With the Hot Wheels program we wanted to embrace the current trend of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) to make this line both fun and educational. All designs have pull-back gearboxes, and each have a different additional function which educates kids about key mechanical components of full-size cars. 

Land Crusher – Gearing

The Challenge:
This design’s functionality was a large push of mine from an engineering innovation perspective. I proposed that we deliver a gearbox which could be re-oriented and re-positioned to change how the car drives. I quickly encountered an obstacle to the implementation of this functionality – the gearbox would need to be permanently attached to the wheels because of our stringent safety requirements. This was a significant challenge because almost every single pull-back gearbox protrudes above, in front of, and behind the wheel it is driving. This would make it impossible to flip the gearbox upside-down since the chassis would rest on the protruding gearbox, holding the wheels off the ground. In addition, a fair amount of gearboxes rely on gravity to engage their gearing, so flipping them upside-down could make the gearbox internally unwind without ever powering the wheels. 

Designing a Solution:
The first steps I took on the path to a solution were combining the entire chassis into a single piece, and ensuring we were implementing this functionality on the car sculpt that had the largest wheels. From there it was close work with our HK office to source a premium gearbox which was flat enough to sit beneath the wheel profile when both rightside-up and upside-down, and also did not rely on gravity for its functionality. I then worked closely with our 3D creative team to develop an attachment mechanism which would allow the chassis to snap together with the car body from any rotation or direction. As a final touch, we sculpted directional arrows into the wheels so the drive direction is clear and easy for kids to understand. The resulting product can be easily manipulated by a child to switch between front-wheel and rear-wheel drive, and swap between forward and reverse drive directions.


Hammerhead – Traction

The Challenge:
We knew that a drifting behavior would be a great way to communicate the concept of traction, but previous drifting toys of ours have not been very ‘hands-on’ or particularly realistic in their functionality, requiring a manual push to make the car slide across the table on a raised ball/nub and spin slightly. To make this function coherent with STEAM principles, it would need to be re-engineered for realism and increased user interaction, with the end goal being a better user understanding of the principles of traction. 

Designing for Realism:
My proposal was to deliver the ‘drift ball’ not as a part of the car, but as a separate plate. The car would drive normally with the plate attached to the bottom of the car in its default orientation. However, flipping this plate upside-down would reveal an off-center ‘drift ball’ which would lift the front wheels off the ground, and introduced just enough friction to cause the pullback wheels to actually lose traction, propelling the car into a circular drifting motion. After multiple iterations and discussions about the plate’s sculpt with the creative team, we also developed a way for the plate to rotate 180˚ horizontally when the ball was exposed. This allowed us to deliver 2 different drifting behaviors, one of which is a more traditional drift, while the other is more of a spinout/donut.