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Monday, July 4, 2016

Old school comparison: Redline T-bird vs. Redline T-Bird - Topper Johnny Lightning vs. Mattel Hot Wheels

This is a comparison that's 45 years out of date - comparing 2 OLD-SCHOOL late '60s Ford T-Birds - BOTH with redline wheels....

Yes, we all know that the term "Redlines" means Hot Wheels Redlines - the creme-de-la-crime models of the diecast collecting scene.  And the Custom T-Bird's always been one of my favorite Redline models - a big American '60s muscle car, done with a few custom touches.  A cool car, with the only real downside being the very high price point needed to get into it these days - $30 or more for a fair/good condition model, $100 or more for a C8-C9 condition model, and easily $500 or more for a MIP model or a rare color.  Ouch!!!

But back in the day, Hot Wheels faced competition from the original Johnny Lightnings - made by Topper in those days rather than today's Playing Mantis.  Topper's even had red line wheels and so took on Hot Wheels head to head!  Most of those old Toppers were fantasy models - but they made a FEW realistic castings - and this "Custom Thunderbird" is one of their best.  One of the best things about these old Topper models is that they came with both an opening hood AND opening doors (but also with cast-shut doors - so hunt wisely!).   Unfortunately, the price points for Topper's realistic cars is only slightly better than that for Mattel's Hot Wheels - with reasonable examples in better colors often exceeding $50.  They are so rare that I haven't seen a MIP trade on EBay - so I can't tell you what the high end price points are...

So, which one is better?  Who made the better Custom T-Bird back in 1970?!?  Let's get to the comparison!!!

I only have 1 Topper T-Bird, in gold, while I have several Hot Wheels T-Birds.  But one of those Birds is in gold, so it makes it a gold vs. gold custom T-Bird comparison test...  What could be better!?!

At first blush, it looks like it'll be a tight race.  Size-wise, they are both right on top of each other - built big, sized just the way they should be.  Their dimensions are RIGHT on top of each other.  Definitely a draw in the size category.

Paint:  I'm a fan of Hot Wheels Spectraflame paint, but Topper's color is a bit richer, making Mattel's gold paint look like Fools Gold.  In the paint category, the Topper wins.

Metal Body Detail:  The Topper has more body contour than the Mattel.  The Native American Thunderbird symbol is actually cast in relief on the B pillar, just like on the real car.  The roof has a contour line, the trunk and hood has air body vents on it and there is an actual gas cap.  The Mattel's body is nice, but there aren't even door line markings, while the Topper has handles...  The only place where the Mattel scores points is in the hood scoop - where the Mattel looks more bad-ass...  Easily, this category again goes to Topper.

Grill and Light Detail:  This category is close, but Mattel eakes out a win, with the Thunderbird symbol being cast in relief on the grill, and an actual license plate bracket on the rear.  Everything else about the grill and light detail is nice for both cars - with nice metal relief cross-hatching on the grills, and a cast metal AND painted in backlight.

Base Detail:  Both bases are metal and have a lot of detail for the time, but the Mattel has more.  Winner - Mattel.

Opening Features:  The Topper has to win in this category - with opening doors AND an opening hood, though the engine detail is certainly nicer in the Mattel.

Interior:  Again, the Topper wins - in part since the opening doors allow you to see more of the interior.  But even so, the Topper has more interior detail.  Advantage - Topper.

Ride:  The Hot Wheels has an actual suspension - giving a soft and silky ride.   The Topper feels suspension-less - giving an easy (and important) win to the Hot Wheels...

Overall score:  With Topper taking 4 of the 6 six categories, it's hard to argue that Topper should win overall.  That's the way it should be.  If I hadn't looked at it by category, I would have still given the win to Topper.  But the Mattel model is still a very nice model! 

It's nice that the winner is (slightly) cheaper.  But the Topper Redlines are VERY hard to find.  When you DO find one, make sure that you get the one with opening doors... 

The last couple of photos show the other T-Bird models:

In the one to the right, I show the Playing Mantis re-make of Topper's Custom Thunderbird (in purple).  This model stays pretty true to the original, but loses the opening doors and the vintage appeal.  It's a nice model for $3-5, released in the late '90s, and has nicer paint and a smoother ride than the original.  But I still heavily prefer the   authentic Topper Johnny Lightning!  I also include Hot Wheel's Authentic "Spoiler" version of the T-Bird - now called the "TNT Bird" - in dark red.  This casting is the "Custom T-Bird" casting, but with a blown engine and no hood.  It's a great model - a favorite of mine.  While I like all of the Spoiler cars, this T-Bird is definitely one of my favorites!  Unfortunately, the Spoilers are no cheaper than the regular cars - you'll pay dearly for this model!!!

Finally, I show a few other color variations of Mattel's custom T-Bird and Mattel's TNT Bird! 

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