Johnny Lightning Posts

What are We Thankful For at hobbyDB? A Lot, Thank You!

Ron Ruelle

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

As we spend our long weekend preparing the turkey (or the tofurkey) while enjoying football and avoiding politics (or avoiding football and enjoying politics), this is the perfect time to reflect on the things that make life great. Here at hobbyDB, we have much to be thankful for.

Geek Culture. (And Nerd Culture, Fanboy Culture, Collector Culture…) It’s what drives the collectibles world. But the best part is when we talk about the things we go crazy for, we don’t judge each other. What’s the real difference between someone who collects vinyl art figures of obscure cereal spokes characters or someone who tries to snag one of every vintage Hot Wheels Redline button ever made? They’re the same person, really (Okay, that person is me. I do both. Along with license plates, lunchboxes, Star Wars action figures…).

thanksgiving collectiblesThe companies that keep making all those wonderful toys and collectibles. Some of us collect toys from old, defunct brands, which results in a finite set of items and variants to find on the road to “completion.” Reaching that final destination can be bittersweet. So thanks to companies like Mattel, Kidrobot, Funko, Hard Rock Cafe, and thousands more who ensure that our hobby of collecting never really has an expiration date.

Architect Charles Haertling. He was the Frank Lloyd Wright of the Denver area, known mostly for his wild mid-20th-Century commercial buildings and churches as well as some very unconventional house designs. In 1969, he created as strange, curved, multi-level, rounded building for an eye surgery clinic in Boulder. That building is now known as Tatooine, the home of hobbyDB’s global headquarters (and other fine companies as well). The walls are loud primary colors, very few of them are parallel or perpendicular, and it’s the perfect space to feel creative and playful at work.

Al Gore (or whoever invented the internet). At least, he sort of claimed he did on the campaign trail in 2000 (but let’s avoid politics, right?). Regardless of who deserves credit for our online world, hobbyDB couldn’t exist the way it does without it. Heck, we even have a European office and a South American office, and the camaraderie with those friends thousands of miles away is the same as it is with the person sitting at the next desk.

thanksgiving collectiblesthanksgiving freddieThe hobbyDB family. That includes you, our Users, our Curators… In addition to the fine folks who work here, none of this is possible without those of you who log in daily and make hobbyDB even better. From the Users who add to our database, to the Curators who expertly ensure our data is correct and complete, to our Advisory Council who shine their experience like a guiding light, you have helped build an amazing resource for collectors. And of course, our Marketplace has become a great place for Buyers and Sellers to come together. So, thank you all!

The holidays themselves. As much as we enjoy coming into the office at hobbyDB, there’s something to be said for the occasional long weekend. We love to celebrate various holidays around the calendar, and what better way than to look at some of the holiday-related collectibles out there?

As for my family, it’s turkey meatloaf, football all day, no politics allowed, and lots and lots of slots! Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Interested in becoming an even bigger part of the hobbyDB family?  Learn more at our Wefunder profile. We thank you!

Meet Tony Karamitsos, Car Designer: 1/64, 1/1 and Scales In Between

As hobbyDB grows into new collectible territory, diecast remains one of our most important core categories. Over the years we’ve had a chance to talk to a lot of legends and heavy hitters in the industry to find out what makes them tick. Tony Karamitsos has been a designer for several important brands over the last couple of decades including Johnny Lightning and Round2.

Tony KaramitsosTony’s first job in the industry was with Playing Mantis in 1999. The company had recently started reissuing some of the original Johnny Lightning Topper models and was fairly new to creating fresh diecast designs for a new millennium.

Tony Karamitsos camaroTony KaramitsosHis career is a natural fit for someone who has had a lifelong passion for cars. “I’ve always had a huge passion with small scale and 1:1 scale cars since I was a kid,” he said. Though it’s not his job, he builds real 1/1 scale cars in his spare time. In fact, several of his own cars have been the basis for scale models over the years. His ’69 Camaro became a Johnny Lightning casting, although it has since been modified to more of a pro-street look. It’s one of the perks of helping to decide what cars get produced in scale. (We’ll cover some of his other Chevy cars in an upcoming article)

Tony has been designing die-cast cars non-stop since those days at Playing Mantis. When the JL brand was sold to Round 2, he went along in 2005. As diecast Brand Manager, “ I oversee the employees, layout specs for 1/64 & 1/18 die-cast programs,” he said. “I’m responsible for all tooling development and graphic design for numerous programs.”

Auto World BuickThat makes him responsible for AutoWorld models, known for their accurate models of mostly stock automotive offerings. They are also known for taking chances on cars that haven’t been oversaturated in diecast, such as mid-1970s Buick wagons and quirky but interesting early 1960s Chrysler designs.

Over the years he has had a hand in designing hundreds of highly detailed die-cast replicas for numerous scales for other well-known brands including, Racing Champions, American Muscle, Legends of the Quarter Mile, slot car replicas, as well as other resin models & model kits which are all currently owned by Round2.

For all his efforts, Tony was inducted into the Model Car Hall of Fame in 2017.

He has never forgotten his childhood roots in his hobby… er, career. “The oldest model I have is an original Topper Toys Johnny Lightning Mako Shark,” he said. “I also collect GI Joe, He-Man, and Thundercats.” His other non-automotive interests include being a DJ (you can follow him on Instagram @DJ_Grind1).

Tony Karamitsos

Tony always draws a crowd at diecast conventions.

In the meantime, He’s on the lookout for interesting cars that haven’t been overexposed in the diecast market. “We have a lot of new 1-64th tooling in the works,” he said. “We’ve announced a couple so far… a Dodge Stealth and a Chevy II Wagon. But I’d like to keep the others under wraps for now.”

 

Interested in joining forces with hobbyDB to take charge of our collectible destiny? Learn more at our Wefunder profile.

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)!