Home » A Man Loved His Toy Car So Much He Spent 17 Years Making It Real, Now It Can Be Yours

A Man Loved His Toy Car So Much He Spent 17 Years Making It Real, Now It Can Be Yours

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Countless kids, likely including you when you were little, grew up playing with and collecting tiny diecast cars and dreaming about a high-octane future. A number of today’s enthusiasts owe at least some of their car love to Matchbox and Hot Wheels and today, you have a rare chance to make your dreams a reality. This 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk ‘Dream Roadster’ is a real-life toy car based on one of the tiny diecast hot rods from decades ago. It’s time to be a kid again as you can buy this real working car with some famed video game history.

The Dream Roadster is going to roll across the Mecum Harrisburg 2024 auction block on Friday, July 26. So, you have some time to gather the big dollars this vehicle will probably command. You’ll be getting an award-winning hot rod that started life as a Studebaker before getting parts from Fords, Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles, and more. Readers who play Xbox will recognize this car from its appearance in Forza Horizon 4 from the Hot Wheels Legends car pack. You may have also seen it in countless car shows.

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What I love most about this car is that it’s a labor of love that took over a decade to turn into reality. Now, it’s time for someone else to be the car’s steward.

When Bold Is Cooler Than Realistic

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Back when I was a kid, I found there were a couple of camps of diecast car kids. Some of us, like myself, adored the scaled-down real-life cars of Matchbox, Maisto, Johnny Lightning, and the like. Then there were the kids who loved the wild fantasy custom creations of Hot Wheels. Regardless if you like your diecasts as scaled-down real cars or the hot-rod stuff, they helped plant the seeds of car enthusiasm and many adults still collect these tiny rides today.

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Paul Jurewicz is one of those fans of Hot Wheels and his love goes back to the very start.

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Mattel

As the story goes, Mattel co-founder Elliot Handler was looking for a way to improve the diecast toy market. It was the late 1960s and he felt that the diecast cars of the day were just too realistic. As Hagerty notes, there was an additional problem. Handler and his wife Ruth brought some 1:64 scale cars home from Europe. It’s not known what exact cars were brought back, but it was likely one of the scale real cars from Corgi, Lesney, or Matchbox. Either way, the grandkids the vehicles were given to weren’t happy with how poorly the toys rolled.

The look of what would become Hot Wheels was the work of Harry Bentley Bradley, a designer from General Motors with another portfolio of designing California Custom-style hot rods. Bradley is the reason the original Hot Wheels cars were adorned with massive tires, custom wheels, exaggerated proportions, chromed-out custom engines, and bold Spectraflame colors.

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United States Patent and Trademark Office

That alone was enough to give Hot Wheels cars the punch they needed to stand out above the comparatively plain European diecasts, but there was another trick. Mattel director of product development engineering Harvey La Branche was the lead inventor of a new way for diecast cars to roll. The typical diecast car of the day used solid steel axles that were hard-mounted to the car. Branche’s idea replaced those steel axles with flexible pieces of steel wire. These wires, which were guitar strings in the prototypes, were mounted in a way that gave the cars a durable sort of suspension at the axle ends.

The wheels were then made out of plastic, given bushings inside, and were given just enough camber so that a minimum amount of plastic tire actually touched a surface. The plastic wheels were then aligned so that the cars “drive” straight instead of wobbling all over the place like the competition. Hot Wheels cars didn’t just look fast, but they were engineered to blow the other diecasts out of the water.

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The Dream Roadster

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The original 16 Hot Wheels cars were inspired by the hot rods and muscle cars of the era and are very collectible today. One of those originals is the 1968 Python, a diecast based on the Car Craft Magazine ‘Dream Rod’ penned by publication staff in 1961:

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Paul Jurewicz, an experienced hot rodder in Michigan, had an original Hot Wheels Python growing up. He also had a 1978 MPC Tiger Shark like the one above before selling it. The Tiger Shark was also based on the Car Craft Dream Rod but on a larger scale than the Hot Wheels version.

