Model Cars Posts

Forgotten Ferraris: Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California With Hard Top

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California Welcome back to our series looking at some of the Ferraris you might not have heard of – and the models made of them by Looksmart! Check out the Ferrari 250GT Spyder California With Hardtop.

The Ferrari 250GT Spyder California hardly qualifies as a “Forgotten Ferrari” on its own. As one of the most desirable members of the 250 family, Californias were owned by the glitterati when new – Alain Delon, Roger Vadim, and Steve McQueen, to name but a few.‚   Some 50 years later, the cars are hugely sought after by Ferrari collectors, changing hands for seven-figure sums. And, of course, the California is a bonafide pop culture icon thanks to its appearance (or at least the appearance of a very realistic replica) in the classic 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder CaliforniaWhat is barely known about the car, however, is that you could get it with a hardtop!

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder CaliforniaLooksmart was aware of this obscure option, however, and offered it in 1/43 scale. In fact, they did different colors of their diecast model.

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder CaliforniaThe California Spyder originally came about at the behest of the marque’s US distributors, Jon von Neumann and Luigi Chinetti. California was Ferrari’s best market in the US and the pair felt that a high-performance convertible named after it would be a big hit. They were right.

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder CaliforniaMade in strictly limited numbers, the car had the same engine and underpinnings as the Tour de France winning 250GT SWB – and the same 150mph top speed, blistering stuff for 1958. There are two separate series of California Spyder; the first shared the 250GT Tour de France model’s frame and wet sump V12. The later series arrived a year after the car’s launch, in 1959 and had the less flexy short wheelbase chassis – hence their being referred to as SWB California Spyders. They also benefitted from an increase in engine power and disc brakes. The cars remained in production until 1963, with a further handful apparently made in 1967.‚

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder CaliforniaThe car’s lithe body was hand-made at Carozzeria Scaglietti after a design based on the first series 250GT Cabriolet, but with new vertical tail-lights and headlamps located in scallops, covered by plexiglass on some cars.

Ferrari 250 GT Spyder CaliforniaThe interior of the Spyder was pretty Spartan, with a tiny heater being the only nod towards luxury. The roof, a functional folding fabric structure wasn’t even lined. If you wanted better weather protection, you had to opt for the optional removable hard-top, with its glass rear window but few did, hence their rarity today. But as these Looksmart models show, unlike many hard-tops, the California’s unit blended very nicely with the car’s lines and doesn’t look out of place at all. And they also prove that the California does look just as great in colours other than red!

hobbyDB will be featuring additional Looksmart models of Forgotten Ferraris over the next several weeks! Next week, an assortment of rare, one-off and custom Ferrari models.

Forgotten Ferraris: Ferrari Mythos Concept

Ferrari MythosWelcome back to our series looking at some of the Ferraris you might not have heard of – and the models made of them by Looksmart! This is the Ferrari Mythos Concept.

Pininfarina’s Ferrari Mythos concept car was one Ferrari that’s very much of its era. One of the first Pininfarina creations to debut outside Europe, the Mythos broke cover at the Toyko Auto Show in October 1989.

Ferrari MythosDesigned as a topless speedster, the Mythos harked back to Ferrari’s 1950’s Barchettas, lacking both a roof and side windows, but melded this nostalgia with very cutting edge styling. A lower lip spoiler adorned the pointy front end, while the rear overhang was even shorter than that of the Testarossa on which it was based. At the sides, two huge intake holes fed the 12-cylinder engine with air, unencumbered by the grilles that adorned the Testarossa. At the back, there was an automatic, electrically-operated spoiler, a feature shared by the front wing. And of course, the single windscreen wiper parked out of view under the front cowl while the headlamps and tail lamps were incorporated into the flow of the panels in true 80’s fashion.

