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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!    

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