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Monday, April 27, 2015

Johnny Lightning Chevy C10 - a pickup with a separate bed

This truck is one of the very few (perhaps only?) die-cast pick-ups where the truck's bed is not actually cast with the cab.  While the exception, this is actually the correct way to model a truck...

If you look at real frame-on pick-ups from Dodge, Ford, and Chevy (and excepting the weird ones like Ramchargers, El-Caminos, Brats, Ridgelines, etc.), you'll notice that the bed is a separate piece and is attached to the chassis rather than the cab.  This allows for the bed to be removed and the truck to be modified into stake-trucks, tow trucks, etc. 

Amazingly, the same thing can happen to this C10.  I've got the truck in 8 colors.  But if you look at the orange one in the back left of the photo, you'll notice that I've actually removed the bed and instead added a wooden stake platform to it.

It actually allowed Johnny Lightning to do the same thing.  If you look at the white truck in the right foreground of the picture to the right, you'll notice that the bed's been changed to a flare-side bed...!

The model is a great model even apart from the separate bed.  The hood is modeled nicely - with a leading lip that is very unique among opening hoods. 

Among all of my 8 colors, the first red and white color combination is easily my most favorite variation.   Overall, a great truck, with nice weight, correct proportions, and a separate bed!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Johnny Lightning Chevelle - such a perfect model

Talking about how the '68 Charger was one of my favorite castings from Johnny Lightning's Muscle Cars 2 series made me think about other favorite Johnny Lightning cars...  ...and so I decided to add a post of this Chevelle - one of my all-time favorite Johnny Lightning castings.

It's such a favorite that I've got it in 5 colors.  In the photo above, the cars are arranged in roughly the order that I bought them, left to right.  The first 2 on the left are my favorites, with the fourth brown one my least favorite. 

It's a wonderful casting, wide and broad, heavy and weighty, with nice detail all around, an opening hood, and occasionally with rubber tires.  The up-close photo below shows how nice the grill and lights are.  The grill alone is one of the reasons its such a favorite casting. 

Interestingly, Hot Wheels also did a model of the same car, and while its lighter than the much more expensive Johnny Lightning car, its a very similar (and correct!) size - a nice car but with less expensive detail.  The last 2 photos below compare the HW and the JL cars - as you can see they are very similar.  Both are favorite cars of mine from their respective brands. 

Feb. 27, 2016 Update:  With Johnny Lightning's supposed "re-launch" of the brand, I found this color variation in a new blisterpack last week.  Given my love for this casting, I bought it...  Pretty Nice!

Friday, April 24, 2015

1968 Dodge Chargers in 1/64 scale comparo...: New vs. Old?

One of my favorite (real/1:1 scale) muscle cars is the '68/'69 Dodge Charger, and there are a number of very nice 1/64th scale castings of the Charger.  Of course, the baby boomer's nostalgic interest in '60s muscle car helps, with many of the castings being recently made castings of these 45 year old cars, including newer castings by Hot Wheels, Playing Mantis' Johnny Lightning and Greenlight. 

After searching through my collection I found 20 unique examples of late '60s Chargers.  Many of them are color variations or very minor trim variations - including Hot Wheels "new" casting of the '69 Charger 500 which is obviously just the '68 Charger's castings with different headlights.  But I was delighted to find that I came up with 8 truly unique castings, including 1 from Matchbox, 2 from Hot Wheels, 2 from Johnny Lightning, 1 from Greenlight, 1 from Ertl, and 1 from Zylmex. 

The easiest to find casting is the one that is still widely available WalMarts, Targets and other Big Box retailers, the Hot Wheels Charger.  This actually a very nice model, which is one reason why I have it in 8 different color or trim variations (including the aforementioned Charger 500 model (2 models still in blister pack, in back row)), and the '68 model with the blown engine (2nd row on right, in purple).  Being a large car in real life it is appropriate that it is larger than most other 1/64 scale cars.  The nicest example that I have is the purple model on the front left, with rubber tires, deep alloy wheels, and a metal base.  However while the purple adult collectible car is a great model, it cost several times more than the basic $.99 casting and probably represents only a small fraction of all of the versions of this casting, so it feels a little unfair to use it as the example for the comparison test.  Therefore for the comparison test I'll also include a cheaper car. 

