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Early Dodge Charger Toys

As a toy collector and a basic MoPar nut, I have kept my eyes open for cool old toys of some of my favorite cars. I always pay particular attention to the old Chrysler toys. Now I’m not the guy with an unlimited budget who buys everything he sees but I have attended a lot of toy shows and swap meets over the years looking for a cool piece at a bargain price. Most of that was before the internet and Ebay you understand. So here are a few of the Dodge Chargers I have in my collection. This is not an exhaustive list of everything produced back then. There are many I don’t have, but I’m thankful I bought these when I did. Now days you can get ’69 Charger stuff any day of the week. But I prefer the challenge to find the toys that were made back in the day. Toys inspired by the popularity of the car when it was first on the street.

Cragstan ’66 Charger.

 The original Production Charger was based on a mid-sized Coronet. It was much more up-scale in its amenities but shared the same power-train options. Big blocks, Hemis…you, know. This car is not quite 1/25 scale. It is a bit smaller and measures 7-1/2 inches long. Many Cragstan friction cars shared that same scale. The details weren’t exactly correct either.

Cragstan ’68 Chargers.

The large purple Charger is actually 1/25 scale. A nice job over-all. Good detail and proportions. Obviously, my example is missing a few velocity stacks. It has an attempt at red-line tires too!

The little pink version is about 1/43 scale and measures 4-3/16 inches long. It has a clear hood that shows the motor and underneath, a spiral disc that spins. Not sure why. I know it was the flywheel part of the friction motor, but did we need to see it?

The little yellow and green ’69 is the same scale as the Cragstan and features spring loaded body that lifts up like a funny car. It has the copyright date of 1970 by CII. Made in Hong Kong.

HO Scale Slot Cars.

I have collected Aurora Thunderjet slot cars since I was a kid. But there were other companies also trying their hand at the H-O scale. Eldon was one of them. They are most noted for their 1/32 scale rides. But I really like this little silver ’68 they made. It is slightly shorter than the Aurora ’69. The body was offered in a “Matchbook” snap kit too. It had an interior and chassis and was engineered similar to the Lindberg “Mini-Lindy” 1/64 scale kits. The Aurora for some reason had six round tail-lights. The Eldon is missing the pick-ups and guide pin but it is still one of my favorites!

Eldon 1/32 Scale Slot Cars

Eldon had a good relationship with Dodge. They produced several Dodge racing sets and Thrill Drivers sets. The yellow ’66-’67 Charger is a nice piece but suffers from a proportion problem. They were notoriously too short. The later ’68 and’69 Chargers were very well proportioned and had five spoke mag wheels that they shared with the Coronet slot cars of the same years. The ’66 originally had the typical Eldon wire wheel style hubs and larger diameter tires. I have never liked those so I replaced them with ’68 wheels. Sacrilege, I know! The ’66 did have an interior plate with a driver where as the later slots had smoked windows and no interior plate.

Hot Wheels and Kenner ‘69s

We all know and love the original Mattel Hot Wheels Custom Charger. It is slightly out of scale with the other pony car offerings by Mattel but still a fun car. The car I got for Christmas back in the day was blue. I like the pink a little better. It stands out. What most folks have never seen was Kenner’s ’69 Charger. It was slightly longer at 3-7/16 inches and didn’t have glass. It had nicer wheels though in my opinion. It came with a long piece of track that curled up for easier storage. It was part of the Zip Strip product line.

The body on the Kenner car was molded in plastic. That’s why the rivets look strange. I think they had plastic pins that came through the chassis and they just melted the pin down to hold the body on. Crude but effective.

Mini Lindy ’70 Charger Kit

Lindberg had been in the model car business since the fifties, really. The tooling wasn’t always exceptional and some of the cars looked a like wonky. Others were nicely scaled but very simple in their engineering. They got the idea of making small scale kits that were about 1/64. This had been tried in the past by Ideal Toy Company and was successful. Lindberg produced an impressive variety of kits in that scale and even kept up with the yearlys coming out of Detroit. In 1970 they added the Charger to the product line. It was a fairly nice kit and not always easy to find. They retailed for about 50 cents.

This is basically what I have in my collection so far. Hope you enjoyed the trip and maybe saw some things you haven’t seen before.

Brad

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The Forward Look cars from Chrysler Corporation are still considered among the best designed cars from the 50’s. They certainly raised the bar as far as automotive design was concerned for that time period. We look back and think that some of the ideas are quaint or maybe a little misguided but they still turn heads at car shows for their interesting body shapes and sweeping roof lines.

During this period the toy companies took notice and wanted to cash in on the popularity of the cars as well. Being a toy collector myself, I have purchased a few over the years and decided to share a few Forward-Look pieces from my personal collection. I have limited it to just the Plymouth Line and only toys that were produced when the car was new. That is; made in ’57 , ’58 or thereabouts.  Some of these examples may have been issued a little after ’58 but the original tooling was started when the cars were new. This is by no means everything that was made. Just a sampling that I have been fortunate enough to find.

 

The Tin Toy ’57 Plymouth “Fury” made by Bandai is obviously not a Fury since it lacks the correct trim. It is about 1/24 scale, detailed fairly well and came as both a hardtop and a convertible.

The Tootsie Toy ’57 Plymouth was difficult to peg as a ’57 since the headlights look like they are dual instead of singles with a turn signal. The give away here is the side trim. These pieces are easy to find and were issued from ’59 to ’69. Two examples of the Dinky Toys ’58 Savoy four-door sedan. It came with both white tires and black.

Auburn Rubber Company offered a nice, well detailed ’57 Belvedere two door hardtop. These are about 1/43 scale, maybe a tad bigger. They have a tendency to warp if not stored properly.

Tin Toy ’58 Fire Chief car. This is probably the last version of this car before the tooling was retired. That’s the way it usually happens. The first issue is of a stock vehicle. Then to get a little more play out of the tooling or dies they offer police, ambulance and fire chief versions of the cars. I’m not sure who made it. But I have seen it as a black and white Highway patrol car as well.

