Back in 2011 I put up a post (Seen Here) to help me identify 2 Hot Wheels Sized cars with a sort of Road Warrior meets D&D theme. In 2013 a visitor to the site told me they were called “Road Wars” so I added the proper name to my blog. The post was then found and commented on by the creator of the series himself Tim Harris! What follows are his original comments and then a series of questions he was kind enough to answer for us all.
Tim’s original comment to Retro Rescue>
Hello- I was a free lance designer/inventor of toys and games 1982-2008. I was working in association with David Wyman (Granta Design) when I conceived and developed the “Road Wars” and “Road Maniax” products. They sold well for about 8 months then Mattel developed the “Liberty Base”. America hated it and returned the cars to the toy stores. Mattell dropped the concept world wide.
Retro Rescue> Thank you for stopping by my site Tim and leaving a comment about the cars. After reading your message I went and looked at the whole line. It doesn’t surprise me that the Road Wars were initially popular. I think they are amazing little Mad Max machines which is why I created the post to find out more. I also looked at the Liberty Base. It reminds me of Planet of the Apes and the M.A.S.K. playsets from the 80s. It’s disappointing that was the end of the line. May I ask you a few questions and post your responses to my blog? I’d like to know more about your experiences and I’m confident others would too.
Tim> Thank you for your appreciation of the Road Wars product. I thoroughly enjoyed developing the product all those years ago and now seeing the web sites associated with the product. Of course I don’t mind answering your questions.
Retro Rescue> Toy Designer / Inventor sounds like a fascinating career. How did you get started? During your long career you designed “Road Wars”, tell us about other projects you have worked on?
Tim> Toy designer – not a real one is my usual response. I started at Matchbox Toys/ Lesley Products in 1976. First job was in the model shop assisting designers realises their visions. After about a year I moved to the design department as matchbox was moving into preschool products. I remained there until matchbox closed in 1984/5ish. During that time I designed and conceived things like “Activity bear”, “Diver Dan”, “Tubby Tooters” “Shufflies” and was responsible for the design and sculpting of the “Matchbox Disney Range”. I have some of those pieces for sale on eBay.
After Matchbox closed I went as an independent designer and worked with inventing group Dixon Manning designing the “Corgi Carry Case”. I remained there for a year and went to work with the inventing group Granta Design/ Wyman Associates. Also worked for Roger Ford of NPD Partnership. At NPD I assisted in the development of the game “Dark World”. I have also designed toys for Fisher Price, Kiddicraft, Wadding tons games, & Schmidt Spiele, to name but a few. I think the last product count was around 43 in total.
Retro Rescue> [With Road Wars] which phases of the design process were you involved with?
Tim> Dungeons and Dragons had been around for a few years and that led me to conceive the ideas for “Road Wars”. One or two illustrations later and I committed to making 6 models. That process involved me purchasing a few die cast cars and chopping them about, adding bits and bobs with a splattering of weaponry also added. The main problem was the painting. Not for the models but for the production pieces as the whole idea was based around the imagery of Dungeons and Dragons.
Retro Rescue> How do you get from an idea to production?
Tim> Idea to production is sometimes a long slog. I mainly worked on conceptualisation. At that stage it was basically illustrations and a breadboard model. Today it is closer to presenting a fully working prototype and a cost breakdown perhaps with a whole marketing package. Toy companies these days are not really prepared to take a risk nor invest in an illustrated idea.
Retro Rescue> What types of things did you use for inspiration?
Tim> Inspiration comes from all quarters but you have to know what is currently out there and have a potted history of the industry. Inspiration for the toy industry is very different as a mind of a child really does help. Silly me!
Retro Rescue> Which idea got left on the cutting room floor but you wish had made it?
Tim> My biggest regret is the total farce that surrounded a product called “Luggers”. Produced by Corgi toys. It should still be on the market. It had such potential. Another that never got past the starters gun was an idea called “The Components”.
RetroRescue> What are your favorite toys from other designers both as a child and adult?
Tim> Lego. Lego and Lego. Sorry to be boring there but it is fantastic in every respect from design to child development and beyond. As I child I had great fun for hours and hours making roller coasters from Hornby rail track, yards and yards of the stuff, then rolling billiard balls on the construction.
RetroRescue> 1982-2008… Have you been yachting in the South Pacific since then?
Tim> Yachting in the South Pacific – sadly no but I have had a terrific career and life style.
RetroRescue> I’d like to thank you for taking time to share a little information Tim.
Tim> I hope that I’ve answered your questions to help you.
Cheers Tim. Harris.
Here are a few photographs of some of the things Tim worked on. The Dark World board game looks incredible!