Life in the fast lane: Mattel's Bryan Benedict on designing Hot Wheels

Bryan Benedict spent ten years designing real cars before Mattel came knocking. Now, as a senior Hot Wheels designer, he’s the brains behind a raft of character cars including Star Wars and Super Mario ranges. Here, he tells Billy Langsworthy what life is like working inside the engine-room of the world’s most prolific car manufacturer.
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Bryan Benedict knew he wanted to design cars for a living from the age of five. Growing up in California with five petrol heads for older brothers, he didn’t have much choice.

But how did he go from wanting to design Ford’s next big hit to creating a Dodge Viper-inspired Darth Vader toy car as the senior staff designer on the Hot Wheels diecast design team at Mattel?

“I wrote a letter to General Motors when I was 12 and they told me everything I needed to know to get started in car design,” Benedict tells ToyNews.

Following a stint studying transportation design at Art Center College of Design in Pasedena, Benedict began his career in the actual car industry – the perfect preparation for designing Hot Wheels as it turned out.

“I worked with a number of car manufacturers, including Honda, Mercedes-Benz, Mitsubishi, General Motors and Ford in a variety of roles, as a sculptor, shaping ¼ scale and full-size cars out of clay, and as a designer,” he says.

“After 10 years in the car industry, I was approached by Hot Wheels. While there are a lot of similarities between designing real cars and 1:64th scale Hot Wheels cars, it also required a huge shift in thinking - a challenge I was excited about.”

His years at Mattel have seen Benedict lead development on a number of hugely successful Hot Wheels lines, including the Toy Story range and a Darth Vader vehicle, which actually got turned into a life-size working car.

“I oversee all Hot Wheels character cars, whether it is for Star Wars, Marvel, DC, or any other new licence,” says Benedict. “We just recently debuted our new Super Mario character cars, which I am excited about.”

But day-to-day, life inside the cylinders and pistons of the Hot Wheels machine is an ever changing routine.

He says: “Being a designer at Hot Wheels is a very exciting job that really varies from day to day. At any given time, I am working on designs for several cars, all at various stages of the design process. When starting to research for an upcoming vehicle design I grab inspiration from any number of sources.

And in his quest for inspiration, Benedict has found himself returning to his old stomping ground and dipping a toe back into the world of real cars when developing new Hot Wheels lines.

“At Hot Wheels we live and breathe cars, so naturally, we keep a close eye on what is going on in the car industry as well as the automotive aftermarket and customisation scenes,” continues Benedict.

“But I might also be inspired by nature, or other forms of design completely unrelated to cars. In the case of Hot Wheels Character Cars, I dive deep into the backstories and details surrounding the pop culture characters that I am representing in car form, which, as a fan myself, is a lot of fun.”

Whether it’s designing a Donkey Kong van, giving Buzz Lightyear the Hot Wheels treatment or turning up to Nuremberg Toy Fair in a life-size Darth Vader car, Bryan Benedict is living out the dream job of his five year old self, and then some.

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