Like any lover of tiny diecast cars, he wanted to drive a real version of his youth. According to WWJ 950, Jurewicz’s build wouldn’t be a direct replica of the Hot Wheels Python, but his own idea based on a mix of six different designs with the Tiger Shark as a base. Much like the California Custom hot rods so many know and love, his Dream Roadster has a little bit of everything but the kitchen sink in it.

The build book for his Studebaker Dream Roadster states that Jurewicz would also draw inspiration from the 1961 issue of Car Craft Magazine, where the Dream Rod was found and turned into a bunch of diecast toys and models. The car shown is the magazine’s Dream Roadster concept:

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The book also notes that Jurewicz started small, building a scale model of his idea in 2001. The build began in earnest a few years later.

Jurewicz started with a 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk found in a junkyard. He scavenged the vehicle for its cowl, door frames, and A-pillar structure, including the windshield. From there, Jurewicz grafted on the front end and doors of a 1960s Pontiac, the rear end of a 1963 Chevrolet Corvair, and the hood of a 1959 Ford Thunderbird.

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I’m sure you’re squinting right now and possibly not seeing where all of these cars went. That could be because Jurewicz got really creative here. The rear end isn’t just a Corvair, but he also scavenged the sunroof from an ’80s Audi wagon that serves as the vehicle’s trunk lid, and the right headlight door from a 1967 Oldsmobile Toronado is grafted onto the front end.

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Those headlights? They were lifted from two Harley-Davidsons. There’s even a little Shelby in there, and I mean a little: the mirrors are from a 1965 Shelby Mustang. There’s even a little Lincoln Continental in there with the taillights. Even the interior is great with its black leather and wood Nardi wheel.

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The platform underneath is an equally fascinating mix of parts. The vehicle rides on an independent suspension thanks to a 1980s-era Jaguar suspension in the rear and a Corvette C4 suspension up front.

A 4.6 liter Ford Modular V8 joined the chat from a 1996 Lincoln and it’s backed by a Ford C4 three-speed automatic. This engine has a custom intake, a Demon carburetor, and an MSD Ignition. Jurewicz never stated anything about engine output, but it could be in the ballpark of 300 HP.

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All of this is stopped by four-wheel slotted and drilled disc brakes clamped on by Wilwood 6-piston calipers and sizable 20-inch Weld Evo wheels give the car that signature Hot Wheels proportions. Jurewicz spent 17 years building this masterpiece and he capped it off with House of Kolor Sunrise Pearl paint.

The car then went on to win award after award, from Mecum Auctions:

First in class awards at the 2019 and 2020 at Detroit Autorama.
Gene Winfield “Select Six” contender at the 2019 Syracuse Nationals in New York.
Fine Nine contender and Darryl Starbird’s Personal Choice award at the Darryl Starbird National Rod & Custom car show in 2020.
Judge’s Pick award winner at 2021 Eyes on Design Concours d’Elegance in Grosse Pointe Shores, Michigan.
Featured in the SEMA Battle of the Builders.

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The Dream Roadster also made an appearance at the 2019 Hot Wheels Legends Tour. If you don’t know what the Legends Tour is, Mattel hosts custom car shows around America where builders show off their work for the chance to have their vehicle immortalized as a future Hot Wheels diecast. The Dream Roadster lost the Legends Tour to the 1957 Nash Metropolitan “Nashole,” but the folks of Microsoft did something arguably just as cool.

The Dream Roadster was scanned, created as a 3D model, and inserted into the virtual world by way of the Hot Wheels Legends car pack in Forza Horizon 4.

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A Real-Life Diecast

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While the Dream Roadster didn’t become a diecast car, it’s still about as close as you’re going to get to driving a real Python. So, this is one of those rare opportunities where you as an adult can take a trip back and at least feel like a kid again. If you’re like me, you made engine noises as you tore up imaginary streets with your cars. Now you can do the real thing.

Jurewicz has decided to pass on his dream car to another Hot Wheels fan. Those with the kind of cash to play will want to pay attention to the Mecum Harrisburg Auction on July 26. Buying the car gets you the whole lot from the vehicle to a pile of magazines, awards, parts records, and the vehicle’s build book.

