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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Greenlight and Johnny Lightning 1971 Pontiac GTO



Johnny Lightning has made a comeback for 2016, and one of the castings that returned is the 1971 Pontiac GTO.  While I do not have the new casting, I do have the original that debut back in 2004 to go alongside the Greenlight version as a convertible in "The Judge" package; it too has been out for a while, but at times doesn't look right.  Time to look at the two and see who's got the best details.





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The GTO has been the heart of Pontiac for much of the 1960's, giving muscle to a midsize car that is fun to toss around and race on the track.  By the 1970's the government was really getting onto the muscle cars ranging from new emissions standards to the rising insurance costs.  The GTO, while continuing for another few years, was entering the last few years of its prime.  The 1971 version got a restyled front-end with the Endura guard plastic front bumper that repositions the lighting to accept the new front bumper.  A new hood offered larger air scoops to force ram air into the engine to feed the 455 CID High Output Pontiac V8 that produced 310 hp through a 4-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission.  This was the last year for the Judge package, and for the GTO to be its own separate line as it merged into the Lemans line in 1972 as a trim package.





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The Johnny Lightning version is an old casting (its first release was back in 2001), yet still looks good.  This orange version looks like a Judge, but it isn't.  The front-end has detailed (and smaller) round headlights flanking the twin grille where the inner mesh design is part of the metal base, along with the endura bumper and lower signal lights.  The hood has the large Ram Air scoops and the external tachometer.  The sides show off the clean look with character lines just above the wheels, GTO badges, and 6-spoke wheels with BFGoodrich tires; note how the ride height is at proper stance.  The rear has a separate rear spoiler, detailed rear bumper with integrated taillights, and GTO badges.  The metal base shows off the drivetrain and exhaust details, but not as sharply as the Greenlight version.  The interior is nicely done in matching orange color with front bucket seats and detailed seat patterns, but the dashboard lacks the finer details as in the greenlight.  The hood opens, doesn't open large enough, doesn't stay open, and the engine details are barely visible in the black engine compartment.  I guess the 2016 version has more details and The Judge package, but as you can see this is an older casting that is in need of more details.





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On the other hand the Greenlight version has all of the details, but at a compromise: One of the reasons why I've seen this casting so many times yet never bothered to pick it up is the stance.  In coupe models you can see how low the stance is and how slim the beltline is.  Also some details are a bit incorrect, reminding me of the criticism that Greenlight got for the handling of the 1980 Pontiac Firebird casting.  Somehow this recent Muscle release of a 1971 Judge Convertible in Cardinal Red looks much better, and indeed it looks much better.  The front has headlight details that are larger than the JL, silver trim around the twin grilles in black with GTO badge in the right nostril, and lower bumper with signal lights.  The hood has the ram air scoops, but without the hood tach, and has better lines and 455 badges on the sides of the scoops.  The sides show off more detail with lower chrome trim, the Judge graphics above the wheels, The Judge badges on the front fenders, and those 5-spoke mags with red center caps on goodyear tires really set the look of the car.






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The rear has a separate spoiler with 455 H.O. on the sides of the wing, detailed taillights on the rear bumper, and dual exhausts that have more prominent quad tips.  The base shows off better details than the JL with the frame, engine, drivetrain, exhaust, and rear fuel tank crisply detailed.  The hood opens up to a larger opening with a narrow engine bay with detailed block and air cleaner with dual scoops that attach to the Ram Air scoops on the hood to feed air into the engine.  I would like to see more detail here, including color variations and badges.  The interior is nicely done and that's especially important in a convertible.  The seats have the detailed ribbed pattern front and rear, the tonneau cover very realistic, and the door panels detailed with handles and ribbed panels.  The console houses a T-shaped shifter for the transmission, while the dashboard has the correct layout with 3-spoke steering wheel and driver-oriented controls.






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While the JL served nicely during its time in my collection, I now have a better appreciation for this version of the Greenlight 1971 GTO The Judge Convertible: lots of great details in a proper deco.




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