This is the Tot Rod, a bespoke kid’s car designed as a miniature evocation of the ’32 Ford – often referred to as the Deuce and generally regarded as the single most important car in the decades long history of hot rods.
Any parent will tell you that almost all modern children’s toys are built by the lowest bidder to the lowest possible standard of quality. Rather than having just a few toys that last a person’s entire childhood kids often now go through hundreds of toys if not a thousand plus.
When we came across the design for the Tot Rod by Mike Andrews we loved it, so we got chatting to him and the following is what we learned. Anyone with kids (of nieces and nephews) will immediately see the appeal of the Tot Rod, particularly with the push handle added to the back.
What inspired the design of the Tot Rod?
Legacy. I wanted to build something for my son, I wanted it to be a tactile gift that Dad had made, something that in years to come even after he had outgrown it we would all have such a strong emotional connection to it that it would be kept.
Two years ago I was given the opportunity to become the full time parent to our son (who was 6 months old at the time) what I observed was that toys were seasonal, they are disposable and they are built to last “just long enough”. I still have toys that were given to me as a child and either because of the build quality/ materials or the joy that my parents saw these items give me they decided to keep them.
I feel that today, kids toys don’t last long enough for them to be an intrinsic part of our childhood memories, I also feel that the skill or blind energy that existed in generations past has gone, the ability to fashion a toy from timber in your garden shed has been replaced with plastic that can be purchased instantly or creating imagination has been replaced with phones and tablets.
Who came up with the idea?
During my career I spent most of my days either managing design clients or projects through various manufacturing and brand roles, over the years I was able to observe many talented people at all levels of a construction project, I’d been front row with product designers developing an idea on a piece of paper, through to prototyping and large scale production at home I spent countless hours in my shed teaching myself to build whatever was needed, using the processes I observed during the day, as the projects grew, so did the tools and the blind enthusiasm to think “what next” – eventually teaching myself to build a bike that you shared on Silodrome.
I thought if I could build my son and pedal car he could use it for a few years, I thought if I built a hot rod styled pedal car that would allow me to have some scaled down fun, selfishly I thought if I could learn to build a scaled down hot rod I’d create the muscle memory to build my own Rat Fink/Ed Roth/Gen Winfield ’60’s inspired car.
At a local hotrod show a guy was selling fiberglass bodies of a ’39 Willy, not what I’d hoped for but it was a start.
The price seemed fair and when I enquired about a chassis, I was met with the first of many roadblocks, “I dont really care what you do for a chassis, by the body or bugger off” now; people that know me know that when I attempt to weld, things catch fire. it’s a skill I’ve never mastered, but I thought I built a bike with some complicated fiberglass components; how hard could a car be?
I arrived upon the ’32 Ford, I’d always loved the shape and would later be told that a genuine ’32 is the holy grail of hot rods. It looked simply enough. That was the next challenge, the body is famous, rear wheel wells, undercut body. I wanted it to be accurate and I wanted it to feel proportioned and scaled. turns out it’s a pretty complicated shape!
As the body took shape, I shared it with people and quickly people were very supportive, asking if I could make one for them. I realised then, that if I was going to do that I needed to build them in a way that I could scale production if I needed.
My original concept was to develop this as a kit set with all of the obstacles removed; cant weld? no worries chassis is sorted for you! Can’t fiberglass? no problem that’s sorted too. I wanted to provide a solution that could be assembled with an allen key and a spanner. How you decided to paint it and upholster it was up to you and would form part of that emotion currency that would make your Tot Rod like no one else’s – and thats how the Tot Rod Shop was born.
How is the Tot Rod made?
There are a number of materials utilised and where possible the intrinsic value of human input is chosen over machine. I can answer emails but when it comes to design software I am completely illiterate. The drop axle that forms part of the overall design was created in CAD (Cardboard Aided Design) I drew this by hand with a ruler, compass, and a draughtsman’s stencil – this was then scanned by the laser cutter and cut.
The grill is sand cast aluminium, individually poured from the pattern I made from brass strips and modeling clays, the windscreen and tail light bezels use a very old manufacturing technique called casting, all of these pieces are finished by me, by hand in the shed, the fiberglass bodies come from a 5 piece mould and are hand laid due to the complexity of what appears to be a simple shape. The chassis features a hot rod theme and has bent tube and creates a seamless mount system for the body.
On completing the master I work closely with some very skilled people to produce each element, each component is hand collected by me, sanded, cleaned and up polished using basic tools, elbow grease and time, the human touch makes each one individual and I really like they story that this tells.
Are they for sale, and if so how much?
Yes, I recently hand delivered my first custom built car for Bryce Green of Kindig It Design, it was an amazing project to help build a car that will be in his family for many years to come and to see the reaction of Bryce, Dave Kindig, and his team was mind blowing for me.
Kit sets start at $2,600 USD + shipping, insurance, and local taxes, cars finished by me start at $3,600 USD (standard base coat clear coat system and automotive grade vinyls) + shipping, insurance, and local taxes.
If the client wants the car to match their real one we can do that too! The build process is documented in conjunction with the owner and published via Instagram.
I’m currently working with a packaging partner to develop a suitable shipping solution Which can be kept and help preserve the car for future family members
What ages/sizes are they suitable for?
I built these for my two boys, the oldest is 2.5 years old and the youngest a year, I’d suggest that as soon as your child can sit up and support their own neck then they would be ready to go, my eldest is now at the limit and will take his shoes off to keep getting into it!
Key Tot Rod Dimensions
Wheelbase 585mm or 23”
Overall length 800mm or 31”
Overall width 360mm or 14”
Overall height 240mm or 9”
Seat length 400mm or 15”
Seat width 230mm or 9”
Maximum child height 900mm or 35”
Ben has had his work featured on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with millions of readers around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.