 

’58 Highway Patrol. This car is a bit smaller but has better detail than the Fire Chief car. The roof light is missing on my example but is otherwise very clean. I believe this was made by Ichiko Kogyo in Japan.

Here is a very rare plastic ’58 convertible. This was part of an auto transport set. I have a ’58 Cadillac from the same set. Both are convertibles without a rear seat. They all share the same glass; the GM wrap-around.

Another popular ’58 piece is this 1/25 scale station wagon. It features an opening tail-gate and originally came with a driver figure. I believe this was made by Processed Plastic. Most of the first issues were either red or blue. It was issued later in brighter colors including silver and had different wheels.

 The beige-pink ’57 Belvedere convertible is one of my favorite pieces in my collection. I found it at a toy show before it was considered to be very valuable. It is made by Budgie Toys in England. A Matchbox competitor and assembled its toys in a very similar manner to the Lesney products. It is close in size to the standard 1/64 scale die casts that we see today. I think that is the original price written on the side in grease pencil, 19 cents. How did Budgie make a profit? They still had to ship it over here. And that’s the retail price after the store marked it up.

The station wagon might be Marx or Revell. These cars were from an auto transport train car from a ’58 train set. There were two different cars made for the sets. This ’58 Plymouth wagon and a ’58 Cadillac Fleetwood. Both are very square examples of their subjects and share the Cadillac’s wheels. Most that I’ve seen so far have been painted realistic fifties colors.

The little car is very a small scale and was part of a set of new American cars. The AHI brand from Japan made miniatures of the American and foreign car lines every year. Complete sets can get a little pricey.

The Promotional Models

The Promotional models were made by Jo-Han. There were a few different variations from the stock Belvedere. The taxi was one of them. (The spotlights aren’t original to the car.)

 

In ’58 Jo-Han offered the Fury as a promotional model too. It was molded in the correct color with gold painted trim. Even the badge on the fin was changed have the Fury script. Both models had working torsion-bar suspension. Warp was a common problem with the early plastics. It has a great finish but warped with time. This condition on these cars is called the “JoHan smile” by some collectors.

Here is a strange toy I bough on Ebay. It was made in Mexico and is clearly a copy of the Jo-Han promo but the wheel hubs and chassis were copies of the type used on Product Miniatures promotional models. The body has shrunk a bit over time and forced the grille to protrude at a funny angle. The decals are in Spanish. It is 1/25 scale.

Hope you enjoyed this trip down The Forward Look lane. There are many different toys made of Forward Look cars. Chrysler Corp. was well represented in tin toys. They are expensive but really fun to look at.

-Brad

 

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In 1955-1957 there was a show on American Television called; Science Fiction Theater. The show was produced by the same folks that brought you the original Highway Patrol series; ZIV productions. Both shows were produced simultaneously. SFT was a weekly anthology series hosted by Truman Bradley, who had been a newscaster and announcer in radio in the 1940’s. The series tried to base its stories on scientific principles, gadgets or breakthroughs. Sometimes the stories had a strong basis on the devices or scientific principles that Truman Bradley demonstrated to the audience and sometimes the connection seemed a little contrived.

Many of the stories were interesting and probably even more so back when they were first broadcast. Incidentally, the episodes are available to watch on YouTube.

Well, when I first discovered the series, I began scrolling through the episode titles and one immediately stood out to me. The Phantom Car! Naturally, I had to see what it was all about. Fortunately, there was little phantom-ness involved and it did deal with scientific gadgets and not the para-normal. And it turned out that I actually liked the car they used. It appeared to be an off-white 1948 Lincoln Continental convertible. A great choice. The car had such classic lines. Although not as handsome as the original ’39, it still deserves respect as a classic luxury car.

Story synopsis

The episode opens with a crusty old prospector, with very few teeth, taking a rest on the desert floor after a long walk. Where, exactly, he had been prospecting is a mystery. Where’s his burro?Suddenly out of the mirage he sees a dust trail. A car is approaching him and he gets up to flag it down only to see that there is no one at the wheel. It is aiming right for him and he dives to get out of the way.

Then the old man runs all the way to a local gas station to call the sheriff, who eventually shows up in a ’56 Oldsmobile. No doubt a car shared with the Highway Patrol TV series. After some convincing the two go out to find the phantom car. At this same time, a newlywed couple is out enjoying their honeymoon in the hot dry desert. (And to think I wasted my honeymoon in Monterey CA!) The husband is a geologist and is on the hill getting samples when he spots the car coming down the road.

His wife is standing next to their brand new ’56 DeSoto convertible and tries to flag down the phantom car. She is struck and receives a terrible head wound. Her husband then picks her up and puts her in his car to take her to the local hospital. No regard for further injuries as he lets her head flop around like a dead salmon. Her spinal cord could be grinding to powder for all he knows. Just then the sheriff and the old miner arrive along with an ’55 Cadillac ambulance that mysteriously showed up. The woman is taken to the local hospital and a head injury specialist clocks-in to help because he received a mysterious phone call about the case.

Actress Rachel Ames down for the count.


Nice ’55 Cadillac ambulance

 

After the sheriff’s unsuccessful chase, the geologist decides to rent a bunch of “high tech” equipment at the local Mesa City five and dime store to try to find this car and stop it. Of course, the sheriff and the old miner are along. Who wouldn’t trust a toothless old prospector to operate an infrared heat sensor or a shot-gun mic?

The phantom car approaches and turns just in time to narrowly miss them. Eventually it claims another victim. This time it’s the man who is responsible for building the car! A scientist with the remote control. His gasping confession clues them in to what is really going on. It seems that his intent is to build a self-driving car. The Lincoln is using radar to avoid obstacles. But apparently the radar can’t see people. When the car hit the woman, the scientist made several phone calls and tried to help the newly wed (who eventually recovers). Then the scientist informs them that his remote is smashed and he can’t stop the car! And it’s heading ominously for “Mesa City” (Gasp)!

The old miner showing his expertise in caring for severe neck injuries just before the ambulance arrives.


