Back at last year’s Toy Fair, Candylab’s collection of MO-TO “Awesome Wood Cars” were retro wooden standouts at a show loaded with high-tech playthings. Now, the team that makes these cool toy cars is coming out with its 2015 models, and you’re going to want them for your
Candylab and its cars were born in Brooklyn, but it’s now a four-person team spread out across Brooklyn, L.A., and London. Each of the team members has a day job, so making these rides is just a fun hobby. Co-founder Vlad Dragusin is an architect during business hours, and co-founder Florin Galliano is a product developer in L.A.
Like the first batch of cars, the new toy rides are all about minimalism. Their bodies are abstract but still recognizable representations of classic cars. The number of pieces in each car is kept to a minimum, too. There’s solid beechwood for the body, a few metal pins, plastic rims, rubber tires, and some paint. That’s it.
And they all have a look that today’s cars can’t touch.
“Something is getting lost in the current design language,” says co-founder Dragusin, who is based in Brooklyn. “Up until the early ’70s, when various federal safety regulations started to be implemented, car design was pure and raw. Proportions and visual balance were important, and lots of things were done for the love of the art. Cars had personality.”
These shrunken-down wooden classics reflect that. The first wave of Candylab cars included spins on American muscle cars—mashups of 1960s Camaros, GTOs, and Mustangs, and a Plymouth Fury-like police cruiser thrown in for good measure.
The next wave of models, which just cruised past its Kickstarter goal with ease, still remains rooted in yesteryear. To Gadget Lab’s eyeballs, the gem of the lineup is the Woodie. While it has a late-1960s Ford LTD Country Squire vibe, Dragusin says it’s actually a medley of elements from different rides. This kind of design dim-sum is the case with other MO-TO cars, too.
“The front and rear ends have different cues, and then we mix and match,” says Dragusin. “The police grille is loosely taken from a ’67 Galaxie, with its stacked headlights. The Woodie’s front end is a riff on a ’69 Polara Wagon and yes, its taillights could be a ’68 Ford Country Wagon. Our racers (GT10, C77, Plum50) are an homage to the split front grille of the ’67 SS Chevelle. We really love all those cars.”
The Woodie comes with two magnetic connectors that are put to clever use. There’s one magnet on its roof so that you can attach its included surfboard—a must for a Woodie—and there’s another magnet under its trunk so that you can hitch on the new two-tone Camper.
The Woodie looks fetching by itself, but it’s hard to imagine buying it without splurging on the Camper, as well. Luckily, the two are offered together in a “Caravan” package, which requires a $59 pledge. You also get a second surfboard thrown into the mix with that deal.
You can drag around other cars with Candylab’s new offerings, too. The Towie is an old-school towtruck that can haul another ride behind it with a rubber band. All the new cars in the series—including the new powder-blue Blu-77 with a slick orange stripe—will come with a tow hitch under the front end. The Blu-74 and Towie will be packaged together in a “Blown Gasket” pack, which requires a $60 pledge and comes with four spare tires.
The last new model is the Candycab, which is based on an Uber-like vehicle called a “taxi” that was prominent at some point in history. It’s the cheapest new model in the lineup, and you get it with a $24 pledge. You can get every car in the new series with a $139 “Roadside” package, and you can even buy a set of three surfboard magnets with a $9 pledge. Most of the packages are slated to ship by September, but the Woodie and the Camper need a bit more time. They’ll roll out in October.
But what comes after that? Different eras and makes of cars are definitely on the docket, but Dragusin says Candylab may need to become more than a hobby before that happens.
“We have plans for European cars, and without giving out too much, we are looking at other iconic American eras,” says Dragusin. “We do need a functioning profitable company to finance all this development. Had it not been for the Kickstarter community, these would have remained just some prototypes on our shelves.”