Wednesday, February 21, 2024
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Brunei Town

Wild by design

Debuted in 1968 by Elliot Handler, the American brand die-cast toy vehicles, Hot Wheels, gained popularity among children with its distinctive designs, vibrant colours and intricate details.

The brand has since transcended borders to become a universally recognised and cherished name, embraced by individuals of all ages, cultivating a vibrant collector’s community that trade and auction in collectible editions, especially ones that have racked up value over time.

“During my younger days, I used to engage in playful adventures with Hot Wheels,” reminisced Ahmad Shukran Jaafar, a Brunei Shell employee and avid collector of Hot Wheels.

Looking back, he said, it wasn’t so much collecting them, but rather relishing in the joy of crashing and sending the toy cars into delightful destruction.

“As time marched on, my interests evolved, and I began to curate a selective collection, focusing on cinematic renditions like Hot Wheels inspired by movies such as Back to the Future, Star Trek, Top Gun and Ghostbusters,” he went on.

These days, Ahmad Shukran said his collection has taken a more refined direction as he finds himself drawn towards the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) and European automobile versions of the brand, meticulously preserving the cars in their packaging.

“Occasionally, I allow a few to venture out for display when multiples of the same model find their way into my possession.”

The avid collector recalled how Hot Wheels wasn’t the sole brand he engaged with during his youthful days as his fascination extended to Matchbox and Tomica cars, both of which held significant appeal.

The Hot Wheel car Ahmad Shukran brought to the competition. PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD
ABOVE & BELOW: Ahmad Syukran poses with the trophy and the winning Hot Wheel car; and the trophy with the certificates. PHOTO: LYNA MOHAMAD

He also recollected a time when he was about six or seven years old, and his mother indulged his passion by purchasing a glistening golden Chevrolet Corvette.

“Back then, those cars cost a mere BND1.50 a piece,” exclaimed Ahmad Shukran.

Ahmad Shukran’s fervour ignited back in 2008 when he embarked on a serious journey as a collector.

“At this juncture, I began amassing items, opting for carded collections that remained sealed, resisting the temptation to unveil and showcase the exquisite cars within.”

His awareness of the enhanced future value of unopened, mint-in-card toy cars compared to their loose counterparts was a guiding principle.

From the inception in 2008 until the present day, Shukran’s collection has multiplied to approximately 800 assemblages, spanning an eclectic array from Hot Wheels and Tomica to Kyosho and Matchbox.

Notably, his acquisitions extend to include high-end limited editions, including Inno64, Error 404 and Ignition releases.

The majority of his cherished assortment are safely contained within plastic enclosures, meticulously stored to preserve their pristine condition.

A select few, however, find their place in his compact Hot Wheels workshop, where his adept customisation skills come to life.

Additionally, an allocated hobby room accommodates his more sizable collections, predominantly in the commanding 1:18 scale.

After news spread through the local die-cast car community regarding the inaugural Hot Wheels Collector Convention set to coincide with the 12th Annual Art of Speed event in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in July, Ahmad Shukran’s friends urged him to step onto a grander stage, one with an expansive international audience.

Embracing the support, he eagerly embarked on the journey to represent the Sultanate along with 11 other participants from Brunei, driven by the desire to garner invaluable experiences to apply to his future endeavours in the realm of die-cast car events.

Stepping into Hall B of the Malaysia Agro Exposition Park Serdang (MAEPS), Shukran entered a realm of Hot Wheels history.

Vintage cars from past and present eras were on display, flanked by over 100 vendors occupying both the ground and first floors.

The venue also played host to a Hot Wheels competition.

The registration process spanned several hours, commencing at lunchtime and stretching into the late afternoon.

He soon learned that an impressive total of 483 cars had been registered across four categories, all in contention for top honours.

The second day marked the commencement of the event, as five judges meticulously inspected each car within their respective categories.

The final selection of 20 cars underwent evaluation by none other than Hot Wheels Lead Packaging Designer, Matt Gabe. By 4pm, the organisers announced the victors, etching their names into the annals of the event’s history.

His decision to participate proved incredibly rewarding as he claimed the championship title in the Wild Category.

“I am immensely grateful to and Diecastkustomshow for motivating me to enter my car into a major competition, pitting my skills against fellow enthusiasts who share the same passion.

“Despite holding no lofty expectations, clinching the championship in the wild (open) category felt like an unreal achievement. It’s truly a dream realised, especially considering it took place at the inaugural Hot Wheels Collector Convention in Southeast Asia.”

The triumphant vehicle bore the moniker “Bean Beast”, drawing inspiration from the iconic Mr Bean’s car, but with a pumped-up twist.

The remarkable creation boasted a complete absence of barriers, featuring cut-out doors, a lifted front hood, an open roof, and a rear door, all of which unveiled the meticulously crafted interior, engine elements, and accessories, all meticulously hand-assembled to a miniaturised 1:64 scale.

Shukran explained that the “wild” category was the perfect fit for this automobile, considering its audacious design.

Despite fierce competition from fellow participants, “Bean Beast” aptly rose to the occasion, showcasing its distinctiveness and earning its rightful place at the forefront of the contest.

Ahmad Shukran was acutely aware that his victory held the potential to shine a spotlight on the die-cast customisers and collectors in Brunei, and winning this competition meant placing their names alongside esteemed participants from Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, who were also vying for recognition at the event.

His achievement held the promise of paving the way for more Bruneian customisers to compete at the international stage. – Lyna Mohammad