The scene changes and the camera is focused on the name of the town spelled out on the pavement. The pilot-less Lincoln passes over the words; “Mesa City” like a charging locomotive. It’s heading for downtown and who knows what kind of mayhem! The geologist, the sheriff and the old miner quickly drive to the scientist’s desert laboratory to find the kill switch!

After a brief bit of bumbling around, they find the switch and throw it just in time. Why they didn’t just throw the main breaker is still a mystery. The car comes to a harmless stop just as a pedestrian places himself in front of it for no apparent reason.

Back at the lab; The car is towed in and all three of them look it over. Yes, including the prospector! It’s always important to get the old miner’s point of view on self-driving technology! They remove the big tonneau cover to reveal the mechanism that was driving the car. It involves a “T” shaped framework in the interior and a back seat full of vacuum tubes. There is some sort of radar equipment in the front, some of which is visible behind the windshield. Then the geologist is so taken with the idea of autonomous cars that he decides he is going to help the scientist perfect the self-driving automobile to save lives. An easy thing to do really since geology and robotics are so similar. Frankly, I think he needs to discuss it with the missus first. I don’t care if she does have a big dent in her head, she needs to be in on his career-destroying decision!

As you might be able to tell from my comments, I both enjoyed and really questioned this episode. I love the shots of the car driving around the desert floor without a human driver. The Lincoln is a great looking car and the footage of it careening around the desert floor leading everyone on a merry chase is certainly enjoyable for the old car enthusiast. Being a connoisseur of old MoPar, I find the newlywed’s ’56 DeSoto convertible to be an eye catcher too. And of the two cars I probably pick the DeSoto first.

A fun show to watch, but to be honest, I think the story line is a little weak in places.

This episode inspired me to do a quick little painting of the car. I wanted to use it as box art for phantom model kit. Back then a company called Pyro Plastics produced a model kit of that car. Today Lindberg has the tooling. Wouldn’t it have been fun to see Pyro capitalize on that episode and produce a kit of that car! This is my idea of what the box might have looked like. Remember folks, this isn’t real!

This faux box art is about 50% larger than the original painting.

Hope you enjoyed this edition of the Hot Rod Bunny blog.

Brad Leisure

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One of the things I like to do here in the Midwest is attend estate sales. Sometimes, I find really good model kits at them. One sale I attended, had some really great model kits sitting on a table. They were all from ’59 to ’61. Several were AMT yearly kits, which I acquired and later resold most of them. But at the same sale there were these three Monogram hot rod kits. The interesting thing was they hadn’t been started, really. I’ve had several unbuilt Green Hornet and Black widow kits. They were later issues however. But I’ve never seen an unbuilt Monogram Sport Coupe kit before! I know they’re around. Well, while at the sale picking up the AMT boxes as fast as I could, I was saw the Sport Coupe box. Fortunately for me, it was under another kit box so it wasn’t obvious to my competition what it was. I saw the upper corner of the box and part of the word “sport” and knew right away! I couldn’t grab it fast enough. I assumed it was at least partially started or painted. I was shocked when I opened the lid to find it completely unassembled! I have a fairly good built Sport Coupe in my collection. I’ve had several and was able to pick the best one for myself. But this was totally unexpected. The kit replicated a ’32 Ford five-window sport coupe. It was issued in 1959. In 1960 a motorized version was released and after that, to my knowledge, it was never re-issued. The Monogram 1/8 scale “Big Deuce” and 1/24 “Little Deuce” kits replaced it. They were far better kits than the original Sport Coupe. Their proportions were closer to being accurate.

The box lid is in very good condition. There’s a little warp to the side panel from years of storage. I had to replace the box bottom because it was very warped and made it difficult to get the lid off. The box top is not faded and displays well.

Notice that the parts set on top of a yellow box insert. All the other kits I’ve had in the past never had the insert!

The original decals are uncut. The guy in that catalog always looked like a fast talking salesman to me.

The front track on the original kit was far too wide to be true to scale and Monogram used the same size rubber tires all the way around. The Black Widow and Green Hornet kits were issued two years later and used the same toy-like rubber tires but at least had smaller tires in front.

The Green Hornet and Black Widow boxes are both in remarkable condition. The colors are very bright and rich. I’ve had nice unbuilt kits before but the box lids were always warped and caved in. These are in excellent shape.

Inside the kits have been preserved well including the decals and little “hobby catalog”.

I have had really good fortune lately with finding old models. Many are built and poorly at that. It’s refreshing to find untouched examples of these old classic hot rod kits! They’re a welcomed addition to my collection!

Here are the built Black Widow and Green Hornet kits on reproduction store displays purchased on Ebay.

Back in the day, the factory assembled some of the models for use in hobby-store advertising. They had some of the parts painted and even the decals were placed on the kits. The cardboard platforms and back walls were always eye-catchers.

The Black Widow kit is one I acquired from a friend.

The Green Hornet is a kit I built from an old original issue. The model was inspired by a real hot rod called the Grasshopper.

Model Kits have been my thing since I was a kid. I collect them, build them and sometimes provide box art for them.

Brad

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In 1965 the door to a Southern California “Five and Dime” store called TG&Y swung open and a mother and her two youngest children filed in. She headed to the sewing notions department. The young boy and his kid sister naturally balked at the prospect and so were granted freedom to peruse the toy isle. There, a small canyon of model kits, tin toys, large dolls, blister pack Cowboys and Indians and inexpensive “bin toys” beckoned all who entered. The bin toys didn’t even have boxes. The young boy stood looking at the lower shelf of neat plastic toy cars that were all lined up with their chrome bumpers gleaming in the florescent lights. He looked at the red Chevy convertible then picked up the blue Cadillac sedan. It looked just like his neighbor’s car! “Boy, if only I could get this one” he thought to himself. The sticker on the trunk rang out the bad news…49 cents! He had no money! Even though was the same size as the AMT Jr. Craftsmen model kit, and only half the price, he was sure his mother wouldn’t go for it. Besides, she knew he already had two of those plastic cars at home, a ’60 Chevy convertible and a motorized ’63 Corvette

            Yeah, that kid was me and this is the story of those plastic cars that everyone bought at their local five and dime. They are the heroes of the “Backyard Baja” and the “Bedspread 500”…the Korris Kar. Here’s how they came to be.