Staying within the Hot Wheels brand, next up is the oldest of the models, the most expensive of the models ($30-$1000+ on EBay, depending on condition and color), and probably the most well known of the models, the original Sweet 16 Hot Wheels Redline "Custom Charger".  This is my favorite Redline, and while it is closely replicated by the newer Hot Wheels casting, it is actually a unique casting.  I have it in 3 colors (dedicated redline collectors have it in many more of the spectraflame colors - I can already imagine their snorts of derision at my only having it in 3 colors...).  If you are reading this blog you are probably already familiar with the early Hot Wheels Redlines - they are the most popular toys in die-cast collecting. 

Next up is one of my favorite Johnny Lightning castings, originally introduced in their second Muscle Cars series ("Muscle Cars 2") in '96, back when I first took up collecting again as an adult (the green model on the left of the photo might have been my first Johnny Lightning car ever).  The Charger and the Roadrunner are my favorites out of that Muscle Car 2 series.  It is a long and large model (appropriate for the scale), and is heavy with its metal base.  For the comparison test I chose the silver model. 

Interestingly, Johnny Lightning chose to again model the '68 Charger with a new casting in the early/mid 2000s.  However this casting was much smaller than the terrific late '90s casting.  While a nice casting in its own right, I was always disappointed in it relative to the earlier casting, and I only ever bothered to buy 1 example of it, in red with a black roof, on the far right in the photo to the right.

Next up is the only model that I was familiar with as a kid...  In fact, such a ubiquitous model that all kids of the '80s would have been familiar with it - Ertl's model of the General Lee...  However while it is very common, it is still a nice model, and one that I always desired as a kid (I didn't have one, but many of my friends did).  It doesn't have any opening parts or opening doors (remember that the General Lee's doors were welded shut - causing Bo and Luke to always climb in through the windows!).  The example here has an odd extra bit of metal on the passenger side A pillar - I assume this is a freak occurrence so I'm not holding it against the casting.  The chrome wheels look nice, but there is no suspension on the car.   

Matchbox didn't have a model of the street version of the Charger, but they  had a funny car version of it, introduced in the mid '70s as a Superfast car (the pink rat rod).  It came and went from the line-up for many years, including as the "Orange Peel" (my friend Andy Bradshaw had this in his collection - I've got this model someplace but couldn't immediately locate it for the photo shoot), and then later in the late '90s in purple with flames.  While the castings are the same, they feel pretty different and have different wheels, so I included both the pink and purple versions in the comparison. 

The rarest and my most prized casting is the Zylmex casting from the 70s. I'm always amazed at how nice some of these early Zylmex can be, and am surprised that collector interest and their values aren't higher.  In an apparent attempt to steal some General Lee sales without paying royalties, the car has a confederate flag on the hood.  The wheels are sharp and surprisingly large for Zylmex, the suspension has a soft feel, and base is metal.  This really is a treasured piece for me!

Finally, Greenlight modeled it recently.  Typical of Greenlight models, the casting is heavy and feels high quality, with an opening hood, a hunkered down look, rubber wheels and glossy 2-tone nice paint. 

Now that we've introduced the models, let's get to the actual comparison of 10 models (8 unique castings) as shown in the photo on the right.  As in earlier comparisons, I'll rate the models on 12 different categories, and then add together the points to arrive at an overall winner...  Let the comparison begin! 

  Modern Hot Wheels - Expensive Modern Hot Wheels - $.99  Vintage Hot Wheels Redline Johnny Lightning - '90s Johnny Lightning - '00s Ertl General Lee Matchbox - '90s Matchbox '70s Rat Rod Zylmex GreenLight
Scale 8 8 9 8 6 9 8 8 6 9
Wheel Design 9 7 6 7 8 6 7 7 8 8
Rolling Ability/Suspension 7 6 8 6 6 6 6 6 8 7
Paint 9 7 10 8 7 5 6 6 5 8
Grill/Bumpers 8 7 9 8 7 5 6 6 7 9
Exterior Lights 7 5 7 7 7 5 5 5 5 7
Weight 8 6 8 8 8 6 8 8 8 8
Top Detailing 8 8 8 8 7 8 7 7 8 8
Base Detailing 8 7 8 7 7 7 6 6 7 7
Interior 8 8 7 7 7 7 8 8 7 8
Play Value 8 8 8 8 8 6 9 9 6 8
Overall Desirability 8 6 9 9 6 5 6 7 9 7
Total 96 83 97 91 84 75 82 83 84 94

