What does it take to make a winning car?


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Being that im a rookie to this hot wheels racing community i do have experience in engineering with aircraft and worked on Harley-Davidsons , so when it comes to drilling and fabrication there is some knowledge i can put to use like aerodynamics and weight displacements.   It seems that it can be too serious to some but when you enter into a hobby even though its supposed to be for fun modding these cars can get pretty serious.   

I've finally jumped in with both feet and whole body in modification of these hot wheels of ours.  And I have to admit the deeper I go into this the more I want to do.  So what does it take to build a winning car.  Naturally we've all watched 3dbotmaker which exciting commentaires is what drew me into wanting to race.. then other channels like diecast street league,   Gravity Throttle and so on.  

As I have watched the different races at first I started collecting only certain types of cars, boi how wrong was I, the more I watched what winning cars were the more I had to open up my selections of cars that I collected to race.  I ignored even some fantasy cars that were kicking butt so I had to revamp my thinking as to which cars to get to race ???? 

One of the two first things I learned was lubing and wheel swaps. That is an integral part of the racing setup as I have observed. On wheel farming i just bought certain cars for their ability to smoothly run on the vehicle.  Also learned swaps from matchbox or other makers are also a thing and at times can create a winning mix.  The past two months i collected as many cars i could.  I even collected cars just for the wheel farming.  Just in past two weeks I've really have given effort in modding cars for races that I've entered. My first race was stock with lube 4 cars only one won its heat but the time was not fast enough to got to second round.. I looked at alot of the winning cars that moved on to 2nd round and many of them were fantasy cars so that right there cause a change in my attitude towards those particular cars.  So what does it take to build a car that can win place or show (a horse betting thang) are some just content with entering a race just for the excitement?  Or are others only in it to win it. Does it take spending monies just to farm for the winning wheels or what?  As I opened up many a car this ran across my mind. The accompanied picture shows a little picture of what I'm doing.  As I'm going thru my steps  of finding out what does it take im taking note to see where I can improve    I'll see you guys n girls out there on the track.

And to add to this subject big n heavy may not alwayz end inba win. I've seen light cars beat the crap outta heavy cars and when prepping for a race it does make a difference if your straight drag race vs doing a road course race which i love the latter seeing i raced at Willow Springs 2 time vs the drags strip I've been on a few times. I just saw another example of a car I would not have bought beat the crap outta the other vehicles.  So yes dont discriminate against what doesn't look good or fit the idea of what a race car is.



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Kingjester 5/12/23

I'm an amateur as well,initially starting just to race in king of the mountain but then really got into it after discovering this forum,I've learned the basics wheel swapping,graphiting,custom paint,adding weight.My builds are by no means the best and honestly will probably be slow for the ones I've sent out to competitions already but I'm happy I'm just able to participate in these competitions and get to see my hard work race on the track even if it doesn't win, I enjoy it and that's what matters to me

  • See that's what I'm talking about, being happy just in participation where as many have left the hobby because of not winning any races. But to have the chance to win not only do you have to put up a good car but you have too enter as many races you can and don't get discouraged or disappointed busy not winning. Take the losses and build from them or onbthem — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
  • The way I see it yes taking a loss can be demoralizing to anyone But you can’t just take it and be like “oh well I’m bailing” you gotta take it chin up,don’t take a loss as just a loss,learn from it, find what you did wrong and how you can improve,it certainly won’t be easy,it can definitely become difficult to keep going taking loss after loss,but at the end of the day what matters is being able to bounce back and come back stronger — Kingjester
  • Jester i appreciate the feed back — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
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SpyDude 5/12/23

Time, experimentation, and perseverence, and a whole LOT of testing, testing, testing. Some guys are just in it to be able to run cars on various tracks throughout the nation. Other guys like showing off their cool paintjobs and custom builds. And the real hardcores have their own tracks, both drag and open road courses. You want speed? You drag. You work on a car until it blazes down the track.That's not going to be a one-night thing .,,,,, that's going to be a several nights or weeks-long thing to tune that car until it screams. Any little edge you can do to the car to make it that one-hundredth of a second faster, you do it, and that means dragging, testing with a timer system, going back, and doing it again and again until you've gotten it as fast as you can. You read EVERYTHING on how to make a fast car, ask tons of questions, and keep experimenting until you find that magic formula that will allow you to consistently build a fast car.  Gi through the archives, talk to some of the older racers on here - many of them are happy to help, but a few like keeping their secrets. That happens in racing. It's up to you to figure out what works, what doesn't, and what works consistently in your builds. Don't put off that fantasy car just because it's a fantasy car - that thing may have the best wheels you've ever seen, and turn your build into a rocket. You're already wheel farming - many of the better racers are doing the same. Some are doing things you wouldn't normally think of doing to a car, but they are making their cars GO.

