3-D Tow Mater Costume

by Kimberly

Handsome Little Mater

Handsome Little Mater

I do not own Mater or Disney/Pixar’s Cars/Cars2. Please do not sue me.


•3 cardboard boxes of various sizes
•1 roll of tan duct tape
•1 empty paper towel tube
•roll of yellow painters’, electrical, or duct tape
•1 lightweight flashlight with batteries
•1 box cutter knife
•1 small bungee cord
•1 brown long-sleeve shirt
•1 pair brown pants
•1 baseball cap
•1 orange reflector or light
•1 can of Terra Cotta spray paint
•1 black permanent marker
•1 palette or paper plate
•1 palette knife
•1 cardboard spool as from a large spool of ribbon
•Black, white, green, red, yellow, and blue acrylic paints
•Optional: blue latex wall paint
•Various paintbrushes
•Paper towels
•Optional: tarp/drop cloth


1. Choose the largest cardboard box. It should be large enough to fit comfortably around the trick-or-treater, but not so large as to be difficult to walk in.

2. Cut all 4 flaps off the bottom of the box. This is where the legs will come out.

3. Cut 2 opposite flaps off the top of the box to make room for arms to come out. Leave two flaps opposite each other—these will help hold up the costume.

4. Position the trick-or-treater comfortably inside the box, with the 2 remaining flaps at chest and back. Leave the flaps open wide enough to allow the head to slip in and out easily, but not so wide as to let the costume fall off. Apply first strips of tan duct tape from one flap to the other, over shoulders. There should be one strip of duct tape as a shoulder strap on each side. This step takes 3 people: 1 to wear the costume, 1 to hold the costume, and 1 to duct tape.

5. Remove costume from trick-or-treater. Reinforce shoulder straps with another layer of duct tape, sticky sides together. This will strengthen the straps, as well as keeping them from sticking to anything they shouldn’t. Mater’s cab is now formed.

6. Choose 1 of the smaller boxes for an engine block. This box should be completely intact and closeable. Decide which side will be Mater’s mouth.

7. Near the top of the side of the box which is to be the mouth, trace a circle about the size of your flashlight. It should be large enough that most of the flashlight hides inside the box, but snug enough that the whole flashlight does not fall in. This circle should be on the upper left of the box as it faces you. Cut it out. You have created the hole in which to insert Mater’s 1 working headlight.

8. Now, tape the box shut.

9. Tape the engine block securely to the front of Mater’s cab. Use as much tape as you need.

10. Remove any leftover ribbon from spool and tape securely to the top of the engine block. This is now Mater’s exposed air filter.

11. For the final box, cut off any flaps or lid that are on the top (or you can just use an open shoe box if you have a really sturdy one). This will be Mater’s truck bed.

12. Tape the truck bed securely to the back of Mater’s cab. This is the most important bit of construction, so use a LOT of tape—especially if you want the bed to be load bearing.

13. Put the costume back on the trick-or-treater to double check fit and maneuverability. While the trick-or-treater is in costume, fill the truck bed with several small but heavy items to test whether or not it is load bearing. If the bed starts to fall off, reinforce with more duct tape.

14. Remove trick-or-treater and objects from costume, and place paper towel tube at an angle from the back of the cab hanging over the truck bed. Generously duct tape into place. Give it a few good tugs to make sure it can withstand a light weight suspended from it. You have now completed the main construction phase of your Mater costume, congratulations! (You may have to reinforce with more duct tape later.)

15. Take the whole costume outside or to a well-ventilated garage and spray paint it with the Terra Cotta to look like rust. Be warned that you will probably paint the ground/floor around the costume. You may use the tarp to prevent this.

16. Optional Step: Allow a child to splatter some blue wall paint on the costume, to be where Mater’s old paint shows through the rust. My 2 year old enjoyed this step.

17. Let paint dry.

18. Use acrylics to paint Mater’s eyes, mouth, and logos. I did a lot of blending to get the green gradients in his eyes and the orange gradients in the number.

19. Let paint dry.

20. Put a strip or 2 of yellow tape on the back bumper. Draw diagonal lines on it with a permanent marker.

21. Use bungee cord hook to poke a hole through end of paper towel tube and hang the bungee cord there. This is Mater’s tow rope and hook. Mater’s body is now complete, congratulations!

22. Use string to tie the orange reflector or light to the ball cap.

23. Turn the flashlight on and insert it into the hole on Mater’s face when you are ready to trick-or-treat! You have finished your costume and are ready to go!

Our “Road Trip” to Mater

I made this costume because my 2 year old son is obsessed with the Disney/Pixar Cars franchise, and all of the Mater costumes on the market were a)too big for him, b) too expensive, and c) not as 3-D as I wanted. This costume took me several days to make, but only due to the time needed to let the paint dry. I think the final cost came to about $25, but that included things that we are using for other projects, such as painter's tape. The most expensive component was the spray paint.

Well, we haven’t gone trick-or-treating yet, so I have yet to see the reactions of my neighbors, but I can tell you, my 2 year old son LOVES his costume, and all of the friends and relatives who have seen it at our house have oooh’d and ahh’d over it. This wasn’t the easiest costume I have ever made, but so far it is the most fun and rewarding. The hardest part by far has been keeping my son from playing with it before Halloween night!

I didn’t remember to use the optional tarp on my driveway, so now it looks like I have a rusty Chevrolet logo on my concrete—which is especially humorous to me considering the only Chevy we own is a Hot Wheels. (I have nothing personal against Chevy, I just don’t happen to have one at the moment. I don’t own Chevy or Hot Wheels; don’t sue me)

The first time I tested the truck bed, I filled it with my son’s toys while he tried on the costume. The bed fell apart. More duct tape fixed it pretty well…until I stored it on our humid screened-in porch. Keep Mater out of humidity or you will have to add more tape. Mater is currently load bearing, but he is staying on our dining room table until we are ready for tricks or treats.

Happy Halloween!

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