Hot Wheels Legends Tour: This Rad Roadster Dropped Jaws in Detroit07/12/2019
An elegant roadster, 15 years in the making and a composite of an amazing array of ideas and parts, was competing with a rat rod slathered in skulls and bamboo. A Mad Max special breathed fire near a Suzuki Samurai on snow tracks: fire versus ice. The savvy spied the Karmann Ghia with a T-Top and appreciated the cool Chevy van rescued from the side of the road. Kids lined up to peek inside a sinister school bus.
The Motor City is known for grit, hard work, and a passion for cars. So it was no surprise that the Dearborn stop on the 2019 Hot Wheels Legends tour drew a big crowd and diverse array of modified vehicles vying to be made into the next die-cast model.
Paul and Cheryl Jurewicz of Shelby Township drew praise from the judges for their Dream Roadster, which traces its roots to a ’57 Studebaker Golden Hawk. But that was just the beginning of a 15-year project that drew inspiration from a sketch and used imagination and parts from about seven makes and models to make it a reality.
Paul is no stranger to Hot Wheels. He had a 1968 Python—one of the original 16 Hot Wheels offered for sale. The Python was based on a car designed by the staff of Car Craft magazine in 1961, and the “Dream Rod” was built in 1963. He used the same sketch to build his own car but as a roadster, using a model car to see how it would look without a top.
He took a Frankenstein approach. Like the original Dream Rod, his Dream Roadster has a windshield and other parts from a Studebaker, front fenders and doors—which he shortened—from a ’60 Pontiac, Corvair portions in back, some Lincoln touches, and a pair of headlights donated by two Harley-Davidsons.
Perhaps the most ingenious move was taking the sunroof from an ’80s Audi wagon and laying it across the back of the car, creating a unique trunk. Who even envisions that, let alone tries it? Another cool touch: The shifter knob is a wooden wine stopper he found at the Ann Arbor art fair.
This mad genius gave the car a House of Kolor Sunrise Pearl Paint job. The Dearborn show was the first time the Dream Roadster ventured outside, and the paint sparkled in natural sunlight. The car is almost finished, he said.
Judges, who included Hot Wheels designers and car buffs, quickly put the Dream Roadster on the short list of potential winners.
“The ones that stood out really stood out,” Natalie Neff, a judge from AutoWeek, said. The panel of judges, which also included a couple members of the Chevrolet Camaro team, a state senator, and other car buffs, was on the lookout for the car displaying the healthiest dollops of authenticity as a Hot Wheels car, creativity so they stand out from the already-diverse crowd, and garage spirit that gauges the craftsmanship behind the creation.
There was also admiration for the work put in by David Rappley on his matte blue ’77 Chevy van, notable for its clean design and simplicity.
It didn’t start out that way. Three years ago Rappley drove from his Grand Blanc home to Georgia to buy a ’59 Chevy Impala only to discover too much rust to make the purchase. He was on his way home with an empty trailer when he spotted a ’77 Chevy van on the side of the road in South Carolina. It had a bad transmission, and it had been sitting there for five years, long enough for grass to take root. But it had a solid body, so $800 later it was on the trailer headed to Michigan. The reserve deputy sheriff used his spare time to bring it back to life.
Rappley created his own personal trim level: the SS 383. The van (which never had a Super Sport badge from the factory) has a 430-hp 383-cubic-inch V-8 stroker engine with a nitrous oxide system. He cut holes in the hood for a functional cold air intake and had a little fun by giving it googly eyes. In back, he mounted ’59 Cadillac taillights. The van was painted Sand Blue with his own SS 383 badging applied.
This was Rappley’s first van, and he hadn’t given any thought to finishing the interior. In the end he decorated with wood from Home Depot with white LED strips. The project has taken three years, and the next step is installing hand controls so that Rappley, who uses a wheelchair, can drive it. “I built it to enjoy it.”
The van and the man behind it impressed the judges, who had to pick a winner from the Dearborn event’s 220 entries, no easy task at this one-day gathering of muscle cars and wild custom creations in a Walmart parking lot with a crowd as varied as the vehicles they were treated to.
One of the judges, Michigan Senator Mallory McMorrow, had a unique perspective. She worked for Mattel from 2009 to 2012 with the Hot Wheels global brand and licensing team, developing a style guide for the brand and designing backpacks, skateboards, and other merchandise—essentially everything but cars.
McMorrow said she knew Hot Wheels sought unique cars with a sense of imagination. “I interviewed kids to see what they like,” she said. Their favorite: a modified school bus with graffiti, a “Drop’d out” sign instead of a stop sign, and comfy seats and floor lighting inside. Fellow judge Neff also liked the bus. “There was a joyous mood about it.”
The 18-city Hot Wheels Legends tour started in March and continues with one vehicle chosen at each stop to move onto the finals at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, this fall to immortalize a vehicle as a Hot Wheels 1:64-scale die-cast metal toy.
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