steroids) to remove the paper and remains of the previous card. I then placed the car into the blister and used PVA wood glue to stick it down – PVA glue being perfect as it is non toxic and dries completely clear.
All Packaged and Ready For Michelle and Ivan to enjoy
Michelle & Ivan are Getting Married – IN A WEEK!
OK I was mildly panicking before but now I’m genuinely concerned that Michelle won’t receive this custom in time for her big day. It was Thursday and realistically it wouldn’t be sent until tomorrow because I had gone to work and in my infinite wisdom left the bloody thing at home – so that meant there were 6 days left – AND 2 OF THEM WERE A WEEKEND!
Friday Came and I sent the package – express post of course! The good folk at Australia Post told me it was 4 – 5 business days and as such it should reach its destination in America some time on Wednesday. Wednesday?!?! That’s like…. Wednesday?
Damn This Was Going To Be Close.
May 5th Came and Went… as did the 6th and the 7th. It wasn’t until the 11th May that I decided to email Michelle and see if there was any chance the gift made it in time…
Congratulations btw – I was spying on your photos via the #Ivanlovesmichellealatte hashtag on IG and I thought you and your bridesmaids looked absolutely amazing. I hope you had a wonderful wedding and I wish you and Ivan nothing but the best in your life together.
I look forward to your reply Michelle, Sincerely
What followed however was a transcription of events that have to be seen and read to be believed and are nothing short of amazing – well I thought so at least :p
A 1:64 Scale Gift At The 11th Hour
In order for you to see things as I did, and in the spirit of maximum impact I am going to leave the email reply from Michelle exactly as it was received so that you can follow the same rollercoaster of emotions that I did (albeit not as severe)
So… It was the morning of May 5th, and I kept sending my bridesmaids out to the mailbox every hour to go check and see if it had come yet… And nothing!
We were getting ready to leave, and my bridesmaids had just completed their final check of the mailbox and returned with sad faces and empty hands. So they left for the venue ahead of us, along with every one else in our wedding party. Then my sister and I were the last ones to leave for the venue and I realized I forgot something at home – so we made a quick stop by the house and wouldn’t you know it – there was a note saying that the postal service tried to deliver it, but there was no one home! I was almost crying with rage! – How? We were home!
So we jumped in the car and tried to find the nearest little postal service, but saw the post man was just down the street! So I jumped out of the car and ran over to him with wild and crazy arms,
“Please!!! I need this gift!! Please tell me you have it!!” (And yes, that’s what that picture is that I attached, my sister catching the whole crazy thing on camera.) Had I not forgotten something at the house and gone back for it, we would have never gotten the Trans Am on time!!
I couldn’t believe how lucky I was!!! I don’t have a picture of him opening the gift, but they told me this one made him laugh and laugh, and everyone around him was not in on the joke so they just kind of awkwardly laughed with him. But after he explained it to them, they were all laughing together. He said that it almost brought him to tears. It was the best grooms gift- and all because of you!!! Thank you so much for making this dream become a reality, and a moment that we will never forget. Thank you!!!!! I included a couple of other pictures for you…
- There’s a picture of us cutting the cake (with an awesome velociraptor coming out of the back!),
- there’s a picture of us right after the ceremony with the petal toss… And finally
- there’s a picture of him holding the Trans Am today – I told him to take it out of the protector so he could see all the awesome details that you put into it.. But he was like, “No! Don’t! I want to keep it as pristine as possible! I love it so much! And it’s an amazing story that we will tell our kids one day!!” So that’s him – my wonderful husband. 🙂
Thank you again for making this all possible!!!! You are amazing!!!!!
Introducing Mr. & Mrs. Ivan and Michelle Jimenez
After reading this most wonderful of emails and regaining my composure… ahem, I mean after I skulled a beer, scratched my balls and did other man stuff – I replied back to Michelle and basically asked for her permission to share this incredible story here on the website. Her reply, which again I shall leave unedited for the sake of a good story provides what I think is the finishing touches on an already awesome story and helps cement the reason why I love this couple so very much.
As such it is my genuine pleasure to formally introduce to the world Mr & Mrs. Ivan and Michelle Jimenez:
Greatest Love Story or What?!
Now do you see why I’m calling this the greatest love story in Hot Wheels history?! Even if it didn’t involve Hot Wheels it would still be the greatest love story ever – awwww man, beats my version: Met my wife working at IBM… ummm yeah that’s all I got.
Thanks again to Michelle and Ivan for allowing me to share your story with a 1:64 scale diecast world – and from all of us here in customizing land we wish you both eternal happiness and prosperity.