Johnny Lightning Posts

Tomica Diecast Returns to North America

tomica UOS 2019Tomica packagingAfter a long absence from the U.S. and Canadian market, Japanese diecast giant Tomica is coming back. An initial wave of 6 models recently started showing up at Walmart stores, followed soon by half a dozen more.

Tomica has been in the diecast business since the early 1970s, and are the biggest brand in Japan as well as many other countries. Since the U.S. market was originally a big part of their plans, their offerings have included a lot of American marques and models. The relaunch includes specifically modern Japanese cars and trucks.

tomica opening features

Most Tomica cars feature opening doors, hoods, or hatches.

Tomica is generally known for well-detailed, realistic models of actual cars, as opposed to unlicensed fantasy designs or extreme customs and hot rods. Their cars are around 1/64, but are usually scaled to take advantage of existing wheel sizes. So they might range from 1/50 to almost 1/100 for something like the 1970s Winnebago camper. Tomica cars are marked on the packaging and on the baseplate with the exact scale. Despite the scale differences, Tomica’s well-proportioned, sensible vehicles have been popular as scenery on model railroads.

Tomica gtr

From Wave 1: Nissan GT-R, Subaru BRZ, Suzuki Swift.

The first wave of cars to hit the pegs at Walmart include a Nissan GT-R, Subaru BRZ, Suzuki Swift Sport, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota Prius. The second wave includes a Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyota C-HR, Lexus RC-FNissan Note, and Subaru Impreza. These should be familiar to U.S. buyers as they most of them are offered in 1/1 scale.

tomica cx5

Wave 1: Mazda CX-5, Toyota Prius.

The new release also includes a pair of Japanese trucks: in wave one, a Isuzu with a payload of giant french fries, and in wave two, a Hino with a family of pandas sitting on the back. So they do get whimsical sometimes. (Other fun past offerings have also included vehicles similar to the Hot Wheels Character Cars, based on such Nippon legends as Godzilla.)

tomica panda truck

These trucks are part of Tomica’s 2019 return to North America.

Their cars also feature premium features like working suspension and opening doors long after those features have disappeared with other brands. There are usually lots of painted details such as lights, trim, and even elaborate grille badges and nameplates. The packaging has a very international feel with lots of Japanese text, and inside the blister is a box reminiscent of the designs the cars have traditionally come in over the years.

Wave 2: Mitsubishi Outlander, Toyta C-HR, and Lexus RC-F.

The cars are set to retail for around $5 slotting them in between Hot Wheels premium lines and Johnny Lightning’s latest offerings. The initial dozen will be followed by more of their other current castings as Tomica celebrates their 50th anniversary in 2020.

Tomica subaru

Wave 2: Nissan Note, Subaru Impreza.

What’s your favorite Tomica diecast? Let us know in the comments!

Celebrate Independence Day With These Spirited July 4 Collectibles

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

It’s a long weekend for some folks, but collecting never takes a holiday! Fourth of July, Independence Day, whichever you want to call it, is a big deal for a lot of toys and figures. In this case, we are considering overtly patriotic collectibles, so even if they aren’t quite tied into July 4 events, you will still salute them.

july 4 hot wheelsThe diecast world has embraced the holiday quite frequently. Johnny Lightning did a series of July 4th cars in 2000 with special cards and graphics. Hot Wheels responded with annual holiday cars for the next several years, with July 4 being one of them. And as part of their 50th Anniversary, Hot Wheels did an extended Stars and Stripes series, which hit the pegs last summer. One thing they all have in common… they are all based on American marques, of course. Even Radio Flyer gets in on the action.

july 4 evel knievelThere are unabashedly patriotic things that aren’t related specifically to Independence Day but nevertheless feel right at home on this date more than any other. Stars and stripes: who wore it better, Captain America or Evel Knievel? Trick question… the answer is Elton John (so what if he’s British?).

july 4 patriots 76ersAnother question: Most patriotic sports uniforms… the Philadelphia 76ers or the New England Patriots? Both wrong!  It’s the Colorado Rockies (hard to top “purple mountains majesty,” right?).

