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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Johnny Lighting 1976 Dodge Aspen R/T

Johnny Lightning is so far dead as a company.  For now, at least from what rumors are saying.  So if you want to get the finest from this diecast company, try Ebay or for the Forever 64 line Ollie's like this example shown here.  This Dodge was years in the making of "should I buy it or not?" club, no matter how many times I saw it.  So far it was in the "not" club, but now thanks to JL's demise and a good deal I decided to get onto this unique casting even if it's not really that exciting.

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The Aspen was the replacement for the Dodge Dart as the new compact Dodge in 1975.  Talk about perfect timing as the horsepower wars was over thanks to emissions regulations and the 1973 oil crisis, not to mention Chrysler's financial troubles and even the Aspen was not enough to save it.  As automakers moved to new front-wheel drive models in the 1980's the Aspen, like the Chevy Nova, fall victim to the new, compact front drive successors.  However, there was some hope for those who want true performance in the Aspen R/T.

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The first JL release was in black with metal base for the 2.0 line, but this white version with red R/T stripes really stands out on this casting.  The fenders have flares after each wheel much like the late '70's Camaro and Firebird's, louvered rear side windows, decklid spoiler, and sporty wheels though in this case it's the Mag 5-spokes with plastic tires on this example.  It looks sporty with the fastback coupe roofline, square taillights in back with Dodge plate and dual exhaust poking out after the rear wheels, but when you get to the front it is contemporary Aspen with the round headlights, silver grille, and a big mistake: two signal lights, the grille inserts (on R/T models) and the bumper units (all other Aspen's).  If that's not enough even a non-R/T version of this casting still has the flared fenders and louvered side windows, which really look odd on the blue version with blacked-out steel wheels with chrome center caps.  It appears that this casting is one that is not akin to various trim levels!

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The interior has bench seats front and rear, 2-spoke steering wheel, column transmission shifter, and a lone speedometer.  In this example there is no tach, or bucket seats, or floor manual shifter for the transmission; pretty lame for a sport-themed model.  The base is plastic, but features all the nice drivetrain details and the exhaust that nicely exits just behind the rear wheels.  The engine for the R/T Aspen is the 360 CID V8 that produces 170 hp. and 280 Ib-ft. of torque through a 3-speed automatic with overdrive 4th gear, no manual offered and California cars have a more restricted power output to meet EPA fuel mileage requirements.  It was a swift car, but could not top the GM F-bodies of the day.

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The only good thing about this casting is the lack of variations and JL's demise, not to mention a rather unused model in the diecast world, that will be the only reason to get this Aspen that seems to be lost in identity.

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