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Monday, July 13, 2015

Greenlight 1:64 1967 Ford Custom 500 Taxi



Auto World has been the king lately for making classic American cars that would not normally be replicated in diecast, especially wagon's.  Well, while Greenlight has not gotten to that point yet (for now), they have been making some more mainstream sedans that would go great with TV and Movies and for police car, taxi, or just general family purchases.  These are not high-end muscle cars, either...or are they???  As it turns out they're more like sleepers, and of course i'm talking about the 1967 Chevy Impala sedan and now this new 1967 Ford Custom 500 sedan.







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Greenlight is no stranger to the Ford line having the 1965 Galaxie for years now, but that one was geared toward a sportier moinker with two door coupe and convertible body styles.  Not often do you see a four-door sedan being made despite being the mainstream model for police, taxi's, and suburban families.  The Custom 500 uses similar styling attributes with the Galaxie and Fairlane, but with more trim, eggcrate grille, signal lights between the headlights that are slanted and vertically-laid out, FORD letters on the hood, and chrome bumper with the black California plates front and rear.  On the sides is the Sunshine Cab logo's based on the Taxi used in the movie "Bullitt", gold 6912 numbers, meter rates on the rear doors, and if you look closely you can see the Custom badge on the front fenders.  This is the first time i've seen a taxi in the Greenlight line so it was nice to see the roof light nicely integrated with the correct Meter Taxi badging, and it looks flush with the body despite being a separate piece like light bars on cop cars.







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The rear has FORD and Sunshine Cabs on the trunk, square taillights with integrated silver reverse lamps inside the silver trim, and check out those dual exhausts looking aggressive for a base-model sedan.  Speaking of base so is the yellow steel wheels with chrome hubcaps on tires that are a smidge wide but are perfectly ok.  And that yellow is not to strong unlike today's modern taxi's; it's a more pale yellow that nicely accentuates this car.  The metal base has fine details on the front control arm suspension, dual exhausts, engine and drivetrain, chassis frame, live rear axle, and trunk recess behind the fuel tank (which is located after the rear axle).  The engine underneath is a 289 CID V8 that produces est. 300 hp. through a three-speed manual, floor shifter, with overdrive (the 1967 Impala/Biscayne casting uses a column-shifted automatic transmission).  The hood opens up barely to show the blue engine with detailed silver air cleaner.  The interior is bare bones with vinyl bench seats front and rear with, oddly, lap belts on the front bench, door panel ridges with crank windows, no A/C, AM radio, and a 3-spoke steering wheel with  horizontal speedometer.  Only a floor shifter for the manual spices up this rather basic and bland taxi cab interior.


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While such a nicely-done casting, the strange part is that this casting looks better as a base-model car, or a police car or taxi car, than it does as a custom car with a 427 V8 under the hood.

M2 Machines 1:64 1969 Camaro RS/SS and Z-28



This is one big feast here with 1969 Camaro's from M2:  In addition to these 1:64 vehicles shown here also i'll review two, soon to be three, of the 1:24 1969 Camaro's that I have and what each one uniquely offers.  These two, as in the M2 1958 Chevy Apache trucks that I reviewed a few weeks ago, have two different ways of showing off the 1969 Camaro more than just the trim levels.

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The Camaro was built to go after the Ford Mustang even if it arrived three years too late.  Nevertheless, the Camaro and Firebird proved to be a worthy contender to the Mustang.  1969 offered more flowing curves that made the F-bodies more iconic than even the first two years.  Focused on the Camaro, you had three high-end trim levels: RS/SS, SS, or Z-28; three headlights: round external, hidden covers, or slotted hidden covers; numerous choices of motors, colors, stripes, and wheels.  RS stands for Rally Sport and was a trim package that spruced up any Camaro trim with covered headlights, revised taillights, and RS badging.  Most commonly found on the SS trim, which featured the 350 or 396 CID V8 motors that produced 300-325 hp., reverse air flow hood, special striping, SS badges, and improved handing.  The Z-28 was designed for the SCCA Trans-Am series with dual stripes over the hood and trunk, power disc brakes, and solid-lifter 302 CID V8 that produced 290 hp. and 4-speed manual.  The 1969 Camaro's had more recessed front grilles, revised taillight units, and more creased lines, plus numerous models that also included COPO's, Yenko's, and ZL-1's.