 

 

            Ed Koren and Charlie Youdris were two friends in the plastic molding business. They had been thriving ever since 1946 when they took over an old bakery storefront in Cicero, Illinois. Armed with only two presses, they began molding shoe and pastry display stands. They decided to call the business Korris Products. (Take the first three letters of Ed’s last name and the last three letters of Charlie’s last name and you have it.) Things were going pretty good. They received the contract to produce plastic wings for Studebaker hood ornaments. Ed’s neighbor Leo Albiani, soon came onboard advising them on mold and pattern making techniques. When the bakery building could no longer hold them they moved to Lyons, a suburb of Chicago, where their twelve presses turned out parts for Zenith and O’Cedar as well as other clients. Leo’s brainstorm, the patented blue triangle lids for the Morton salt containers made them a major player in the business!

            About that same time, Ray Pierson, a toy wholesaler and innovator in his own right, was looking for another toy to market. Ray was a man of modest beginnings and his is a classic American story. He was a young man from Argentina who left the family farm to pursue his future in the big city. He found himself working at the toy department of Woolworths, a job that would shape his destiny. Before long he was marketing toys that he had specially manufactured. Ray became involved with producing lead soldiers until the need for lead during WWII put and end to his supply. He switched gears and began producing wooden toys. In the fifties, he began noticing more and more toys made of plastic. The production capacity was greater and the cost per part was cheaper. Ray decided he wanted to make plastic toy cars. There were other companies manufacturing plastic toy cars at the time like Processed Plastic, Renwal, Irwin and many others, and they were having a great deal of success at it. Ray’s toy cars had to be different in order to sell.


In about 1958 a toy Plymouth station wagon in the popular 1/25 scale hit the market. It had an opening tailgate and a clear plastic windshield. Ray must have looked it over really well. The cars he wanted to make were just a step above that Plymouth wagon. In 1959 he walked in the offices of Ed and Charlie at Korris Products. His pitch must have been good because despite how busy Korris Products was they agreed to make Ray’s toy cars. They were called Korris Kars even though Ray owned the molds. Here was Ray’s improvement over other toy cars. They had separate grilles and bumpers molded in silver, and clear windshields that were held in place via the vent windows just like the Plymouth wagon, plus a separate steering wheel. The cars were 1/25 scale and designed to be snapped together and be disassembled easily by kids. This was an improvement over the Plymouth wagon, which was riveted together.

 

The product line was made in unbreakable polyethylene and began with tooling up the 1959 Fords, a coupe and convertible, a wagon and a Ranchero. All patterns were directly taken from the available promotional models or kits from AMT and PMC. Later they added a 1960 Chevy convertible, a 1961 Cadillac, two ’61 Thunderbirds, a 1963 Corvette and the popular Jaguar XKE fastback and convertible. Korris didn’t miss out on the ’65 Mustang craze either. All three body styles were produced. Non-yearly cars included a 1932 Ford hot rod roadster, a slingshot dragster, a Ford GT 40, a Lotus race car and a 1956 T-Bird. The product line grew and they dabbled in 1/32-scale battery operated slot cars and several large-scale cars as well. But the best sellers were the 1/25-scale cars which eventually received chrome plated bumpers and notorious foil sticker hubcaps. The sheet of foil detail parts was supplied by an outside printer but all packaging was done in-house. The cars were offered two ways, as a pre-assembled car in master cartons and as a model kit! The latter was first offered on a blister card. Then the 1967 Camaro and 1968 Corvette came in a box to look more like a standard assembly kit. At one point, Korris Products had over 24 employees on an assembly line putting these cars together. Demand was high for these quality toys.

            As more inexpensive toys from Hong Kong started flooding the market, Korris found sales becoming sluggish. In 1970 Ray Pierson retired and Ed and Charlie bought him out. It was a short-lived run and in 1973 the molds were sold to another manufacturer. The large scale Korris Kars Mako Shark was later released under the Simms name. I have never seen the other cars re-issued. Perhaps Simms only bought the Mako Shark molds. Sadly, it was the end of an era. But, those of us who were kids in the 60’s will look back fondly on those well detailed Korris Kars.

            So, what happened to my little white ’60 Chevy convertible? By 1967 it found new life as a slot car. It was truly unbreakable although the windshield frame had sheared off. I had it screwed to a “Classic” slot car chassis with it’s back-end high in the air. I regularly sailed it off the track at the local Vanguard raceway in Chino California.  Just across the parking lot from TG&Y!

           -Brad Leisure

 

Note the very first ’59 Fords made by Korris Kars had rubber tires.

The ’59 Ford Ranchero and station wagons were offered in both civilian and military garb.

The popular ’60 Chevy convertible. Note the foil hubcaps and seat inserts.

The elusive ’61 Cadillac Fleetwood sedan. A copy of the JoHan kit. Yeah, I finally got one!

The ’61 Thunderbird came in both coupe and convertible models.

The Corvette Stingray originally issued as a ’63. The molds were later changed to remove the split window and update details.

The ’63  hood remained on all models, however.

The ’65 Mustang was well represented with all three body styles available to awaiting kids.

Jaguar XKE fastback and roadster. Many of these cars were offered with battery operated motors.

These were some of the last cars tooled up by Korris. The ’67 Camaro and ’68 Corvette.

The Camaro came with a foil sticker for the grille detail and for some reason, the Corvette had a custom grille

.

The Korris Ford GT 40 competed with the Gay Toys version, which is easier to find.

The ’56 T-Bird was offered in two different versions. One with separate headlight bezels and windshield trim.

The Deuce roadster hot rod was an early offering by Korris Kars. They cashed in on the popular craze in the early 60’s.

This unopened kit was purchased from an employee of Korris Products years ago.

One of the master cartons available to retailers in the mid 60’s.

This logo promised big play value at a small price.

(Thank you to Hoffman Creations for preserving that cool photo of a TG&Y store!)