At the end of the comparison, the RedLine comes out the winner in a close 4-way race for first place.  How Wheels also grabbed 2nd place with their premium version of the '00s casting.  While I love the newer '00s casting, I really didn't expect it to beat out Johnny Lightning (4th) or Greenlight (3rd).  All 4 models are quality models, though I find the Greenlight to be less of a personal favorite than the 4th place Johnny Lightning - possibly due to the maroon paint color and/or the Johnny Lightning having been a favorite of mine for 2 decades...  I feel a little lame for picking the most expensive and collectible model as the winner - I didn't intend to be so predictable! 

After the first four there is a gap in points until the next group of cars, with my personal favorite the Zylmex taking 5th overall and leading the 2nd pack.  While I love the Zylmex and its metal base, the fact is that the handsome base has no mechanical detail, and the tampos hurt the paint comparison, putting it out of contention for the lead pack.   The other castings distribute lower, with the Ertl General Lee taking an honorable last place finish. 

While the standings show a large points spread, ALL of the models/castings are desirable in my book.  If you don't have any of them, I'd recommend that you pick them up.  You won't regret it! 

Congrats to all manufactures for an excellent comparison...  and Special Congrats to Mattel for their inspired late '60s Redline!    

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Rare Zylmex DeTomasa Mangusta

I've always been a Matchbox boy...  ...As a kid it was obvious that the realistic and ubiquitous Matchbox brand was my favorite brand of toy car, easily preferring Matchbox models over the crazy fanciful designs of many of the Hot Wheels castings.  But while Matchbox was my favorite, I liked all of the 1/64th scale cars, and so lusted after the vast variety of models coming from both proud and legitimate names and the less legitimate drug-store brands alike.

The 10 year old in me couldn't have believed that I could ever amass ALL of the Matchbox models, but the middle-aged adult in me knows better.  From the mid 60's through the current day, there are currently only 2-3 unique Matchbox castings/casting variations that I want but do not have.   But thankfully the ocean of 1/64th collecting is only partially explored, and so I still root out and collect wonderful treasures from other toy makers, including highly respected brands like Majorette, Siku, Tomica and Impy, and less respectable brands like Wheeler, Kidco, Playart, Yatming....    ...and of course, Zylmex. 

And while its always exciting to find a well-made casting that you don't have, its even more exciting if the casting is of a car that is seldom modeled.  I have endless '69 Camaros in my collection, but only 1 Honda Accord....  ... and only this 1 Mangusta brought to us by Zylmex. 

 The model in question is in great condition, and is one of the nicer of the Zylmex models, with a metal body AND base plate.  While the model is appropriately detailed, it is a little let down by the cheap looking standard issue Zylmex wheels, the lack of any opening doors or hood, and the plastic-looking front and back grills/lights. 

 As a model, I'd rate it a 7 of 10, particularly due to the scarcity of Mangusta models, and in its excellent condition I think it is very doubtful that I'll be letting it go any time soon. 

Thanks for reading my blog - please feel free to comment and let me know what you thought of it! 

Hope you enjoyed the pictures of this rare find!  Happy collecting!

Comparison Test Addendum...: Zylmex 450SEL - a late entrant

Going through my Zylmex collection this evening I suddenly realized that I'd missed an excellent 450SEL contender for my comparison test, so I'm including it in this comparison test addendum:

This Zylmex model is in mint condition in a very pretty greenish/brownish bronze color - making it easy to love.  While I'm thrilled with the model, its paint, its metal base and its opening doors, I will spoil the plot by telling you now that it wouldn't have been in serious contention in the comparison test.   It would have come in second to last, well ahead of the poor quality Yatming but behind all of the others.

Like Yatmings, Zylmex' seem to come in both fairly cheap (the majority) and high quality (the minority) varieties.  We collectors collect them hoping for the occasional high quality surprise - such as this model.  While the paint and metal base and opening doors are nice and make this one of the high quality Zylmex', it is still not nice enough to be in the same standard as the competition, particularly with the plastic grill and the cheap wheels...

