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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Hot Wheels 1956 Ford Pickup, 1956 Ford Panel, and School Busted



You can tell when a manufacturer is obsessed with a particular model.  Mustangs.  Camaro's.  Corvette's.  Air-cooled VW's.  Then there are a few groups that seem odd, but give a unique taste and a family reunion.  One of those that I recently found is the line of 1956 Ford trucks in the form of a pickup, panel, and a school bus.




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What is it about this generation of Ford trucks that are popular?  Who knows, all I know that it was in the prime time of American automobiles in the 1950's, and like the Chevy Pickups of the same era they were stylish even if they were still workhorses.  The new look has the front fenders merged with the hood, though still sloped down, with headlights and grille located inside the lower duct area: same as the 1948 Ford, but much more well-executed, cleaner, and looks better on a custom chop.  The V notch in the grille signals the V8 motor: A 317 CID Y-block V8, replacing the flat V8 in 1954, that produces 170 hp through a 3-speed manual transmission or a 2-speed automatic.  The 1956 model year was the only one with a wrap-around windshield and angled pillars, which would explain why most of these models shown here are 1956-related Ford trucks.  After that the F-series got more chrome and gawky before going back to a cleaner design in the 1960's.





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Hot Wheels has worked with the 1956 Ford many times before, but my first encounter was in 1999 when the 1956 Ford Panel arrived.  Shod in a light blue color with flamed Ford logo on the side panels, and of course lowered the Panel looked really good.  The front has the detailed headlights and grille in a cove on a hood, that up until 2010 would open forward to (barely) expose the supercharged V8 motor.  The sides show off the flared fenders, even at the rear, and the running boards inbetween, while the rear has the dual panel doors, round taillights, and large exhaust tips.  The base shows off more with the gigantic exhaust pipes dominating most of the drivetrain component details.  The interior shows off seating for two and just a simple dash layout with dual pod design; otherwise it is simple, clean, and not much to show.  The '56 Ford Panel has shown many cool variations, but I still think the very first one is the best.




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Then in 2006 the Ultra Hots series, with metal base, body, and opening hoods, donned the 1956 Ford Pickup.  It too has the hood that tilts forward to (again, barely) show off the supercharged engine, and quite frankly the same shared hood, but after the A-pillar the design is different.  In 2013 Hot Wheels retooled it without the opening hood, but still with the metal base, to appear in the mainline.  The supercharged engine stays, but the hood is now all shut and new with a revised grille that is more shallower than the panel with flatter headlights.  The sides show off a more truck-like bed with more pronounced rear fenders and running boards that are now part of the metal body.  Also note the lack of door handles on the doors.  The rear has a detailed tailgate stamp, horizontal taillights, and smaller dual exhausts.  The metal base shows off a smaller exhaust system for a reason: to show out the cut-out in the bed where the driveshaft and fuel tank in the bed can shine: metal below, chrome above.  The interior has a more simple truck appearance with the same details as the panel.  While the panel seems bloated, the pickup looks more like a natural truck and feels good with that extra weight of metal below.  After a cool ZAMAC version the truck disappeared from the mainline due to cost reasons, but it still appears in the premium lines still donning the metal base and those good looks.





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A harder sell for me was the School Busted, introduced in the 2009 Classics series.  A '56 Ford School Bus would be nice, but the look is a bit exaggerated and never appealed to me.  Finally I decided to pick one up, though the Super Mario Bros look may turn off a few it oddly enough seems to fit this casting perfectly.  The front has the same supercharger and low stance, but the grille is different as it's a custom billet job with larger headlights.  Things get really weird when the smooth lines abruptly end after the hood to the round and bulky school bus body with round lights on the roof, split front windshield, and dual panel doors that open to the sides.  The rear looks more like a VW Microbus with the small emergency exit door, another door below, round quad taillights, and dual exhausts.  The bus sits lower than the other two, uses dual exhausts, has rubber tires, no rivet at the rear (a latch instead) to secure the body, and quite frankly too heavy to be in the mainline!  The interior shows off the driver's seat with typical steering wheel layout.  The seats for the kids in the back are rather small, tight, with no leg room for those over the large wheelwell covers over the rear wheels.  And while the bus does handle better than any normal school bus, the top heavy nature of the cab can sill make you remember this is a school bus not a panel van.






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Not one of my favorite groups, this is still one unique group of 1956 Ford trucks that can call Hot Wheels home and no one else, by far, will have the guts to intimidate.




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Update: For 2017 the Custom 1956 Ford pickup undergoes some casting changes that are obviously marketed to save costs while still continuing to use the casting.  The base is now plastic instead of metal, with the base now expanded to include the front and rear bumpers.  The see-through bed is now filled in with the rear axle and fuel tank in the bed now part of the chrome interior piece.  Also part of the interior piece is the chrome front grille.  Overall it still has that familiar classy Ford Pickup look as before, better enhanced in this primer gray paint with Hot Wheels Hot Trucks badges on the doors alongside rust scrappings on the sides.  Also premiering for its first time is the new wheel design: a low profile steel wheel that'll look good on classy rides like this one as well as Japan-based models (the Datsun Roadster in green is the next vehicle to sport these new wheels).  A name has not been created yet, but it is a nice addition to the Hot Wheels line.












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