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Monday, September 11, 2017

Johnny Lightning 1969 Chevrolet K-5 Blazer

The frenzy for the Jeep that served in World War II to the masses was in full swing, and other automakers wanted to pitch in on the fun.  International created the Scout, Ford created the Bronco, while Chevrolet created the K-5 Blazer.  This classic truck still looks good today and also predated where the Bronco and Dodge Ramcharger would be like in the next two decades.  Here's an excellent example from Johnny Lightning.

Being late to the party General Motors wanted to capitalize on the success of the Jeep CJ line, so unlike Ford who decided to create a platform of their own for the Bronco, Chevrolet used the C-10 pickup as the basis for the K5 Blazer.  Unlike the pickup the Blazer has the bed and interior combined together with a removable roof top and a rear bench seat.  Other than that it looks pretty much the same as the C-10 pickups.  1969 models were offered only with part-time 4-wheel drive with front and rear live axles with leaf springs.  GMC also got their version called the Jimmy.  The engine is a 350 CID V8 that produces and estimated 250 horsepower through a 3-speed automatic transmission.  The success of the Chevrolet Blazer prompted Ford to switch to an F-series-based Bronco in 1976 and Dodge to introduce the D-series-based Ramcharger in 1977.

Johnny Lightning introduced this K5 blazer in 2005 and since then it's been a popular truck.  I was fortunate to get the early ones as now they fetch high dollars on the secondary market.  The first release was a Classic Gold in green with white top and white steel wheels; at the same time the Chevy Thunder version arrived in red with brown off-road wheels and tires that look great on this truck.  The white roof is removable and allows for open top models, as shown in the yellow Classic Gold version with rally wheels.  The front has nice details that include the round headlights, split bar with CHEVROLET letters, signal lights at the ends of the letters, and detailed bumpers with nifty plate slogans.  The hood has the correct contour with blue bowtie logo, 350 and K5 blazer badges on the front fenders, and lower trim with upper gas cap on the left side.  At the rear is a truck-like look with a tailgate that has the CHEVROLET letters stamped and tallights stacked to the sides.  The details are incredible and realistic, plus the smaller length makes this truck very manuverable.

The base underneath does not show much from the axles but does show off the drivetrain details in the middle.  The hood opens up to show the 350 V8 with orange block, silver air cleaner housing, and even the A/C, battery, brake booster, and hoses are detailed along the fenders.  The interior has seating for four, with the yellow open top version sporting gray seats on a black interior.  The door panels are nicely detailed and lead to a dashboard similar to the Chevy C-10 trucks.  Gauges are behind the two-spoke steering wheel, glove box in front of the front passenger, and radio and HVAC controls in the middle.  The shifter in the middle is for the transfer case, not the transmission (same as in the Bronco), so the transmission shifter is on the steering column.  There's even enough room behind the rear seats for cargo.  It's interesting to note the differences between variations based on CHEVROLET letter size, plate design, and even the tires: note the not often-seen Uniroyals on the yellow Blazer.

Recently the K5 Blazer's reappeared in the Gone Fishing series; I obtained these two blue and orange trucks separately from an online retailier.  The black and white versions are sold separately as part of MJ toys exclusive.  Unlike other Johnny Lightning castings getting an impressive overhaul of details recently these K5 Blazers were good from the start and today still look good.  Details are a bit crisper, the off-road wheels on the red K5 Blazer return as chrome ones on these two, and the light blue and orange ones sport the trailer hitch at the rear.  As an added bonus the light blue one comes with a color-matching blue interior.  Of course there's more variants out there to this Johnny Lightning K5 Blazer, but so far the ones I have here are as good as they get.

Hot Wheels Dodge D50 pickup and Vette Van

The 1980's at Hot Wheels showed us some very nifty tricks to get us out of the long-gone Redline era and into an era of imagination.  As mentioned there was classic cars with removeable roofs and white-wall tires, steering rigs, rubber tires called real riders, and vehicles where the rear axle can be articulated to rake the rear-end up.  The latter can be represented by these two vehicles, one based on a small Dodge truck while the other a rather interesting take on a Corvette and Van crossover.