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The recent find for me is this blue 1969 RS/SS that is part of the latest Auto-Drivers release.  This means that the hood and doors do not open, so this may satisfy those who dislike the ill-fitting look of the doors and hood at the expense of extra details.  The Medium Blue looks great, though not as wild as the Carolina Blue on the 1:24 that I have, with the black hockey stripe and nice silver trim details on the sides.  The front has the hidden headlights, SS in the center, lower foglights and chin spoiler; the left headlight is poorly fitted on my example.  The hood has the cowl induction with hood clips, while the rear has a spoiler on the trunk, blacked-out panel with horizontal-slit taillights, and chrome bumpers.  The look is excellent, and the 5-spoke rally wheels with redline tires also complement the look even if they are a slight bit big.  The base is the same metal base with simple drivetrain components and separate rear axle piece to allow larger tire units.  I must say after a while you began to appreciate this low-end M2 Camaro casting with its lack of few flaws and excellent details.









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But for more, there's the higher-end model like this Detroit Muscle version in Hugger Orange with white stripes Z-28.  The front has a larger grille with Z-28 logo's and round headlights that seem awkwardly-done on this casting, similar trim details, similar cowl hood, rear spoiler, and taillights without the blacked-out panel at the rear.  The wheels are the rallye wheels design in chrome with white-lettered tires.  As you can see here more quality-control issues abound with the large gaps in the doors and the hood that does not close flush, along with the left-taillight that sits crooked (and moves around in the socket).  The doors open up to show the angled dashboard with gauges, radio, 2-spoke steering wheel, floor shifter, and bucket front seats.  It lacks additional details, so this would look better with the doors closed than with them open (and to make it more interesting the Auto-Drivers version has a taller Hurst-like shifter over the stubby one in the orange Z-28).  Finally, the hood opens up to a simple engine block in silver with black air filter; not as thrilling as the more in-depth detailed engines of recent M2 releases in 1:64.

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So far these 1969 Camaro castings are nice and unique (one was done as a I-6 base model), but for more finer detailing wait until I review the 1:24 1969 Camaro's that M2 has later this year!

Friday, July 10, 2015

The Chevy Corvair's of Hot Wheels, Johnny Lightning, and Racing Champions



While often a car misunderstood by the general public and given a bad rap sheet thanks to Ralph Nader's "Unsafe at Any Speed" controversy, the Chevy Corvair still continues to gain support from collectors and a select few individual who consider Chevy's first compact cat to be a technical marvel; and I agree though I also think GM never really thought through this car carefully before production, especially the swing-axle rear-end (more on that later).  Nevertheless you can find replica's of this casting, but beware as they tend to disappear rather quickly not because of demand but because these castings somehow only last for a brief while.  Joining the lineup of Corvair's this year includes the wild Greenbrier Sports Wagon, which is a van based on the Corvair in the 1960's.

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Was it the VW Beetle or was it the size of American cars in the 1950's that made American automakers push toward smaller cars?  It remains to be unseen the true answer, but likely it was both of them as American automakers only made large cars and imports like the Beetle was getting far more popular than expected, plus most buyers who are working their first job do not want to deal with the size and price of a new large car, or prefer to have a more fuel-efficient manuverable vehicle.  So, cars like the Corvair, Ford Falcon, and Plymouth Valiant were created to start an entry point in the Big 3 lineup.  The Corvair, unlike the others, was unique as it had a rear-mounted, air-cooled 2.3L flat-six like the VW Beetle but with two extra cylinders, producing 80 hp. through a three or four speed manual or two-speed automatic.  The body was the first unibody design built by Fisher coachworks; the cabin roomy with lots of legroom; and the trunk was ample as well thanks to the spare tire and jack located with the rear engine.  But then problems started to surface when Nader got on the car for its swing rear axle that lacked any stabilizer bars and required unequal tire pressures on the rear tires to counteract the handing woes.  This resulted in a class-action lawsuit and tarnished the Corvair nameplate even after the rear suspension was fixed in the second-generation model, which featured more power and more swept-back styling.












