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What are they?

Deor>> Dodge A-100 economy pickup.
Deora II>>
Fiberglass body mated to a Cadillac DTS driveline.

The original Harry Bradley sketches of what became the Alexander brothers’ creation was still without a name when AMT Model Co. wanted to add the show truck to its 1:24-scale plastic-model line. In 1965, the company held a contest that allowed model-car builders to submit name suggestions.

A panel of celebrity judges, including drag-racing’s Don Garlits, AMT’s Len Bolton and the Alexander brothers, reviewed the entries. The winner was 13-year-old David Hagedorn. Hagedorn suggested what he believed to be the Spanish word for “golden” (playing off the proposed candy gold finish). Even though the young modeler had slightly misinterpreted the translation, the name “Deora” struck a chord with the judges.

For his efforts, David was given the first AMT kit of the Deora and 40 other 1966 AMT model kit releases.

What ever happened to …?

… Mike Alexander?
He went on to become a vital member of American Sunroof Corp. ASC produced many concept cars and show cars for General Motors, Chrysler and other manufacturers.

… Larry Alexander?
He was employed by Ford to supervise its prototype fabrication department.

… Harry Bradley?
He is a professor at the Art Center School of Design in Pasadena, California.


“As a Hot Wheels guy, you have to address the engine. This is the symbol of power, and that has to be visually demonstrated,” Proch explains with a glint in his eye. The idea was that car nuts, young and old, are drawn to the power source, thus the engine needed to be visible. In keeping with the Hot Wheels heritage, he knew the power should be provided by an American V-8, and that it needed a blower (supercharger). But because this was a modern reincarnation, Proch required that the D-II demonstrate current technology. Therefore, he inked the vehicle with a transverse-mounted Cadillac Northstar engine in the rear.

Proch was on a roll, but something was missing. Sure, the tires and wheels were monstrous, the styling highly progressive and the features over-the-top, but the last piece of the puzzle had yet to be integrated with the emerging whole. He put the drawing aside for a few hours, and when he returned to his studio, it hit him. “The rule of today is that every cool car has a rear-deck wing. Functional or not, spoilers are everywhere.” The genius of his design presented Proch with his biggest challenge-to style a wing that complemented the shape of the D-II without taking away from its other remarkable features.

Indeed, Proch found inspiration from another icon of Southern California industry-aerospace. He explains his revelation: “The wing actually curves forward. I have never seen another [car] wing that curves forward into the wind. In an era where we have jet planes with forward sweptwings, I wondered, ‘Why can’t we do the same with automotive design?'”

Access to the Deora II’s cabin is through a spaceship-like, roof-hinged, forward-swept door. The occupants become cocooned inside as the door descends, and the dashboard and steering wheel then drop in front of the driver. The effect is visionary—if not exactly vision-enhancing from the driver’s perspective.

Hitting the Big Time

Seeing the Hot Wheels Deora II sitting on a toy-store shelf, you can’t begin to appreciate the complexity of its design and the spirit that Nathan Proch engineered into it. Much like its predecessor, the contemporary version created a buzz in the die-cast world, but, quite unlike the original, this version was intended only for small scale. When the idea of turning this Rembrandt into a full-scale version was first discussed, it presented an entirely new set of challenges.

Nearly all die-cast cars begin life in 1:1 and are miniaturized until the desired dimensions are reached. The Deora II, however, was created in reverse, just as the full-scale Twin Mill that was built for Hot Wheels’ 30th anniversary had been. The primary difference was that simply enlarging the scale of a Hot Wheels model to its 1:1 counterpart presented a bundle of problems, the most notable being the size and function of the tires and wheels.

When Mattel took on the task of creating a full-scale version of the Twin Mill, it turned to custom-car legend Chip Foose. Faced with the complexities of bringing the Deora II to life, Mattel once again sought out Foose and his band of manic machinists. “From the popularity of that car [Twin Mill] after it was resurrected and put on the show circuit, we [Mattel] knew the excitement of having Chip work on it. When this project came along for the 35th anniversary, it was only natural to go back to Chip,” explained Mattel’s Carson Lev.

Time, or the lack of it, presented Foose with the first major hurdle. “The time schedule on this project was unbelievably aggressive. I don’t know of anyone else who could have pulled this off,” said Lev. Twenty-four weeks was all the time the Foose team had to work with. In that time, they had to scratch-build Nathan Proch’s dream machine. With funding from Mother’s Wax, Foose was able to employ the talents of other top-level customizers to fast-track the project.

Few people in the automotive world are as passionate and as driven as Chip Foose. “There have been days or even a week that goes by where I get very little sleep in an effort to complete a car,” admits Foose. “It’s not that the car is important-it’s not. What’s important are friendships and my word. If I say I’ll get it done, it will get done.”

Left: the Deora II needed an American V-8 to stay true to its hot-rod roots, but the technology had to be modern to keep up with the futuristic shape of the truck. Chip Foose settled on a Cadillac Northstar V-8 because its multicam setup was suitably high-tech, and its transverse arrangement solved some installation issues.

Right: Nathan Proch, in penning the Deora II, decided to incorporate a forward-swept rear wing. He had seen such shapes on aerospace applications, but it was something of a novelty on an automobile.

When the time came to begin the Deora II’s life-size buildup, Foose started with a Cadillac Deville DTS. The front clip of the front-wheel-drive car was torn completely away from its platform. “The DTS was selected because we could take a front-wheel drivetrain and make it the back,” Foose explains. “We now had the transaxle in place; all we needed to do was lock the steering.” It sounds easy-yeah, right. Imagine the car with all of its electronics carefully pulled from its termination points and draped over the engine. “I didn’t want to cut any wires. From there, it took about six weeks to build the entire rolling chassis,” Foose recalls.

Unlike the original Deora-made from a Dodge A-100 pickup-the D-II body bore no resemblance to any modern car or truck. The body, therefore, had to be hand-crafted or formed, so Foose employed the talents of the Five Axis crew. Using digital data, a female mold was made to lay up the body in fiberglass. The body was then dropped over the chassis to determine the positions of the mounting points, the functional components and the accessories. As the body was being prepared for finishing, Foose’s team of builders and the Five Axis team went about the task of constructing the D-II in the same way as they had built dozens of street rods and wild customs. Meticulous attention to detail was taken to ensure that the now grown-up die-cast could actually be driven.

Updated: June 30, 2011 — 11:22 AM
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