July 4 hard rock cafeHard Rock Cafe has released numerous pins and collectibles related to July 4. If you’re looking to complete the set, there are over 1,500 pins in our database just for this occasion, so get going.

july 4 garbage pail kidsThe Garbage Pail Kids have also managed to find a way to commemorate independence in their own, umm, special way. Numerous cards fit the spirit of the day, not to mention their takedowns of various politicians over the years.

july 4 smash up derbyThe 1976 American Bicentennial was a year-long stars and stripes fest that produced some of the greatest collectibles and toys ever. Seaboard Coast Line Railroad created a special Spirit of ’76 locomotive which became one of the best selling electric train models ever. Not to be outdone, Kenner decorated their already marvelous Smash-Up Derby set with a red, white and blue motif for the most patriotic Ford vs Chevy battle ever. Buick offered a, ahem, subtle “Free Spirit” livery on the ’76 Century (or would that be a Bicentury?) And of course, many states got into the action with special Bicentennial license plates.

july 4 independence dayThe 1996 sci-fi flick Independence Day celebrated by blowing up the White House as well as half the other iconic buildings in the world. Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum versus aliens meant spectacular, explosive fun at the cineplex and on your shelf.

july 4 uncle samjuly 4 black catSpeaking of holiday explosives, fireworks may have been invented in China, but doggone it, The USA has certainly made them our own thing. Black Cat has one of the wickedest logos of any company in the world, and this vintage poster is pure dynamite.

Other icons of the holiday have foreign roots as well. The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France, of course, but she has made her home in New York ever since. The classic poster of Uncle Sam, oddly enough, was derived from a British character. Miss America on the other hand? She’s from here and drives a Mercury Comet, of course, at least in this ad.

However you choose to celebrate Independence Day, please be careful this weekend. Don’t want to damage the corners on those boxes and blister packs, right?

Got any other favorite July 4 related collectibles? Tell us about them in the comments!

Model Cars That Look Weird in Certain Colors (But Nope, They Really Exist)

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Over the past couple years, we’ve brought you lists of model cars that came in colors that made you scratch your head for one reason or another. Some of them, like the Hot Wheels Red Baron are strange in other tones because the color made it into the name of the car. Others were models of cars that only came in a single hue (or a very limited range) and just look bizarre otherwise.

But we found a few that, despite their odd appearance, are in fact based in reality to some degree. Some are based on production vehicles, and some are custom, but they are undeniably real in one way or another. So let’s cut the diecast companies some slack!

harlequin volkswagenHarlequin Volkswagens: Auto World makes a VW Beetle model in various colors… as in a bunch of colors all at once, on different body panels. Strange, right? Well, in the late ‘60s, Volkswagen ran a famous ad showing a Beetle that had every body panel painted a different color. The idea was to demonstrate that since the car’s design hadn’t changed substantially in years, parts could easily be swapped between different years. In 1995, VW painted a multi-colored show car to indicate the various bright colors available on the new model. People started demanding a production version, so for 1996, they offered a Golf painted the same way. (Only 250 or so were ever made.) Since then, some customizers have done the same treatment to Beetles both vintage and new. So even though VW didn’t sell this exact model, it’s rooted in reality.

striped plymouth barracudaRainbow Plymouth Barracuda: Auto World makes a pair of odd 1965 Barracudas that are covered in different hued bands from front to back. MOPAR never sold such a car, did they? No, they did not… but they did paint one like this for an advertisement to show off the spectrum of fantastic colors available. It’s unclear if they ever used it as a show car, but some collectors have painted their real Cudas that way as a tribute. So again yeah, that’s a legit scheme.