While I may have been a Matchbox kid, Hot Wheel cars were still a source of wonder. It’s awesome to see big ideas turned into something real and even better to see someone’s dream come true. Now, Jurewicz is passing on his dream to brighten up someone else’s day.

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Gilbert Wham
Gilbert Wham
26 days ago

Those pop-down headlights make me happy

David Puckett
David Puckett
26 days ago

I was definitely a Hot Wheels kid. Matchbox was boring to me as a kid. A “Silhouette” in fair condition on EBAY can bring hundreds of $.

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
26 days ago

I love the dashboard. That’s how you do a minimalist interior.

Mike Sutter
Mike Sutter
26 days ago

This car was on BAT back in May 2022.
https://bringatrailer.com/listing/custom-1957-studebaker/
Probably the wrong crowd for this hot rod.

Really No Regrets
Really No Regrets
26 days ago
Reply to  Mike Sutter

Thanks for the link. Great photos!

James Carson
James Carson
26 days ago

Very cool story and car.

Israel Moore
Israel Moore
26 days ago

A little clarification here. The model handler used was a Matchbox 1966 Ford Mustang 2+2 Fastback. This was the actual prototype for Hot Wheels.

Another clarification. Mattel’s real intent was to put the other brands out of business and conquer the entire diecast market for itself. Johnny Lightning was one of the first victims. Attempts to buy both Dinky and Matchbox solely for their market share failed after Universal Toys bought Dinky in 1979 and Matchbox in 1982.

Mattel bought Corgi in 1987 and used it’s market share to boost Hot Wheels in Europe, and slowly choked Corgi to near-existence until Corgi’ management bought the brand back in 1994. Mattel finally bought Matchbox in 1997 when it took over Tyco Toys, primarily for Tyco’s remote-control racer toys. Mattel has finally gotten its coveted market share, but Matchbox continues to hold on.

Patrick
Patrick
26 days ago

Impressive, but I was more of a “Majorette” kid, in part because of their realism (vs flaming creations), but they were so cool with their opening doors or hood/hatch. Not to mention the suspension feel. And then there was the forbidden euro fruit I learned to love… And that’s without mentioning the cities you could build with kits sold separately..

Still, as far as Hot Wheels go, that was a cool one to build, I’ll admit that.

Also, 2 articles in the same day with Studebaker Golden Hawks? What are the odds?

Albert Ferrer
Albert Ferrer
26 days ago
Reply to  Patrick

I had tons of Majorettes (being European, not that strange I guess), some even had working lights and turning wheels.

Patrick
Patrick
26 days ago
Reply to  Albert Ferrer

Oh wow, that’s cool!

James Carson
James Carson
26 days ago
Reply to  Albert Ferrer

Had a majorette in high school.

Patrick
Patrick
26 days ago
Reply to  James Carson

Did you shake her pompom?

James Carson
James Carson
26 days ago
Reply to  Patrick

We rocketed each others world.

Cerberus
Cerberus
26 days ago
Reply to  Patrick

I was more of a realism kid, myself. Too much so, as I gave up on all of them when I started to compare the sizes of the real things relative to each other and realized that 1:64 was a very loose standard and that bothered me. I was always weird.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
26 days ago

I may be an aberrant 60s kid my favorite Hot Wheels from the era was the Lola T70.

Mark Tucker
Mark Tucker
26 days ago

This. Is. So. Cool!

Chronometric
Chronometric
26 days ago

This Matchbox and Hot Wheels kid approves.

Spence Nelson
Spence Nelson
26 days ago

This absolutely rules

Hangover Grenade
Hangover Grenade
26 days ago

The world needs more cars with asymmetrical front and rear graphics.

RedR58
RedR58
26 days ago

Yes….but not that odd flip down headlight. Car would look much better without it.