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Customizing Famous Custom Cars

Besides writing and illustrating my Hot Rod Bunny books I’ve provided artwork for magazines and industry. For decades I was a contributing writer for various car magazines and the model car magazines such as; Scale Auto and Model Cars, let me get away with all sorts of weird stuff. As long as there was a kit available to for the reader to make my creation I pretty much had free reign. Well, after countless articles on stock vehicles, I decided to put my own spin on someone else’s inspired show winner. Here are some of the ideas I came up with over the years.

This was the L’il Coffin custom Ford sedan that I changed slightly. I decided that the kit version by Monogram needed to be a coupe or a pick-up. Since the original car is was a sedan and the new truck version would be based on a car… we could pretend it originally had been a stock Ranchero or El Camino in some weird twisted alternate universe.

I started out this project by trying to figure out how much area behind the seat I could use. I then moved the back of the cab forward until it was about 1/2 inch or so behind the seat. The cargo area still wasn’t long enough so I added about ¼ inch to the length of the bed and this gave it a little more rear overhang. When you move the roof forward it raises the windshield header. This was OK with me because I thought the original was a bit claustrophobic. The roof will need a lot of modification to retain the original look with the vinyl center section. The bed is, of course, completely useless but it looks cool. I opted for a white bed cover and “coffin rails” to give it that vintage Monogram feel. The rest of the rear body is pretty much stock until you get to the front. I never really liked the strange looking cowl and those two big pie plates on it. To me they always looked like twin high-gain antennas from the original Enterprise. My other motive for changing the cowl was to facilitate a partial hood. This was tricky because the grill assembly is extremely low and if you project a normal hood line, it terminates above it. I tilted the front grille assembly to point down slightly so the sidelines paralleled the projected hood line. I then intentionally let the hood miss-match the grill assembly thus creating a scoop for the headlights. I called it the L’il Camino! The illustration was done on Canson colored paper using art markers and colored pencils.

Darrell Starbird’s ’57 T-Bird based Predicta is probably one of the best-known icons of the 60’s custom car world. Both it and the Silhouette are instantly recognizable just by their profiles. Now, some of you purists out there might be holding your chest and gasping for breath right about now but let’s see what else can be done with this car. I wanted to keep it a period custom so I used the design elements that were prevalent at the time. It just seemed obvious to me that a ‘63 Corvette fast back roof would look great on this car. I had been thinking about it for some time and decided to go for it. There is something about the opposing angles of the fins swooping up and the top line flowing down that just looks good to me. Sure this is a fiberglass Chevy part on a steel Ford but on a model you can get away with it. Since the Predicta was modeled 1/24 scale I used the Monogram 1/24 scale ‘65 Corvette as the donor car. The split may have to be borrowed from an AMT kit. The roof has to be stretched a bit above the door area to fit the proportions of the Predicta. I didn’t care for the stock Corvette door cuts and elected to make this car a two-door hardtop, in other words, frameless door glass. The roof section is mostly stock but I filled the “C” Pillar vents and the circular gas door. I decided to make the taillight-opening bevel inward (a late 50’s design element). I replaced the vintage grille-work with a single bar and six taillights. I added a custom steering “wheel”. Sorry guys but I really don’t care for the joystick in the center consol. The car was also lowered compared to the stock Monogram kit, which I felt sat too high. I think it created a nice look for the car.

I also thought a salt flat racer was a good build option for the Predicta. It has a generally rakish look anyway. In this instance I filled the interior opening and left a single cockpit. The car needed to have a stripped-down look so I indicated the door panels were removed and used a flat filler for the grille with large perforations. This is an option that was used on other vintage salt flat cars. For this kind of racing all you need is about 1/2 inch clearance under a real salt flats car. So it is pretty low.

 

The Ala Kart is clearly one of the best-known roadster pick-ups from the golden age of customizing. I wanted to see what it would look like with a different body. A coupe would look too much like the pick-up so I opted for a tub body. Now you may remember a modern Ala Kart made up as a tub. That car appeared over two years after this illustration was published!

This was the Silhouette. The AMT Silhouette has a custom racing version already in the kit. I wanted to take it a bit further. First of all, I like round tail-lights more than the original horizontal actual bar. So for the race version they had to be covered over. I also like the look of the vintage racing wheels so I put on a set and illustrated them in a suitable color. Once again I covered the passenger seat with a hard cover and used a cut-down windshield.

Finally, I wanted to see the Silhouette as a gentleman’s roadster. What if it was a stock production car from back in the day? So, it seemed to me that it needed wire wheels and just for fun I added a spare tire on the deck lid. Side pipes were given a more 60’s GM look with a textured side panel and rectangular slots. I also added Corvette style fender bulges front and rear on both versions. This one has a shaker hood scoop and sharper fender lines.

These are just a few of my old ideas, I hope that some of you kit builders have been inspired to try new things on these vintage icons of customizing!

In case you’re interested, most of these were illustrated on either bond marker paper or velum using art markers and pastels for the “air-brushed” gradations. Prismacolor pencils for the fine lines and “designers gouache” paint for the highlights.

Brad

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Last September I had the opportunity to attend the big Auburn-Cord-Duesenberg club meet in Auburn Indiana. The show and swap meet centered around the old down-town and the ACD museum at the old factory. It happens once a year and is the biggest meeting of these rare cars. As a kid I was told about their mystique from my dad. I saw pictures and even built the model kits but I never saw a front-drive coffin-nose Cord up close before. The first thing that struck me about them is the fact that they aren’t very big! Not as big as you’d think. They’re about the size of a modern sedan. The hood is long and that gives the impression of a bigger car. The body isn’t very wide and seats two people up front, close together like all the cars of that era. They came supercharged and standard. Of course there were a good amount of Duesenbergs and Auburns there as well. I didn’t realize that the Auburn was front drive just like the Cord. I saw various different body styles for the Auburn and I like the standard roadster almost as much as the boat-tail speedster. The trunk sculpting on the standard body is really interesting. Too bad in most cases it’s covered by the spare tire. I met a friend there and walked around the general car show that was all through the old down town. There, folks could bring their own collector car and park it along side every other car. It made for a good show with lots of variation. There was a huge swap meet and a smaller swap meet for the Duesenberg club. I met a fellow kit collector there and we had a nice long talk and got to know each other. He is a Here are a few photos of the highlights.

 old cord blue2 copyI love the color blue on this L-29! The ACD cars all oozed class!

cord suvivorThis is an older restoration that looks like an original survivor. I think it would kind cool to own a car like this. Just drive around with the top down and not care where you park it.

two on the streetHere is a scene that you don’t see everyday. Two Cords at a stop light. This is actually the beginning of a parade or cruise.

green side viewI’ve never seen this color on a Cord before. I instantly liked it.

green headlight reflectionHere’s a fun reflection shot. Not one you easily set up. It requires two Cords.

