by David Weber, images by Doug Breithaupt
The Chevrolet Division of General Motors Corp began in 1912 under the leadership of William C. Durant and Race Driver Louis Chevrolet. The first Chevrolet had a 6 cylinder engine and was a companion to the smaller 4 cylinder Little. GM was originally founded by Durant in 1908. However, Durant lost control prior to the advent of Chevrolet. The success of Chevy enabled Durant to again take control of GM in 1915 via stock purchases.
Chevrolet has continued to produce lower priced cars and has been in competition with Ford Motor Co since its outset. The first major competitor was the 'Model T '. But, as the economy developed, Chevrolet started producing more costly cars. In the model year of 1970, GM introduced a sporty coupe with a classical style known as the Monte Carlo
This car was a cousin to the Pontiac Grand Prix that had been introduced a year earlier. NASCAR immediately started using these cars to represent Chevrolet on the race tracks.
Styling changes occurred to make this car more appealing to the consumer, but the line was discontinued by 1990 when the Lumina model was introduced .
Most people thought this was the end of the Monte Carlo era. But, in 1995 Chevrolet discontinued the Lumina and replaced it with an entirely new car and gave it the old Monte Carlo name. Since its introduction, this model has undergone one major styling change in 2000.
Although the NASCAR Chevrolet race cars use the Monte Carlo stock car at present, the similarity in an up close examination /comparison of non-racing to racing bodies and equipment reveals many differences. But the basic design in the small 1/64 scale in the race models does represent the design of the car that can be found in a dealers showroom.
Most of the 1/64 scale models available to the collector are of the NASCAR stock cars.
I do not want to review every NASCAR stock car in reference to driver, sponsor or assigned car number ever issued. Instead, I wish to provide an overview of the various castings produced by the numerous toy/ model manufacturers which will be listed in alphabetical order.
The first series of MC cars was produced for 20 years. First introduced in late 1969 for the 1970 model year, the MC had a squarish shaped grill and the rear wheels were enclosed. This style experienced only minor modifications through 1972. The 1973 Chevrolet MC was styled with a colonnade pillar roof line. This consisted of small side windows to the rear of the doors which were slanted parallelograms in shape. The rear wheels were completely exposed. Vertical dual headlights were added in 1976. In 1978 a third major body style was introduced. The entire car was downsized and in 1981 horizontal dual headlights were introduced.
In 1983 the SS model was given an entirely different and more radical streamlined front end. These cars were designated for NASCAR use, although some SS models were sold as road cars also. The rear window style at this time was called knotchback. In 1986 the fastback Aerocoupe rear design was introduced and remained in production until 1989.
Action Performance/ Racing Collectibles Club of America (RCCA) bought out the former Racing Collectibles Inc (RCI) in 1993-94. Prior to the Action takeover all models sold by RCI were made by Revell. However, RCI did not sell any MC models. It was not until after Action took over that any MC models were produced. I count 4 different castings of MC cars in the 1970-1989 era. The earliest MC by Action is a # 02 Earnhardt Wrangler car from 1982 which was issued in 1995. Another casting which was recently issued is of the # 01 M. Martin Activision 1983 car. In 1993-94 Action issued a 2 car set of Prototype MC cars . One was representative of the 83-86 knotchback coupe, while the other was of a 1987- 89 Aerocoupe. These models were issued in gray primer with the # 93 printed on the sides. These castings were used for subsequent issues of race cars driven by Earnhardt and others during that time period.
Ertl issued an Aerocoupe model of the Tim Richmond Folgers #25 car over 10 years ago. This model was used as a promotional for the sponsor.
Hasbro/ Winners Circle has a partnership arrangement with Action to use their lower price castings for distribution in mass market discount stores. A # 3 Earnhardt Wrangler in the pre- 86 knotchback style was produced. the base identifies the model as Hasbro and gives no indication of the Action connection noted above.
Hot Wheels/ Mattel has produced numerous MC models. The 1970 model was issued last year in their more detailed Collectibles line as a 'Lowrider', which has a wild tampo design plus adjustable axles to raise or lower the body. This casting is a very good representation of the full size car. Also the Monte Carlo Stocker # 7660 issued in 1975 and the Lowdown # 9185 issued in 1976 (same casting) represent a 1973-75 colonnade pillar designed model. The Chevy Stocker #1791 issued in 1989 is an Aerocoupe model. It carries # 3 on the sides, but no driver's name is shown on the roof. Recently this casting was noticeably modified. There are detail lines for the engine hood , trunk and doors (however stock cars do not have doors) and the wheel wells are bowed outward to allow for a wider tire size. This model carries # 1 and the sponsor name is Huffman.
