Newer collectors have heard of Larry Wood, but man, did they miss out knowing his presence when he was still designing for Hot Wheels at Mattel. 15 years ago, Larry dominated the Hot Wheels brand as his designs and inspiration could be seen behind many of the brand’s vehicles and several of its lines. Larry even have several lines with his own namesake on them — something that hasn’t happened since Larry left.
One thing I adore Larry for is the way he infused character into every car he designed. I have written about it in the past and will continue writing about it in the future. He was able to present his take on custom car culture so well because he was custom car culture. He even has his own garage where he works on his own 1:1 cars and it serves as a museum of sorts from his 50 years at Hot Wheels.
Long before he became known by his moniker, “Mr. Hot Wheels”, Larry was a young lad going to art school in Los Angeles. He first bought a Honda 100 bike to see more of LA. Opting for a larger bike to carry his stuff, he traded it in for a ’56 Royal Enfield (badged as an Indian 650), and built a rack to carry his supplies so he could travel on the freeways, Mulholland Drive, and even travelled to Ascot Park (once). One day while cruising Sunset Boulevard he spotted a red ’30 Ford Coupe at a garage, stopped, and worked out a trade. Larry finally had his first hot rod! Loads of trouble ensued as Larry “drove the hell out of it with many stories”. He would eventually buy a roadster body, a small block Chevy engine with automatic transmission, and painted it Pontiac green — assuming it must have been “the cool color at the time”. He finally had a vehicle that could keep with with LA traffic! Then he moved to Detroit…
After graduation in 1964, Larry went to work for Ford in Detroit. He knew he couldn’t have a roadster there. He saw an ad at Ford Obsolete for a ’29 Ford Pickup and ended up trading the ’30 Ford Roadster for it. While driving his newly acquired pickup for an interior, he ended up burning all the valves on the way back, and ended up having to have it shipped to Detroit. By 1967, Larry had built the truck up as a hot rod with a 289 Ford Hi-Po Engine, automatic transmission, and a Corvette rear end — all while working at Ford.
Larry’s ’29 Ford Pickup Hot Rod was being stored in a garage downtown during the infamous Detroit Riots of 1967. The house that sat adjacent to the garage was shot up but the garage was never hit. In 1968, Larry moved back to LA and had his truck — which was black at the time — shipped back to join him as he started his career at Mattel. Around 1970 or so, he painted the body yellow and the fenders green (as you can see in the photo below) using rare colors from the Porsche color palette. He also added the house on the back which housed nothing more than a beer barrel gas tank. This was the vehicle Larry drove most days to Mattel until he sold it in 1972 for cash to ultimately finish his ’32 Nash — which would also be done as a Hot Wheels car in Classic (’32) Packard.
To celebrate Larry’s 40 years of design in 2009, the Red Line Club offered a series of six vehicles — all of which Larry has a story for. This Hot Wheels #’29 Ford Pickup was #2 of 6 in that series. The truck was based on the Hot Wheels A-OK Larry designed in 1978, and had originally appeared as part of Hot Wheels Classics Series 5 earlier that year. In order to honor Larry, and the car he drove to Mattel during his early years at Hot Wheels, the casting was slightly re-tooled to have the house on the back for this one release.
The Hot Wheels #’29 Ford Pickup was produced as a premium-level casting from 2009 to 2014 before it was ultimately released one last time in basics as part of the Walmart Exclusive Ford Trucks Themed Assortment in 2018 (shown below in dark green). For this release, the truck was re-tooled once again, losing it diecast chassis with front and rear bumpers in order to be part of this basics-level series.
Like most of Larry’s vehicles, the #’29 Ford Pickup has become part of Hot Wheels lore. From being the truck that he drove to work when he started at Mattel to appearing in diecast form as part of this Red Line Club series that showcased his 40 Years in Hot Wheels Design (at the time). Hopefully this article shines some light as to how cool and nostalgic this release truly is. Even the #Real Riders LW5 Wheels it sits on are named after Larry Wood — hence the “LW”!
Get yours on eBay! You can still find these for around $20. Only 6,500 were produced.
A portion of this story originally appeared in a email Larry Wood sent to former colleagues. With Larry’s permission, Hot Wheels designer, Brendon Vetuskey posted his story on the Mattel Creations Red Line Club Exclusive Discussion forum. After reading that portion of the story on the forums, I reached out to Larry, and he was able to fill in the remaining details for this article written exclusively for orangetrackdiecast.com.
Categories: Collection Reflection
This was simply awesome. I love learning more and more each chance I get, that’s why I love OTD so much. It really opens my mind to some really cool castings as well. The LW Truck is on order now! Thanks again for this awesome piece of history!
Thanks so much, Vin! I appreciate your kind words. These one-off pieces are always so cool.
Brad, any idea where the reference to the wheels as “LW5” started as Mattel refers to the wheels as “5 Spoke Classic” RRs?
Just curious how long that has been around. After reading the article and getting curious I double checked and the RR Chart that Van posted. Both there and in the articles for RLC releases with these wheels they refer to the wheels as “5 Spoke Classic” (most recently in Dec, Kawa-Bug-A). I looked and added a note to the wiki fandom page for the wheels as well as it was not noted there before.
Good read as always
I recall Mattel using the LW5 name on HWC when they first came out hence why the name was adapted as that on the Wiki. I can ask Gary if he has the old sales article for this one… he probably does.
Darren, I was able to have Gary pull the original sales article draft and they were referenced as, “Real Riders® five-spoke wheels”.
Thanks Brad, it’s interesting how the names change time to time. We need to ask Van/Brendon to post an updated RR Wheel Chart in the photos section topic. I think the last one was updated in 2021 and several have come out since that time I think.
Such a cool story and an awesome Ford pickup.
That was the golden age of American hot rodding.
While Larry was going to school in L.A. he was better none as “L”Wood. Larry was always on the far edge of his designs and going to Matel let his genious run wild. I know Larry and he is a great and humble person.
Sounds like a great person! Thanks for the share!
What a cool little truck! And a wonderful story about Mr. Hot Wheels, himself!