O F F - T H E - S H E L F

The following editorial reflects the personal thoughts of Doug Breithaupt relating to our common hobby of miniature cars. It is intended to generate discussion relating to 'Tales of Toy Cars'. Your letters are welcome and may be submitted via the 'Guest Book'.


Cool Customs Compete for My Cash

Production cars have always been the preferred additions to my collection. However, over the past several months, I've found my toy store bags filled with more and more custom cars. The amazing quality and variety of custom and hot rod cars currently available in diecast is far different from the days of the Matchbox's Cosmic Blue or Hot Wheels' dinosaur or shark cars.

It should not be any surprise that Johnny Lightning and Racing Champions are taking the lead in offering custom hot rods. Priced at $3-4 each, these diecast beauties are sure to be collector favorites for many years to come. Johnny Lightning is now offering a new series of show cars built by George Barris. In addition to the car, a chrome-topped turn-table is provided to show-off these classy customs.

Racing Champions has been offering a variety of hot rods tied with Hot Rod Magazine packaging. Some of these cars were just Mint Edition cars with wild paint jobs but offerings like the Camaromad shown right, are true custom cars. The Ford Woody Custom shown here is another great little car.

Even Hot Wheels can offer custom cars that I find to good to resist. I'm not talking about these two-car for $39 sets that Mattel has offered lately. To be blunt, these cars cost 4 to 5 times more than the competition and they are of lower quality and interest. If Mattel wants to play in this market they better drop their prices. They have however, produced a wonderful car as part of their $4.99 play sets. This one is for the new Toy Story 2 movie and represents a wild '50's custom that has a 1957 Lincoln nose, a 1960 Cadillac tail and a 1957 Ford belt-line. presented in turquoise and white, it is a real charmer. Identified as 'Al's Custom Car, it comes with five plastic figures from the movie, which I gave to my four-year old son. Toilet-seat and shopping-cart cars may be cute but this new custom has real style.

Other major 1:64 scale diecast manufacturers like Matchbox, Maisto and Majorette have yet to do much in the true-to-life custom line. Some like Tomica and Siku are unlikely to ever be tempted into this automotive genre. Considering the re-birth of the hot rod as a collector car, we can expect to see more custom diecast cars reflecting the real cars at shows and on the streets.

Custom Craze

1999 Toy Story 2 Custom, Hot Wheels $4.99

1949 Mercury (Sam Barris), Johnny Lightning $2.99

Emperor by Barris, Johnny Lightning $2.99

Camaromad, Racing Champions $2.99

1941 Oldsmobile 'Phaeyton', Johnny Lightning $2.99