Saving Car Culture One Kid At A Time With Automoblox
When it comes to car culture and the automotive industry as a whole, there are always a vocal minority of doomsayers predicting the death of car culture at the hands of millennials. They get on their soapboxes and make their speeches and like so many others prophesiers of the end times, they end up being wrong. Kids still manage to find ways to get interested in cars, whether it’s through video games like Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport or films like Pixar’s “Cars”, they always manage to hook enough to perpetuate this weird expensive hobby of ours. Another way to get kids hooked on cars is through toys and one guy is taking the idea of car toys to another level, his name is Patrick Calello and his toy company is called Automoblox.
The thing that sets the Automoblox experience apart from other toy cars is that there is an added element of creativity. Kids (or if you’re us, adults) can mix and match components to suit their own idea of what makes a cool car. Front ends can be swapped, wheels can be changed, tires have many color options, etc. Added to that is the way the body pieces attach. Calello worked with child psychologists to develop a connecting system that would do more than simply hold two car-shaped pieces of wood together, it would encourage kids to use color and shape to figure out what goes with what.
“When I was in design school, I ended up doing a super rough version of the Automoblox cars as a project. I ended up getting a ton of positive feedback, but eventually I put the prototype on a shelf and forgot about for a few years as I made my way through a career as an industrial designer. Eventually, I pulled the car off the shelf and started to envision a way to turn that into a business,” said Calello. “I started the company in the early 2000s and have been working and evolving the toys ever since.”
Automoblox also differ from your typical die-cast toys in that it’s made predominantly of high quality wood. The wood not only offers a safer play experience for younger kids, it is incredibly pleasant to touch and look at. Also, it offers something of a blank canvas for our young aspiring auto designers, allowing them to put themselves more fully into the design without a bunch of pre-made graphics getting in the way. Automoblox come in a variety of shapes and sizes with everything from trucks and hot rods to SUVs and supercars, each with the ability to be swapped around. Do you want to build a supercar pickup truck Ute thing that would make even the most jaded Australian pre-teen crack a smile? You can do that, or just about anything else.
Despite having been a company for over a decade, Automoblox continues to try and innovate with their designs. Patrick is nearly ready to launch a new branded collaboration with HRE Wheels in which some of their most popular designs are scaled down directly from the CAD files and turned into the coolest toy wheels anywhere. Calello is also partnering with Brembo so that Automoblox will, for the first time, have swappable brakes.
“We’ve worked with HRE in the past and it’s been an awesome experience. The big challenge was that cost and technology kind of limited how faithful we could be to the original designs. That’s all different now and we’re able to almost exactly scale down HRE’s amazing wheels so they work on our toy cars. Add to that our partnership with Brembo and we’re really upping our game. I think that the kids who play with our toys will love it almost as much as their gearhead parents!” says Calello.
Automoblox is, for all intents and purposes, a one man show. Patrick handles everything from the design of the cars and their interconnects to dealing with suppliers, etc. It’s clearly a labor of love and his passion is infectious. Our desks are littered with wooden car parts at the moment, and we don’t even have kids. If you’re interested in checking out what Patrick and Automoblox have been up to, check out their website www.automoblox.com.
Photos Courtesy of Automoblox.