While some Hot Wheels cars are strictly flights (drives?) of fancy, most are based on real-life vehicles. The beloved brand’s catalog runs the gamut from modern supercars to classic hot rods and everything in between. But not every Hot Wheels creation comes straight from the Mattel studio. Occasionally, a lucky enthusiast gets their wheels immortalized in diecast form. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen to this year’s Hot Wheels Legends Tour winner, the ‘Ain’t No Saint’ 1969 Volvo P1800 gasser.
This 1969 Volvo P1800 ain’t no saint, but it is a burnout-ripping gasser
Although it’s certainly stylish, the Volvo P1800 is more of a GT than a face-ripping sports car. At least, that’s the case in its original form. Put the P1800 in Cyan Racing’s hands, for example, and you’re left with a true restomod performance car. And if you give one to the UK’s Johnstone family, you get a gasser hot rod.
While gassers weren’t the OG hot rods, they were some of the earliest. The term is a reference to the NHRA’s gas class, MotorTrend explains, which features gasoline-powered cars, rather than alcohol- or nitromethane-powered ones like in the Funny Car series. But speaking of Funny Cars, gassers visually resemble them, and other vintage drag racers. These days, it’s an entire hot rod style unto itself, MotorTrend says. And it’s one that the Lee Johnstone, as well as his daughters Ellie, Tori, and Sarah, applied to their 1969 Volvo P1800, dubbed ‘Ain’t No Saint.’
The Johnstones’ Volvo P1800 was originally a rusty shell that was too far gone to restore, Hagerty reports. So, the family put in a full roll cage, beefed up the chassis, added some Ford axles, and installed a custom suspension setup. And, as is traditional for gasser hot rods, the Ain’t No Saint has a high front end and a low rear end. That, combined with the suspension setup and the high, rear-set engine, is all to facilitate rear weight transfer during launches.
And speaking of the engine, it’s not a stock Volvo P1800. The Johnstones installed a 7.4-liter supercharged Chevy V8 with dual four-barrel carburetors linked to a three-speed transmission. It sends 600 hp to the rear wheels, roughly six times what the P1800 originally made. And it’s enough to let this hopped-up Volvo run the ¼-mile in 10.01 seconds at 133 mph on a prepped surface.
The Hot Wheels Legends Tour crowned this Swedish hot rod as the 2021 winner
After competing in drag races in the UK, the Johnstone family entered their Volvo P1800 gasser into a different kind of competition. It’s an international one called the Hot Wheels Legends Tour.
Now in its fourth year, the Hot Wheels Legends Tour gives custom car builders a chance to show off their wild creations. The cars go head-to-head across several rounds judged by various panels of automotive experts. Once the best 10 are selected, they head off for one final judging round. And as in years past, Hot Wheels makes a diecast car modeled after the winning build.
For 2021, the Hot Wheels Legends Tour received over 10,000 entries from 14 countries scattered across five continents. So, the Ain’t No Saint faced stiff competition just to get into the final round. But it won the UK leg—judged by, among others, famed designer Ian Callum—by a unanimous decision, Hagerty reports. And it ended up being one of four finalists not from North America.
This year, the final-round judges included Jay Leno, car designer Henrik Fisker, drifter Sara Choi, Car and Driver’s Elana Scherr, and several Hot Wheels designers and execs. The last round took place on November 13th, 2021. And while the other competitors were certainly no slouches, the Volvo P1800 gasser took home the Legends crown.
When will Hot Wheels release the die-cast P1800 gasser?
Turning a real car into a Hot Wheels model takes some time, as it involves more than just shrinking all the proportions down. Designers photograph the car, re-create it digitally using CAD and similar tools, then test the design using 3D-printed prototypes. And then Hot Wheels has to design the packaging. It took the team nine months to bring last year’s winner to life in diecast form, Car and Driver says. So, the Volvo P1800 gasser won’t be appearing on shelves by Christmas.
However, it might be here by next Christmas. According to a Hot Wheels spokesperson, the diecast Ain’t No Saint should be ready by late 2022, Autoblog reports. And maybe by then, someone else will get inspired to make their own version of the Johnstones’ Swedish hot rod.
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