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My first Corvair diecast model was this Racing Champions version in avocado green on green color scheme.  The front uses the same quad headlights in the round retainer, but has integrated vents as there is no front grille, just the V logo, chrome bumper, and the lower ribbed section below the bumper.  The sides are simple with a few chrome trim details and gascap door and driver's side rearview mirror on the left-side of the vehicle.  The rear has quad round taillights, chrome bumper, and vented rear engine panel.  Opening the hood reveals the silver flat engine block and black air filter housing, but lacks the spare tire and rear jack, while the base shows the underside of the engine detailing and the suspension details on a chrome metal base that is rather thin and, like other Racing Champions Mint castings, can be prone to metal fatigue.  The interior features  a silver dash top with dual pod design, comprehensive gauges behind the 2-spoke steering wheel, front and rear bench seats that feature the same pattern design as the door panels.  To top it off is the chrome hubcaps on narrow tires.  It's simple but gets to the point!














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Next up is the Johnny Lightning 1962 Corvair Spyder, introduced in 2007 and the latest Corvair casting in my collection to date.  Like the Racing Champions version it gets straight to the point with its simple design and opening rear engine panel, but adds more detail and flair to the car.  The front has the same detailed quad headlights and front bumper and now adds vent grilles to the center.  The sides add more logo's and cool-looking Craiger mag wheels, while the rear has more detailed taillights with silver trim accents, chrome bumper that meets the lower head shield, and smaller vents on the rear engine panel.  Drop the top and add maroon on tan color scheme and this is one fine looking car that looks more high-end than it should be.  The interior shows more of the twin-cockpit dash layout, 2-spoke steering wheel, door panels, and front and rear bench seats, but also adds the black tonneau cover over the convertible top.  The metal base underneath has a thicker metal body construction with similar engine details that interestingly enough has a bit of detail to the auto transmission's oil pan.  The engine cover opens to a real treat as the air-cooled six has a smaller air cleaner, detailed engine block with the twist belt that transfers crankshaft power 90 degrees to power the fan on top, blue battery on the left, and a spare tire on the right.  Johnny Lightning has given careful detail on this casting, especially in the engine bay, and how cool was it for me to find my second White Lightning based on this car!















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Not enough power?  Check out the Hot Wheels version of the 1965 Corvair Monza coupe, the Vairy 8 casting released in 2003.  First, it has the new sleeker look with aggressive front-end with spear-shaped headlight frames and a new rear valence panel that has the quad taillights more recessed into the panel.  Then add the raked rear and low front stance, detailed headlights, and lower bumper scoops.  The rear engine cover has more louvers (and here I thought the 1959 Chevy Panel van was the first to have this!), quad taillights, and a license place area that also serves as the metal base tab.  Yes, you heard right, this car has a metal base with rivet details at the front and just ahead of the rear axle and beefy tires is a large engine block with headers and an oil pan that is part of the interior.  If you haven't seen the roof scoop and the shape of the rear window you'd already notice the change in engine placement:  it is now in the center of the car just behind the front bucket seats, and it is believed to either be a flat-six or flat-eight with detailed engine block and check out those carb stacks in the back towering up toward the roof!  Incredible!  Other colors include the flat green, blue, and black that have a nice salute to the World War II aircraft, but how can you go wrong with the first silver release with a humorous nod to Ralph Nader on the side!  As usual the metal base of this casting has limited it to just premium lines, and even with that it has not gotten much use as of late.










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But that's ok because Hot Wheels has another wild Corvair to deal with, this time with the Greenbrier Sports Wagon for 2015.  Just like Vairy 8 the van has a lower front and raked rear stance, large detailed flat-six engine that includes the side air filters leading to the tall intake runners, valve covers,  and engine fan connected to the drive belts.  However, unlike Vairy 8 the only identifier to the Greenbrier is the front-end with the quad headlights and grille detailing  The sides get the flow-back window posts similar to the Surfin' School Bus and lacks the right-side rear doors for a smooth look, while the roof-mounted surfboards are cool but need to be a separate piece from the body.  The rear engine and large rear wheels on rubber tires manage to take over the rear bodywork void of any rear window or taillights.  The base, like the body, has most focus on the rear engine and is made out of metal to make this one heavy casting, though it ranks behind the VW Drag Bus and a few Semi Tractor Cabs.  The interior has front seats with a dash layout that includes the dash-mounted racing tachometer, yet the rear is wasted space for a van as it only has a few rollcage bars and that's it!  While cool-looking at first, this casting will wear off after a while when many collectors yearn for a stock-looking Greenbrier Sports Wagon.


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Hopefully someday along with a stock Wagon and Pickup we can also see more Corvair's, especially the second-generation.