Modifying a Hot Wheels Ford Panel Van

By Luciano J. Pavloski

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

Long ago I was looking for a Ford F100 van from the 1950s in 1:43 scale, but there was only one option in this scale: a very expensive 1955 Durham Classics model. If it’s expensive in Europe, here in Brazil: with the current exchange rate and postage costs it is astronomically expensive. Besides, whilst Durham’s miniature is beautiful, it’s not very detailed.

Then one day I noticed photographs on the internet of a Hot Wheels 1955 “hot rod” model that I had never previously paid any attention to. Despite not being a well-known model, looking at the photographs I saw that it is very well modelled with good proportions. It was a shame that it was a hot rod when I collect miniatures of unmodified vehicles.

I found a cheap model on eBay without difficulty and I bought it. Interestingly, it was manufactured in 1999 and came in its original sealed plastic packaging. It was nice to take a brand new model out of the box after 20 years! There were even some yellowish adhesive tapes and elastic that had dissolved over time.

Compared with Yat Ming after completion

The Hot Wheels model reproduces the original vehicle very well and is in the correct scale when placed next to a Yat Ming pick-up and both have the same dimensions. The hood opens showing an all-chrome engine, except for the radiator. The wheels and tires are much larger at the rear, as befits a hot rod. The headlights are clear plastic and the interior (all in beige) has some non-original features. The steering wheel and sports seats are ‘after market’ items. The windshield wipers are moulded into the shell.

An interesting feature of the model is that the front section, including the doors, is moulded separately from the rest of the body and attached to it by rivets. That’s because Hot Wheels also produced models of the F100 pick-up at the same time and used the same front on both models.

Ok so that is the Hot Wheels model in its original state. But I had something else in mind: a red van with the original factory features.

The first step was to disassemble everything to remove the paint. Glass and dashboard are fastened by rivets and this is always the hard part when dismantling diecast models. Once everything was broken down to parts I could remove the original paint from the painted parts with paint stripper, and then paint it with red paint over white primer.

Luckily I already had the parts needed for the transformation in my scrap box. The wheels were replaced by those from a 1951 Ford F1 pickup from Ixo (Part of the Brazilian car collection). Greenlight also produce the pick up from the same mould.

The engine in the original was an uprated one, so I sanded some parts, removed the large carburettor, and replaced it with parts from a Ford BB157 1934 truck from Unique Replicas. I painted the engine block in blue and added two bars made with wire in the engine bay, because that exists in the original van. I hope that this is visible in my photographs.

Inside I replaced the seats and the sports steering wheel with others a closer match with the original ones. I painted the dashboard and interior of doors in red and the bench seat in brown.

Outside the mirror is the original, but I replaced the plastic rod with a metal one. The hood emblem was laser printed on glossy paper. The grille and bumpers were painted white. Before painting I masked the “V8” emblem and the indicator lights with adhesive tape to retain the chrome on these parts.

And that was it! It took some work, but it cost a seventh of the price of a Durham model and it has more details. I am pleased to add this to my collection.

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