  • That is true,for example I recently modded a 57 chevy and when I finished I realized the front right wheel wasn’t touching the ground and wasn’t rolling which meant the car was only rolling on 3 wheels,o thought that meant it couldn’t be competitive but I asked on Facebook and found out that this is a tactic some builders do as it means less drag which means more speed and after setting my own little drag in my basement and timing and noting all the times my modded cars put the 3 wheeled 57 chevy would be the fastest.Incidental yes, but you learn as you go along and even if my mods aren’t fast I’m learning and I’m slowly adapting — Kingjester
  • Spydude i appreciate the feedback — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
  • Yeah... SpyDude's 4th place car in the JDM Mania tourney were wheels from the Matchbox speed zone trailers, weren't they? BTW did you see our stats were updated, SpyDude? I FINALLY have a stat! ONE! lol. Chowhound, I just went thru 7 of my 12 bins of cars just to find good wheels. Before that I was just making do with the wheels on whatever racer I was building, or always going to FTE's. Out of 8 binsful of cars, I barely filled one. 1 in 8 cars have passable wheels, and of those, maybe 1 in 4 are real contenders.. Farming is key. — FeralPatrick
  • Feral Patrick bro you were one of the first that gave me any kind of help and info first. I'll always appreciate that. I have bought tons of cars looking for FTE's , Ultra Hots. Even the Color Shifters and an array of other vehicles. In past two months I've spent atleast 2k just on hot wheels alone. So now I have a good selection to go thru building cars that are not commonly seen racing including the highly detailed premiums which im determined to make some winners or good contenders out of those. Even the expensive ones and maybe a few chases to go along — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
  • @FeralPatrick: Yes, those wheels on my Datsun 510 were actually from a pair of the MBX Speed Trap trailers! Once I swapped them onto the car (as a test), I discovered they rolled pretty good, so I figured "Whatthehell ...." and sent it in. It's crazy where you will find decent wheels! — SpyDude
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FeralPatrick 5/12/23

I appreciate the way you just come out and ask, whereas I when I began didn't want to ask anyone anything. Didn't want to be the guy appearing to dig for secrets when I was a total newbie. Honestly I still don't like asking much, but I find that when I do, I'm almost always given positive feedback. My one wish would be to peek under the hoods of winning cars of great and consistent builders like Numbskull and R-Lo, for example. Most people are great at general advice, but to see it in a specific practical application (like YT How-to vids or even a couple of pics) hits home, makes things click.

Example of why not asking is bad: My biggest mistake so far has been the use of super/CA glue for axles. HUGE mistake, made even worse when the glue goes bad with age, heat, whatever, you build a dozen cars with it, and the first time you find out there's an issue is when a race host messages you in the middle of filming to say your front axle failed. Then one of your two entries to 3DBM fails. The other one which qualified may fail yet. Total rookie mistake. And a mistake made out of expedience due to health issues/running out of time, and watching how-to for customizers rather than for racing when I first began building. A hard and somewhat embarrassing lesson learned. Fast. I was also kind of ridiculed in a FB post for using CA glue to the tune of "WHY are you using CA glue?! Gah! Sheesh! E6000 or JB Weld!!!" Lol. I can laugh at myself, and I'm having fun. I want to keep improving, and I'd like to add to my one official race stat. My main goal is to just become consistent and competitive. Everything after that is sausage gravy.

  • I saw a lot of the entries up close when I hosted regular drag races, and most of the "under-the-hood" moments that I had were around weight distribution and wheels. Wheel spin was silky smooth and extra weight was low. — redlinederby
  • The weight distribution is what's currently intriguing me, especially to see the open car after a tournament. I 'think' I have the gist in general, but to see what a specific car looks like and see how that setup worked on that track would be sweet. After so many open track races, I totally agree with you on your post in this discussion where the variables and feedback loop is too long. — FeralPatrick
  • Yeah, pretty sure I was one of the guys who razzed you for using CA. That stuff flows into the wheels, and suddenly you've got a brick instead of a racer. — SpyDude
  • The gel glue doesn't flow, but it's brittle and separates from the chassis, especially when you use insta-set. Uuugh. — FeralPatrick
  • Funny in aircraft we looked at things from weight displacement angle — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
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redlinederby 5/12/23
Site manager

I second SpyDude with "You want speed? You drag."

