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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Johnny Lightning 1964 and Matchbox 1971 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser



The Chevy Kingswood Estate is not the only big wagon from G.M.  One of the most iconic is the Vista Cruiser and it's sky roof light setup.  Here's two ends of the Vista Cruiser.


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Another Big Wagon

Based on the Oldsmobile Cutlass/F-85, the Vista Cruiser was introduced in 1964 as Oldsmobile's premium wagon.  Vista Cruiser was known for its forward-facing third-row seat, which was reversed from 1964-1970.  The 1964-1967 had a split sky window, and offered 330 CiD V8 producing 210-320 hp. through a two-three-speed automatic or a three-four-speed manual.  The 1964 has a smooth look with quad headlights and horizontal chrome bar with OLDSMOBILE letters on the hood.  The sides have a smooth, flat look with some side trim.  In the back is vertical taillights behind curved rear fenders and silver trim.  The interior features room for eight with dashboard that features stereo and HVAC controls within easy reach of the driver and front passenger.

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In 1968-1971 the Vista Cruiser shared the new Cutlass sheetmetal with quad headlights that remain, but with a split grille setup.  The look is very muscular, especially when it's Cutlass relative offers the 442 option.  The sides now offer a coke-bottle look with upswept rear fenders and one-piece sky roof.  Finally the rear taillights now wrap around the fenders, probably due to new safety regulations about side marker lights.  Inside the bench seats still remain, but the dash now has gauges more centered toward the driver, even though the radio and HVAC controls are still in the center of the dash.  Engines range from the 350 to the 455 CiD Rocket V8 through the same transmissions offered in the previous generation.  This was the last generation for the Vista's unique sky roof system as the Vista resorted to a contemporary station wagon in it's final generation.


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Johnny Lightning awesome, but short-lived 1964

This was introduced to much fanfare as the 1964 was decked in a copper brown look with matching-colored interior.  The details are incredible, if basic, and the engine is decked out in bronze with flat black engine bay.  Even the wire wheels look right at home.  The special treat is the fold down tailgate with spare tire on the right, but oddly no third-row bench, and the base is nicely detailed.  Sadly this casting has only been used a few times and then was quickly retired for the moment, and now that Johnny Lightning has ceased production who knows when and if this Vista Cruiser will come back?

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Matchbox's dog-gone 1971

In 2009 Matchbox introduced their version of the Vista Cruiser, this time as the 1971 version.  The casting looks good, if a bit distorted to fit in the average blister package (making the Vista Cruiser seem mid-sized).  The grille and headlight details up front are sharp, the curves of the rear fenders and the sky light is properly-done, and the rear with the vertical taillights and cut-out for the step in the bumper is fairly accurate.  The interior is nicely done, though the third-row bench is blocked by two dogs sticking their head out, just enjoying the ride!  The base has more details than the JL version, even with all that copyright information in the center.  The first version was green with wood trim, and that wood trim was the standard for a few years until the solid color versions arrived.  The orange version from a 5-pack (not shown) features crafty bumper stickers and stock badging.  But my favorite is the blue one from 2011, the last version by far, which features a white interior, a clean look (I love it without the cheesy wood grain), and right on the windshield is a For Sale sign for a 1971 Vista Cruiser, Low Miles, Dogs Not Included--Make Offer!.  Splendid!

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