Building a modern gaming PC inside a tower dating back to 1999 sounds like the worst approach a gamer could take — unless that tower happens to be from the iconic Hot Wheels-themed PC released back in 1999 and emblazoned with flame graphics on the sides. How could you not bring this beast back from the dead if you were lucky enough to find one?
Produced by Mattel and the now long-gone Patriot Computer over two decades ago, the Hot Wheels PC wasn’t exactly cutting edge when it debuted in 1999 alongside an alternate Barbie-themed version. As with any PC it could be upgraded and customised for more power at the time of purchase, but in an old flyer featured in Shank Mods’ video, a $US700 ($972) configuration of the blindingly blue PC included a 500MHz Intel Celeron processor, a 10GB hard drive, 64MB of RAM, a CD-ROM drive, a 15″ CRT monitor, Windows 98, and even a matching steering wheel controller with pedals.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad marketing idea, the Hot Wheels and Barbie theming undoubtedly encouraged a younger demographic to beg their parents for their own computer, but the earliest models shipped with a faulty power supply, and then Patriot folded a year later, leaving countless kids with unusable hardware. That fiasco has been mostly forgotten, but the Hot Wheels PC remains a symbol of the glory days of the desktop PC.
So when Shank Mods (who you might remember as the genius behind the handheld portable Virtual Boy mod) managed to find a Hot Wheels PC tower in decent shape, it inspired them to track down all of its original accessories, including a trio of CRTs. But instead of restoring the PC to its original form, they decided to perform a miraculous upgrade and turn it into a modern gaming beast.
As you can probably imagine, squeezing modern hardware into a case that originally used the mini-ITX standard was no easy feat. A hole had to be cut in the back to accommodate a Nvidia RTX 3060, and while there was surprisingly room left to keep the PC’s original floppy disc drive, the CD-ROM drive was upgraded with Blu-ray compatibility instead.
All of the modern hardware was successfully squeezed into the tower like a can of sardines, but it didn’t leave a lot of room for airflow. Even with a liquid CPU cooler in place, both the processor and the graphics card were getting problematically hot, requiring the addition of an 11,000 RPM fan to keep everything inside running at safe temperatures.
Trying to play a game across three CRT displays with monstrous bezels looks like a real challenge, but the upgraded PC can easily handle up to nine screens at a time. So the bigger challenge might be hunting down six more Hot Wheels PC monitors in good working condition to fully complete this retro setup.