In the last week or so, two of the final models of the 2014 Hot Wheels year were unveiled, to much applause from collectors. The Porsche 934 and 2015 Mustang both are making pretty big waves:
The response from collectors has been universal: These two models are fantastic. One is a car that is as current as they come, the other a classic. One American, one German. Yet both are amazingly detailed for $1 diecast cars, from their appropriate stances, to side and hood details, to other era-appropriate design queues.
And they both share one other common thread: they were both designed by Ryu Asada.
Ryu has burst on to the Hot Wheels scene, and blue collectors are now learning something that Matchbox collectors have known for awhile. Ryu is a tremendously talented designer. He initially came to Mattel to design for Matchbox, and started strong there as well. He designed a huge number of models from the 2005-2012 era of Matchbox that was defined by realism, both classic and current. Models like the Toyota Land Cruiser, Lamborghini Muira, Caterham Superlight, and last year's BMW 1M were all Ryu creations. In fact, Ryu had a hand in almost all of Matchbox's output during that time.
Then in 2013, Ryu was transferred to the blue side of the Mattel Design Center, and has been making his mark ever since. Here is just SOME of his output in 2014 alone:
1990 Honda Civic EF
Rig Storm & Project Speeder
Other models include the Hi-Tech Missile, Snow Plow, and the C7 Corvette Convertible. And that is just 2014.
In 2013, we saw Ryu's work in the C7 Corvette Stingray and Chevy C10:
And even before that, while Ryu was still designing for Matchbox, he churned out these two Honda gems for Hot Wheels, the S2000 and CR-X:
As you start looking at that output, you start noticing trends. An ability to duplicate cars past and present, with a flare for the cool and interesting. Ryu's 1990 Civic for example not only duplicates a car that many of us are familiar with, but more importantly is Hot Wheels' tribute to Kanjo Racing, a Civic-cominated car scene that originated in Ryu's hometown of Osaka, Japan.
You also see very creative non-licensed cars, like the "in-process" Project Speeder.
And yes, this variety of cars does remind one of another Hot Wheels designer, one Jun Imai, who has deservedly gotten his fair share of attention lately. The comparisons are obvious. Like Jun, Ryu is as pure a car nut as they come. While Jun zips around in his Datsun Wagon and 240Z, Ryu is equally as passionate about his S2000 and Subaru SVX. They both have an appreciation for car cultures of any kind, and they both are encyclopedias of knowledge.
And while designers don't make all the decisions on what models are going into each lineup, they definitely can leave their mark. Jun did so with the 510 Sedan and Wagon, BMW 2002, Hakosuka and Kenmeri Skylines, Toyota 2000GT, and Mad Manga, among many. Ryu appears to be doing the same with his output so far.
When we ask readers to vote for their favorite models of 2014 later this year, we are certain the Porsche 934, Civic EF, 2015 Mustang and Fiat 500 will all be at or near the top. That says a lot for what Ryu is doing. And the great thing? He is only getting started.
So Ryu, keep it up. We can't wait to see what is next...