Drift Kings, interview with TYO Toys

redlinederby Sunday, 6/15/2014
Site manager

Last month a community member posted a YouTube video of Hot Wheels drifting. Yes, drifting. It was something I had never seen before and from the responses to the article, it seems few others had either. Of course, being the track builder and car modders we are here, everyone started to think about what drifting could mean to racing.

  • How do you build a drift track?
  • What makes a good drift car?
  • Could you make a track big enough to have races?
  • Did we just find our new event?

To shed some light on the idea of Hot Wheels drifting, I contacted the guys that put up the original video and asked if I could pick their brain. The folks behind the drifting are from TYO Toys, an indie company that creates custom art with diecast...but not just any art, graffiti art.

Along with applying their style to 1:64 scale cars, they sell other diecast vehicles and accessories that other artists then use to paint, draw and show off their style. I'm quite fond of the graffiti art and it looks pretty slick on the diecast cars...but that's another topic for another time. We're here to talk drifting…

I chatted with Phil Foss from TYO Toys to see just how they became the Drift Kings of the diecast world and what their plans are for the future.

Interview with Phil Foss from TYOTOYS

Redline Derby: First, the basics...tell us who you are, where you are, what you do and when did Hot Wheels go from being a toy to a being a hobby?

Phil Foss (TYO Toys): Phil Foss, front-end developer and inventor of a couple things, founder of TYOTOYS.com. I sell die cast and produce some other products under TYOTOYS, the brand is distributed now and I'm starting to sell some Hot Wheels and Tomica. 


RLD: We've all seen your Hot Wheels drifting video and the overall reaction has been positive along with a lot of "who would've thought to do that?!" So...what ideas led to trying Hot Wheels drifting?

TYO: I don't remember the genesis that made me decide I needed to make Hot Wheels drift. But I figured it couldn't be that hard to do with a track/device. I think RC Drifting influenced me a bit, but buying an RC car is awfully expensive and building a track or finding one takes up a lot of time. When it comes to scale drifting, a 1:64 car is much more accessible. I only let myself get involved in hobbies if I can see some kind of ‘end game' or marketable product. One of my original ideas was a small briefcase that opened into a track. Most of my products are things you can bring to work and set on your desk. The whole "gymkhana" and drifting/rally scene has a great flavor, its not very accessible though. With a die cast drift track, anyone can drift.

RLD: When it came to building your test track, what type of trial-and-error did you go through before you found a surface material that worked, and what ended up working the best?

TYO: One of my first prototypes was a modified car with magnets, the track had magnets, and it was a complicated mess. I then found that any Hot Wheels car can drift (also tested with a couple Johhny Lightnings) given the right environment- the most important component is the surface material- needs to be very low friction. And then some carefully tuned contours- several precise angles make up a working track.


RLD: The other part of the equation is the structure itself...the angles, the dimensions, the launch track, etc. Can you talk about what went into figuring out all of that?

TYO: The "drift maker" or launch area is just an angled surface. When the car traverses the length of the slope, the rear end will start sliding down the slope more than the front. I don't know why. Something with potential energy and rolling friction or center-of-gravity of a moving object etc I don't know. Einstein stuff. Some cars work better than others. See the very beginning of the video and it should help show the physics involved.

A 90-degree (right-angle) drifting is the easiest track to produce. You just need the car to slide sideways, let it slide down a contour, then catch it with another track. I call it "track to track" drifting and this enables connecting the drift section to larger tracks setups. The 180-degree track is tougher to build and very finicky. You need several different contours to catch and maintain the drift. Even with a perfectly tuned track, there isn't a lot of consistency with the quality of the drift.

RLD: The Ken Block rally car in the video is a natural pick for the drifting theme, so did you build the track for that car or did you try others? And I think the general assumption is the car itself had not been modified, true?

TYO: Not sure why that car works so well. At first I thought it was the low hanging front bumper that clips part of the track causing more friction on the front than the back of the car. It does seem to be the most consistent car, but I haven't tested too many cars. The cars in my videos are not modified. This could only be a viable product with regular Hot Wheels, so I try to make it work with as many cars as possible. This kind of device/track could be patented, but a company like Mattel probably won't produce something unless it works over 95% of the time with a wide range of cars. My track isn't there yet


RLD: You could obviously line up a hundred cars and try each on your track to find those that work, but through your testing what attributes did you find that make for a good drift car?

TYO: I can't narrow it down too much, but the car definitely needs to roll very well. One slightly slow wheel will throw everything off. The Ford Fiestas work very well, some other HW original cars work well but they don't look like real cars, the presentation is best with normal looking cars. Shorter wheelbase seems to work better than longer cars, but the Dodge Charger works pretty well. Almost any car can work, but on any track setup, the two things that need to be tuned for each car are 1) Speed and 2) Angle of approach (the angle to which the car approaches the angled surface). So you can have a static track but leave some articulation for the "drift maker" so it can swivel a few degrees.

RLD: I know I watched your video and started thinking about building my own drift track...what would your suggestions/strategy be for people looking to duplicate what you've done?

TYO: I am now producing an adhesive surface that is perfect for Hot Wheels drifting. You can create your contours out of anything (foam core board works very well and is inexpensive) then apply the drift pad material on top. Cardboard can be used but it is not as rigid as foam core. 

RLD: So you've conquered YouTube and are now the king of Hot Wheels drifting...is there more diecast drifting in your future, or was this just a one-off "can we do it, yes we can" type of experiment?

TYO: Thank you for the title, though I haven't totally figured out YouTube yet. There is something cool about finger boarding competitions where people meet up and show off their skills. Not sure if that environment can translate to the die cast drifting scene. I like the custom tracks some guys have built, but there's no real venue yet. Black River has a really cool "finger park" that looks like its open to the public.

RLD: Have any other cool facts, stories, links or shoutouts you want to share?

TYO: Remember to pinch and flare. Mark (from RaceGrooves) has indicated he is working on a track with a similar design. First step is creating a 90-degree track-to-track setup as shown in my videos. I will offer a free drifting accessory pack from TYO Toys (car not included) to anyone who can achieve this with an unmodified car. This is a challenge and I will provide DriftPad material to any interested parties. The product is not publicly released yet from TYO Toys but I can provide samples of the material.


Lets get drifting...

I want to thank Phil Foss and TYO Toys for discussing their awesome Hot Wheels drift track and sharing some more videos. Be sure to check out TyoToys.com and see their custom graffiti diecasts and other projects.

As for us, we know how to make cars go down a straight hill, but can we figure out how to make them race around corners? 


As a person who loves drifting and rally cars in general.... I am stoked!!!

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