...But a great model nonetheless - and a proud member of my collection!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Comparison Test: Mercedes 450 SEL Super Sedan, in 1/64th scale

In 1978 Mercedes Benz introduced the 450 SEL into the super-luxury sedan arena, promptly out-classing all other contenders in the space.  It was available with a monster 6.9 liter engine delivering 250 horsepower (a lot of power back then).  It was massive, stately in a manner that set it apart from lesser MB sedans, with opulent luxury and massive power. 
Being such a marquis car meant that it was guaranteed to be replicated in 1/64th scale by someone, and indeed several prominent toy makers took up the challenge and added it to their line-ups.  I recently purchased one of these, and decided it was time to run a comparison test and identify who modeled the best 450 SEL... 
After poring through my collection I ended up finding models from 4 different toy makers.  Interestingly, Yatming actually make 2 distinct and completely different castings of the 450 SEL, meaning that I had 5 castings from 4 toy companies, in 7 colors (I should have had an 8th color, but I was unable to lay my hands on my childhood Matchbox 450 SEL taxi (that's what you get when you have a 6000+ piece collection)). 

The 7 contenders (5 castings) are displayed in the above photo.  In the middle of the front row are 2 color variations from Matchbox, in blue luxury sedan guise, white and green German police livery, and not shown is the beige taxi.  On the left in white is the model from Tomica.  On the right in back in silver is an example from Majorette.  On the right in front and in the middle in back is the larger of the 2 Yatming castings, with the back left model being the smaller of the Yatming castings.

All of the castings aside from the smaller Yatming casting have opening doors (see below photo). 

I'll start off with the model I'm most familiar with - the Matchbox model.  I've been familiar with this casting since I was a child.  As mentioned earlier, I had the beige taxi version of the car (not shown), and then when my paternal grandparents returned from a vacation in Germany they gave me the actual police car shown in the photos.  While I didn't personally own the blue version, my friends JJ and Kelly had a model of it, and knowing my mad desire for Matchbox they'd tease me about how they had a car that I didn't have... 

The Matchbox model is highly regarded by collectors.  While Charlie Mack lists all models as having fairly low $2-4 values, actual sales prices on Ebay are much higher for all versions of the car, particularly the police car. 

Its a nice model, solid and heavy, with a metal base, a metal grill and bumpers, nice detailing, opening doors, a tow hook and nice rolling characteristics.  Certainly a contender for top model... 

Next up I'll consider the 2 Yatming castings.  They close-up photos below prove that they are indeed unique castings, one longer and one shorter, with distinct bases and tops.  While both have metal bases, the smaller feels distinctly lighter, flimsier and cheaper and doesn't have opening doors.  The smaller one has separate bumpers/grill, but they are made of plastic.  The larger ones bumpers and grill are part of the metal base casting.  Its easy to establish the smaller Yatming casting as a non-contender, so I quickly relegate it to last place. 

The larger casting I have in 2 colors, a bronze and a burnt umber.  The umber model's wheels are the ugly and cheap looking drug-store brand wheels of later Yatmings, but the bronze model has the earlier Tomica-esqe wheels.  The rear lights are separate plastic pieces - giving a higher quality appearance (and correct coloring) vs. other models.  As with other of the high quality early Yatming castings, it feels solid and seems like something Tomica would have made.  It'll be a worthy contender in the comparison test, albeit a surprising one. 

Given the Yatming's resemblance to early Tomicas, it's fitting to next consider the Tomica entry.  This is a mint example in an elegant eggshell white.  The model is heavy with extensive detail in the grill and headlights - cast as part of the base.  The overall detail of the model is quite high.  The interior is a rich looking red.  And in keeping with other Tomica's of the era, it rolls smoothly on a soft suspension.  It feels the most elegant and expensive of the contenders. 

Finally, the newest addition to my 450 SEL collection and the impetus for the test, the Majorette.  This one is the largest of any of the castings, although not so large as to be out of scale.  The grill is plastic but looks nice, the bumper is half made out of plastic and half made out of the base - but done so you don't notice.  It has separate plastic headlights (the only model to do so) and separate plastic rear lights similar to the Yatming.  While all models have nice hood creases, the Majorette's is arguably the most visible.  The car has a tow hook, but as with other Majorette's of that vintage it is large and ugly.  It appears that model used to have a 3 pointed star on top of the grill, but now the star is missing.  The wheels are standard issue Majorette wheels, but look somewhat similar to what Mercedes might have actually used.  The paint looks expensive and is actually metallic.  Again, a worthy contender. 

