Hot Wheels, the beloved toy car brand, is launching a new television show on NBC. It’s not the first time the diecast vehicles have been on screen, but this time it’s not an animated program aimed at kids. Hot Wheels: Ultimate Challenge appears to be a reality show about building life-size cars that capture the spirit of the orange track-tested toys.
If we understand the premise correctly, each of the episodes will feature Hot Wheels “superfans” competing against each other as they “[turn] a nostalgic car from their past into the life-sized Hot Wheels of their dreams.” The show is hosted by former Top Gear US presenter and car guy Rutledge Wood, while the finished creations will be ranked by different celebrity judges on each episode. Guiding the personalities will be Dalal Elsheikh, a designer for Ford, and Hert Eugene Jr., an influencer in the drift scene.
Of course, as a reality show everything isn’t going to be as straightforward as it seems. Producers will throw a wrench into the build with something called the Inspirationator 5000, which is described as “a larger-than-life vending machine that will rev up in each episode to present the Superfans with a twist in the road.” No further details were provided.
Each episode’s winner gets $25,000 in cash and chance to be in the season finale. The final episode will see a three-way competition with $50,000 at stake. The winning build at the end of the 10-episode season will not only take home the cash, but have their car immortalized in miniature as a toy Hot Wheels car you can buy.
Unlike many other diecast toy car brands, Hot Wheels has carved out a distinctive niche. Rather than replicate cars in small scale with exacting accuracy, the toys must evince a sense of speed. They’re designed to be raced on infinitely configurable plastic tracks, and Hot Wheels designers create many fantasy designs that have no real world analogue. Even the Hot Wheels versions of popular cars — which include everything from Mustangs to Skyline GT-Rs — tend to feature custom stances and spoilers that aren’t exactly factory original.
“Everyone remembers their first car, the life experiences they had and the friends who came along for the ride, said Corie Henson an executive VP at NBCUniversal, “Hot Wheels is a legendary brand that has created a space for imaginations to run free.”