Having a Firebird enthusiast on the Hot Wheels design staff has led to some great things. But Brendon Vetuskey is more than a devoted fan – he’s an owner. Let’s peek in his garage at his latest personal 1:1 project.
First, a little bit about Brendon himself. Born and raised in upstate New York, he worked at another toy company for a number of years prior to joining Mattel. “I was there for almost 8 years,” he recalls. “I worked on their die-cast line, so we had some 1:43 and 1:64 cars that I worked on as well as some other lines there, so I did have some experience to draw on.”
At Mattel, Brendon was hired for the Track and Playsets design team. “But I would go (to car design) and share anything that I could and express interest in helping out,” he says. “After a couple of years, I must have worn them down enough to allow me to work on a car. I was thrown a bone – I got to work on the ’67 Firebird. I also worked on the ’67 Chevelle that year.”
He currently manages all the track and playsets for licensed product: Monster Jam, Marvel, Star Wars, and more. He still likes to design castings when the opportunity comes up, and his designs have been big hits with collectors. “I strive to get as much detail as I can and be as accurate as I can. I’m sure I drive the guys overseas batty with all my revisions and changes.”
Brendon says he’s always been a Firebird fan and has owned quite a few. “At the moment, I own one. Total, I have owned three ’84 Trans Ams, one ’95, and I’ve had one ’67, a ’69 and three ’68 Firebirds.” He notes that he hasn’t actually had all of these cars as drivers, however. “A lot of them were parts cars or I had them for a short time, but that is technically the amount I’ve owned.”
He had one ’84 Trans Am for 19 years… and a few states. “I had that car in New York, and then I brought it down to New Jersey when I was living there,” he remembers. “Ironically, the car was originally sold in New Jersey. I ended up living like 5 or 10 miles from where it was originally sold. I basically brought it home.” He says he brought the car with him to when he later moved to California and eventually sold it to a guy in Seattle. That one has really gotten around!
In Brendon’s garage at the moment is a ’67 Pontiac Firebird in progress. He acquired it in 2009 and started tearing it apart in January of 2010, and has been working on it for the last five years.
“I expect to drive it this year,” he estimates. “It only needs a handful of parts until it’s running and driving, It needs wheels and tires, it needs a driveshaft, it needs a battery… I need windshield glass… ”
We can’t wait to see the finished product! In the meantime, here are some shots of the project. (If you want to see more details, or follow more of Brendon’s Firebird or other projects, check out his website.)