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.
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.
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.
Mike Pigott returns to the subject of fire engines with a look at this unusual range that was given as a premium with subscriptions to Reader’s Digest books.The long-running and popular monthly magazine Reader’s Digest contains a selection of condensed articles on a wide range of subjects, and for many years was one of the best-selling magazines in the world. Reader’s Digest also publishes books; probably the best known of these are Condensed Books, which are hardcover volumes containing four abridged novels. There are also sets of encyclopaedia and large reference books.
To encourage sales of the books, Reader’s Digest often sends premiums with book orders. While these are frequently things such as pens or coffee mugs, they can occasionally be diecast models. Sets of two or four models were given as the ‘free mystery gift’ with large reference books, while individual models from a series were included with each condensed book or encyclopaedia volume. There were various types of model vehicles given away, including vintage cars, classic cars, classic trams, trains, delivery vans and vintage planes. And, as we’re about to see, fire engines!
The fire engine series consisted of eight different models of classic American fire trucks. They were only issued in the USA, and were produced in 2000. Like most of the Reader’s Digest models, they were made by Chinese budget company High Speed. As with many models from this manufacturer, quality and accuracy was somewhat lacking. However, what made the series collectable was the extremely unusual models included; they were all-new castings and not copies of other brands, as was the case with Summer Toys. Some of them were fire engines from incredibly obscure companies… where else are you going to find a Knox-Martin or a Task Master?
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.
Mike Pigott focuses on the only aircraft model made by German company NZG, a vintage Lockheed Orion.
The German model manufacturer NZG is known today mainly for models of construction equipment and heavy trucks, but over the years has produced a wide range of different types of vehicles. NZG, like its compatriot company Conrad, are specialists at producing commissioned models for the original equipment manufacturers. These companies have become the ‘go-to’ manufacturers for industries which require promotional or commemorative models of products to give to prospective clients or sell as souvenirs. While NZG is mostly associated today with big trucks, cranes and plant machinery, since the company was founded in the 1970s, a wide range of different miniatures have been produced. These have included promotional car models for Porsche and Mercedes-Benz dealers, buses, fire engines, vintage vehicles, and very specialist items, such as diesel engines. Possibly the most surprising model was made by NZG in 1980 – a model of a classic aircraft.
Mike Pigott continues his series on the Jurassic Park franchise as we look at Jada’s small range of models based on the 2015 film Jurassic World.Jurassic World, the fourth instalment in the Jurassic Park series of films, was released in 2015, 22 years after the original movie. As with the previous episodes, there were diecast toys produced to tie in with the film, although this time the license was given to two different companies. Matchbox produced a large selection of 1/64-ish vehicles which had very little to do with anything actually seen in the film. A small range of larger scale models was made by American company Jada Toys, which were (mostly) more authentic to the film.
Mike Pigott concludes his series on Ertl’s 1/43 scale tractors with a look at the towed implements produced in the 1990s as part of the Farm Classics range.
In 1991, Ertl replaced its tractor sub-series of the 1/43 scale Vintage Vehicles range with a new line of model tractors called Farm Classics. This new range consisted of existing castings which had previously been in the Vintage Vehicles range, plus some additional items which had only been available as exclusive releases at the National Farm Toy Show in Iowa. Some of these Farm Classics tractors were quite heavily modified from the original versions. In addition to these tractors, there were five realistic 1/43 scale towed farm implements that were completely new castings.
Mike Pigott looks at models of early 1960s Ford Falcons in 1/43 scale produced by Australian manufacturer Trax.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.
Mike Pigott looks at the small range of diecast models produced by Johnny Lightning based on legendary motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel.
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.