1982 buick grand nationalSilver and Black Buick Grand National: We’ve mentioned various scale models of the Buick GN that have come in colors other than black, which are, of course, all bogus hues. Johnny Lightning made a version that’s black with silver side panels that looks just as odd. But wait… the original 1982 GN actually came from the factory that way, so yep, another model that’s somehow correct.

marlboro gmc sycloneRed GMC Syclone: Speaking of all-black muscle vehicles from The General, the GMC Syclone pickup was a potent, 4WD compact truck with monster power upgrades. And it only came in black. So what’s up with this smokin’ red version from Johnny Lightning? Well, there was a special Marlboro edition in 1992, the grand prize for ten lucky sweepstakes winners. The JL version has the correct colors and stripes, but lacks the Marlboro badging due to marketing regulations.

super friends batmoblieBlue Batmobile: The Batmobile is black, right? No matter which version we’re talking about? Well, not always. The most notable exception was the car from the Super Friends cartoon, which was a simplified version of the classic TV Batmobile. It was rendered in mostly blue, which was probably easier to color in animation cels. Super Friends was such a huge hit that this Hot Wheels model doesn’t really look that strange unless you think too much.

red lincoln futuraRed Lincoln Futura Concept: Speaking of Batmobiles, everyone knows the Futura Concept was a light, silvery blue hue before George Barris worked his magic on it for the Adam West era car. So what’s with all the different colored diecast models of it? Turns out the Futura was a fully-functioning, running car, and Ford sold it at some point in the late 1950s. By 1959, it had indeed been painted red as shown on the March 30, 1959 issue of LIFE magazine, featuring the ever glamorous Debbie Reynolds. It may have worn other colors as well, but only the Johnny Lightning model gets a pass for sure, even if the interior is the wrong shade.

pink playboy amxPink American Motors AMX: The original AMX, a shortened, two-seat version of the sporty Javelin, came in a lot of brash colors, but pink? Nope, not from the factory, anyway. However, in 1964 Hugh Hefner began presenting the Playmate Of The Year with a pink car every year. In 1968, he had an AMX painted that way as a gift to PMOY Angela Dorian. (It was easily one of the best year-appropriate cars given as the annual prize). Hot Wheels has offered brightly colored pink versions of the AMX over the years, but Johnny Lightning and Ertl have made models in the correct Playboy shade. Although JL has created other Playboy related diecast over the years, their AMX was offered without the magazine branding, but it’s still a wink and a nod to those in the know. (By the way, Ertl offers a pink 1967 Mustang, but that was not actually the prize that year… it was a Barracuda.)

dodge la femmePink Dodge Custom Royal Lancer: Speaking of pink cars, here’s one that inexplicably doesn’t seem to exist in small scale…1950s Detroit brought out some wild colors, but Dodge really did a number with the pink and white La Femme in 1955. Marketed as a ladies car, it was kind of a flop, and you could argue it plays to certain stereotypes as the original “chick car.” On the other hand, at least it showed that a car company was considering that women were drivers and car buyers, too. Besides the paint, it was a mostly standard 1955 Royal Lancer… except for special fabric, matching purse, lipstick holder and cigarette case. 1956 saw another version, this time in two shades of orchid paint. Several companies, such as M2 Machines, make castings of the ’55, but so far, they haven’t done it in this color scheme. C’mon, there are women who collect diecast too, right?

Can you think of any other diecast cars that seem weirdly colored but are in fact, correct? Hit us up in the comments (and if you can, add a photo)!

Save Big During hobbyDB’s Thanksgiving Diecast Garage Sale!

 

Rather than fight the millions of travelers taking to the highways this holiday week, why not leave the car in the driveway and fill up your diecast collection with great deals via hobbyDB’s Thanksgiving Garage Sale!

We’ve teamed up with several of our favorite trusted sellers to offer deals of up to 75 percent off diecast models. The sale runs through Cyber Monday (Nov. 26), so is the perfect opportunity to fill up the stockings of friends and family, or hunt down that coveted gift for under the tree.

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Check out the savings from these trusted sellers.

KMJ – 60% off plus more!

If you spend $300 or more, get an additional 30% off

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Today’s Sale – 25% off

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Fantastic Finds – 10% off

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Jayhow’s Hot Wheels and Collectibles – 10% off

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Model Car Hall of Fame – 10% off

model car hall of fame

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Toad Hall Motorbooks -10% off

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And don’t forget all the other Stores on hobbyDB who are having sales! The savings are on through Cyber Monday, and a lot of items are one of a kind!

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For Halloween, You’re Gonna Need an Ambulance or Hearse

1/64 scale ambualnce

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Halloween is a holiday associated with walking, specifically around the neighborhood seeking candy from neighbors. But if you need to drive on that date, there’s only one choice. Well, two actually: ambulance or hearse.

