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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Johnny Lightning 1965 Buick Riviera and 1978 Dodge Warlock





Johnny Lightning has not been able to create any new toolings since its revival last year, but that didn't stop them from reusing older castings and adding the long-lost proper details to really make these castings stand out as the best they've ever been.  The latest include the classy Buick Riviera and for the first time the 1978 Dodge pickup without the Little Red Express.







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1965 Buick Riviera

The beauty of Bill Mitchell's Buick coupe actually started out as a higher-end trim to the Buick line in the late 1950's and early 1960's to existing Buick models.  Then in 1963 the Riviera became its own two-door coupe with sleek styling that features Coke-bottle shaped rear fenders.  The coupe was based on the existing Buick platform that was shorter and also much ligher abling the Riviera to be the sportier car of the line before the Grand Sport line appeared in the GSX musclecar.  The headlights were fixed on the outside, but in 1965 they were now properly concealed on the outer covers, while the taillights were now moved to the rear bumper.  This was a luxury coupe and inside you got a nice clean dash with a V-shape to the center, leather seats, power steering, power brakes, and all for a fraction less than what a Cadillac coupe could offer.  The engine is a 425 CID Nailhead V8 that produced 350 horsepower through a two-speed Turbo-Hydraulic automatic transmission.  The sleek lines would gradually start to thin out to a more normal look in the next few decades and unlike the Eldorado it would take a decade before the Riviera adopted the Eldorado/Olds Toronado front-wheel drive layout.








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The beautiful seafoam mist green color of this car is simply gorgeous!  The pointed front has a large eggcrate grille with the outer headlight covers and lower chrome bumper that gives this Riviera a sleek look.  The sides shows how the paint and trim flow nicely along the Coke bottle curves along with the classy Riviera badges on the front fenders.  Even the 5-spoke mag wheels with white line tires look great here and also give the proper stance of the car.  The rear has the detailed gridded taillights with a nice Nevada Riviera plate.  This color is so nice it beats the red, but somehow it's a pegwarmer at some Toys-R-Us's where I got this one from.  The base, in proper metal, shows off the X-brace frame and all of the proper drivetrain details, while the engine shows itself off in blue with black air filter housing even if the engine block looks a bit melted on details.  The interior features seating for four in white with matching ribbed door panels.  The steering wheel sits in front of dual pod gauges and a nice flat dashboard with simple control layout and a shifter on the center console.  To sum the whole car up its clean, stylish, and a bit of a performer for this classy Buick that wears the Riviera name.







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1978 Dodge Warlock

This 1978 Dodge is no stranger to my blog or any diecast manufacturers as its mostly represented as the Lil' Red Express truck with its semi-truck exhaust stacks behind the cab, yet there are other versions that still use the Express look minus the stacks.  Like the Express the Warlock was part of the Dodge Adult Line concepts in 1976 that translated to production.  The Warlock has the same features as the Express but uses gold pinstriping around the truck.  The boxy look of the D-series trucks look good on these packages if they were starting to feel a bit dated (with more years to come).  Even with the cool custom look they were still simply basic trucks with more power: a 440 Magnum V8 from the Dodge Police Cars that produced an estimated 250 horsepower through a three-speed automatic transmission.  When Chrysler went through bankruptcy protection the Adult Line of models were eliminated to cut down on unnecessary costs.





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The Warlock has been common in black, but to see it in another color is a nice surprise.  This dark green with gold pinstripes look great on this Truck.  The casting still looks good despite being a late 1990's tooling that lacks the proper detailing of more current Johnny Lightning castings.  The front has round headlights and rectangular signal lights that flank the grille, lower chrome bumper with twin vents just above, and a hood that needs a bit of silver trim to finish off the grille look.  The sides show off the boxy cab that has silver trim and Power Wagon badges to add to the gold trim, while the stepside bed has wood plank details even if they are not painted on.  To give it a dose of attitude the chrome rally wheels from GM on rubber tires perfectly fits this truck than any past wheel selection JL has given this truck.  The rear has larger taillights, Warlock on the tailgate, and PowerWagon plate.  The hood opens up to reveal the blacked-out engine bay with modest details (at least the engine block and air cleaner is visible).  The bed area has always had the detailed wood trim and chrome strips and this is no surprise here; note the holes at the edges of the bed as past examples accepted tonneau covers to fit here and clip into these holes.  Of course not everything's complete as the base does not show much of detail and still has the exhaust leading out to the non-existent stacks, while the interior has the simple bench and dash layout but just isn't as clean cut as one would expect in a modern JL casting.  Still it's great to see this casting back again in something other than a Lil' Red Express, and expect a similar situation to another JL truck later this year.




