Friday, July 18, 2014

Hot Wheels USB Drives

In the summer of 2011 before my junior year of high school, I made my first Hot wheels flash drive (or USB, jump drive, thumb drive, whatever you call it).  I remember the very day I made it: I had spent two and a half hours in the basement hacking around, only to have my father come home and yell at me for wasting my time.  I was apparently supposed to be studying for my first ACT class, even though there was nothing to study before the first day of class ...

'10 Mustang GT, HP v165w 16 GB flash drive
Front and rear faces detailed with Sharpies as always.

I figured since Hot wheels were generally very tough and appropriately sized, they would make good USB drive housings.  Putting a flash drive into a toy car would also give me an excuse to bring a toy car wherever I went.  My first Hot wheels flash drive was a 2010 Ford Mustang GT, which I have multiple versions of.  I chose this specific one not only because I've always been a Mustang fan, but also the wheels were far enough apart to fit a USB jack in between.  In fact, the distance between the "inner fenders" of the car was so perfect that I didn't need to use anything to fill in the space.  Like a few '10 Mustangs I have, this one has the "Faster Than Ever" nickel plated axles that not only have less friction but are stiffer, making it better suited to this task.  After drilling out the rivets on the bottom, the rest of the work on this car was done with a Dremel and assembled with hot glue.  The most work on this car took place on filing down the interior piece to get the proper fit.  Since the HP v165w flash drive was small, I fit it into the smaller front of the car, reducing the leverage if it was ever hit while plugged in.  I used two halves of the original cap inside the car: one half to hold the USB in the front of the car and one half to make sure the back part stayed on.  I tried giving this car suspension but that didn't work too well and I got rid of it.  Another benefit of using a car as a flash drive is that it's impossible to lose the "cap."

Summer 2013 re-paint: Torch Red on outside and black on inside, shown here after some use.  

The Mustang, having been used and brought with me every single day for the last two years of high school, obviously had major paint issues by the time college came around.  Since this was the first Hot wheels flash drive I made, it had also been rebuilt and tweaked several times within those two years.  So, after high school ended, I pried it apart again, sanded and repainted it, and put it back together for (hopefully) one last time.  By that time though, the Mustang already had a partner.  Both of the cars went into a tough plastic box that I lined with cloth, made to be carried in my backpack.

'97 F-150 with sliding flash drive

Enter 1997 Ford F-150.  In the winter of senior year, my friend Nikolai (of course) introduced me to Portable Apps, a series of software that can be loaded onto a flash drive and carried everywhere so even on a public computer, you can use your favorite internet browsers, editing software, etc.  Since I regarded these as "utilities," I thought what better way to carry these than in a work truck, right? Again, being a die-hard Ford fan, I chose an F-150.


This truck came with huge, bulky monster truck tires but I found out that the F-150 casting actually came with regular wheels when it was first released.  At this point, I'd already been chopping up and modifying Hot wheels for a while so I had amassed a small collection of spare axles and other parts from scrap cars.  I took these two axles from a "Street Cleaver" that happened to be the perfect width.  I then cut down the huge axle housings, made my own out of a plastic bottle, and added suspension made from guitar strings.  As mentioned in a previous post, the suspension makes it so the axles don't get bent if the car gets squished and it's also more fun to play with.

As shown in the photos, the flash drive slides out of the bed.  I cut the tailgate out so it could open and then cut the rivet, which was part of the bed floor, off the tailgate so it could actually lay flat (just look at a Hot wheels pickup truck and you'll see what I mean).  I then glued the rivet to the top of the flash drive so it could be used as a grip to slide it out.  Inside the bed, I glued two vertical slices of plastic Hot wheels packaging to act as rails guiding the flash drive and the interior also had to be trimmed.  The slot in the top of the bed cover allows the rivet to protrude and therefore the user to push the flash drive out.  The hardest part of this build was to get the tailgate to spring back after the flash drive was retracted.  I used elastic bands and they have stayed on surprisingly well, but the "hinge" at the bottom of the tailgate isn't actually a hinge, it's just sort of a pivot point.  If the truck is flipped upside down, the tailgate sometimes flops out and dangles.  I haven't found a feasible solution to that problem.

2010 Shelby Super Snake for Mom, headlights and taillights colored in. 

As expected, friends and family caught on with my monkey business.  Months after making my first flash drive, I made another one out an identical purple Mustang, for a friend except that one used a full-size flash drive.  That one had to be installed into the back part of the car but the cool part was that the light flashed and made the interior of the car glow.  Shortly before high school ended, I made a flash drive out of a '10 Mustang Shelby Super Snake, pictured above, for my mom's birthday.  Coincidentally, 2013 was the 49th year of the Mustang, 50th birthday for Mom, and 51st anniversary of Shelby American.  I then made an Aston Martin V8 Vantage for my dad's birthday a month later, pictured below.

Dad's Aston Martin and Mom's Shelby.  Original USB caps are visible in the Shelby.  

After all of these, I can't say the quality has increased all that much because of my lack of better glue and tools.  I don't even think the process has gotten faster because each car is different.