Parting Shot – Larry Wood, Designer of Hot Wheels Cars, Hot Rodder, and Now Inductee to the Automotive Hall of Fame

By Brian Brennan   –   Photography Courtesy of Larry R. Wood

It will be this summer on July 20th when longtime hot rodder and well-known designer of Hot Wheels for Mattel Larry R. Wood will be inducted into the Automotive Hall of Fame. The AHF itself is in Dearborn, Michigan, and is open to the public.

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The Hot Wheels collection of famous cars includes the like of the Hirohata Merc, Greer, Black, Prudhomme AA/F front-engine dragster, Big John Mazmanian Willys blown Hemi gasser, and the Tom McEwen AA/FC Funny Car.

To those of us who have spent our lives building, driving, and thoroughly enjoying hot rods, Wood is one of us. He is a member of the Early Times Street Rod Club and is a constant sight in the Long Beach, California, area. His builds have graced the cover of many car magazines over the years. I’m also willing to bet there isn’t a hot rodder alive who hasn’t picked up a Hot Wheels car at one time or another.

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Wood still has in his collection of hot rods his ’33 Ford sedan, ’32 Nash four-door sedan, and his ’51 Ford Woodie (not pictured). The ’38 Ford cabover was sold a while back, but it sure did grab attention.

When Wood graduated from Art Center College he moved to Detroit and spent two years designing for Ford Motor Company. In 1968 Wood moved back to SoCal and then in 1969 he was hired by Mattel where he spent a career as the chief designer and innovator of Hot Wheels cars.

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Should you wander through his shop today you might just see a ’30 Sports Coupe that sports a Miata four-banger with sidedraft Weber carburetion or a Jaguar MK 7 with an LS V-8. On this day we also found his ’51 Woodie on the lift and the ’32 Nash stuffed into the shop.

Having literally designed thousands of Hot Wheels, you will find among them some very famous builds. The Hirohata ’49 Merc, the Boyd Coddington collector set, Ramblin’ Wrecker (which originally featured Wood’s home phone number on the rear quarter-panel of the truck), the Bone Shaker, Purple Passion, and many more.

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Wood with his ’33 Ford sedan and Fluffy the guard cat. Larry has a clowder of cats that take care of the shop during off hours.

Having retired some 10-plus years ago from Mattel he now spends his days (and nights) working in his shop, which is located around the corner from longtime friend and hot rodder Richard Graves.

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