Both vehicles connote a kind of morbidity… one posthumously, one, umm… pre-posthumously? Humously? The point is, death, gore, all kinds of spooky stuff are easily associated with those vehicles, and even though they aren’t technically Halloween oriented, they fit right in.

johnny lightning surf hearseLet’s be more specific, though… we’re talking about car-based versions of these transports, not vans or other bespoke vehicles. Back in the day, coach building companies took standard sedans, stretched the wheelbase, extended the windshield upward, and added a long roof to create the basis for hearses and ambulances. There’s something kind of, well, ostentatious about a Cadillac hauling you to the hospital when a Chevrolet would do just fine. On the other hand, a Caddy hearse exudes a necessary touch of dignity and class to your final ride to the grave.

matchbox ambulance hearseSo, something about a vintage Caddy with curtains in the back just speaks to this holiday. There have been numerous models of these car-based body haulers built over the years, but let’s focus on 1/64 versions.

matchbox ambulance hearseMatchbox has offered a number of ambulances of all types in all their scales, often with removable stretchers and other goodies. When the early Benz “Binz” cars upgraded to SuperFast wheels, it was righteous fun. In the U.S., Caddy is far and away the leader in the hearse business. And they have been for a really long time. The long wheelbase helps, but really, any car can be modified into a hearse. Matchbox has since gone on to create various other models, mostly mid 1960s Cadillac based cars.

hot wheels 59 cadillac funny carHot Wheels has gotten into the Hot Hearse business as well, with the understatedly named ’59 Cadillac Funny Car casting. This thing is heavy, has a flip up body, and that’s all you need to know. And the 100% Hot Wheels Line also included a less souped-up 1963 Caddy hearse in several colors.

hot wheels 53 cadillac flower carOn a side note, there is also a Hot Wheels Custom ’53 Cadillac that looks like an El Camino’d coupe with a soap box derby car in the back. This is actually based on the old flower cars that used to be part of a funeral procession, so, yeah, that kinda counts.

hot wheels ecto 1Oh, did you think we forgot about Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters? Fun fact: The car used for the Ecto-1 was not a hearse, but an ambulance. In the original movie you actually get to see it briefly in gray primer, and honestly… it might be more awesome in that livery. The recent remake used a 1980s Caddy, which worked a lot better than it sounds on paper. Hot Wheels has them covered in multiple scales, even.

harold and maude hearseOf course, the greatest movie hearse of all time is Harold Chasen’s custom E-Type Jaguar hearse from Harold and Maude. There are a few larger scale models available, but 1/64-ish cars are hard to come by. Many folks have customized them over the years, like the Aurora ThunderJet slot car above. It’s the way Harold would do it, of course.

johnny lightning surf hearseJohnny Lightning has had some fun with hot rod hearses based on larger scale models. The dual engine Haulin’ Hearse dragster and the stately (even in lavender with flowers) Heavenly Hearse surf wagon were both based on kits made by Jo-Han.

johnny lightning meat wagonEven more fun was the Meat Wagon, a customized 1937 Packard Ambulance, based on a plastic kit by Aurora. This model also came decorated in honor of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo and a few other schemes. All of the smaller JL models were available in other livery (or should that be dead-ery?).

johnny lightning 57 chevy hearseOf course, they did a version of the Ecto-1 and repurposed that casting with surf boards. Heck, the folks at Playing Mantis would stick surfboards on just about anything given the chance. And there was even a 1957 Chevy Bel Air  hearse. Remember what I said earlier about being driven to the grave in a Chevy? I take it back, that would be pretty cool.

zylmex mash ambulanceZylmex had an interesting ambulance model in the late 1970s. Detail is crude, but it appears to be a 1953 Chevy. It came decorated in olive drab with M*A*S*H decals. It was part of a series of toys and playsets from the TV show. What’s not to like there?

There are also a lot of sedan delivery or panel wagon models of all kinds that would make excellent hearses and ambulances, with or without surfboards, but let’s not beat this topic to death. Can you think of any 1/64 models we didn’t include here? Let us know in the comments six feet below.