Ferrari MythosPininfarina said the styling placed emphasis on the “relationship between volumes” ditching “linked panels” with the styling made up of two separate elements, one with the engine and radiators, the other with the cabin and nose, both joined together, something along the lines of a violin. Rather enigmatically, chief designer Lorenzo Ramaciotti said that the design could be “adapted to fill the needs of production… of tomorrow’s cars.”

Nevertheless, the car was fully functional, and more than just a pretty face – it was highly aerodynamic, with that electric rear wing capable of raising nearly a foot higher than its rest position while rotating through 12 degrees. This and the front spoiler popped out at anything over 62mph, then retracted again when the car dropped to 44mph. Elsewhere, the Mythos’ incorporated its swoopy lines and design in surprisingly functional ways – with no windows, the side of the body could serve as an armrest while the control panel, steering wheel, and pedals, all designed into a flowing block, could be adjustable as a whole.

Under the skin, the Mythos was pure Testarossa, with that car’s five-liter flat boxer engine and suspension setup. It did have its own bespoke exhaust system, however, as the drastically truncated rear was so small it couldn’t house the Testarossa’s standard pipes. No top speed was quoted, but downforce for the rear spoiler was given for a speed of 155mph, so the car could presumably do more than that!

LookSmart’s 1/43 scale Mythos was produced in dark metallic blue, and of course, Ferrari Red.

Ferrari Mythos Ferrari Mythos Ferrari Mythos Ferrari Mythos

In addition to LookSmart, The Mythos has been memorialized in miniature by Revell, and Guiloy.

hobbyDB will be featuring additional Looksmart models of Forgotten Ferraris over the next several weeks! Next week, the Ferrari 250 GT Spyder California Hard Top.

Forgotten Ferraris: Felber Ferrari 365 GTC/4 Beach Car

Ferrari_BeachWelcome to the first entry in our new series looking at some of the Ferraris you might not have heard of – and the models made of them by Looksmart! Meet the Felber Ferrari 365 GTC/4 Beach Car

. Ferrari’s 365 GTC/4 is little-known enough a Ferrari as is. Produced for just 18 months between 1971 and 1972 alongside the famous Daytona, the car was a 2+2 designed to replace the 365GTC and 365GT offering (tiny) rear seats and more luggage space than the Daytona.

Ferrari_BeachJust 500 were made (and for the record, there was just one contemporary model of the car, made by Mebetoys) with a welded tubular steel chassis evolved from the spaceframe used to underpin the 365GT 2+2, although with 150mm removed from the wheelbase, as Ferrari wanted the car to straddle the 2+2 and large-two-seater-touring-coupe markets, and have sportier handling. Independent suspension was fitted all round, along with power steering and a hydraulic self-leveling rear ride height. The cars rode on Cromodora alloy wheels, but customers could substitute Borrani wire wheels at extra cost. Engine-wise, the car was similar to the Daytona – both displaced 4.4 liters, although the GTC/4 had new heads, wet-sump lubrication a lower compression ratio, and six side draught Weber carburetors. Performance was similar to the mighty Daytona too, with a top speed of 163mph and a zero-to-sixty time of 6.1 seconds.

Ferrari_BeachDesigned by Pininfarina, the GTC/4 bodies were also fabricated by the designer in Turin before being shipped to Maranello for finishing (unlike the Daytona, which had the body made by Scaglietti in Modena). The GTC/4 was steel-bodied, with an alloy bonnet and boot lid and a very distinctive black front resin nosecone-type bumper. Inside, the car had a completely new interior design, with integrated dash and console, making it a far more comfortable place to be than the Daytona. The boot was bigger too, allowing far more cargo space and the tiny rear seats folded down to provide for additional luggage. Air conditioning was standard, but a full leather interior was an optional extra.

Ferrari_Beach

Ferrari_BeachThe GTC/4 debuted at the Geneva Salon in March 1971 but unfortunately remained in the Daytona’s shadow – the styling received criticism for not being Ferrari-like enough, and the rear seats were slated for being too small. Sales of the 500 cars were rather slow too – production ended in 1972, but the last cars didn’t leave showrooms until almost two years later in late 1974.

