Friday, May 11, 2018

When the Hot Wheels Twin Mill debuted at 2001 SEMA, the other items in the booth received significant attention as well, they were just props, but had so much demand, they became licensed products!

The above photo was found on

The above photo, a moment later shows the opening of the roof, and off to the right, the rims display, photo by the kindness of Carson Lev

When I was at the 50th Anniversary Hot Wheels event, I learned about the pivotal role Carson Lev played in the Hot Wheels merchandising and licensing programs, which started with his job interview, and how he was central to the Twin Mill being completed as a full size real car, from the moment he was hired.

When Carson interviewed for his dream job as Hot Wheels Director of Design, his new boss said
“Great interview, the job’s yours… do you have any questions?"
Knowing the Twin Mill had been stored outside for over a year and it's iconic place in Hot Wheels history as the 1st originally designed Hot Wheels car, he responded, "what about the Twin Mill?" and bingo, the exec interviewing him saw an enthusiast with gumption and moxie.

He was given the Twin Mill project, and no budget, as the exec was sure that anyone that enthusiastic would work miracles and complete what had fallen by the wayside and forgotten about.

It wasn't a risky decision, Carson was exactly the right person to take on the challenge.

It was nearly the 35th anniversary of Hot Wheels, and making the Twin Mill concept prototype a reality, would be the shiny crown jewel of future anniversary events.

So, Poof! Instant Presto Chango, Carson went from the newest employee, to Director of Design for Hot Wheels. Well, he was under the gun to resurrect what had been accomplished so far at Hot Rods by Boyd, which had started on it in 1996 by making a frame, subbing out the body etc, (but Boyd's went bankrupt in 1998 due to a half million dollar build going unpaid). They had to rescue the car in an early morning collection before the bankruptcy receivers arrived to snag all the Coddington's business stuff.

About 2 years passed since the Twin Mill was parked behind the warehouse at Hot Wheels, rusting, and getting weathered.

Carson took the Twin Mill to the Barry Lobeck hot rod shop for completion of the build, then back to Carron Industries for the signature Candy Apple Spectraflame and other finishing touches, then Bob Larivee, godfather of the car show car circuit was engaged to do promotions for a car show tour agreement.

Realizing a full scale, fully operational Hot Wheels car was a marketing goldmine, Carson contacted friends at SEMA and arranged for the unveiling to take place there. You know how I love SEMA booths and innovative booth displays, well, more than just showing it at SEMA, Carson  brainstormed further, working from the premise "What if we made Hot Wheels motor oil, wheels, tools, custom paint, clothing, and car wax....what would it look like?” That's lifestyle marketing in place of product marketing, and it's genius for booth displays!

So, instead of a just free publicity for the Twin Mill on display, it doubled up as an anchor for a booth promoting Hot Wheels as not just a cool toy company, more as a lifestyle for the 45 million men that grew up with Hot Wheels.

So, displayed around the booth were items developed as props to be displayed with the Twin Mill: billet custom wheels, car wax, paint samples, clothing, tools and auto accessories; all branded Hot Wheels.

Boom! Great idea in action, at the right place, time, and with the key target demographic... SEMA people!  It suddenly appeared that Hot Wheels was in the aftermarket business from the booth props, and licensing contracts were signed, bringing these products to life.

That is how Hot Wheels was launched into the collateral products world.

Once more, Carson had changed careers, from Director of Design to being appointed the Director of, and inventor of, Hot Wheels Adult Licensing, growing the business to new levels and reinforcing the tagline “World’s Coolest Car Company”.

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