The Genius of Tom Daniel

The icon, The Red Baron

Tom Daniel’s is not a household name, yet he may be the most prolific funny car designer of the 1960’s and 70’s. He didn’t get the publicity that George Barris got, but he’s responsible for many iconic Hot Wheels and model kits such as The Red Baron (immortalized in “Toy Story”), The Paddy Wagon, Rommel’s Rod, S’cool Bus, the Tiajuana Taxi and dozens of others. Tom Daniel was a key part of many car-lover’s childhoods.

Credited to George Barris, The Munster Koach is pure Tom Daniel

One of his most recognized designs is often credited to George Barris (another funny car master most famous for hammering the Lincoln Futura into the classic TV Batmobile). Barris, facing a deadline crunch, brought Daniel in to design a car for a new TV show and since his studio built the car, George Barris gets the credit for The Munster Koach, even though it was a Tom Daniel design.

The Paddy Wagon model kit

Daniel was a lifelong car nut who mastered the art of design and spent time designing specialized parts for GM, as well as aircraft designs before his funny car designs for hot rod magazines drew the attention of Mattel/Monogram. From 1968 to 1975, Daniel contribued eighty-five designs that were turned into both Hot Wheels cars and Monogram model kits. Some of his cars even made it into the real world as customizers built 1-1 scale models.

Tom Daniel, surrounded by some of his most famous designs

Tom Daniel is still alive and kicking and has an elaborate website where you can keep up to date with the latest re-issues of his classic model kits and die cast toys, plus you can buy t-shirts and fine art prints, showing off his impressive artistic skills. Any item you buy there will be personally signed by Tom Daniel himself.

Toy Zone’s large Tijuana Taxi diecast

About seven or eight years ago, the now defunct die-cast car company Toy Zone released 1-43 scale collectibles of some of Daniel’s most memorable classic designs, including The Red Baron. These are rather easily found for rather reasonable prices on eBay. Even longer ago, there were several Tom Daniel cars released as part of the Johnny Lightning die-cast line and those are also easy to find at decent prices. Even today, Mattel is still slipping the occasional Tom Daniel re-issue into their current assortment of Hot Wheels cars.

Vintage comic book ad for Rommel’s Rod. A reissue is available now.

Round 2 Corporation and AutoWorld are also celebrating Tom Daniel by re-issuing several of his classic Monogram model kits and by translating many of his classic designs into brand-new slot cars.

PopCult just wanted to take this week to tip our hat to the sadly overlooked (he doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page) Tom Daniel, the man behind The Red Baron.