Dodge D50 Pickup

With the success of the minivan and the K-cars, Chrysler still needed some help to still be successful, so in comes Mitsubishi who would partner with Chrysler and supply the company with several small cars and trucks to keep the company afloat.  One of them is the Dodge D50 pickup based on the Mitsubishi Mighty Max.  The small truck was built to go against the Toyota Hilux Pickup, Nissan Pickup, and the Isuzu Pickup.  The truck was small, car-like, yet offered pretty decent payload capacity compared to the car-based Dodge Rampage.  The engine is a 2.0L SOHC I-4 that produced an estimated 80 horsepower through a 4-speed manual transmission.  Later models would be called the Ram 50 before Dodge dropped the model to introduced it's own-made Dakota line in 1987.  As for the Mighty Max it continued in the U.S. market for several years, but in the end it was severly decontented as a base model before disappearing after 1996.  Today the Mighty Max still continues as the L200 pickup.

While the small D50 would look wimpy in the Hot Wheels line, that didn't stop designers from adding some needed spice to the truck.  Check out this blue one with black side graphics with DODGE letters, side exhaust, chrome motor sticking out of the hood, and those excellent real riders with GOODYEAR on the sides and gray turbine wheels.  It looks awesome.  The front has a chrome grille with square headlights attached to the interior via the engine up top.  Despite the side exhaust pipes this is still a four-cylinder truck.  At the rear the large taillights are visible and the white camper shell is a nice touch, but why?  Turns out that adjustable rear axle does eat into the bed space so the camper shell covers that area up.  Yes that rear axle: under the base there's a metal construction until the rear axle where a gray plastic piece can be pulled out or pushed in for various raked positions.  The notches allow for four positions ranging from stock height to extreme rake.  Being plastic, possible breakable and removable, this idea didn't last long and existing castings today that used to have this unit (i.e. 3 Window 34 Ford) have a revised base with a standard metal axle setup.  The interior has a chrome bench seat and dashboard layout, a typical setup for a pickup at this time.  Give credit to Hot Wheels for making a small commuter pickup truck look cool in so many ways.

Vette Van

Hot Wheels is known for making wild in-house designs, but none can be cooler than this Vette Van.  Unlike the D50 this van has been in service quite a while in the 1980's and while most would skip this odd duck you might miss some impressive details.  Now the paint on my tester: I picked this up from a flea market find, so I believe someone custom painted this car, but it looks so good on this car and highlights the Corvette components of the van on the body panels.  Vans were hot in the 1970's and so was the Corvette despite the latter being ridiculed by emissions and safety standards.  How about making a van cooler?  Well, just add some Corvette components to it.  Now this would've been a simple thing to do and forget the rest of the details inside and below (something Mattel would do today), but back then they went further.  The front has a raked nose with Corvette hidden headlights and split grille design.  The windshield has a cab-forward look with rear corner windows that look like something out of a 1986 Nissan Hardbody pickup.  As usual it has the T-top look of the Corvette as well.  The side profile has that boxy van look, but goes much further by incorporating the front and rear fenders of the Corvette, with a rising lower beltline in the center to allow the side exhaust to exit.

At the rear the roof tapers off into a tail spoiler, while the rear fenders wrap around to finish off the Corvette look with that C3 Corvette tail, bumper, and quad taillights.  Again the gold accents on the black helps to highlight the Corvette trim pieces on this van.  Inside there's seating for two with detailed seats, parking brake, and shifter from the Corvette.  Too bad the dashboard is not has highly detailed to show off the Corvette dashboard.  Behind the seats you'll find the V8 motor mid-ship with detailed carbs, intake, valve covers, and exhaust headers.  Still there's plenty of room in the back where the rear window shows off the fuel tank and a duffel bad after the rear motor.  And of course if that's not enough cool for you the rear axle will come out to give this Vette Van an aggressive rake.  So both of these cars are really cool, but the Vette Van impressed me the most: at first I though it was a humorous take on a Corvette van for the kids, but once you look at it closely you'll be impressed by the level of details in this casting.