“Beer Wagon” designer Tom Daniel talks about his creations and his career [Special interview for Norton74]  

“Beer Wagon” designer Tom Daniel talks about his creations and his career [Special interview for Norton74]  

Few years ago I built the Lego replica of the “Beer Wagon”, a radical Show Rod built by the legendary car designer Tom Daniel in 1967. Then I built another Tom Daniel’s vehicle, the “Paddy Wagon”.  

Those vehicles, known as Show Rods, and many others, were built from the ground up, were distinguished by an unconventional design, brilliant colours and amazing craftsmanship. Their engines were extremely powerful, yet they rarely touched the road. In other words, these cars were meant to be looked at, not driven. Yes, Show Rods were paradoxical. 

The Show Rods phenomenon peaked between the 1960s and 1970s in the United States and Tom Daniel was one of the most representative designer of that crazy era. Between 1967-1975, Tom designed 75 cars for Monogram Models. These were iconic models that are still top sellers today like the Beer Wagon indeed and the Red Baron. His designs were so influential that custom car builders sometimes crafted full-size versions of his kit designs, often commissioned by show promoters. 

But his work wasn’t limited to just model car kits. George Barris called him on a Friday night wanting a design for a TV show involving a family of monsters. Overnight Daniel dreamed up the Munster Koach for Barris, although the credit for the design by Daniel often gets mis-stated. He also designed the Bat Cycle for the 1960s Batman television series. It consisted of a Yamaha 250 and was linked to Robin’s sidecar, which was a detachable go-cart (source: Fuel Curve). 

After building the Paddy Wagon I got in touch with Tom Daniel asking to chat with him about his career and his famous vehicles. If you’d like to know more about Tom’s creations and Show Rods phenomenon this interview is a great resource.
Fasten your seat belts, wear your helmet, let’s go! 

Hi Mr. Tom Daniel, thanks for accepting to have a chat with me. Just few questions about you and your creations. 

N74: When your interest in cars and Show Rods started and why? 

TD: Soon after WWII was over – in the late 1940s – returning GI’s began building hot rods and customs (“Show Rods” as such were still in the future), and I was just in High school – and starting to draw custom cars. 

N74: Can you tell me a little bit about your background? I mean, are you a self-made car designer or did you study design or something like that? 

TD: During late high school years, I discovered the Art Center School during a field trip to the original campus on 3rd Street in west Los Angeles. After graduating high school in 1955, ACS accepted my portfolio (which I created during my senior year in high school); then began a tough 4-year grind learning to be an industrial designer – (Transportation Major; Product design minor). 

N74: In a few words, if possible, tell me which are your career milestones. 

TD: Graduating high school; then ACS with a BPA Degree; then being hired by GM to join their Styling Staff at the GM Tech Center north of Detroit, Michigan; Flying with the U.S. Navy during the Cuban Missile Crisis; Working as a design-engineer on the APOLLO MOON Project (with) North American Aviation at the Space and Information Systems in Downey, California. 

N74: Why and when did your cooperation with Monogram start? And what it represented for you. 

TD: This came about as a result of my long time “Off the Sketchpad” articles and drawings for Rod&Custom Magazine (as well as other “car” magazines.) The Monogram people liked what I was designing and drawing.  The BEER WAGON was my 1st model kit design for Monogram – and it was a hit right away… then came my Red Baron – and LIFTOFF! 

N74: As you know I built the replica of your Beer Wagon and Paddy Wagon; can you tell me where the inspiration to build them come from and when? 

TD: Childhood remembrances. 

N74: Any curiosities about the Beer Wagon and Paddy Wagon? 

TD: Monogram said they wanted a design of a hot rodded Beer Wagon in 1:24 scale.  When I started the designs, It was HUGE, and I had to shrink the entire design down to about ¾ size. 

N74: Which are your favourite creations? 

TD: WAY too many to delineate here.  LOL! 

N74: Have you been influenced by other car designer? If yes, which ones? 

TD: I have admired many of the Italian and German car designers (of the 1950s era) – as well as some Americans, but my designs are my designs…. Done strictly for my pleasure. Just so happens, LOTS of people also like them to this day – some 50 + years later. 

N74: Are you working on something new or are you just enjoying your time? 