Johnny Lightning/ Playing Mantis produced a 79-80 # 88 Gatorade car in their Stock Car Legends set issued in 1988. Later a 1984 knotchback # 24 Hardees car was also made available in this same series. In 1997 JL issued a 1987 'Beastmobile ' in their Hot Rod series. This model had a large chrome blower protruding from the engine hood.
Racing Champions issued a 1980 # 43 car in their 50th Anniversary Petty series in 1999. RC also issued a 1988-89 # 3 Earnhardt Aerocoupe in the early 90s .
Revell-Monogram issued a 1979 Petty # 43 car in a soap promotional, which was limited in availability only to the southeastern US area, about 4 years ago. This offer only existed for a short duration unfortunately . At this writing I cannot recall the identity of this promoter.
Monte Carlos were again introduced in the Chevrolet line in 1995-96 to replace the 2 door Lumina coupe. To my knowledge, no 1/64 non-racing models were ever produced of the 1996-1999 model. Three companies are presently producing replicas of the most recently styled MC; although one is the Concept car.
Action Performance/ RCCA is producing many racing models at present and does hold exclusive licensing for the Earnhardts and J. Gordon among others. There were two castings of the new MC issued within a year of the introduction in 1995 of the new MC. The first casting could be described as a VW beetle with a hood and trunk attached. The cabin area was much to high and out of scale with the rest of the car! The corrected casting rectified this condition.
Hot Wheels/ Mattel has produced numerous race cars since the MC was reintroduced in 1995-96. The Monte Carlo Stocker # 14860 was first made available in 1996 along with the Crunch Chief # 15266 . This company also issued a MC Concept car in 1999 which in 1/64 scale greatly resembles the newest styled full size car
Johnny Lightning/ Playing Mantis has produced unofficial models of the reintroduced MC as a race car. in 1998 JL issued a MC in the KISS rock band series and there is also a MC car in the Speed Racer set. JL also issued a new style MC non-race model in the recent Modern Muscle series. Playing Mantis also has MC models in their motorized Sizzlers and Thunder Jet lines. However, I do not consider these latter models to meet the parameters of this review.
Lindberg/ Craft House, a plastic kit manufacturer issued a set of ASA race cars a few years ago. This set which had a short run and availability included a MC casting of the 1996-1999 style.To my knowledge this was the only time this firm produced any diecast models. They did produce Mini-Lindy plastic kits in 1/64 over at least 10 years ago. I do not recall any MC models.
Maisto produced a 1996 stock car in a fairly nondescript casting about 1997. It was originally issued with a # 5 in yellow/ red, but the logo was later changed to # 7 . I suspect this may have been the result of licensing or lack of licensing problems. This firm has announced in their 2001 catalog that a 2001 MC ( non- racer) will be issued this year. I am still looking for this model.
Matchbox/ White Rose produced many MC race cars for various drivers with the reintroduction of this car. White Rose Collectibles, formerly in York PA was recently purchased by Fleer Trading Card Co in Mt Laurel, NJ. In its glory years, WR was the largest wholesale customer of Matchbox/ TYCO. However, with the purchase of MB by Mattel, this situation ended. Also the large premiums charged by licensees including drivers , manufacturers, and sponsors made the continued production and sale of these models uneconomical.
Nevins, a marketing firm in Atlanta GA produced a MC promotional model for Kelloggs about 5 years ago. This model was available in specially marked cereal boxes. It lacked detail and The fied some paper adhesive markings for the # 5 T Labonte car. The promotional ended a short time later and availability dwindled.
Racing Champions continues to produce models of various race cars. They have not produced any models of non-race cars of the 1996-present styles.
Realtoy produces generic styled race cars in the reintroduced MC style. They have not produced any non-race models.
Revell-Monogram sold their race car division to Action a few years ago. But before selling, they did produce some limited edition models of the 1996-99 MC race cars. Also, a few Revell models are still offered by Action.
Team Caliber, recently purchased by Rousch Racing is the most recent manufacturer of NASCAR MC models. Their premium diecast models with opening hoods and immaculate detail are probably the most detailed race cars in 1/64 available. But, to purchase the best, a consumer must pay at least $12-$14 for a model . TC also offers a lesser detailed casting in the $5 range. New models are expected momentarily.
Winners Circle/ Hasbro still provides a less expensive line of
NASCAR MC models. These castings are provided by Action but the bases only
have the Hasbro name imprinted on them.
Hot Wheels 1970
Hot Wheels 1973
Johnny Lightning 1979
Racing Champions (Petty) 1980
Johnny Lightning 1983 SS
Johnny Lightning 1984
Hot Wheels 1988
Winners Circle/ Hasbro 1998
Hot Wheels 1998
Hot Wheels 2000 Concept
Johnny Lightning 2000