Ffoc01
Ffoc01
26 days ago

So, what your saying is, I need to go out and build my Dream XR4Ti?

http://mbx-u.com/ver-detail-var-listing.php?model=SF0275-003

Maryland J
Maryland J
26 days ago

All my life, I have searched for a car that feels a certain way. Powerful like a gorilla, yet soft and yielding like a Nerf ball. Now, at last, I have found it.

Homer

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
26 days ago

oh man, I had almost every one of those. My favorites the Silhouette, the Beatnik Bandit, Python, and the Barracuda. Had tons of track too. There are probably some lost in a storage box.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
26 days ago

It better come with a gigantic blue plastic carrying case and a rubber-band-powered launcher.

Cerberus
Cerberus
26 days ago

Not big on the wheels, but love everything else. An incredible build! I know it’s more for show than actual use, I still wonder how it drives.

Car Guy - RHM
Car Guy - RHM
26 days ago

The original Car Craft Dream Rod was actually built by Bill Cushenbery for Bob Larivee of Promotions Inc. and was finished in 1963 It was on the ISCA car show circuit. It is was restored and owned by Mark Moriarity in Minnesota

DriveSheSaid
DriveSheSaid
26 days ago

If you build it, they will Vroom.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
26 days ago

This would be fun to tool around in, but, sadly, there are no orange plastic highways near my town.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
26 days ago

These wires, which were guitar strings in the prototypes, were mounted in a way that gave the cars a durable sort of suspension at the axle ends.

Durable? Two-year-old me would strongly disagree, and I still have an original ’68 Python as evidence to the “durability” of the wire axles. My Beatnik Bandit suffered the worst, however. I think I was trying to turn it into a wheelless spaceship.

Of course, the wire axles were still pretty cool and allowed Hot Wheels to decimate my Matchbox and Johnny Lightnings on the orange drag strips of my childhood.

MaximillianMeen
MaximillianMeen
26 days ago

I expect my first post-retirement car restoration projects will be restoring my old HWs that I was too rough with. The baremetalHW YT channel is a great resource for ideas/tips on restoring these cars.

Unfortunately, the ones in my collection in the worst shape are the oldest ones that I got when I was a toddler that didn’t grasp the concept of collectability, and selfishly played with my toys.

Urban Runabout
Urban Runabout
26 days ago

I got my first set of Hot Wheels for Xmas 1968.
It was the track that you’d mount the starter to a back of a chair, and the bright orange track would run down, through loops to the end.
My set came with a blue Cougar and a gold Corvette.
Oh that was the best Xmas – until I got the racing set of Sizzlers (EV!) Hot Wheels in 1970 – That set came with a metallic red Mustang fastback and a white Firebird with blue stripes.

Last edited 26 days ago by Urban Runabout
Lori Hille
Lori Hille
26 days ago
Reply to  Urban Runabout

I wish I had kept my Sizzlers lap counter & starter. When my son was little, Sizzlers made a comeback but without some of the extras that I thought were too expensive on eBay.

Lori Hille
Lori Hille
26 days ago
Reply to  Lori Hille

I remember having the set where you mounted the double track starter on a chair; it funneled into one track. Then there was a loop and a jump. I remember having a few cars from that poster that my brother and I shared. I liked the Cougar.

Maymar
Maymar
26 days ago

This is amazing, and I’d love to see more of it. As much as I was more of a Majorette kid, some of Hot Wheels’s unlicensed designs are pretty cool. It’s never going to happen, but I’d I’d love my own life sized Custom Otto.

https://static.wikia.nocookie.net/hotwheels/images/4/42/Custom_Otto_-_40th_Anniv_Version.jpg

Alexk98
Alexk98
26 days ago

How this lost to the 57 Nash is completely beyond me. This is just a cut above the rest in terms of attention to detail, vision and execution. While dreamed up and aimed at an era way before my time, I can really dig the uniqueness of the build and the creativity required to get it to reality.

And before anyone says anything about a 4.6 modular with a 3-speed slush box, yeah it’s bland, but this is a show car, not a track toy or something to be driven like a Miata on Tail of the Dragon, even though that would be incredibly cool.

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