Ferrari 365 GTC4All this said, 365GTC/4s are unusual enough, but two became even odder. Swiss Ferrari dealer Willy Felber had a history of rebodying and restyling cars from the Autbianchi A110 to the Pontiac Firebird and turning them into neo-classic one-offs or limited production vehicles – indeed, he’d already had several Felber-Ferrari 330GTCs constructed, with the standard coupe bodywork replaced by neoclassic styling which aped the 1950’s Ferrari 166 Spider Corsa. Turning his attention to the 365GTC/4, he commissioned Michelotti to rebody two cars – one as a shooting brake and the other, shown here, as an open beach car, making it a far more expensive and luxurious alternative to the Mini Moke or Fiat Jolly. No further examples were made and Felber apparently sold the one example to an unnamed famous golfer.

Ferrari_Beach

It’s a strange footnote in the history of Ferrari indeed – although, thanks to LookSmart, it’s been recorded for posterity in 1/43.

hobbyDB will be featuring additional Looksmart models of Forgotten Ferraris over the next several weeks! Next up, the Mythos!

Meet Mac Ragan, Diecast Collector, Historian (and Industry Icon)

Mac RaganOver the past couple of months, hobbyDB has been featuring the stories of some of the folks who bring you the diecast cars you know and love. Mac Ragan is well-known for his work in the diecast vehicle industry over the last couple of decades (he was inducted in the Model Car Hall of Fame, then still called Diecast Hall of Fame in 2010), but he got his start as an avid collector and historian of the hobby.

Many collectors know him as a Johnny Lightning designer and Brand Manager (with Playing Mantis and RC2, from 2003 to 2007. He was also GreenLight’s New Casting Director from 2007 to 2008. His life with toy cars goes back to the 1990s when he became a book publicist in New York City.A background in art history helped me secure a job at the exclusive art-book publisher, Harry N. Abrams, Inc.,” he said. “My responsibilities included getting new books reviewed and featured in magazines, plus securing spots for authors on television shows.”

After a few years, he decided it was time for a change in his career. He was already a long-time collector of toy cars, so he decided he wanted to photograph them. His mother bought his first camera in the late 1990s.These were the final days of film, and the camera was a fully manual Nikon FM2. My idea was to photograph cars from a child’s vantage point, and treat them as objects to be played with by children and admired by adults,” he said. By this time, he was on the road to creating his own books.

Johnny Lightning 1955 Chrysler C300

Johnny Lightning 1955 Chrysler C300 (Photo courtesy jlcollector.net)

From 2000-2004, he published 5 books on various diecast brands. Titles include Diecast Cars of the 1960s (2000), Hot Wheels Cars (2001), Tomart’s Price Guide to Johnny Lightning Vehicles (2001), Matchbox Cars: The First 50 Years (2002), Hot Wheels: 35 Years of Cool Cars (2003), as well as a pair of Hot Wheels Car-a-Day Calendars (2003 and 2004).

Given his tight connection to JL, the Matchbox and Hot Wheels titles may come as a surprise. “You need to make contacts at the brand, no matter what kind of toy-car book you’re creating. I wrote all of my books before I worked in the industry, but I couldn’t have done it without the help of current and past employees.”

Mac Ragan booksMac would have a second career at Johnny Lightning. The brand disappeared for a while, but Tom Lowe revived it at his new company, Round 2. Mac returned to meet up with much of the original crew in 2015.This time I was Director of Social Media for Johnny Lightning, Auto World, and Racing Champions Mint. My photography skills came in handy on the new websites as well as the Facebook and Instagram pages.”

GreenLight 1971 AMC Javelin Police Cruiser

GreenLight 1971 AMC Javelin Police Cruiser (Photo courtesy Wyatt Davis)

He left Round 2 in 2017 to focus on his collection, and feature it on Facebook (@macragan) and Instagram (@macragan500). “I primarily collect 1/64-scale toy vehicles from around the world. My favorite toys replicate everyday cars we see on the streets. Four-door sedans and station wagons are favorites, from the 1960s to present day.”

