It’s official: The hottest custom-built car in Windsor is a 1973 Toyota Celica
The heavily-modified retro-racer was crowned the local winner of the Hot Wheels Legends Tour event in Windsor last Saturday.
The car proceeds to the next round of the Hot Wheels contest — which means it has a chance of being immortalized as an official die-cast Hot Wheels toy.
“I really wasn’t expecting it,” said Kevin Huth of Windsor, the vehicle’s owner and builder. “There’s a lot of cool cars (here), so it’s pretty exciting.”
Huth found the 1973 Celica through a Craigslist ad placed by a seller in Washington State.
Once the vehicle arrived in Windsor, Huth embarked on a major rebuild — starting with the powertrain, which he completely overhauled to support a new 500-horsepower 5.7L Chevy LS1 V8 engine.
Huth also added a Nissan 370Z transmission, the 8.8-inch rear axle of a Ford Explorer, a hydraulic handbrake, a four-point racing harness, and a custom plaid interior.
About the only thing that Huth didn’t alter and upgrade on his “Tokyo Trans Am” was the original paint job.
Windsor’s Hot Wheels Legends Tour event — held in the parking lot of the east end Walmart Supercentre on Saturday — was the only Canadian stop in the North American tour.
Organizers originally planned for the show to have 113 spots, but the local response pushed them to expand the field to 250 cars.
Hundreds of auto aficionados of all ages were in attendance.
Imperial Oil marketing advisor Winnie Lai (the event was co-sponsored by Mobil1) described Saturday’s turnout as “overwhelming.”
“Windsor has been a great market for this competition. Just a great stop,” Lai said.
Philip Riehlman, a Hot Wheels designer and one of the judges on Saturday, said choosing a winner was tough. “It was a very hard choice because there are a lot of very cool builds, a lot of variety.”
The vast array of vehicles on display Saturday ranged from modern sports cars to restored classic models.
Among the more unique offerings: a 1930 Ford Model A rebuilt as a milk truck — complete with cow horn.
LaSalle resident Bob Burden impressed with his 1937 Ford Coupe inspired by Hot Wheels designs. “Everyone who looks at this car smiles, and that’s why I build them,” Burden said.
Riehlman said creativity and authenticity were among the criteria that ultimately resulted in Huth’s Toyota Celica being selected the winner.
“Something that you look at and you’re like, ‘That’s a Hot Wheels,’” Riehlman said.
Honourable mentions on Saturday went to a 1948 “gasser” (the term given for high-riding vintage drag cars) and “Dragula 2.0” — a car built by Kingsville Districh High School students.