TD: I am working with ATLANTIS Toy & Hobby in New York – who now have a good selection of the (former) Monogram Models/’TD’ tooling.   

N74: Recently I built also the “Fire Truck” designed by Chuck Miller. The Fire Truck and the Paddy Wagon look having the same source of inspiration. Is this correct? Have you ever known Chuck Miller? 

TD: The only thing those two designs have in common is the ubiquitous “C” Cab designs used in the late 18th century.  Under contract, he built the 1st 1:1 version of my RED BARON model kit design Monogram Models manufactured in 1968. He did a pretty nice job – but NOT accurate to my original design in many detail aspects. 

Many thanks for your time Mr Tom Daniel, it has been an honour chatting with you and I’m sure LEGO fans, and petrolheads in general, will appreciate the interview. Keep it up! 

More info about Tom Daniel works: www.tomdaniel.com

A-FrAme Cabin approved as next LEGO IDEAS set!

A-FrAme Cabin approved as next LEGO IDEAS set!

I’m completely speechless and still can’t believe it…but it’s all true!
The A-Frame Cabin has been selected to be one of the next LEGO Ideas sets! I’m so happy and honored for this incredible goal, never in my life I would have thought to end up here.
Huge thanks to everyone who supported this project and helped me make my dream come true.
Special thanks to LEGO IDEAS Team, they are awesome.
Now we just have to wait until the day the A-FrAme Cabin will hit the Lego shelves!
I ❤ you all, thank you!

Below are some photos of the A-Frame Cabin that I built in the fall of 2020 and then submitted on the LEGO IDEAS platform in March 2021. On May 9, 2021, it reached 10,000 votes in just 42 days!



As usual it’s time to look back and take stock of what I’ve done in the past twelve months.

Alongside the traditional buildings of MOCs (scroll the images for a deeper look) this year I submitted two builds on the LEGO IDEAS: the A-Frame Cabin in spring, that reached 10,000 votes in 42 days (!), and a few weeks ago the Santa’s Cottage which is currently gathering supports (if you haven’t yet please support it).
Joining the LEGO IDEAS program was, and is, a very fun experience and now I’m waiting for the review result for my A-Frame Cabin. Fingers crossed…

I wanted to build more this year but unfortunately I had to face many personal issues that limited my free time.

Thanks to all of you who follow me and support my work, it means a lot to me! Thanks to all the great builders out there who are a big source of inspiration. Also a big thank you to all the blogs and magazines that featured my works in 2021. Let’s take a look at 2021 builds here below.

All the best, happy building and I wish you a happy new year!

A jump into the Santa’s Cottage building process

A jump into the Santa’s Cottage building process

While Santa’s Cottage is gathering support on LEGO IDEAS – please don’t forget to vote it – it’s time to take a look at some unreleased work-in-progress snapshots of Mr. Claus residence straight from the Polar Circle.
Follow the “step by step” building stages, scroll through the images and find out the secrets of my snowy diorama.

Let’s take a deeper look together…

My Christmas creation this year is called Santa’s Cottage and joins the series of rural houses that I have built in the past couple of years and which have had so much response in the international AFOL community. If you look carefully you can recognize that it is a reinterpretation of my Blue Cottage built early this year.
The basic structure, sizes and general layout are the same as those of the Blue Cottage; colors, characters and settings are different.
The little house is red and white, and it couldn’t be otherwise, with a black roof and black and white windows. Note the circular shape of the door and windows, as in the houses of the Hobbits; to recreate them I used the new “Tile, Round Corner” of two different sizes. Rim covers from the Dodge Challenger in the Speed Champion series find new function inside the windows, making the thickness of the portholes circumferences appear smaller and giving the window look a more pleasant, general appeal. The door, on the other hand, has as a texture some simple inverted 2X1 light bluish gray plates, and the outcome is excellent.
The base, as in many of my previous dioramas, is made up of multiple layers of “wedge plate” on a brick base, all in total white, the snow effect is guaranteed!

