It’s Build-A-Bears Meets Hot Rods at the RideMakerz Toy Stores
There’s a new toy car maker on the scene called RIDEMAKERZ, that offers a unique toy car experience for today’s fathers and sons with a driving passion for cars and Corvettes. The expression, “the difference between the men and the boys, is the price of the toys” has been around long before Corvettes arrived in ‘53. Sure, Corvettes are a blast to drive, but they aren’t terribly “useful” automobiles and fall closer to “toy” status. It wasn’t long after Chevy’s “plastic” sports car arrived that the toy versions starting showing up in stores. At first they were mostly crude die-cast, cast iron, and tin metal replicas – a far cry from the hot-looking RIDEMAKERZ toy cars of today.
As plastics caught on in the ‘50s, model kit companies flooded the market with styrene plastic kits of model airplanes, boats, ships, and yes, cars. The model kit companies formed a close relationship with car makers and by the mid-’60s, some car kits were released along with new cars. While Matchbox was making vintage and European cars, Hot Wheels began to popularize muscle cars, race cars, and Corvettes in die-cast.
Two developments in the toy industry occurred in the late ‘80s that are still being felt today. As tool and die manufacturers in China started to gain proficiency, we saw $100-plus, pre-assembled die-cast cars with details that rivaled the more difficult plastic kits. Second, was the introduction of toy-grade radio controlled cars and trucks from Taiyo, Tyco, Nikko, and others, with prices under $100. These advances can be directly seen in the RIDEMAKERZ toy line, as you’ll see later in this story.
Then a new player arrived that had a profound effect on boy’s toy cars. Build-A-Bear Workshop took the traditional teddy bear to a new level in 1997. CEO and founder Maxine Clark created a chain of stores that invited girls to come in and create their own customized teddy bear. Original ideas are very hard to come by in the toy business. It wasn’t long before Clark was swamped with all sorts of “build-a” toy ideas. She had even outlined her own “build-a-car” line, but was busy making teddy bears.
In ‘05, entrepreneur Larry Andreini pitched Maxine his “make-and-outfit your own toy car” concept called, “RIDEMAKERZ.” With Larry’s strong background in financial services, customer loyalty programs, and experience at bringing a brand to reality, Maxine made the decision to collaborate with Larry, and RIDEMAKERZ was launched off the starting line.
RIDEMAKERZ is mostly for boys and their dads. After all, it’s usually dad that’s into cars and leads the way. The concept follows Build-A-Bear, but with lots of diamond plate aluminum, black, and edgy urban-style graphics. The plan was to create a cool car shop/garage environment where boys can pick and build their “RIDE,” just like they see on the TLC TV program, “Overhaulin.”
When fathers and sons visit a RIDEMAKERZ shop, they step into a toy-grade, hot rod garage shop. There are 14 different body styles that measure 10 to 12-inches to choose from, including: 2 modern trucks, 1 flatbed truck, 3 sports cars, 3 minicars, 1 race car, 2 hot rods, and 2 muscle cars. All bodies fit onto two different chassis – 4×4 off-road, or street machine. The body styling is “functionally stylized.” While not over-the-top cartoon versions of the real cars, certain characteristics are exaggerated and enhanced, and are approximately 1:14 to 1:20th scale. Bodies are pre-painted, so no stinky glue or spray paint is needed, and parts snap on and off.
Dad and his young man could pay for their car and go home, but junior says, “Wait Pop, I have to build and customize my ride!” Here’s where the real fun begins. You can choose the stock push-around chassis, or go motorized with a 27 MHz R/C chassis and controller. From here you get to choose from 6 sound chips, 31 wheel styles, 4 street or 4 off-road tire designs, 3 plug-in engines, 4 hood scoops, 7 front end grille guards, wheelie bars, 9 exhaust tips, roof items including rally lights, nitrous tanks, and surf boards, 3 ground effects glow kits, 5 side-pipes, 3 running boards, 7 spoilers, and 11 different truck bed covers. RIDEMAKERZ determined that there are more than 649 million combinations – not counting the decals! To make it easier, RIDEMAKERZ offers 21 accessory kits, including: 1 hot rod kit, 4 muscle car kits, 3 construction kits, 2 dragster kits, 3 street machine kits, 3 off-road kits, 4 truck kits, and 1 jet-powered kit.
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