Make an Epic ‘Mad Max’-Style Vehicle From an Old Toy Car

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It’s spring break in many places, and gas prices are going crazy in many more. 

This means having a staycation and giving your toy cars a Mad Max-style makeover.

I have seen a growing number of modelers who have made original models of cars, trucks, and bikes styled after the post-apocalyptic and dieselpunk worlds the likes of Mad Max, Death Race, or similar franchises. The process looks complicated but is really very simple.

Many of these are made by modifying already existing models, just as some chop shop in a dystopian future world might do.

In true Max Max style, I tried my own, and it turned out cool. Here’s how to make your own.

First, you need a car. Cheap discount store knock-off versions of Hot Wheels or Matchbox are pretty easy to find, as well as other small, nondescript plastic cars. There might be a few tucked at the bottom of a toy box or drawer at home waiting to be appreciated once again. 

Next, hit it with some paint: black, grey, or camouflage. Paint or stencil on some numbers or words. You can use some small temporary tattoos to make it “meaner,” or “beat it up” a little by adding some scrapes with a small crafting knife or with smudges of contrasting paint.

Find an old toy car and paint it black or another grungy color, and splatter or splotch on some extra details. All images: Lisa Tate

Now, here’s the fun part. Do some scavenging around the house for some embellishments. Gather some nails, toothpicks, little jewelry chains, gears, and other items to give it some offensive or defensive “weaponry” or just to make it more impressive. Attach these with a glue gun or some strong jewelry glue. This is can be really fun to work on with your kid, especially when start making up little stories behind each vehicle and its weapons. 

Remember, these cars will tell a story. Make it interesting.

Mad Max Beads
Find fun items, like discarded nuts and bolts, washers, beads, and old clock parts, and turn them into some rad car mods. The “grill” I used in the example is cut from cardboard.

I should note before adding anything, be smart about the age group you’re working with. If you’re working with younger modelers, avoid the “pointy things.” Kids can use little gear embellishments, hex nuts, or other less dangerous items. Shaping pipe cleaner (aka chenille craft stems) in place of nails or toothpicks will also work for kids.

Once these items are added, you can stop there or add a base. I captured the spirit of The Road Warrior by spray-painting a piece of sandpaper black and grey to look like asphalt and adding a yellow line with plain acrylic paint.

The main thing is to look around at what you can use and get creative. If these guys in the movies can build these in a barren wasteland while getting shot at by mutants and pirates, you can make a pretty mean little car at a nice clean table on a spring afternoon.

Do these up right and your car will “carry you through the gates of Valhalla. You shall ride eternal. Shiny and chrome!”

Oh, what a lovely day… to make a cool Mad Max-style car.
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