Snow and ice are also on the roof, on the surfaces and objects in the MOC. Don’t miss the Trans-Clear Electric, Train Light Prism 1 x 3 used as a piece of ice dripping from the eaves, I think no one has ever used it before, it is a forgotten piece that has fallen into oblivion.
The roof is asymmetrical and very sloping on one side: on the left under it there are logs and wooden blocks recreated using the round tiles with the cookies and waffles pattern.
To reach the somewhat battered staircase made of tile 1 x 4 with Wood Grain, you pass a pavement consisting of some gray slopes between which I have inserted white tiles to simulate the porphyry effect. I used this technique in my Magda’s Garden Shed.
Featured in my previous A-frame Cabin, the dry-stone wall is comprised of many Thor’s hammers, a clever technique I borrowed from the very talented builder Letranger Absurde. On the right, the white/red off-road vehicle is parked and this time there is a spare wheel on the roof, you never know! The vehicle is based on my very popular Chevrolet Blazer that first appeared in Sheriff Hopper’s cabin, inspired by the TV series Stranger Things. It’s a truly ‘chameleonic’ vehicle that lends itself well to various customisations.

The diorama presents some “features” already appeared in previous works and other small hidden details, have fun finding them!

Magda’s Garden Shed: behind the scenes of the building process

Magda’s Garden Shed: behind the scenes of the building process

Let’s take a look at some unreleased WIP snapshots of my latest creation straight from the countryside. Follow Magda’s Garden Shed “step by step” building stages, scroll through the images and find out the secrets of my latest flowering diorama.
In the middle of the scene is the actual garden shed which has the classic American barn shape (does it remind you of anything?) and a warm color combination: reddish brown for the roof and eaves, combined with the tan of the walls and the dark tan of the doors. The entrance steps are medium nougat.
The large tree that sprouts up from the roof immediately catches the eye, and it’s the leading feature of the entire scene. The outdoor flooring is made with many light bluish gray slopes of different sizes, among which I have inserted white tiles to give the idea of porphyry. The effect is very pleasant.
All around there are many plants, flowers, and a couple of saplings (one on the left in the foreground and the yellow one in the background). On the right, you can spot the scarecrow made with different types of bars and with the head and hat of the collectible Scarecrow Minifigure, one of my favorites.
The Swirling Rocks element on the left, coming from the Sandman Minifigure, is used as a vase holder, I think it’s a NPU (Nice Part Usage). A flower holder made with a fishnet hangs from the side wall, and close to it is a plant set in a Scala and Belville series Flowerpot. I have already used that element in my Winter Garden.
There are also two wheelbarrows in the scene: a red one leaning against the wall near the pumpkins, and another in the foreground on the right. The latter is made with different LEGO pieces. Can you guess which ones they are?
On the top of the façade there is a porthole made like the ones in my previous Blue Cottage. On the left, you can see a compass that represents a sort of sundial. There is also a nice little roof over the door made with many slightly raised 2X1 tiles.

Below the step by step pictures, in order:
1) The flowering diorama and me;
2) A beautiful photo of the shed with a natural background;
3) Preparing the base made with many dark tan plates and plate wedges, the flooring is made with many light bluish gray slopes of different sizes, among which I have inserted white tiles to give the idea of ​​porphyry;
4) The facade is ready, only a bunch of details are missing;
5) Coupling the base and the main building;
6) Adding the details on the left side;
7) Plants and utensils added on the right side and the eaves made with many slightly raised 2X1 tiles;
8) The two-piece roof is made with reddish brown plates and tiles;
9) With the roof on top the shed is almost complete;
10) The Garden Shed is complete and ready for the photo shoot!

The inspiration behind the Garden Shed came from a drawing by a Japanese dioramist, Mr. Yasuhiro Okugawa, who I really appreciate. Take a look below at the coloring process of the original black&white drawing.

A-frame Cabin reaches 10K supporters on LEGO Ideas!

A-frame Cabin reaches 10K supporters on LEGO Ideas!

A few hours ago my A-FrAme Cabin achieved the coveted 10,000 votes on LEGO IDEAS platform: it’s unbelievable!
I’ve worked hard these 42 days to promote the project and I am delighted to have achieved the goal.
I published several updates in that period and this helped the project to keep cool and appealing.
The most important updates were at 6,000 votes (interior update) and at 8,000 votes (Spiders attack), below you can find out the photos.
I thank everyone who helped me in this incredible adventure. I don’t know how it will end up but I am already very happy and satisfied with it.
Thank you all, you’re awesome! And now fingers crossed…