With the arrival of Hot Wheels’s Car Culture Japan Historics 2 and the Nissan Hakosuka wagon as part of the Cargo Carriers series, it seems the hype for Japanese cars in the diecast collecting world is as fierce as ever, and the Hot Wheels “dream team” are working hard to meet that demand.
But the Hakosuka Wagon arriving for 2018 is only the second station-wagon (or estate, as we call them) of Japanese origin to come from Hot Wheels, the first being Jun Imai’s Datsun Bluebird wagon which debuted in the Boulevard line (a fabulous series by all accounts) in 2013 – and it’s that wagon that arguably kick-started the Nippon craze.
Sadly, as I live in the UK, I wasn’t able to grab one of those Datsun wagons when they debuted, and by now the price for them is so high – driven by collector hype and a certain online blogger, no doubt – that it just doesn’t make sense to fork out $80+ for what is essentially a car worth less than the price of a Happy Meal.
In fact, the only Hot Wheels Datsun I’ve ever found in “the wild” would be the yellow racing livery which I picked up in the auto-parts dealer Halford around two years ago.
I wanted to customise one, since there’s been a tremendous amount of them on Instagram (and those who follow me there will have already seen it) so recruited my friend Vava from Serbia (he’s on instagram, @vavasallthingsdiecast – go find him and hit that follow button, he’s a great guy) to send me a 510 wagon with the “JNC Surf Patrol” livery. The clear windows on the model make it a great canvas for your imagination!
The surf Datsun rocked up at Paradise Cove on March 14, and I was already loving the casting. The blue came out so nicely in the sun that I was even a little hesitant to strip it at first. But those red wheels had to go immediately.
I had an M2 ’57 Chevy sitting around with a few bits missing (as is prone to happen with M2 Machines) and was heartbroken to have him just laying there unloved. I decided to take his wheels and put them to good use, and after lowering the suspension on the wagon, it sank onto these beautiful whitewalls. A bit of a left-of-field choice, since most customisers favour some deep-dish spoked rims, but I love the classic whitewall look, and since this technically started as a 60s wagon, I think you can get away with it. Putting surfboards on the roof in this early stage also convinced me that I needed a roof rack.
I always work from life, and so I did some research into existing Datsun wagons and the kinds of colours and mods on them so that my custom would look right. This was probably my favourite, gleaned from a Google image search (apologies as I have since lost the source).
Having fallen in love with that grungy grey/green style, I went for this metallic jade colour that I had already tried out on a Hot Wheels 1957 Plymouth. I feel it definitely works better on the Datsun, and it wasn’t long before I’d stripped the casting of the old paint and given him a new colour.
Once the paint was dry, adding a few details tastefully is all it takes to make the colour really pop. I loved that dual colour headlamp arrangement so had to emulate it – it’s not something I see often in diecast customs either, so felt it made mine stand out from the crowd.
It was at this point I also decided to construct a roof rack. I’d looked at some different designs online again and opted for a retro wooden style roof rack. These are fairly simple to make with some paperclips and crafting dowel and look great when finished. I fixed it together with clear drying superglue, though I’ve heard soldering roof racks is also a good alternative.
Once the detailing is finished and the roof rack fitted, it’s time to seal it all in place with some lacquer. This doesn’t make the paint completely invulnerable mind, and customised cars chip as easily as new Majorettes, so even with plenty of clearcoat be sure to look after your customs!
When the lacquer dries, a license plate finishes off the look, and then it’s safe to seal it up. Of course, you can apply the license plate first and seal it on, but I only apply the plates with a bit of blu-tac, so I can change them if need be.
And there it is – a custom Datsun Bluebird wagon. I love how it turned out, and it fits in perfectly with my dioramas. I also think it’ll look great sitting alongside the Hakosuka wagon, when eventually I get one.
Thanks for reading – I hope you have enjoyed today’s post, and good luck in all your own customs and collecting!