Over the last few years I've been working on a lamp idea involving Hot Wheels cars and LEDs where the headlights should go. I'm still tinkering on the big project but along the way I found this little side quest to be fun and inexpensive. Taking a small USB flashlight and striping it down to fit into a Hot Wheels car can be an exercise in packing stuff into tight spaces, but with the right car it can turn awesome.
The black car? That is a later attempt that I made, after I had a clue what I was doing.
That is a genuine Hot Wheels car (1999 version) of the 1938 Phantom Corsair. If you are interested I have that model available in my Etsy Store at: https://www.etsy.com/listing/108285700/hot-wheels-usb-rechargeable-flashlight
Step 1: Parts and Choosing the Right Car
Choosing the right car is critical. It needs to have a enough empty space inside the vehicle. Say enough room to take $1.50 in quarters stacked up. Also pay attention to things like how the headlights are depicted on the car - are they basically flat on the front grill or more sloped? Having the front grill perpendicular to the ground makes it easier to fit them in and drill out the holes where they go. Even with a couple of these under my belt I destroyed some Mini Cooper models due to the sloped headlights.
Be aware that Hot Wheels cars generally have open windows and seats and a steering wheel inside the car. You will have to remove this added interior details to make the flashlight guts fit. I tried doing custom tinted windows in a few cars and it did not turn out well, so for now it's exposed flashlight parts if you look inside.
For a first vehicle, I'm going to recommend a brand that isn't Hot Wheels. Walmart (and other stores) carries the Adventure Wheels brand from Maisto, these cars are slightly larger (more room to play with) and have black plastic windows and no interior detailing. Sweet.
The parts List is basic:
pair of 3mm white LEDs
USB mini B female socket
a couple of 2-56, 1/8" long pan head machine screws - holds the car together when you are done.
A USB cable that can plug into a mini port - this is very common and you probably have a few laying around right now.
The car I got at the local Walmart. All the rest I got off Ebay and the local hobby store.
Try to get the brightest 3mm white LEDs you can find, mine are 20Kmcd at 20ma models, 20 degree focus. $3.5 for qty 50
USB Flashlight - it has a small pcb with surfact mount componets, a battery, a 5mm LED, a switch and a USB male socket. It generally goes for around $3 to $4 on Ebay.
Others have stuck USB flash drives out the back of a Hot Wheels car with the big USB socket sticking out. I'm trying to have it be compact so I'm replacing the USB socket with mini female version. Get one with pins sticking out, not the SMT type. Usual price is around $4 for 10 or so.
Small screws - try a local hobby store or ebay or even Amazon - small parts has a number of these.