Matchbox Matchcaps

Mike Pigott looks at this colourful 1990s range of diecast cars from Matchbox which included a number of collectible ‘POG’ discs in each pack.During the 1990s, one of the big collecting crazes was POGs, collectible discs that could be swapped or played with competitively. To capitalise on this massive craze, Matchbox produced a line of miniature cars in vivid colours which included four discs in every pack.

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Hot Wheels Convertables

Mike Pigott looks at this range of Hot Wheels vehicles from 1991 that featured colour-changing and shape-changing bodies.

In 1988, Hot Wheels introduced a range of model cars with colour-changing paint, which turned a different shade when exposed to heat, returning to the original colour when cooled. These proved popular at the time, having been sold under various brand names including Color Racers, Automagic, Color FX, Colour Turbo and Color Shifters – these are still available today. Also produced in the 1980s was a range called Crack-Ups, which were cars with rotating panels that simulated collision damage. In 1991 Hot Wheels combined the novelty features of these two lines, and came up with the Convertables, which changed both shape and colour when exposed to heat and cold.

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Johnny Lightning Hot Rods

Mike Pigott looks at this range from 1997 that was based on real American street rods.

When the Playing Mantis toy company revived the Johnny Lightning marque, dormant since 1972, the first models made were reproductions of those from the 1960s, called the Johnny Lightning Commemorative Series. However, soon a range of new castings were introduced, including classic muscle cars and American dragsters. One of these early ranges was a set of ten street rods which was first released in 1997. Unlike Matchbox and Hot Wheels, which produced mainly fantasy hot rods, the Johnny Lightning Hot Rods were all based on real cars that were well-known on the American street-rod scene and had won awards in custom car shows. Some were quite famous cars built by big-name customizers. The vehicles modelled ranged from the 1920s through to the mid-’80s.

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Marvel Comics Vehicles by Tomica

Mike Pigott’s takes a look at some dynamic Marvel Comics vehicles made by Tomica of Japan.

Over the years, there have been a lot of model vehicles based on Marvel Comics characters…although not many good ones. One of the reasons for this is because not many of the heroes actually drive cars, so it’s not easy making models of vehicles that don’t exist. So Batman from rival DC Comics has always been dominant in the diecast world, as he has a Batmobile – or rather, lots of different Batmobiles and other Bat-vehicles, from his various comic books, films and TV series.

Generally, characters who can fly, shoot webs, or possess powered exo-skeletons rarely need cars. There have been a lot of Marvel character vehicles produced since the 1970s, but very few have been authentic. Corgi made several fun Spider-Man vehicles during the ‘70s, despite the fact that Spidey never drove a car. Corgi’s other Marvel hero models were just unrelated, regular Corgi Toys with character figures and decals added.

More recently, companies such as Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning have produced large numbers of licensed Marvel products, but these were just stock-standard car and truck castings with character designs and logos tampo-printed on them. Majorette and Hot Wheels have both produced Marvel ranges that were caricatures of super-heroes; they were cartoony vehicles with the colours and characteristics of Marvel heroes and villains. But again they bore no resemblance to anything from the comic books or films. So it was interesting to see Japanese company Tomica produce a small range of Marvel characters which were significantly different that previous offerings.

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Ford Falcon – First Generation by Trax

Mike Pigott looks at models of early 1960s Ford Falcons in 1/43 scale produced by Australian manufacturer Trax.1 (6)The Ford Falcon is one of the iconic Australian cars, and holds the record for the longest continually-used model name of all time, being in production for 57 years. Although the Falcon originated in the USA, it proved most successful in Australia, where it was introduced to compete with the similarly-sized Holden from General Motors. Trax Models, based in Sydney, produced a number of models based on the first generation Falcons of 1960-1966, in a range of body styles.

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Evel Knievel by Johnny Lightning

Mike Pigott looks at the small range of diecast models produced by Johnny Lightning based on legendary motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel.

Skycycle X-2

While the Evel Knievel stunt bikes and diecast miniatures produced by Ideal Toys in the 1970s remain the most well-known toys based on the famous stuntman, they weren’t the only ones. In 1998, American company Playing Mantis produced a new wave of Evel Knievel toys, including a small range of line diecast vehicles in its Johnny Lightning range.

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Super Sound Premium by Iwaya

Mike Pigott looks at this high quality range from Japan that comes with a working sound feature.

Super Sound Premium plinth showing controls and audio jack[1965]Over the past decade or so, a number of Japanese companies have entered the market for high-quality 1/43 scale cars. Some of these are known around the world, such as Kyosho and Ebbro; while others such as Aoshima (DISM and V.I.P. Cars) or Sapi are not well known outside of their native Japan. Japanese collectors love models with gimmicks, and occasionally these find their way into quality diecast models. Aoshima’s DISM line featured cars with adjustable suspension and working battery powered headlights that did not detract from the realism of the models. How do you top that? By producing models with working sound! The Super Sound Premium range was introduced by a company called Iwaya in 2008, and all the models featured realistic engine sounds!

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Hot Wheels Scorchers

Mike Pigott looks at this exciting range of motorized Hot Wheels vehicles from 1979.

White ThunderScorchers were a range of spring-powered diecast vehicles introduced in 1979. They were not the first motorized cars produced by Hot Wheels; the rechargeable battery-powered Sizzlers had been introduced in 1969 (although these were not diecast), and the clunky rubber-band powered Revvers dated from 1973. However, the Scorchers were the first powered diecast cars that actually worked convincingly.

Mattel described the Scorchers as being ‘spring-powered’ on the packaging, and they were activated by rolling the vehicle backwards, or backwards and forwards, to wind the motor. These days they would be described as ‘pull-back-and-go’ cars, and this type of friction motor seems to be fitted to all sorts of el-cheapo, pound-store junk toys. However, in 1979 this feature was incredibly innovative, and the motors fitted to the Scorchers were very powerful. Scorchers were the big stars of all the 1979 international toy fairs, and the ‘Scorcher Chamber’ track set was a particular favourite.

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Johnny Lightning 30th Anniversary Series

Mike Pigott looks at a small range of Johnny Lightning models released to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the brand in 2000.

Anniversary Series packaging with woven cloth patch

Johnny Lightning was a range of diecast vehicles produced by Topper Toys of New Jersey from 1969 to 1971. The range was produced in response to Mattel’s successful Hot Wheels line, and was largely influenced by them. Although most of the Topper cars were not particularly good replicas, they were heavier than Mattel’s cars and ran faster on plastic tracks. However, the Johnny Lightning range was quite short-lived, as Topper Toys suffered from financial mismanagement and went into liquidation in 1971.

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Superfast cars by Dinky? Mike Pigott gives us the story behind this small range of Matchbox Superfast cars released under the Dinky trademark.

Dinky packagingIt goes without saying that Dinky Toys is one of the most iconic names in the history of diecast models. The company dominated the model car scene in Britain and France for over three decades, and produced a huge number of legendary models. However, by 1982 the Dinky name had disappeared from the marketplace. But there were plans to bring it back… by the owners of Matchbox!

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