Among his favorite JL creations are the 1955 Chrysler C-300 Mexican Rally Racer, 1936 Hispano-Suiza, and the 1959 De Soto Fireflite Police Car. He is also fond of the Johnny Retro series, with colorful tinted transparent lacquer over brushed bare metal, and the later Holiday Classics assortments from 2004 to 2007.

At GreenLight, Mac is proud of a change he helped institute for the overall brand. In 2008, they went to smaller, more accurate tire and rim molds for many models. “I consider this my most valuable contribution to the GreenLight casting bank,” he said. “It was priority number one from my first day, as I felt that the pre-2008 wheels and tires were often too large.” His favorite designs from that brand include the 1971-1974 AMC Javelin and AMX, and the 1960s Dodge D-100 Pickup casting and over-the-cab camper.

Auto World 1970 Dodge Challenger TA

Auto World 1970 Mercury Cougar (Photo courtesy awcollector.com)

Even before he was on staff at Round 2, he helped develop several early castings. Among his favorites are the Auto World 1970-1974 Dodge Challenger and 1970 Mercury Cougar (“My chance to improve on the old Johnny Lightning Convertible version!”)

“My parents told me that I played with toy cars from the age of two,” Mac said. “That was in Auburn, Alabama. My favorite real car, at three years old, was apparently the Karmann Ghia. The first toy cars I remember was a set of plastic European vehicles, all about four inches long. I soon graduated to Matchbox toys and then Hot Wheels cars.”

Johnny Lightning 1936 Hispano-Suiza

Johnny Lightning 1936 Hispano-Suiza (Photo courtesy jlcollector.net)

Surprisingly, JL was not his initial inspiration as a childhood diecast fan. “Although I’m closely associated with the Johnny Lightning brand, my first love will always be regular wheels Matchbox cars,” he said. “I played with them in my early childhood, and these happy memories remain with me to this day. From the modern era, my favorites are Johnny Lightning, Tomica, Siku, Norev, and Auto World.”

Like many collectors, he is attempting to recreate the lost collection of his childhood. “I gave all my cars to a younger neighbor when I was 11 years old,” he said. “I began truly collecting after college. Although I have a few models from the late 1950s, the core of my collection begins in the mid-1960s.”

As a child, he collected other things as well… rocks, seashells, coins, and stamps to name a few.As an only child and the final member of my family’s branch on the tree, I ended up with many inherited ‘treasures,'” he said.Paintings by my mother and a close friend cover the walls of my home. I’m a casual collector of art pottery and contemporary ceramics. However, I don’t consider myself a serious collector of anything other than toy cars.”

GreenLight 1965 Dodge D100 with Camper

GreenLight 1965 Dodge D100 with Camper (Photo courtesy Wyatt Davis)

The collector and designer come together whenever Mac wanders over to the toy aisle at a store that carries diecast. He can’t help but scan the pegs looking for his handiwork. “I always do that,” he exclaimed. “I did that when I was designing and I still do. Castings have long lifespans, and I continue to find GreenLight models with wonderful new deco schemes on castings I created over ten years ago.”

Auto World 1970 Dodge Challenger TA

Auto World 1970 Dodge Challenger TA (Photo courtesy awcollector.com)

Clearly, he has been fortunate to turn a lifetime passion into a successful career. “For me, my toys tell the story of the automobile (and more broadly, popular culture) for the past 60 years. It’s something to pass to the next generation after I’m gone.” He finds the hobby relaxing as well. “I know that when I enter the die-cast aisle I’m transported to a calmer place. I forget about all the stress of everyday life.”

“It’s not always easy to know why you collect. But if you think about it sometime when you have a quiet moment, you’ll probably learn something important about yourself.”

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!