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Toy Zone Tom Daniel Rad Ratz: Ice T Hot Rod

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Toy Zone Tom Daniel Rad Ratz: Ice T Hot Rod

Toy Zone Tom Daniel Rad Ratz: Ice T Hot Rod

Tom Daniel, an East Los Angeles native who designed every card in the Monogram set except one, "Lil' Coffin," began sketching cars when he was in high school. Encouraged by a teacher to visit the Art Center School (now known as the Art Center College of Design) in Pasadena, Daniel did so and decided to pursue a career in mainstream car design.

During his senior year of high school, Daniel applied to the Art Center School in spite of the school's prerequisite of junior college study. Realizing he would have a high hurdle to clear in order to be granted admittance, he put together a portfolio of work that was so impressive, the junior college requirement was waived and he was admitted.

While working his way through school, Daniel began selling illustrations to Rod & Custom magazine. Upon graduation, he accepted a position with General Motors' Advanced Transportation Department where he designed futuristic trucks, and thereafter returned to work for Rod & Custom where his drawings caught the attention of the people at Monogram.

With the craze of slot cars, model kits and customized vehicles at its peak, Monogram believed Daniel was the man they needed to infuse their offerings with designs that reflected the era and America's love of wild wheels.

Looking to California lifestyle and beach enthusiasts for inspiration, Daniel noticed that young surfers were adopting German military helmets and iron crosses as symbols for anti-establishment sentiments.

Capitalizing on such German-themed paraphernalia, Daniel incorporated the look into a Model T hot rod. With a chrome Pickelhaube helmet as a roof covering a pair of Spandau machine guns, a scaled down German aircraft engine, six zoomie pipes and iron crosses adorning its grille, roof and wheels, Daniel's design would go on to become the highest-selling model car kit of all time.

Searching for the right moniker to hang on his design, Daniel has said the idea came from a Florida-based rock band, The Royal Guardsmen, who had a 1966 hit single "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron."

The song is based on Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz's canine character Snoopy who had a recurring dream where he was a World War I airman fighting the Red Baron from atop his dog house. Although merely a novelty song from a relatively unknown band, the title itself clicked with Daniel. Naming his Monogram model kit creation "Red Baron," the design became the artist's signature creation and an instant hit, selling more than two-and-a-half-million kits between 1968 and 1970.

Today, at the age of 79, Daniel lives in Southern Utah where he maintains a studio and still does commissioned work. He recently sat down with Sports Market Report to talk about his life, his inspirations and the impact his designs have had on American pop culture. We began our visit by asking when and how he first became fascinated with cars.

Tom Daniel (TD): My fascination with cars came early in high school. This was right after World War II and, in Southern California, a lot of the hot rodders who had been serving in the war came home and picked up where they left off. That was when you started seeing a lot of really neat cars on the streets. I was going to Huntington Park High School, and at the time the Barris brothers' [custom car designers and builders George and Sam Barris] shop was close by, so there were always some nice customs cruising around Huntington Park. That was when I really got into cars and started doodling ideas for custom cars.

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