It’s been a couple of years since Hot Wheels designer Ryu Asada passed away from cancer. His former colleagues at Mattel are honoring him with what is the most detailed 1/64 scale cars the company has ever offered. Fittingly, it’s a replica of his beloved 1994 Acura NSX wearing the livery of a rare Suzuka Circuit pace car.
Born in Osaka, Japan, Ryu was a life-long Honda enthusiast, something that was passed down from his parents and their ownership of string of Honda dream machines — Integra, Prelude, S2000, to name a few. After graduating from Art Center College of Design Ryu was hired at Mattel, where he worked on Matchbox and Hot Wheels toys. He’s responsible for most of the Honda castings, but also plenty of other cars, Japanese (NA Mazda Miata, DR30 Nissan Skyline, Subaru 22B STi, and so on) and non-Japanese alike (’67 Chevy C-10, Porsche 934, Lancia Delta Integrale, and countless more).
In his personal life Ryu owned many desirable cars, including several Subaru SVX coupes, a Honda S2000, Lexus IS300 SportCross, and his dream car, an NA1 Honda NSX. As a designer of children’s toys and an expert plastic scale model kit builder and customizer, Ryu modified his NSX to resemble a safety car from one of his favorite tracks, Japan’s Honda-built Suzuka Circuit. The real car predates widespread use of digital cameras, so photos of it are hard to find online. There was a red one and a black one, both with the large “R” on the hood and an outline of Suzuka Circuit on the doors. Needless to say, Ryu’s car is correct down to the fonts used.
This car was replicated in as a Hot Wheels car in their 2020 regular series that sells for about $1 each. This tribute car is a completely new casting that will sell online at Mattel’s Red Line Club (membership required) to collectors. It’s far more detailed than the main line car, and features raised headlights, taillights, and rooftop lights that actually illuminate.
The on/off switch is, cleverly hidden in the back as part of the rear deck and spoiler. Normally RLC cars come in spectraflame paint, a tradition that dates back to the original Hot Wheels from 1968, but since this is a replica of Ryu’s actual car which his wife still owns, the company made an exception.
According to fellow Hot Wheels designer Brendon Vetuskey, the functional lights are a first for a Hot Wheels car in the Red Line Club. It was designed alongside a light-up version of Knight Rider‘s KITT, which has the same chip inside. That car was released at the San Diego Comic Con last summer. Despite the presence of electronics to control the lights the car still has a partial interior, though it’s a bit hard to see through the tinted windows.
“This car was originally one that Ryu was going to work on,” Vetuskey told us. “But he didn’t get the chance, so we decided what better than to make the car a replica of his personal dream car to honor him.” Even the the license plate matches that of Ryu’s real car. Vetuskey also told us, “This will be the only time we offer the flashing roof lights. Any future version of the NSX will not have them.”
The car is a fantastic and touching tribute to one of the best and most influential Hot Wheels designers of all time. In addition to his talent, Ryu was all around one of the nicest people we’ve ever met in our nearly 20 years in the auto industry. It’s heartwarming to see that his influence is still being felt.
If you’d like to order one of this car, you must first purchase a membership to the Red Line Club, which will also afford you opportunities to get other exclusive items that won’t be sold in retail stores. The NSX costs $40, shipping not included. It goes on sale across the US at 9:00 am Pacific Time (12:00 pm Eastern) on Tuesday, July 18. We’d advise you to have your membership ready and be ready exactly when the sale starts, as RLC cars typically sell out within a few minutes.