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Automotive Legend – Ken Block

Youtube, drifting…millions of views, likes and shares…if you’re part of modern car culture, or you want to understand it, you’ve got to start with one man: Ken Block. Block got his start in rally, driving with the Vermont SportsCar team back in 2005 and since then he’s competed in WRC, World Rallycross and other series with success. Where Block immediately stands out is in car content.

Gymkhana 1 and 2 took the world by storm. These videos initially came in large part through block and DC Shoes, the company he co-founded. The Gymkhana series takes an obscure Japanese motorsport and adds incredible cinematics, stunts, pure automotive noise and a hefty dose of Monster Energy Drink to create some of the most unique and captivating car culture in history.

Since their debut, gymkhana have only gotten better and more outrageous, featuring the same beautiful, daring stunts in downtown LA, Downtown London, Downtown San Francisco, Dubai and even Pikes Peak.

Hoonigan, the Media arm of Ken Block’s operation jump started by his Gymkhana videos, has grown to more than 2 million subscribers and 300 million views. These days, Hoonigan in many ways sets the trend in car culture, it’s merchandise grace everything from race cars to minivans, and it’s editing style has become more ubiquitous in the growing automotive youtube scene.

Not bad for someone who got their start in one of America’s more obscure automotive sports. With the undeniable impact that Ken Block’s talent has made, we’re happy to welcome him to the Hall of Fame as an Automotive Legend.


Slot Car Racer of the Year – Mike Swiss

Mike Swiss is a guy with passion for his favorite hobby, and that hobby is slot cars. Swiss honed his racing skills into multiple national championships and two world championships, proof enough of his talent. Slot cars then carried over into Mike’s career, where he worked as manager of Koford Engineering’s slot car divison for nearly two decades. These days, Mike still isn’t done with slot cars. In 2005, he opened Chicagoland Raceway, the full service slot car racing facility he runs to this day.

Chicagoland hosts everything from Monthly slot car races to diverse weekly events for all levels of experience. Each track at Chicagoland was built by Swiss himself, taking months.

Beyond just racing, the “full service” side comes into play with workstation for building and maintaining cars, an activity Mike frequently gets in on himself.

Mike Swiss has had a lifelong dedication to spreading the joy of slot cars, and we’re happy to have him in the Hall of Fame.


Model Car Entrepreneur – Rodney Smith

Do you enjoy your Johnny Lightning, Hot Wheels, GreenLights and other 1/64 scale cars? You owe a huge thanks to Rodney Smith, Leslie Smith and their groundbreaking company: Matchbox.

Rodney and Leslie smith, buddies since their days in the Royal Navy during WWII, began a partnership in the late 40’s to create toys and diecast. Lesney gained traction with a model of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation coach (complete with horses!) that sold over a million copies.

Rodney helped solidify the companies future by bringing in John “Jack” Odell, an engineer he met at another diecast company. Jack’s breakthrough was to design a toy for his daughter to take to school. The catch was that the school only allowed toys that would fit into a matchbox, so Jack, in an epic “challenge accepted” moment, designed a shrunk down version of the Lesney Road Roller.

This became the first in the 1-75 series, now known as Matchbox. The size, detail and price advantage of a smaller model with less material soon allowed Matchbox to become a dominant player in the diecast car world.

Although Rodney left the company in 1951, he had helped set in motion one of the most iconic toy brands in history. Rodney passed away in 2013, for his work and his legacy, we’re happy to induct Rodney into the Hall of Fame.


Collector of the Year – Jim Gallegos

Jim Gallegos describes himself as a completionist. A few words about his collection, and you’re sure to believe him. In an interview with RR Observer, Gallegos estimated his collection of mainly Matchbox at north of 170 thousand.

With so many models, it’s hard not to become a figurehead in the matchbox community. Far from reluctant, Jim has embraced the role, starting the Matchbox convention that meets in his home town of Albuquerque every year.

Jim has worked in the past as an ambassador for matchbox, and still advises on new designs. For his knowledge, dedication and continued involvement, we’re happy to have Jim in the Hall of Fame as Collector of the Year.

 


Model Car Designer of the Year – Tom Daniel

Chances are, you had or at least seen a model designed by Tom Daniel. Beginning in High school, during the early stages of hot rodding after WW2, Tom began filling his waking hours designing cars with a pen and paper. A sympathetic teacher brought Tom’s class on a field trip to Art Center College, after noticing Tom’s talent for automotive design. Art Center was a design school with a direct pipeline to the major automotive manufacturers, and one trip was enough to convince Tom that car design was his calling.

Despite not having a college degree (or even a diploma yet) Tom submitted a portfolio and was accepted. During School, Tom met with the art director for Rod & Custom, a long running custom car publication, and began contributing work to the sketchpad section of the magazine. Models were becoming so popular, and Tom’s artwork so loved, that for a time R&C published an entirely separate model issue, in which Tom contributed heavily.

After graduating, Tom was hired by GM for a time, but Detroit winters proved less-than appealing, and Tom left to return to California, continuing to work for R&C and others, before landing the gig now synonymous with his name: designing models for Monogram.

Tom’s outlandish creations became some of the most recognized model kits of all time, helping to inspire others such as Hot Wheels and even a few running, full-size versions.  Tom helped design more than 70 Monogram models, with iconic names like Tarantula, Red Baron, and the Tijuana Taxi. Many have been re-released and re-released again.

Tom’s impact on model cars is hard to overstate. With such influential work, we’re glad to Have Tom inducted as Model Car Designer of the Year.


Model Car Customizer of the Year – Brian Moffitt

When does a diecast become a custom? Some folks have different ideas. It can be just a new paint job, a restoration or more. Much more. This further end of the custom scale is where Brian Moffitt steps in.

Moffitt’s customs involve a ton of work. Far from just paint, Moffitt cuts, chops, combines and adds to Hot Wheels cars creating something unique each time, from three-wheeled creations like the Tri-clops to beetles, trucks, motorhomes and trailers. Check out some of Moffitt’s customs below, and see for yourself why we’re happy to have him as Model Car Customizer of the Year.