I know the road courses are popular and most of what people watch on the YouTube but there are way too many variables to manage to make the try-try-again thing work, especially since you don't have a local track to test on. Nobody's track is the same so the build it/try it/tweak it formula doesn't work. The feedback loop takes too long.

Everyone can make a drag track and all things considered, racing in a straight line is racing in a straight line. Your knowledge will transfer between tracks pretty nicely because it's not about the track, it's about the car.

And if you're heading down the rabbit hole of modding anything and everything to construct a car, look at every style of casting. Fantasy, real world, whatever...they all have value when harvesting parts. A lot of the fantasy castings have a metal chassis that you can coerce into working with a real world body style to make a fast car that still meets race theme requirements.

Most of the articles here on the site that talk about how to make cars faster were made with drag racing in mind. Only over the past couple years has the influx of road course KOTM modding become a bigger topic. I agree that the 3DBM channels and the likes are very entertaining to watch with their episodic nature and characters but if you want to be known as a fast racer that can mod & engineer, drag racing is where you build that reputation.

Look back at past races on the calendar from around 2017-2021...there will be a lot more drag races that have discussions and photos about the cars. Look for BlueLine Racing, Redline Derby, and anything where Voxxer Racing or Mattman213 won. Those will be drag races and you'll see some serious car builds in those races and you can get some ideas.

  • I want to tell ya I very much appreciate your feedback — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
  • I'm actually looking into building a 1/4 mile track alongside a 1/8 mile track using a HW 6 lane setup using the outer 2 lanes — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
  • Where the heck is MatMan213? Haven't seen him around in a while. He was my teammate for the RLD Pro-Am competition. — SpyDude

See just when I said I was thru spending any more monies on more cars, here I've done bought a few fantasy vehicles to mod for racing of at least farm the wheels


  • You have some good choices right there. Depending on the rules and restrictions that each race has. The only bad question is one that was never asked. Best advice I can give any new racer is don’t get discouraged and not every build is gonna be a winner. Perfect your craft and learn, learn, learn, and most of all have fun with it. A whole bunch of good guys doing this hobby. — DXPRacing
  • Your response is much appreciated. And your channel is also another one that I watch , thats where I go the idea of one of the fantasies from looking at you test race your cars that you picked up — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
  • Quite a few fantasy models yah got there,I’ll be honest I’m not exactly intrested in that specifc demo derby 5 pack(although that project speeder is looking lit) mainly because it’s all fantasy models and even for the wheels all the wheels are colored which means I couldn’t use them in a tournament unless the rules said other wise.You do you however and hey you got some goods here — Kingjester
  • If you watch my channel, then you are seeing a lot of cars not to buy haha! Seriously, I test to maybe help somebody out there like others helped me. And it’s fun of course. Most races are real cars but finding some good wheel swaps is what modding is all about. If you are into stock racing, never ignore the fantasy castings! Thanks for watching by the way! — DXPRacing
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Kingjester 5/12/23

Yes there are many fantasy castings that perform really well,like the rally cat,synkro,or inside story van just to name a few.It really all comes down to how you are able to mod the car to make it even better,because certain series like chaos canyons "built vs bought" shows that just because cars are modded doesn't mean stock cars can't beat them.Whether it's stock racing or modified mayhem what really determines success is the builder

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KandORacing 5/13/23

Experiment, brainstorm, copy what you see the top drag racers doing, experiment some more, use a good test track to see if what you're doing is an improvement. Not a HW 6 lane but a good track you build yourself that runs fair. Take what 95% of people tell you with a grain of salt, this hobby is full of people who pretend they know what they're saying but don't really know at all in reality 

  • KandORacing i very much appreciate your input and from seeing from another thread understanding that your an very experienced racer thanx — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
  • I've been around awhile but I'm nowhere near as good as guys like BlueLine, Dalevis, JAC, Ghostdriver and several others but I try to give some decent input when I can. See you at the track sometime! — KandORacing

This will be my first Premium wheel swap

Two cars i just finished just under  60g weight

Time, desire and hard work. That's why there are only a handful of people who can do it. 

  • Trust im understanding that as I go along here — CHOWHOUND_RACING_N_DIECAST
  • Truth. My biggest obstacle is time, living on a homestead. But the desire and the willingness to do the hard work is there, just gotta get more time.... once summer is over it'll get better for me. You vets have been a huge help. And you Blue Line, along with Numbskull & R-Lo, (also Uncle Elvis, Sam Haul, Daddy G) are great inspirations to keep at it! I just want to be competitive!! — G_ForceRacing

Wheel swap finally made

My next entries 5 different weight classes

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