Please read this updated article thread for continuing discussion about taking apart and putting back together Hot Wheels cars.
Taking apart your Hot Wheels cars with minimal destruction is pretty easy. Sure, throwing them against the wall like we did when we were kids is more fun but they’re a lot harder to put together afterwords. Now all you need is a drill and a few select bit sizes.
Most Hot Wheels and other 1:64 diecasts have two rivet posts that hold the metal body to the plastic chassis. The rivets are sort of like pop-rivets in that their head is just stamped and folder over. This means there is no screw for easily disassembly. Instead you must drill out the rivet head along with some fine grinding.
Drilling out the rivets
I usually start with a 1/16 drill bit and drill down into the middle of the rivet on the underside of the car. This is your guide hole for the larger bit, so you don't need to drill down very far.
Next you'll use in a 3/16 bit. It's important to note that your bit be designed for drilling metal. General purpose bits won't last very long. In general, we want to grind the rivet head away so we don’t want a bit that has too much of a point. If your bit tip is too pointy you’ll do nothing more than push the rivet head even wider, which doesn’t make disassembly any easier. I bought a Milwaukee 3/16 bit designed for metal and it works great – it was only $2 at Home Depot. It has less point than others I tried.
When drilling, make sure you are going down on the rivet as even as possible. If you drill at an angle or off-center you’ll get an uneven grind. You will also have to grind through a bit of the plastic. Don’t apply pressure too hard too soon, you’re not drilling into concrete. Check your rivet every few seconds to see how much farther you have to go and stop when you see the black plastic showing through.
Once you’ve reached plastic drill very slowly. You may have to angle your drilling to get some of the edge metal left over from the rivet. At this point you can also whip out your Dremel with a small grinding bit and remove whatever metal is left over.
Parts of a diecast car
After you’ve drilled out the rivet head you should be able to separate the body from the chassis pretty easily. Don’t force it if it’s not separating. Use your needle-nose pliers to get some leverage but you don’t want to bend/break the plastic or metal – especially the axle.
Once apart you’ll usually be left with the four parts that make up a car – the metal body, plastic chassis, plastic windows, and plastic interior. You’re now ready to customize and paint the car as you see fit.
Putting your car back together
After you're done customizing your car, it's time to put things back together so you can start racing. Assembly is quite a bit easier than taking the car apart. Just put the car parts back together the way they came apart and you should see the rivet posts showing in the hole you created on the bottom.
From here you can experiment with compounds to "glue" things back together but I've been using JB Weld epoxy for years with great results. JB Weld requires that you mix two parts together to create a steel-strong paste. You don't need much so one tube goes a long way. Take your epoxy and use a toothpick to put it inside the rivet hole you drilled...maybe give it a little "head" so it's even strong. Wait maybe 10-minutes and you're done. Your car will be as strong as it was when it came out of the blister, only now it'll be your own custom racer.