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Johnny Lightning 1972 Chevy Vega wagon and 1980 Chevy Monza Spyder




Chevrolet Vega's are not known for being reliable, yet that doesn't stop replica's of the car from appearing left and right.  This was more noticeable 10 years ago when Motormax released the Fresh Cherries line that included the Vega.  Then other diecast manufacturers have created their own, including Hot Wheels V8 powered Vega.  These two shown here are the nice clean examples from Johnny Lightning that have not seen much use after their introduction to the Tomy period, but now they get a second chance.







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The Vega was the replacement for the ill-fated Corvair (which was also popular again by collectors) as a new compact, fuel-efficient car just in time for the 1970's oil embargo's.  The new compact cars shared much with the new 1970 Camaro's styling and offered a practical interior in body styles that range from coupe to a wagon.  The first powertrain was a new all-aluminum SOHC 2.3L I-4 that produced 110 horsepower through a 4-speed manual or two-speed automatic transmission.  Suspension consisted of front control arms and live rear axle with leaf springs.  Soon after problems started to emerge as the 4-cylinder lacked proper cooling and metal sleeves, causing the aluminum block to melt and in turn oil leaks to show up.  Another problem related to those living in the rust belt was the rapidly rusting out body panels.  Even after GM fixed these problems the Vega's image, like the Corvair's, was tarnised.  However, a new lease on life appeared in 1974 when the sleekly-styled Monza coupe appeared.  The wedge-shaped coupe was vastly different in looks than the Vega yet it still shares the same platform underneath.  Originally this car was supposed to run the new Wankel motor, but instead it got the same engine as the Vega, then upgrated to the new 2.5L Iron Duke I-4 that produced 90 horsepower through a 4-speed manual or two-speed automatic transmission.  The 2+2 was nicknamed "The Italian Vega" in its resembalance to the Ferrari 365 Daytona coupe.  Despite the success of the Monza it still shared some of the Vega's ill effects and went out with the Vega after 1980 to make room for a new family of GM compact cars.







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It's nice to see the wagon and Monza Spyder back in the line and look even better than before.  I was unimpressed by the fastback Vega that first appeared with a small-block V8 under the hood and too high of a stance.  The wagon fixes those issues with a more stock look.  The Vintage Green color is gorgeous on this wagon and the chrome rally wheels from a 1975 Corvette look right on this car.  The front has round headlights with large grille split by a chrome bumper and lower signal lights.  The side profile shows a stock wagon appearance with lower black trim and chrome trim.  There's even ribbed vents on the rear fender.  The rear has rectangular taillights, a nifty liftgate badge, and a license plate that is also the base tab support.  The metal base shows off the typical drivetrain and suspension layout with nice attention paid to the rear fuel tank area.  The forward-opening hood shows off the I-4 motor dipped in orange with detailed air cleaner and valve cover.  The interior features seating for four though the rear seat would be very snug for the size of this car.  The dashboard layout is very European with a 4-spoke steering wheel, dual pod gauges, and radio controls in the center just above the shifter.  Cargo area would be pretty good for this car with the nearly equivalent space of a K-5 Blazer.







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The Monza on the other hand goes for a more sportier look and nothing says sportier than a silver with blue graphics that say Spider on the sides and have a cool spider detail on the hood stripe.  The sleek coupe adds a lower chin spoiler, rear mounted spoiler that wraps around to the rear fenders, and 5-spoke mag wheels in dark gray to add a bit of sportiness despite sharing the same high stance as the Vega Wagon.  The front has a sloped nose with quad recessed headlights and lower grille with large signal lights.  The sides show a nice and smooth wedge-shape roofline with black window trim accents, while the rear has taillights that connect to a black bar and a neat license plate referencing the spider family.  You can see some late '70's Camaro styling influences on the exterior as well.  The interior has seating for four with a curved dashboard that conceals twin pod gauges and a radio that stretches out further toward the driver alongside the 3-spoke steering wheel.  Even with the fastback roof cargo area does not suffer thanks to the fastback liftgate.  Also note the interior has a blue seats wtih a black dashboard to match the exterior decals.  The base shows off the same layout as the Vega but with improved suspension tuning and a catalytic converter.  Under the hood that opens in normal backwards position shows the Iron Duke I-4 (though it looks a lot like the Vega's 2.3L motor) with additional details given to the black engine.  On the track the Wagon was a surprise with great handling dynamics despite the high stance, while the Monza was swifter, but sadly not as fast with the weak motor and saddled to a not-so-sporty automatic transmission.








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Whether you love them or hate them these are two nicely-done Vega models that represent the actual cars nicely without any additional modifications.




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