Back in October, I got an email from a stranger that stumbled across the Redline Derby site. This isn’t an unusual occurrence. I get lots of email from visitors but this person kept going on about a diecast race event he started, but the thing was, he was a local Columbus guy!
That guy is Bruno Tabacchi, and after that email I visited Bruno at the auto repair shop where he works (which happens to be located in my old childhood neighborhood) and we talked about our love for Hot Wheels and a big race event he organized earlier in the year.
He was interested in having Redline Derby be a partner in their efforts and I was very happy to join the team. Of course, that big race event is the Downhill Diecast Drags happening on Saturday, February 22 at the Autobody Specialists shop in Columbus.
I chatted a bit with Bruno to learn more about his history with cars (both big and small) and get a little more insight into the big racing event he and his team have organized.
Interview with Bruno Tabacchi
Redline Derby: Lets start with the basics...who you are, where you are, what you do, and what's your favorite breakfast cereal?
Bruno Tabacchi: I'm Bruno Tabacchi - Happily married, middle-aged, ready to race. During the day I work for a great ma & pa automotive body shop and mechanical shop as a service writer. During the night I just daydream a lot. And without question Honey Nut Cheerios
RLD: When did you start collecting Hot Wheels, and what is your first Hot Wheels memory?
BT: I really never considered myself a collector, I'm an accumulator. Like many I just buy what appeals to me and have no idea when it started, although the last 25 years or so it's been more in earnest. Earliest Hot Wheels memories are from my single digit years. Building small roadways through the piles of dirt around the house my father was constructing. Many cars were destroyed due to horrific 1/64 scale traffic crashes. I'm very sad about that actually.
RLD: Legend has it your Hot Wheels collection is pretty big...just how many at last count? And are you strictly a Hot Wheels guy, or do other brands sneak their way in?
BT: Probably close to 8000 at this point. I know that's not a huge number to serious collectors, but it's enough to take up a solid corner of my basement. Matchbox and Johnny Lightning models have been seen in a couple of my bins.
One of my favorite things to do now on a free weekend day is to jump in my car, dial up some 70s Hits music and go "Hot Wheel'n". Which is to hit up area flea markets or private sellers to see if I can find some favorites. It's actually relaxing to me.
RLD: Collecting is great and all, but racing is certainly more fun. When did you start racing diecast cars?
BT: Started just last February. And I agree 100%, this racing thing is pretty interesting.
RLD: You're hosting a big race event in February, the Downhill Diecast Drags. How did the event come to be and what's the history there?
BT: The shop I work for, Autobody Specialists, holds an annual Chili Cook-Off & Car Show in the fall. After the cook-off in 2018 we were sitting around one morning wondering what we were going to do for fun in the winter months. I blurted out "how about a Hot Wheels race?"
Brian Hoover, the owner, and Rob Scruggs, our ace mechanic all stared at each other in silence and then said "why the hell not?" We figured it would be a simple grudge match between a handful of employees and a few friends. But because we do nothing the easy way around here, that turned into an event that drew 208 individual entries, 14 business entries, was catered by the top pizza house in Columbus, had door prizes, hand made trophies, etc.
We hold the event on or around February 23 in memory of a great friend and fellow racer (of real cars) named Mike Ucker. He passed away unexpectedly on February 23, 2018. Mike was a guy that truly enjoyed anything competitive, would always help any fellow competitor and do it a constant smile. A great guy. He would have loved diecast racing.
RLD: We know there's going to lots of racing happening at the D3 event, but what other activities will be filling out the day?
BT: Last year we converted the automotive paint booth into a face-paining zone for kids (big and small) and our artist, Tonya Smith, will be back this year. There will be a 12 and under kids only race in the morning, free lunch for participants provided by Hound Dogs Pizza, several real race, and custom cars on display (inside).
