The popular Southeast Gassers Association (SEGA) continues to thrust itself into the mainstream — this time directly into the toy chests of today’s youth and the shelves of big kids at heart.
Following up on the success that earned it prime-time air-time on the Discovery Channel’s Moonshiners reality show a year ago, SEGA founder Quain Stott and his team were approached by Mattel, the maker of the iconic Hot Wheels cars. Mattel designer Brendan Vetuskey, a hot rodder in his own right, helped spearhead the relationship that has resulted in a SEGA-themed series of Hot Wheels cars that will be available at big-box retailers nationwide.
And while the cars, at this time, do not replicate any actual SEGA-raced cars, the value of the exposure of the SEGA brand to an audience of youth numbering in the millions is impossible to ignore.
“They [Mattel] came to us with this idea,” Stott says. “We didn’t call them…never made the first phone call to them. They just wanted to use our logo, and of course, that makes you feel good.”
Stott goes on, staring “A few years ago, Steve Matusek tried to run a tribute car in Pro Mod for Tom McEwen and Hot Wheels wouldn’t let him use their name, and here they are calling up some little Gasser deal asking us to use our name. I thought it was a joke at first. Steve just wanted to give them free advertising, and they turned him down. He has more money than I’ll ever have, and when they called, I said, ‘Aw, they ain’t going to want to do anything with this pissy little organization.’ ”
“Everybody says I’m underestimating what it [SEGA] is, and I guess maybe I do since it’s mine, but it doesn’t seem like its that big of a deal to me,” he continues. “But everyone else is freaking out over it.”
“I first told them I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get involved in that, but they were really interested in partnering with us. I told them, ‘well, okay.’ I just didn’t see how we could go wrong with it. The honor in this to me is that I was such a Hot Wheels freak when I was a kid. It’s no secret that drag racing has been good to me — I’ve made a lot of money in drag racing since 1975, it’s pretty much been my living, and that all started playing with Hot Wheels when I was a kid. Who would have ever dreamed that Hot Wheels was going to call me and want to use a name or a business that I created?” Stott says.
Stott and social media and merchandise manager Stephen Smith hashed out the deal, and in making the agreement to allow use of the logo, also requested some input on the final design. While Stott admits the final product, a ’64 Chevy Nova wagon which was already partially in Mattel’s mold lineup, doesn’t fully fit the strict appearance standards of SEGA, he’s pleased with what they came up with nevertheless.
“We went back and forth with them — the cars aren’t perfect. We met in the middle on some things. For example, it doesn’t have a hood on it, and everyone knows a car has to have a hood to be legal, but that’s one of Hot Wheels’ things…they want the hood off so you can see the details of the engine. And since it’s such a small scale, they chose to leave the hood off,” he says.
Stott and Smith also weighed in on the color of the wheels and bumpers to maintain some period-correct elements.
In all, there are three different Chevy II wagon Gassers of varying colors/paint schemes headed to retailers nationwide.
“I see it as the next step in our quest to be the gold standard in Gasser racing,” Stott says. “We’ve been told that we are, and of course I underestimate it, but if I’m going to do anything, I want to do it 100-percent. And this is another step to letting the world know who we are.”
Stott and company were particularly blown away by the scope of the SEGA branding on the packaging and the cars.
“We didn’t know our logo was going to be that big. We all thought it was going to be this small little decal that you needed a magnifying glass to read it. When they sent us the picture of the first prototype we freaked out,” he says.
Stott hopes the relationship with Mattel will later lead to replicating some of the series’ amazing machines, but admits that at this time “we don’t know yet where this is going to go.”