“Honda for Life” is the motto of Ryu Asada, star designer at Hot Wheels. Born in Osaka, Japan and a lover of cars since infancy, he’s the man responsible for the Hot Wheels CRX, S2000, EF Civic, 1990 NSX, Integra and Monkey, but also a Non-Honda castings ranging from the 1972 Chevy LUV (aka Isuzu Faster) to the Tesla Model S. How did a car-loving kid from Osaka become an influential designer for the most popular toy car brand in the world?
At this year’s Hot Wheels Collectors Convention in October, Ryu was honored for his contributions to Mattel by his colleagues and his fans from around the world. In return, Ryu took the stage to talk about his childhood, car ownership history, and the path that brought him to Mattel.
JNC received permission from Ryu and Hot Wheels to publish not only his speech, but exclusive car photos from the Asada family album.
The first Asada family car, Ryu’s father’s 1970 Toyota Corolla. “My parents told me that I was crying all the time and the only thing that could stop me from crying was a car,” Ryu recalled, “So they used to put me in the car and they left me in the car.”
Not included in Ryu’s presentation was a first-generation Mitsubishi Mirage hatchback in appropriately period green.
The car that began Ryu’s Honda obsession, his father’s second-generation Prelude. Ryu calls it “My first love.”
Not an Asada family hauler, but an influence: a second-generation Honda Accord serving as the Suzuka Circuit Rescue Car.
“Nobody cares about my awesome drawing,” Ryu says of a photo from his kindergarten yearbook. At age five, he was already drawing cars representing real-life models in perspective, not just 2D boxes on circles.
After a brief stint in the US, Ryu’s family moved back to Japan and purchased a Honda Quint Integra with period 1980s body kit and aero wheels.
In the 90s, Ryu’s father owned a fourth-generation Honda Prelude. “I fell in love again,” says Ryu. “Honda for life!”
While in design school at the prestigious Art Center College of Design, Ryu fell in love with the Subaru SVX. He had to sell his first one, but began to miss it. “When you do miss [your car], what do you do? You buy another one.” Ryu has owned three SVXes.
Inspired by his parents’ Honda S2000 in Japan, Ryu bought a similar one of his own here in the States. “I finally got my first Honda in 2008,” Ryu beamed. The car served as the basis for the Hot Wheels S2000 casting.
Ryu’s colleagues, including designers Jun Imai and Dmitriy Shakhmatov, awarded him with a rare Mugen steering wheel and a very heavy NSX in the superdeformed style Ryu in which has built many a plastic model kit.
A few years ago, Ryu was finally able to acquire his dream car, a first-gen Acura NSX. Naturally, a Hot Wheels version soon followed. Congratulations and many thanks for bringing your passion to our favorite toy cars, Ryu!