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The Mind behind the Deora II:

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Nathan Proch

Deora Reborn
Even inside a darkened studio, the shape of the Nathan Proch designed Deora II is unmistakable. When power is sent to the overhead lights 30 feet above the studio’s floor, the car is bathed in a soft glow. This image isn’t easily forgotten. The same can be said for the time I spent with Hot Wheels designer Nathan Proch and car builder Chip Foose.

From concept to reality, the original Deora and the Deora II had similarities and fundamental differences. The original Harr Bradley/Alexander Brothers custom was born in the mid-1960s, and it was one of the first factory-backed showstoppers to tour the country on the custom car, rod and motor-cycle show circuit. It drew rave reviews from show goers and sparked the imaginations and passions of a new generation of car designers, among which were Proch and Foose.

In 1968, Mattel Toy Co. was preparing to launch a new line of miniature cars that would reflect the unique creativity of America’s car culture. A few years earlier, Mattel founder Elliot Handler had wisely visited Detroit, the mecca of the American car industry. He lived and worked, however, in the Valhalla of automotive self-expression-Southern California.

The two cultures engendered many fertile minds, and Handler subsequently raided Detroit of designers Harry Bradley and Larry Wood. Already highly influenced by the SoCal, hot-rod styles, Bradley and Wood joined Ira Gilford and Howard Rees at Mattel. As a team, these men set out to create the first set of die-cast Hot Wheels. Of the 16 first releases, one was the Deora show truck. The Alexander Brothers, who had become friends with Bradley during his Detroit days, had originally constructed the Deora as a dream-car project for Chrysler. At that time, it was Bradley’s creative mind and the A-brothers’ talented hands that made the unique car possible.

Remaking a Legend

Meanwhile, Nathan Proch was a typical six-year-old growing up in the rural community of New Castle, Pennsylvania, 20 miles outside of Pittsburgh. Proch fondly recalls, “I was a young kid when Hot Wheels were launched. I was the target market. I was the guy they were trying to catch. And they [Hot Wheels] got me-they got me big time.” Proch found great inspiration in the original Deora. “Growing up in New Castle, you don’t do a lot of surfing. The Deora was my first exposure to a surf culture.”

Indeed, the long liner form of the original Deora, much like the surfboards that Hot Wheels had mounted on its tonneau cover, made a lasting impression and inspired Proch greatly. “Everyone who looks at the Deora thinks “surfboards”-as if the vehicle were designed to hold boards-which it was not. So, when designing the Deora II, I wanted to keep the design true to Harry Bradley and Hot Wheels, [so] we had to have surfboards,” Proch revealed. But Proch’s approach for the Deora II’s shape was inspired by the curved, aqua-dynamic design of the boards used by today’s surfers rather than the long, flat boards ridden by surfers in the 1960s.

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Looking at the visual dynamics of the vehicle you will see Proch’s mastery of combining the flat tonneau surface on top with the wave-like undulations of the lower body line. “The shape expresses the liquid element that is water,” he explains. The stunning blending of machine and nature gave the car a haunting attraction, but the signature Hot Wheels muscle icon also had to be part of the design.

Updated: June 30, 2011 — 11:22 AM

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