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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Racing Champions Mint 1965 Pontiac GTO and Auto World 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix

Aside from Johnny Lightning another diecast brand brought back by the same company that brought Auto World is Racing Champions Mint.  The series was introduced in 1996 as a way to divert from the typical racing models that made Racing Champions known, instead making stock vehicles from the road with lots of detail, opening parts (most of them were hoods), and comes with a clear display stand that mounts a belt buckle with the vehicle's insignia and matching colors.  Over the years more models and a new box design was created, as was the ownership of Motor Trend on the boxes as well.  By 2000 Racing Champions was bought by Ertl and Ertl carried on a few of the Mint castings, as well as introduced new castings that have more opening parts and even more details.  Then both were obtained together to form RC2 and more castings were introduced at the beginning of the last decade before all disappearing again.  For 2016 some of the older tools were revived with enhancements, a new metal base, and even a few Ertl tools were revived as well; one of them that I found was the 1965 Pontiac GTO in turquoise, and what better way to show it off than with a matching Auto World counterpart, a 1964 Grand Prix also in turquoise.

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Racing Champions Mint 1965 Pontiac GTO

One of the two former Ertl castings in the Mint line revived is the 1965 Pontiac GTO.  Unlike the Mint castings these Ertl castings have opening hood, doors, and separate components on the base that make up the drivetrain.  While the Mint castings have modified castings (with the crude exterior mirrors removed) and opening hoods.  The 1965 GTO finally brought the car into limelight with the stacked headlights and split grille adopted by the full-size Pontiac's the year before to make the GTO an icon.  The GTO takes the Lemans body and brings in more power, heavy duty suspensions, cold-air intake, and a revised dashboard with rallye gauge package.  The engine is a 389 CID V8 with tri-carbs that produces 360 hp. and 431 Ib-ft. of torque through a 4-speed manual transmission.

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The look of the casting looks fantastic in turquoise color with silver trim, GTO badges on the front fenders, accurate rallye wheels with redline tires, detailed rear valence panel with red taillights, black trim in the center, and lower bumper with reverse lamps and GTO2GO plates front and rear.  The magic here, and not often seen in 1:64 diecast, is an opening trunk that shows a luggage box in the center.  The hood at the front, with the ram air scoop, still opens up to show the 389 with blue engine block, separate carbs and valve covers, and separate front drive belt and radiator.  The front-end is questionable with twin black grills and GTO badge on the left and stacked headlights with round lenses in chrome housing that looks really awkward than say a completely-tooled setup with integrated headlight lenses.

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The interior shows off the new dashboard layout with comprehensive gauges, 3-spoke steering wheel, floor shifter, and bucket seats with ribbed patterns joined by matching rear seats and door panels.  Unlike the engine area the interior does not have any painted details, but overall very nice for a 16 year old tool.  The best part is the base below, outlined in silver, that shows separate components that come together to make the base.  The fuel tank covers the rear rivet, adorned by dual-tipped dual exhaust separate from the base leading to the rear axle that is also separate from the base.  Then the middle of the chassis has a rivet outlay and frame with the exhaust and driveshaft in the middle separate from the base.  The front has a covered shroud to hide the front rivet, with the engine and front suspension separate from the base.  The effect is a 3D design that is more prominent in large-scale models done in 1:64 scale, but comes with a price: the base is plastic and overall the car lacks the weight that you'd expect at this price-range.  Plus the car looks great out of the box that revives the Motor Trend Mint boxes of the late 1990's.

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Auto World 1964 Pontiac Grand Prix

Despite the reintroduction of Johnny Lightning and Racing Champions Mint, the Auto World line does not sit silent; it does, however, downsize from three lines to one, the premium line with box that I predicted would survive out of the three.  Along with new tools the premium and basic toolings will likely appear in this line as well (a few of the former appeared in this latest release).  The newest tool is the Grand Prix, a car that has not been done since the Matchbox Lesney model of the 1960's.  Improving on the design this Auto World casting really looks sharp, in a big car way.  The Grand Prix slots between the sporty GTO and luxury Catalina and Bonneville as the sporty grand tourer car of the line.  It has the looks of the larger sibilings, yet the sport of the smaller sibilings.  Introduced in 1962, the 1964 Grand Prix follows the big Pontiac styling with stacked headlights and hidden taillights.  The engine is a 389 CID V8, like the GTO, with 350 horsepower through a 3-speed automatic (manual transmissions were also offered).  Over the years the Grand Prix would live up to its sporty nature and midsize dimensions.

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The turquoise on this Grand Prix is darker than the GTO, yet still similar.  The body is squared off with little chrome, Grand Prix badges on the front fenders, and a middle character line on the beltline adds character to the slab sides.  The front has stacked headlights in an oval housing joined by a split grille with round signal lights and GP logo on the left grille.  The hood has a peaked front that joins the split grille, while the rear has chrome oval outlets that match the front; they're not taillights as they are hidden on the center bar below the Grand Prix letters and above the Kansas bumper plate.  Rather, it's the area where the reverse lamps are housed.  The wheels are nice: rallye-style caps with black middle ring on narrow white-line tires.  The base doesn't offer the superior separate components of the Mint GTO, but at least it's all metal and adds heft to the casting.

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The hood opens up to show V8 motor in green with black round air cleaner and a few detailed components on the fenders.  The interior, also all-black, has a flat dash layout with auxiliary gauges and to the right of the speedometer and a two-spoke steering wheel.  The seats, front and rear, have the ribbed layer as does the side door panels.  Manual transmission models also get a tachometer to the left of the speedometer.  While the GTO has lots of nifty separate features and opening components, Auto World still leads in proper dimensions, sharp details, and the heft of the all-metal construction.

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