 

cord over hood shotI was curious what it was like behind the wheel. This is what you’d see out the windshield. The nose is long on these cars. Just the way it should be. I much prefer the classic proportions.

 

yellow and blackHave you ever seen so many convertibles in one place in your life?

 

26 Auburn sedan1 copyAn Auburn original survivor. A ’26 sedan. Below is another survivor. I like the detail on the back end.

auburn rear shot

 

yellow on streetI can’t blame this guy for smiling! I would be too! I noticed that these cars have a distinctive mechanical whine as they get going. The gear box I think.

 

34 ford truck rat rod1 copyLast but not least I took this photo of a rat rod in the down-town car show. Note the vintage hemi engine. The radiator ornament is a grenade with a mouse head on top. The grille is barbed wire and the body is so rusty that the lower edge of the door is nothing but shredded metal. The guy standing there in the flowered shirt is the one who built it. He had a “Green Party” bumper sticker on the back. I asked him if it was a joke. He replied “no”. He really did belong to the Green Party. I don’t think it occurred to him at first that his car represented the exact opposite of what the party stood for. But I thought his rod was a real eye-catcher and applauded his efforts! One of the highlights of the street show for me!

 

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I recently was able to watch the movie “Pit Stop” 1967 on YouTube. I was looking at old movies and television programs that featured the talented Beverly Washburn both as a child actress and a teenager. Beverly is well known to Trekkies and fans of Sci-Fi. She has been in several productions with a science fiction or horror twist. As a child she was also been in some very famous movies playing the daughter roll. In Pit Stop she plays a kind of racetrack groupie in her early twenties. The subject matter of the movie is what caught my eye the most. It dealt with the figure 8 races in the mid-sixties. So naturally most of the cars are from the fifties. The main attraction for me were all the of the Chrysler products.

cars into the wallA ’57 Chrysler and ’58 Plymouth go into the wall.

I cringed, of course, at the loss of so many two-door hardtops being slaughtered in the intersection. Still, it was a reminder of the kind of car racing I saw on TV when I was a kid. The figure 8 races from Ascot Park in Gardena CA were regularly broadcast on KTLA channel 5 in Los Angeles. It was an independent station and hired actor-announcer Dick Lane to give color commentary. It was classic early television.

Dick_Lane_(TV_announcer)

The race scenes in Pit Stop were obvious compilations of different races and as a result it was difficult to know which cars were in the lead. Then inter-cut were scenes of the two main characters going slowly around the track A few prop cars were behind them but it was apparent that those scenes were shot at a later time. The close up scenes of the drivers in front of the rear projection screen were pretty bad. On occasion the car in the close-up wasn’t the same as the car in the long shot. I guess I wasn’t supposed to notice.

It was interesting to see the kind of cars that the drivers brought to the races at that time. There were repeated scenes of a ’58 Buick in the intersection. There were, in fact several shots of ’55-’57 Buicks mixing it up in the intersection. A couple of guys were driving ’55 Imperial sedans, probably just because they had a hemi engine. Lots of tri-five Chevies too. Most of the MoPars in the production were from the ’57-’59 era. No doubt because of the drive train and they were plentiful since they didn’t hold their resale value very well. I’m guessing it’s because of their tendency to rust and general tinny-ness of the cars.

I took a few screen capture shots of the vintage racing that was so fun form me to watch. Notice the Barris custom Buick Wildcat, “The Mystique” being used as the rich businessman’s daily driver. The man supposedly owned a custom car shop. They used George Barris’ shop as the location and he did a cameo as the designer.

beverly washburnHere’s Beverly Washburn as the track groupie. Beverly has blonde hair but she said they wanted her to dye it brown so she didn’t have the same hair color as her co-star. Unfortunately, the dye made her hair fall out. That explains why she had such short hair when she did Star Trek “The Deadly Years” next. She has two books out about her exploits in Hollywood. Reel Tears and Reel Tears Take Two. They’re on my list of books I plan to read.

mystiqueThe Mystique was being driven by actor Brian Donlevy. That poor car had a rough life. It survived a wreck and some neglect but it has been restored and is currently owned by a friend of mine, Alan Clark. (He’s a builder of some nice customs as well!) One secret he told me is that the car has no side windows and is open all the time. Barris never took the time to make side windows for the chopped roof. Alan also told me that blocks of wood were used to prop up the rear deck after much of the structure was cut out of it. Alan rectified the problem. I took a photo of the Mystique recently at a California car show. Great lines, a real Barris classic in my opinion!

mystique blog photoThe Barris’ Mystique at a Central California car show.

 

Here are some shots of Forward Look Chrysler products in the movie.

58plymouth1’58 Plymouth above and a ’59 below.

59 plymouth

58 plymouth on tow truck’58 sedan being towed in the junk yard.

57 desotoThe winner! A ’57 De Soto.

57 dodge 1A Dodge into the wall…a frequent occurrence in the movie..

58 dodge sedanHere’s an example of how NOT to customize your ’58 Dodge. Are those ’65 Mustang taillights on the door? Anson was a sponsor of the movie so there are lots of vintage products around, like those wheels.

57 furyYes folks, that is a ’57 Plymouth Fury! A very rare car with an early version of the 318 V-8 and had “two fours” from the factory. One of 7,438 produced.