There is also a Business Challenge event that pits local businesses against each other in a 4-car team race, and we still working on this but hoping to provide space for diecast vendors to set up a table or two. Of course, Redline Derby will have space along with a special effort to help raise awareness and donations for an autism charity organization called Learning 4 Life Farm. They are raising funds to build a facility to provide job training programs for folks on the autism spectrum.
RLD: What part of D3 do you personally look forward to the most?
BT: The finals. Last year is was super fun to watch the final 3 competitors in the championship round. One guy was a former OSU gymnast and a Champ Car driver, a guy that should have no problem with handling the stress of competition, yet here he was pacing the floor, sweating and nervous as his car was staged up. I never imagined a toy car race would have that effect on anyone – but it does and it's pretty cool. He finished 3rd overall so this year he's more determined.
RLD: It's safe to say you're a "Car Guy", so how did cars find their way into your life?
BT: I grew up in an area that wasn't within any reasonable walking or biking distance to anything, so a car was basically a necessity if you wanted to do anything within civilization. When I was young my cars were usually an embarrassment but, they were mine and I loved personalizing them. My family loved when they went away. There was always another one behind the last one though so the interest in cars just stuck and it's still here.
RLD: You've mentioned to me that you've done real racing in the past. Can you talk about that a bit and your story there?
BT: My real racing was primarily within the sport of autocross. I discovered it in 1985 and was very active in the sport for 20 years or so, and am semi-active nowadays. Actually, I can lay claim to being the first person to ever win a national racing trophy in a Saturn automobile way back in 1991.
Over the decades I've met some of the best people I know due to motorsports interests and activities, and I have a feeling that history is about to repeat itself as I meet people within the diecast racing community.
RLD: We all enjoy cracking open a Hot Wheels car out of the blister, but what cars in your collection are true keepers and collector items for you?
BT: Oh man, that's a tough one. My inventory is decent but I really don't have any super rare, valuable, high-dollar collector cars. At the moment my two favorites are a 1982 Flat Out 442 and a chrome Subaru STI. Nothing earth shattering but I like 'em.
I am trying to build a fleet of 500, 2005-06 FTE's and currently have over 300 including many of the must-haves. I'll probably open some of the duplicates at some point though.
RLD: Even though you're a newer member to the Redline Derby Racing community, you've already entered some modified tournaments. What's your history with modified Hot Wheels racing compared to stock racing? Which is more fun for you?
BT: When we came up with our random idea to hold a diecast race we didn't know anything about the sport other than what we read online (before finding Redline Derby). We allowed modifications to all the cars for our race, which basically led to a bunch of messed up Hot Wheels, but a lot of fun trying to figure it out.
After our big race we held a monthly series and decided to run a stock and modified class. What we learned is that there is a lot more to this diecast racing than just throwing weight on a car and calling it modified. That lead to more research and your site, which is opening up a whole new chapter of "we really know nothing". But one cool thing is that either way, stock or modified, it's all fun stuff.
RLD: Before we go, do you have any more D3 hype you want to throw out there, or have any other diecast stories you want to share?
BT: Just that we're all pretty excited with the partnership and support of the Redline Derby site. I hope to meet members in-person and look forward to seeing if we can hang in the Battle of the Builders Challenge, and hoping our turnout is at least as strong as last year.
RLD: And if anyone has more questions about the D3 event, or collecting, or even just car talk, what's the best way for folks to get in touch with you?
BT: The best way is to call, our number is 614-299-5551. We have our Facebook page and 3D event page as well - we'd love folks to post up their entries. If you happen to be local to Columbus stop by the shop. It's a laid back atmosphere and unless we’re taking care of customers at the moment, we'll be happy to talk cars and Hot Wheels with you for sure. You can also reach out through private message on the Redline Derby site. My handle is Team164Bruno.
I want to thank Bruno for taking the time to share some history on things. For me, it’s been great connecting with a local racer and I’m looking forward to not only the Downhill Diecast Drags event, but what we can possibly do in the future as well.
Get all the details about Downhill Diecast Drags and the Triplemania Weekend