The Darth Car: 12 Things You Need to Know About Hot Wheels’ Life-Size, 150-mph Darth Vader Car

The Darth Car: 12 Things You Need to Know About Hot Wheels’ Life-Size, 150-mph Darth Vader Car
Comic-Con 2014 opens tomorrow, but details on many of the big reveals have been blasted across cyberspace over the past couple of weeks. Pertinent (sort of) to our milieu was Mattel’s release of its Star Wars–themed Hot Wheels cars, but even more mindblowing is the fact that the company built a full-size, fully operational version of the Darth Vader–themed coupe, which it has dubbed the “Darth Car.”

Unfortunately, San Diego, the site of the annual Comic-Con International convention, is more than 2000 miles from our offices in Ann Arbor, so we did the next best thing and got on the phone with the Darth Car’s creators to find out more. Here’s what we learned:

1. It’s based on a C5 Corvette.
Yes, a C5 Chevrolet Corvette. With a body fittingly crafted primarily from fiberglass—carbon fiber was employed for the front splitter—the finished Darth Car is said to weigh nearly 50 percent less than the donor Corvette. And because a Sith Lord can’t ever sink low enough, the donor chassis was lowered slightly.

2. It is fully drivable—and fast.
The car has been road-tested at speeds up to an 80-mph cruise. There’s more: Billy Hammon, CEO of PCW Brands, which built the car, says it is capable of reaching velocities in the neighborhood of 150 mph.

The Darth Car: 12 Things You Need to Know About Hot Wheels’ Life-Size, 150-mph Darth Vader Car

3. It has an LS3, baby!
Moving forward a Corvette generation, a GM LS3 V-8—the C6 engine from 2008 onward—is fitted and makes a claimed 526 horsepower. Gearchanges are executed via a six-speed manual; we always knew Lord Vader was a Save the Manuals kind of guy.

4. The car is fitted with a “drift brake.”
The secondary, hand-actuated brake works on the rear axle and can be used to help steer the car or, you know, drift it. Perfect for terrorizing Ugnaughts riding shotgun.

5. It has custom wheels and redline tires.
Wheelmaker U.S. Mags custom-milled the wheels for the project. The unique tires are special to the car and styled to deliver the iconic Hot Wheels redline aesthetic while also delivering respectable performance.

6. It is, of course, packed with Vader-y goodness.
The plate on the hood is modeled after the one on the chest of Darth Vader’s suit, more specifically as it appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. The missiles mounted to the side are machined from stainless steel, and the side pipes are styled after Vader’s red lightsaber. Yes, they illuminate.

7. It breathes like Darth Vader.
Several Star Wars audio effects, including the unmistakable sounds of Darth Vader breathing and his lightsaber coming to life, can be controlled remotely from an iPad.

The Darth Car: 12 Things You Need to Know About Hot Wheels’ Life-Size, 150-mph Darth Vader Car

8. The Darth Car’s designer is living his dream.
At the age of 10, Bryan Benedict—now lead designer for the Hot Wheels Entertainment die-cast line, wrote to his future employer to tell them what kind of toy cars to build. Two years later, he wrote a similar letter to General Motors, and received a reply in the form of a checklist of goals he should pursue in order to become a car designer. With two decades of design success (split evenly between Honda and Hot Wheels) under his belt, following GM’s advice appears to have worked. He told us that his family was unable to afford Star Wars toys when he was a child—he got Hot Wheels instead—so now he’s making his own.

9. It was built in seven weeks.
Design work for the toy version of the car began in November of 2013. Work on the full-size car began in April of this year and went from design to done in just over two months, according to PCW’s Hammon.

10. The hatch opens like Darth Vader’s helmet.
In fact, particular attention was paid to make sure it did so. It’s also equipped with a smoke-making device that activates when the hatch is opened for full dramatic effect.

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11. It dropped jaws on the streets of L.A.
The promotional video embedded below was shot in the 2nd Street tunnel in Los Angeles, where the Darth Car reportedly stunned even the most jaded Tinsel Town residents.

12. It’s impressive. Most impressive.
Hot Wheels says its goal was to pay tribute to its own stylistic heritage but to also harness the futuristic yet timeless design of the Star Wars property as a whole. We say it succeeded—mightily.

The Darth Car: 12 Things You Need to Know About Hot Wheels’ Life-Size, 150-mph Darth Vader Car

About Andrew Wendler