 

56 furyHere is one of the saddest photos. If you look closely you’ll notice that the car coming around the fray is a ’56 Fury! That’s the one that started it all for Plymouth and is highly sought after today. It is reported that only 4,485 were made that year. It has gold side trim with the kick-up on the fin. The limited edition Fury was the only ’56 Plymouth to have that feature. (It was carried through on the ’57 Fury.) As it goes by it becomes more obvious that it’s a Fury!

 

walk on carsThe main protagonist, played by Richard Davalos, works in a junk yard by day and races at night. Here he is taking a stroll on top of the new arrivals. Note that next to the ’55 De Soto he’s walking on is a ’54 Mercury Sun Valley! It appears to have been smacked hard in the front fender.

Pit Stop was both satisfying and heart breaking to watch. It is listed on YouTube as Pit Stop/The Winner 1969. You might want to check it out…but if you’re a “Forward Look” MoPar lover have a box of tissues handy.

-Brad

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letstakeatrip_cover1

If you’re like me your probably saying to yourself, “I don’t remember that TV program”! It was hosted by a man named Irwin “Sonny” Fox on Sunday mornings and was a CBS kids news magazine where the host and two kids would experience locations around NYC and the US. It aired from 1955 to 1958. I’ve never seen a re-run and it isn’t even listed on the Internet Movie Data-Base (IMDb). So it really has been lost. I found only one episode on YouTube. It was very popular at the time and Sonny went on to do the Wonderama TV show and later produce news magazine shows. He had quite a career in television!

Apparently, back then Revell thought that this particular show was a good way to market more of their model kits. So in 1956 they issued the “Let’s Take A Trip” kit. This large kit box contained three different modes of transportation, a ship, a plane and an automobile, not to mention the CBS logo and a total of four references to CBS. Inside the box were the three kits in separate bags and cardboard covers with windows. The kit I have doesn’t have a window cover over the ship. I did some digging and the histories of the vehicles represented are rather interesting. inside_kit_box

The ship is a model of the S.S. United States passenger liner. It was built in 1952 and designer William Francis Gibbs intended this ship to be a state of the art passenger cruiser with the capability to be converted into a troop carrier in the event of war. It was fireproof and no wood was used in the construction except for the two grand pianos made of fireproof Mahogany. More aluminum was used in the S.S. United States than on any other previous construction project in history. The idea was to have a fast lightweight ship. They were successful! On its maiden voyage it broke all trans-Atlantic speed records in both directions. It still holds the record 60 years later. Impressive considering that it is 100 feet longer than the Titanic! Placed on end it would be nearly as tall as the Chrysler Building. Even so, it was just 101 feet wide so it could pass through the Panama Canal with two feet clearance on either side. It was retired from active service in 1969. There is now a conservancy that is trying to have the ship restored. It is still solid and structurally sound.

 

The model plane is the Douglas DC-7. It was introduced in November 1953 and it was the last major piston-powered transport made by Douglas. (The DC-8 was jet-powered.) The kit features American Airlines decals. They were one of four major users of the craft, there were 21 in all. Only 343 were built between 1953 and 1958.

eldorado_kit1

The car in this set was the 1956 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible. This was Cadillac’s exclusive personal luxury car offering. The Eldorado was first introduced in ’53 as a limited production vehicle. Apparently there was a contest to name the car when a golden anniversary concept vehicle was introduced in ’52. A secretary in Cadillac’s merchandising department named Mary-Ann Marini came up with the winning name; Eldorado! The exclusive cars were primarily convertibles but in ’56 Cadillac offered a hardtop version. That created a need to distinguish between the two cars and the new hardtop was named the Seville with the convertible being the Biarritz. There were still just 2150 convertibles made even though it was a peak year in Eldorado sales.

56 eldorado box lid copy

The kit is 1/32 scale with a multi-piece body and was made as a joint venture between AMT and Revell. I have researched a few sources about the two companies relationship but haven’t found the answer yet.

The fact was, that by 1955 AMT was very good at making exact scale tooling and Revell may not have been. Although in subsequent years they offered nicely engineered multi-piece bodied cars probably with lessons learned from the AMT venture. It is still a bit of a mystery to me.

Below are two photos from the Revell archives. They are of the built ’55 Eldorado kit. I don’t have any photos of the ’56 at this time…I haven’t built mine yet!

55 eldorado factory photo1 copy

55 eldorado factory photo2 copy

You can get an idea of the scale and detail of the kit from these photos.

Originally this copy of the Take a Trip kit belonged to someone who must have worked at Revell. They loaned this rare kit back to the design department in 1967. What Revell wanted it for is anyone’s guess. It was supposed to be returned but never was. This is a very rare kit and, in my opinion, it belongs right along side the scarce Autorama kits. (Those sets contained four of their 1/32 scale cars.) “Let’s Take A Trip” is another treasure rescued from the old Revell archives that were closed out when they moved to Illinois to join with Monogram.

That will wrap up this action-packed episode of the Hot Rod Bunny blog!

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revell 57 eldorado brougham box

Fellow hobbyists, this is how we got what we got!

Not many people know it but Revell didn’t set out to make a model of the production 1957 Eldorado Brougham sedan. Their original idea was to make the Brougham Town Car from the 1956 GM Motorama. For those of you who don’t know, the Motorama was a traveling auto show put on by GM that featured all the new production cars, futuristic show cars and dancing girls. (The latter not assembled by GM.) The folks at Revell probably set out to make a companion piece to their Pontiac Club De Mer kit, a Pontiac show car that was also a featured at the Motorama in 1956.

