Alternate Blog Titles:
It All Starts with 94 Cents or…
Hot Wheels Lighted Display Cases or…
I posted a pic of my cases with new LED lights a few days ago. My instagram blew up and a blog post was demanded. This is that post.
Be warned! There’s a lot of tiny car pix ahead. They all start to look like little colored blobs after so many photos. (I just edited all the photos and only see blobs). But in reality? They’re each gorgeous little snowflakes in my tiny car museum.
The Case How-To
First – you need a case or three.
I used these from amazon sold by DisplayGifts. They sell for anywhere from $60 to $90 depending on the time of year. They’re $72 each at the time of this writing.
The cases are great by themselves. The shelves are deep and allow for angled car placement. Six cars can fit on a shelf, but five looks better.
The cases hang well and the glass swings open easily without disturbing the contents. One of mine has even fallen off the wall before thanks to my cats. It landed a few feet below with no damage to the case or the cars.
Second – The Road.
The first mod I did to these cases was to add a surface for the cars to sit on. The cases are great, but they’re black. They tend to swallow black cars without some kind of contrast. So I put the checker stripe tape on every other shelf to give the black cars a place to sit. You can find this at most home improvement stores.
The road tape is a recent addition. That’s been sitting under the Hot Wheels displays at most Walmart stores lately. It’s pretty good! About the same width as the checker duct tape and a bit brighter than plain gloss black shelving. It sometimes needs help staying stuck down. A quick swipe of glue stick helps.
Then I got crazy and added lights.
Next – Lights.
I bought three strings of these “wire” micro LED lights. They sell for between $10 and $20 each. Each string has 100 lights and is juuust long enough for each Hot Wheels shelf to get a double string.
They sell different colored LEDs. I chose warm white. It creates a nice museum-like glow over the little cars.
I drilled one hole at the top corner of each case shelf. Then I measured and doubled a light string over itself and poked it through the hole. Repeat on each of the 12 shelves.
Light Installation and Mounting.
And a shop vac. Because holy crap does dust get EVERYWHERE. The back wall of the case is black velour. It’s not easy to clean sawdust off of it.
After cutting the light channels, I hit the top of each shelf with some black paint. I didn’t want to notice a big wood-colored area on the top of each shelf, so a bit of black paint seemed like a good idea.
Once the paint was dry, it was time to poke the lights through the holes and glue them in place. I just used hot glue. Nothing exotic. The lights are indeed “wire lights” and are easy to bend and form. After straightening each light loop, it didn’t take much hot glue to hold in place inside the channel.
Last Step – Light Diffusers.
I didn’t want to see the lights when looking at the case. I wanted them to be hidden and just light up the cars below. A bit of amazon research revealed these long craft sticks. They’re almost perfectly sized for the case. I had to cut off less than an inch from each stick.
I pained the stick batch with black spray paint after measuring and cutting (I used strong scissors). Then the hot glue gun came out again and I stuck each diffuser to the top of each shelf. Hot glue dries right away, but make sure to use enough.
The case was upside down on a work bench for all work. It just made everything easier to not fight gravity.
FINALLY, once I had everything in place, I used black RTV silicone to to seal up the small gap at the top between the diffuser and the shelf. This seals light leaks and gets the case looking perfect.
If it sounds like a lot of work… yes, it was. I would honestly not do this again if I knew how much work it was. But once I finished one case, I knew I wouldn’t be able to rest till they were all lit and modified.
It’s 2 to 3 hours of work per case. WAY way too much work and time I don’t have. But I’ve enjoyed the results every evening in my office. The lit cases look so good.
The revlimiter Hot Wheels Collection
And now for a billion pix of tiny cars. Because I’m constantly asked for pix of these little guys. Also I’m really proud of them.
Well, maybe not quite a billion…
Case 1. I’ve got a couple rows of Movie cars (including James Bond cars), some Miatas, various Super Treasure Hunts, Gulf Racing cars, track cars, and some random ones.
The James Bond cars are mostly from the Retro Entertainment line and have metal bases and rubber tires. They’re up there with my favorite cars. If Hot Wheels made more, I’d fill up more shelves with them.
Most of the Supers come to me by way of my buddy Eric. Though I’ve found some, my wife has found some, and I’ve traded for some. Still, I think it would barely be one row without Eric’s assistance.
Case 2 sits in the middle and contains all of my JNC cars. If it’s J-tin, Nostalgic, and awesome, it’s in this case. My very favorite cars are in this case.
Most of the cars in case 2 have some sort of modification. Either there’s minor detailing, a wheel swap, or a complete respray. There’s not many riding on the stock plastic wheels in here.
The silver RX-7 is a regular Treasure Hunt. The BRE is a Redline Club. Both needed and received wheel swaps. They look so much nicer. They might have lost a lot of value being drilled, but they give me a lot more enjoyment.
The NSX was a fun mod. The entire top is plastic, so it’s easy to cut off the targa or open up the hood to show the engine. The open top car is a Super Treasure Hunt.
The red and white 2000GT just might be my very favorite car in my loose collection. It’s a top 3 at the very least. It originally came from Redline Club with very jagged paint, so I completely repainted it by hand and sealed it with automotive clear. After a wheel swap of course.
The white Mad Manga needed its fenders nearly completely butchered to clear the regular sized wheels. They’re hollow inside and knife blade thin. But it rolls!
I blogged about the car that Jun Imai sent me a while back. It has a place of honor front and center in the JDM case.
The blue Z on the shelf above is a clone of Jun’s real 260Z, at least as close as I could make it. Is that a bit creepy? Maybe. But since Jun designed the HW version of his car and I had the Skyline he modified, I thought I should try to detail one up as close to reality as possible.
The purple Mad Manga is one of my daughter’s favorite cars. When she was just a year old, she’d push one around the carpet for hours. I took mine (no, I didn’t take hers away) and modified it with some SSR MK1 steelies.
Onto case 3.
Case 3 has more modern cars and some series in it.
I’ve got my Honda collection, a Porsche shelf, and my GOOD Miata shelf in here. In the spot of honor is my Matchbox Gathering Dinner Exclusive ND with commemorative “revlimiter” plate from the Million Miata event. I’ve also got my ROAD RCR cars, my Gran Turismo cars, and a Fast and Furious shelf. Supercars and Ferraris round out the case.
I took some close-ups of certain special cars in this case too.
So lucky to have this Matchbox in my collection! It’s the most I’ve ever spent on a single car, but I’ve not regretted it once. (No, I don’t wanna disclose the amount)
I really need an NC Miata in 1:64. I’ve just not found a nice one yet.
The Shark-nose Ferrari is one of the first Hot Wheels I ever bought as an adult. I then drilled it, made custom axles, and gave it some rubber tires. The interior and engine are also detailed. I did two like this and have one displayed in a steering wheel case.
The Gran Turismo series Hot Wheels put out last year has maybe some of the best decos they’ve ever done. They had a premium line of like 5 cars and a basic line of 8 cars. The basics were arguably better than the premiums.
I wheel swapped and detailed ALL of the basic cars. See the Ford GT? That’s actually the basic re-done with all of the goodies from the premium. I liked the matte paint better. Other cars got full detailed interiors and engines. I agonized over wheel choice on each. And I think this is the set I’m most proud of out of the whole case.
And that’s it. If anyone managed to get to the end without their eyes crossing or thinking me even more insane than before, I applaud you.
Now go spend a week modifying some cases of your own.