For the actual comparison, I'll rate the models on a scale of 1-10 on 11 criteria items and then add up the points to establish a winner.  I promise not to manipulate the points to make any particular car win...  Let the contest begin!

  Majorette Tomica Long Yatming Short Yatming Matchbox
Wheel design 6 8 8 4 6
Suspension rolling ability 7 9 9 6 7
Paint  9 8 8 7 8
Grill / bumpers: 9 8 6 3 7
Exterior lights 9 6 7 4 6
Weight 6 9 8 5 8
Top detailing 9 8 6 6 7
Base detailing 5 8 9 9 6
Interior 7 7 8 6 7
play-value factors (tow hooks, etc.) 7 6 6 4 9
Overall desirability 9 9 7 5 8
Total 83 86 82 59 79

Wow - it was surprising to add up the scores and find the placements...  with the classy Tomica as the winner!  The paint, detailing and particularly the soft suspension set it apart from the others enough to win. 

In second, the Majorette, whose separate lights, intricate detailing and metallic paint helped it to bump out the Yatming for 2nd place....

And in third, the dark-horse brand, somehow edging past a classy model from powerhouse Matchbox...  The long Yatming's silky suspension was its ace, though it was helped by separate rear lights, opening doors and metallic paint. 

The Matchbox was a strong contender and I expected it to do better than 4th.  I gave it extra points in the play value category due to the police car having the separate siren in addition to the tow hook and opening doors.  However, while its detailing was nice, the suspension let it down - its much firmer than the earlier superfast cars.  In all, a great model - just not strong enough to beat other strong contenders. 

Far away in last place was the short Yatming.  While only 7 points separated the top 4 models, the short casting was 20 points behind 4th place.  This was the only one of the 5 castings whose placement I knew ahead of time. 

Congratulations to Tomica and the other worthy toymakers. 

P.S.  After writing this post, I was surprised to come across another worthy 450SEL model/contender - a Zylmex!  For details see my next post!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ugliest Sports Car Ever - in real life AND in 1/64th scale?

One of the odd things about toy cars is that the car you hate in real life you might love in 1/64th scale, and vice versa.  As a hobbiest, you appreciate a nice model, even if its of something that you don't appreciate in real life. 

I learned this early.  My first real car was a 2nd generation Mazda RX7 Turbo.  I loved that car and still mourn his (hers?) passing - a tale for another time.  But the Maisto model of it?  Plasticky.  Poorly modeled.  Cheap.  etc. 

This evening I was looking for a car for this blog, and so was unpacking a box of cars that I hadn't opened since I'd moved to this house - more than 9 years ago.   It was a nice surprise to start unwrapping all of the individually wrapped cars and find forgotten treasure after forgotten treasure.  And in the midst of this treasure I uncovered....  ....what might just be the ugliest 1/64th scale model ever, of one of the ugliest sports cars ever. 

The real car in question is from a brand that used to be something quite special in motorsports, the Italian brand of Lancia.  But while Lancia's Stratos was something special, the Monte Carlo (also called Scorpion - depending where it was sold) was oddly proportioned and just plain ugly - especially with the big black front bumper treatment.  The first one I ever saw was actually not in the United States - it was on the streets of London England.  I must have stood at it for 10 minutes, staring, trying to decide if I could get past its humble looks and like it for its badge, its manual transmission, its rarity, its essential sports-car-ness...  In the end, I just couldn't warm up to it.   I've lusted after Fiat X1/9s and Alfa Spiders, but this was one affordable Italian sports car that I've never desired. 

And the Majorette version of it?  Even uglier than the original, especially with the ugly standard issue Majorette wheels and being overly large for 1/64th scale (its more like 1/55 scale?).  Of course, it doesn't help that my example of it is very beat-up....  But I dislike it so much I doubt I'll ever hunt down a nicer example.  It certainly is a contender for being the ugliest model ever made, of one of the ugliest sports cars ever made.