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First Peek with Joe Kelly Edition Date
10-15-03
VIEW ARCHIVE
 
 


Lane Exact Detail 1968 Firebird 400 convertible
GMP 1970 Pontiac GTO convertible, Bermuda Blue
Update: Yat Ming Riviera, Exoto Chaparral 2J

 

Lane’s 1968 Firebird 400 GMP’s 1970 GTO Judge convertible
 
     
 
Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly
 

Sometimes, life just gets in the way. After nigh on a month of sawdust and spackle – and more than a few creative stringings-together of expletives directed at bits of wood, copper, and paint – we are closer to completing some much-needed construction here. My apologies to you all for not checking in. I’ll make it up to you.

Now, on to the important stuff.

As first seen at IMHE, Lane’s Firebird 400 convertible is probably the prettiest thing they’ve ever released, and it’s here this week with an equally jaw-dropping take on the successful GMP GTO convertible series, a ’70 Judge in Bermuda Blue. Then, we’ll check up on Yat Ming’s still-cooking boat-tail Riviera and pore over a couple of spy shots of Exoto’s on-deck Chaparral 2J. Let’s rock.
 

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  Lane’s 1968 Firebird 400

Yogi Berra might say that Lane’s Firebird 400 convertible is so subtle you can’t miss it, and he’d be right. Lots of little touches, and a thorough finessing by Raffi Minasian, contribute to the shape, proportioning, and overall beauty of this incredible release from our good pals in Watervliet. In short, folks, I am in love.

Don’t blame me. First impressions give a feeling of great quality. This model is tight, polished, and heavy in the hand, its world-class assembly values aided by scrupulous castings and even fitment of every opening panel. The headlights are vastly improved over those we saw on the coupe version of this car – crystal clear, nicely engraved, and living in a deeply chromed and relief-painted grille.

Behind those eyes, the model’s flowing lines are so well rendered under the Solar Red paint that they appear real. The image is made all the more immediate by the beautiful wheels and tires she rides on and the perfectly cast and chromed wheel well trim; from bumper to bumper, your eye is drawn to all the right places and never goes hungry. My favorite subtleties are the vents molded into the cowling, the crisp faux louvers molded into the car’s haunches, and the separately cast, chromed, and painted badging riding the car’s rear fenders, neat castings that join Lane’s typically sharp and well-researched tampo markings.

Interior detail is spot on, too. Lane loves to cram their cars full of options when and where they can, and with its floor mats, auto trans, chromed grab bar and wood grained center console, this ‘bird flies with a nicely appointed cabin, indeed. As a model, it gets even better – you an read the "GM" at the center of the buckles attached to the woven fabric belts. In another tip of the hat to authenticity, the lower section of the dashboard is painted in a deep, glossy black – so reflective that it mirrors the floor mats. This is gorgeous stuff, and only the perfect fitment of the fabric-covered up top – probably the best looking unit I’ve seen on a 1:18 muscle car, when installed – might justify covering it all up.

The 400 cid engine is crisply cast, beautifully painted, and then surgically assembled and plumbed with seemingly scale-correct wiring and hoses. The fan belts are real rubber, and the accessory drives they spin on are razor sharp and perfectly in line with the fan. Here, again, is quality; the fan is as beautifully finished off as the rest of the area. Bracing runs from the radiator bulkhead to the fenders, the battery, starter, and fuel lines are wired and piped, and so are the cadmium-colored brake booster and golden master cylinder. The silver under hood color has raised a few eyebrows, but I’ll bet that Lane has gotten this right; it’s been too laboriously replicated to be anything but correct. Perhaps a Pontiac expert can shed a little light.

The chassis is worth illuminating, as well. Lane goes the extra mile here, and the plastic pan is crisp and beautifully built. The bracing girdling the ragtop’s hips also overrides the metallized exhaust system, truly a jewel, and the deep detailing of the transmission joins the steel fuel and brake lines that travel along the rails to either side. The twin down pipes at the car’s rear set the whole thing off. Even here, Lane’s attention to detail and obsession about delivering quality to the collector bring it all home. Yep, this is one hell of a model car.

The space-saver spare and fill bottle dominate the trunk, sitting atop a hound’s-tooth mat, and the jacking instructions are legible on the engraved trunk lid above. Behind all of this are gorgeous taillights and a gleaming bumper with "CRUSN 68" on the plates.

Lane stated early on that the working suspensions, rotating drive shafts, and other finger fun that makes so many models appealing to some of us will never be a part of their new aesthetic. Instead, solid construction, pristine assembly, and true quality will be the attraction for collectors. Taken alongside this model’s seemingly flawless research and drop-dead good looks, that’s more than enough to justify the hundred-dollar price of admission. Very highest recommendation.
 

