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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Green '71 Camaro face-off: Johnny Lightning vs. Matchbox

When I saw this Johnny Lightning 1971 Camaro Z28 in this gorgeous metallic green it reminded me of another version of this same Camaro.  Yes, there's the Hot Wheels version from last year, but that was a 1970 race car and lacks the dual racing stripes; instead it's the very first Matchbox version of their 1971 Camaro Z28, also in green though with a much less metallic look and white racing stripes instead of black. Interestingly enough both castings seen here arrived around the same time, just a few years apart.

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The Johnny Lightning Camaro is an older casting if you haven't noticed the higher ride height and larger rear tires on some nice Mag wheels.  The front is the best with the detailed headlights and black gloss grille with Z28 logo even stamped into the right nostril, and joins the lower front spoiler for an aggressive look.  Z28 carries on in the front fenders, detailed door handles, and some nice clean lines.  So far, so good; now get to the rear and see the ugly side of this casting: very frumpy look that barely conceals the detailed taillights and blacked-out panel, then notice the rear spoiler that is small and has some rather bad chips from the tooling process, and all of this and the dual exhaust are not even visible!.  Remember this was an earlier Johnny Lightning casting.

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The Matchbox version, on the other hand, gets the details right with a proper stance and rear end details, though it is rather bloated compared to the slimmer JL version.  From a previous Matchbox Ambassador's report the earlier tool featured detailed concave headlights with bulb dots and a less-refined grille.  The final version used flush headlights with the only dimples seen in the signal lights next to it.  The grille has the detailed eggcrate grille pattern, but the Z28 logo lacks any details.  The front spoiler wraps around to join the front wheelwell lips, and the dual stripes are full width yet just like the JL version does not run over the roof.  Matchbox's new 5-spoke wheels look great here even if they're a bit off.  The rear has the proper look with a taller and wrap-around rear spoiler, larger taillights with dimples inside, and dual exhaust that really stand out at the rear.  As you can see here the Matchbox version is superior in design over the JL version.

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Both have interiors, and both are not as well-done as they should be.  The Matchbox version gets the correct dash layout, detailed 2-spoke steering wheel, seats and console, but the dashboard lacks any dial or button details.  The JL version, while having the correct seats and console, lacks the correct dashboard shape.  The base underneath shows off the typical drivetrain layout with most focus on the exhaust layout, and both are plastic.  The JL model has an opening hood and more telltale signs of an older casting:  The engine parts are barely visible, cast in the metal, painted with the body color.  Finally, the JL version has more variations than the Matchbox version, which fell off the radar when the Hero City-era began in 2001 and hasn't seen much use even during the golden age of Matchbox between 2005-2011; and if it was used it would be partial to a very limited collector's model.

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In the end while the JL was the start with an eye-catching green metallic paint, the Matchbox version wins for the superior details and proper stance.  Then again there's more finer versions of a 1971 Camaro Z28 out there, so shop around.

Update 5/27/17:  The Camaro casting from Johnny Lightning is revived for 2017 in a gorgeous Cranberry Red color, still using the dual stripes on the hood and trunklid.  However, Johnny Lightning went steps further than the Forever 64 release with more proper detailing on the lights, trim, side Z28 badges (the Z is hard to see in the red color), a metal base, and check out those proper mag wheels in gray with blue center caps riding on goodyear rubber tires.  The car looks fantastic and with the proper look and stance it numbs down the small rear end complaint of the green one that I mentioned above.

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