1956-Eldorado-Brougham-Town-Car-Prototype

AMT/Revell had already established a relationship with Cadillac division by making beautiful and well proportioned 1/32 scale models of the 1955 and 1956 Eldorado convertibles so when Jack Campbell from Revell sent a letter of introduction to H. Edward Faulkner, Director of Public Relations at Cadillac, it was probably assumed that things would go smoothly. Unfortunately they didn’t. Here is an excerpt from his letter of April 10th 1956. “High on our list of cars that we have contemplated adding to our line of plastic scale models kits is the Cadillac Brougham Town car”. Jack then asked for drawings and detailed photographs of the Brougham Town car. The letter back from Mr. Faulkner of Cadillac was more of a form letter and he didn’t seem to grasp what Jack was asking for. “Thank you very much for your letter of April 10 requesting detailed information on our 1956 line of cars to be used in the development of plastic scale model kits. We do not have readily available accurate detailed drawing of our cars. However, we are enclosing a complete set of photos of our 1956 models…” Now apparently Revell and /or AMT did use the publicity photographs of the ’56 Eldorado Biarritz since they produced the kit in 1/32 scale as a joint effort. But Jack still didn’t have what he was asking for and sent off a letter to Mr. Faulkner requesting the information on the Town Car a second time. April 30 1956, “Many thanks for the photographs of the Cadillac line, but unfortunately, the Brougham Town Car, in which we are primarily interested is not included.” Jack then continues to assure Mr. Faulkner that Revell can be trusted with proprietary information and then sites their work with the aircraft companies and U.S. Government agencies on restricted items. On May 2 1956 H Edward Faulkner sends a letter back to Jack Campbell with the bad news. “Enclosed are a few photos of our Eldorado Brougham Sedan which we plan to put into production later this fall. These photos are in reply to your April 30 letter in which you ask for photos of the Eldorado Brougham Town Car. The Town Car is the dream car of the 1956 Motorama and at present we have no plans to produce this car. Because it is only a show car and is not scheduled for production we would prefer that no authentic scale models be developed on the Town Car”. Well, that slammed the door on the show car idea! There was to be no companion piece for the Pontiac Club De Mer! On May 4, 1956 Jack sent back a letter to Mr. Faulkner. “Bowing to your desires and judgment, it has been decided to proceed with the Eldorado Brougham Sedan”. Jack then asks for some interior shots, lofting lines of the body contours and speculated on the car being produced on the standard Eldorado frame. A letter back from Mr. Faulkner straightens out that idea. “This car will not be built on the standard Eldorado chassis but will be completely new from the ground up”. For the next several months Revell began the long process of engineering the kit. A set of drawings was made in June of 1956. Presumably without the much needed lofting lines. The proportions and details were not up to the standard that Revell had established on the 1955 and 1956 models, not to mention the 1957 Ford Country Squire.

brougham_drawings

The engineering on this kit was to be different than the previous products. There was an attempt to make the body in two large pieces that split along the body contour lines and not with a separate hood, sides etc. This method was tried on both the Brougham and the Club De Mer. The latter kit more successfully. The drawings showed a crude version of the Cadillac Saber Spoke wheels. The engineer was trying to make the special Kelsey-Hayes “Saber-Spoke” magnesium wheels that the other Eldorados in the product line used. These were used on the 1957 Brougham also at first but Cadillac wanted a different wheel for the Brougham. By 1958 all Broughams had the new wheels. You can see by the original Revell drawings that they were close but not close enough to the Saber-Spoke wheel. When these drawings were translated into the tooling master it lost a little more accuracy. The photos show the original master and the crudeness of the model at that stage. The grille detail is really a piece of paper with the “egg crate” texture drawn on. Note that the rocker molding is not correct at this point.

revell eldorado brougham tooling model front

 

revell eldorado brougham tooling rear

From what I can gather from the records, Cadillac never provided anything but publicity stills and color charts. The folks at Revell had to do their own scale drawings. Whether they used the photos and acquired a car to measure is unknown but that seems unlikely. They were close on the drawings but not exact and when Cadillac saw them they weren’t impressed. They gave a scathing review of the drawings and were inclined to drop the project all together. Revell again asked for blueprints but apparently never got them. The wheels were completely wrong, a sore spot with Cadillac, and the fin detail was incorrect as well as some other parts. Changes had to be made in order to gain approval. The wheels in the kit are correct for the Brougham so they apparently did receive the information needed for them. To add insult to injury Cadillac Motor Division had a major policy change about the use of the logos and crests that took effect at the first of the year in 1957. That is why the proper script and crest appear on the 1955 and 1956 Eldorado kits but they didn’t on the Brougham kit box. Yet another bit of bad luck. Those logos are necessary to add credibility to the finished product. It was necessary then for Revell to print Cadillac on the box rather than use the official Cadillac script. The box illustration was beautiful and promised much but unfortunately the kit did not deliver. That is usually the case with lesser manufacturers such as Palmer and Premier but not with Revell. They had a pair of engineering dividers in their logo for Pete’s sake and had an established reputation for well-crafted model kits. The future held great things for Revell and they soon re-acquired their mantle of accuracy and quality with the Ford Retractable, the Corvette and Austin Healey kits. They also notably abandoned the clam-shell kit body and resumed the multi-piece body construction. Revell made no other Cadillac models, which is a shame. Can you imagine a Cadillac kit with the same attention to detail that their 1955 Chevy Bel Air had?

In the late 1980’s one of the designers working for Revell, Brian Bordon, was pushing to have the vintage kits re-issued. (Later called the SSP kit line.) One of the kits he was requesting was the Eldorado Brougham. They dusted off the molds and ran a few test shots to see if the tooling was in proper working order. The plastic used was the same copper color that the ‘57 Nomad was issued in back in 1978. The photos below are of an assembled kit I built from one of the test shots. The Brougham kit was issued both times in black plastic.

57 eldorado brougham test shot

revell eldorado brougham rear test shot

Brian Bordon was a close personal friend and gave several test shots to me as a gift since I was a big Cadillac fan. The Brougham kit was not re-issued at that time. Sadly, Brian died before the kit was eventually issued in 1996.

Now, when you see that old Eldorado Brougham kit you will know a little bit more about it’s journey to reality, a long road strewn with potholes!

eldo_brougham_wallpaper

Here is a collection of the materials used to research this article. Everything was from the Revell archives.

 

If you like vintage car stories, purchase a copy of Hot Rod Bunny. It’s not just for kids!