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  GMP’s 1970 GTO Judge convertible

All hail to GMP for wringing out and bringing out the best in the GTO series. Since the original Orbit Orange goat sailed onto our shelves, the series’ offerings have gotten better and better – and pretty danged diverse, too.

We’ve got another winner here, and if the thought of open air motoring with serious horsepower under the hood makes you all tingly, make shelf space. Of the GMP GTO ragtops – the production ones, mind you, and not the ultra-rare Orbit Orange or factory one-offs – this Bermuda Blue Judge variant may be the prettiest in top-down form, a less-menacing image than the triple-black Zone car that rivals even last year’s white-on-white version for pure feline beauty on display.

Typical of prior GTOs, this one’s got lots to do for those rainy days. The model is a visual and tactile playground, and the panel fitment and overall presentation of the car is very good. The paint needed a little buffing out on my sample to achieve a deep shine – not an unpleasant task, given the scarcity of protruding or fragile parts on the model.

Thusly burnished, the car’s graphics and sleek stance really stand out. Much of the model’s charm has to do with those slick Rally wheels at all four corners (and the trunk), consistently one of GMP’s strong suits. The chrome – what there is of it on this Enduro-nosed boulevardier – is first class. Headlight lensing and fitment of the metal mesh grille go a long way to sell the car as realistic, as do the neat little details like the lock cylinders recessed into the doors, and the beautifully cast and chromed handles above them.

It’s a heavy model; not as heavy as the coupe variant, but certainly substantial. Stow the black, fabric-covered up top in the box; the carpeted interior and soft-touch seats look great, as do the nicely engraved and paint detailed door panels. A peek into the door tops reveals the vestigial remnants of the planned, but aborted, roll-up windows at rest within. On earlier releases, the glass could be carefully plucked up from inside. I haven’t gathered up the stones to try that here, but it might make the car even more appealing.

Out back, the twin shotgun exhausts live below red plastic taillights, complete to their hand-picked silver trim. It a nice entrée to the car’s remarkable undercarriage, still one of the wonders of the 1:18 world. Soft-touch tires, a fully functional suspension, and a full palette of convincing colors and textures run in, around, and through the diecast frame, topped off with starter wiring and a copper fuel line running from the tank to the engine-mounted pump out front.

That motor is a superb model unto itself, painted Pontiac blue and topped off by a sponge-ringed air cleaner. There’s full-on wiring and plumbing, and a relatively unrestricted view, due to the car’s non-A/C configuration – all the better to see the delicacy of the accessory drives and whip-thin fan belts. Only the hood itself is troublesome, and won’t stay open on my sample without a lot of patience.

All in all, with its snazzy looks, working features, and low production numbers ( a total of 1,404 were made), this model is a great addition to the goat farm. At around $120.00, definitely recommended.
 

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  SPY SHOTS! Exoto’s prototype Chaparral 2J and Yat Ming’s ’71 Boat-tail Riv in the shop!

SPY SHOTS! Exoto’s prototype Chaparral 2J

Fans of the Chaparral series as rendered by Exoto can commence singing and bouncing about. As seen in these photos, a top-shelf model of the most outrageous Chap – the 2J "Super Sucker" - is (you should pardon the expression) in the pipe.

This is the outlawed Chaparral that generated downforce by utilizing a second motor mounted at the rear to spin two huge ducted fans that vacuumed air from beneath the car. Lexan skirts, attached to the car’s suspension, helped to maintain the negative lift that kept the J glued to the track.

These photos show the model in process, and the shape and stance are amazingly close to real. Exoto has a great working relationship with Jim Hall, the Chap’s designer, builder, and occasional driver, and the verdict from here is that the replica is spot-on.

Sorry for the sleepless nights. We’ll keep you posted.

MORE SPY SHOTS! Yat Ming’s ’71 Boat-tail Riv, in the shop!

And now, for you fans of the Flint flyers, here are a couple of shots of the in-process revisions to the planned Yat Ming 1971 Buick Riviera we discussed here a few weeks ago. The tweaks include a reshaping of the model’s bumper, and some subtle re-arranging of the model’s tail lights. Can’t tell from here if all of this hammer-and-dolly work will result in a more accurate profile of the car, but if we get a shot of the revised mold, we’ll let you know how it looks on the table.

The best news is that the Riv will be offered in colors we all know and love – with vinyl tops, correct to their mid-line seams. Seems that Yat Ming is listening to us, and recent correspondence with the company promises more of the same in the immediate future. Get psyched, folks. These guys are really trying. At this rate, they’re bound to make their Mark.
 

 
     

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