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First Peek with Joe Kelly Edition Date
8-27-03
VIEW ARCHIVE
 
 


Highway 61 1968 Dodge Dart GTS383 Prototype
Exoto Porsche 934, Brumos #99 Pre-production
Ricko 1968 Alfa Romeo 33.2 “Daytona” Production

 

Highway 61’s Dodge Dart GTS Exoto’s 1978 Porsche 935 - Daytona winner #99
 
     
 
Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly
 

Is it just me, or did a lot of folks swear that the collectible 1:18 diecast market would be dead by now? Wasn’t the hobby going to dry up and blow away, just like baseball cards?
Weren’t we going to move on to something else?

Honestly…haven’t we run out of cars to collect?

The answers: yes, they did; yes, it was; yes, we were; and hell, no, and not any time soon.

This week, we’ll be looking at a prototype of Highway 61’s long pined-for 1968 Dodge Dart GTS, a killer pre-release Brumos Por sche 934 from our friends at Exoto, and a sampling of what relative newcomer Ricko has to offer, in the form of a production 1968 Alfa Romeo 33.2 racer from that year’s Daytona.

Run out of cars? Hah! Room is more like it.

 

Click thumbnails to see larger images
 

 

 

 

 

  Highway 61’s Dodge Dart GTS

Aah, Highway 61. How do we love thee? In many ways. You gave us cars we didn’t know we wanted, until we saw them on your table. And then you gave us a few that we did want – and you made us want them even more.

Such is the case with this 1968 Dodge Dart GTS. Mopar fan or not, this model has been one of the consistently lusted-after images in the large scale collecting hobby for years in a row.

That lust is well founded. Darts and performance have always gone hand in hand, from the original D500-equipped 1960 version right through to the hellacious Max Wedge and reasonably potent 273-cid V8 powered rockets of the mid ‘sixties. For 1968, the checklist for the Dart included the 275-horse 340, standard in the top-dog Dart GTS and good for 14-odd second quarters within a whistle of a hundred miles per hour.

But it was a time of bigger is better, and both the 300-horsepower 383 (available for an extra twenty-five bucks) and the 426 Hemi (nominally rated at 425 horses - for a whole lot more) waited in the wings – the latter through a special arrangement with Hurst Performance, who twisted up eighty of the cars for ‘68. 440’s were on tap, too – if you had a friend at Grand Spaulding Dodge, that is.

The good news is the promise of all of these cars from Highway 61, sooner or later, with some of the hairier drag and super street permutations coming by way of made-to-order specialists Supercars Collectibles. All will be high detail – no surprise there – and all will be based on the perfect body mold set we see here.

It’s no secret that the folks at the wheel of H61 came from the other side of the Ertl fence, and the finesse that they impart onto their models is rivaled only by the lofty levels of working features they build in. That being said, a look at this well-traveled, late-process prototype – goobers and all – has my mouth watering for more.

It’s a first deco, so the paint and the body casting are a little rough in spots, but the panel fit and attachment points for all of the glazing and detail pieces is virtually flawless; the hood and trunk seams appear scale close. The black stripes at the tail are joined by applied chrome badging at the nose and trunk. This same process is used for the fender callouts on either side.

Fronted by a dead-on grille – which will be photoetched in production – the model has the Dart’s aggressive rake just right, and rolls on reverse-lettered Firestone redlines, centered by replications of the Dart’s available mag-look wheel covers. In typical H61 fashion, the car’s chrome trim, including the wheel arches, is replicated with applied foil. Taken with the power bulges on the hood, the dual exhausts poking out at the rear, and the deep metallic/clear coated silver, the model just sings. These guys are good. These guys are real good.

Operating features are slick as hell, and straight off the Highway 61 menu: working antenna, working suspension, rotating driveshaft and engine fan, steerable wheels, opening glove box, movable shifter, slide and tilt seats, and working sun visors and vent windows. I may have even missed a few.

Under the hood – and by the way, folks, those are the correct hinges for the car – lies a dressed-up 383, complete to the heater hoses. Our sample has a little tilt – which will be addressed in production – but uses tight castings, multiple levels of paint and chrome, and a boatload of good old model car sense to replicate the 383’s broad-shouldered look. Hey, it works, and seeing all that motor stuffed in there makes my right foot itch. Future releases with 440’s and Hemi’s installed should induce uncontrollable twitching.

Interior detail is great, and could be improved only with a working courtesy light. The floor’s flocked, and the seats, front and back, wear fabric belts with etched buckles. Beneath a fully detailed headliner, it’s apparent that a couple of the bits have yet to be chromed here, but the castings themselves are razor sharp. There are stereo speaker grilles on the package deck, and the trim on the door panels has been given the foil treatment. Coolest here is the car’s VIN plate, on the pillar inside the driver’s door.

The trunk has a pinstriped mat, and the jack is stowed to the right, with the spare supposedly residing below. The chrome and blackout tail panel on the trunk lid is one of the car’s high points – it’s so cleanly installed and lines up so perfectly with the taillights and the curves of the body. The model’s chassis, dominated by the Chrysler blue engine, uses the same attention to detail as the rest of the car, and bounces courtesy of the steel coils hidden within the suspension.

With three colors on deck for imminent release, as well as Supercars’ black-fendered “as-delivered” Hemi, Grand Spaulding, and drag-liveried classics waiting in the wings, muscle fans will go ballistic. Car model folks who simply dig well-engineered, crisply built replicas of cars they remember can join right in.

I can’t help cheering for these guys – and maybe that’s a little selfish. But my heart’s in the right place. Too many times, this hobby sees a beloved image get the bum’s rush from cut rate, low-intended manufacturers with a hit-or miss record and a pipeline to the discount racks.

When the right car is done right, as it most certainly is here, the result is magic. I’ll be looking for one in every color they make. Very highly recommended.

 

Click thumbnails to see larger images
 

 

 

 

 

  Exoto’s 1978 Porsche 935 - Daytona winner #99

Exoto loves Porsche in a big way, and the affection has emerged in real time as a series of phenomenally detailed and feature laden replicas of some of Stuttgart’s most memorable screamers – the 934, 935, and the Can-Am killer, the 917/30.

Here we have the GTX winner of the 1978 24 hours of Daytona, a twin-turbo’d 935 that Rolf Stommelen, Pete Gregg, and Toine Hezemans dusted the crowd with to the tune of a thirty lap lead. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds, even with the planet-moving power of the twin-spool flat six behind them; after a while, the tremendous pressure of the turbos began to hammer the four-valve-per cylinder mechanicals of the 900-horse motor. Supposedly, the thing smoked so much when they lifted the throttle that they had to balloon-foot past the officials lap after lap to avoid the dreaded black flag.

Yep, it was a monster. And Exoto has gone the extra mile to replicate every jot of the car. Starting with a heavy, flawlessly-prepped body cast, the model is fanatically well finished and laden with high quality tampos. The opening doors, whale tail rear deck, and lift-off boot are all first class in their fit.

I love the little details at work here: the air vents over the wheels are open through the body; the NACA vents at the car’s rear are screened, as are the huge inlets at the leading edges of the rear fenders; tiny photoetch clamps secure the windscreen. There are tiny tampo’d vents at the trailing edges of the front fenders and roof, and photoetch is used to replicate the fasteners securing the car’s side skirts.

Overall, there is a sense of refinement – and solid evidence that that sense is correct. The faired in lamps in the air dam look real, as do the twin cannon driving lights mounted to the deck. The glazing is optically clear.

The real show is beneath the surface, and it’s here that Exoto consistently rises above the crowd. Detailing on the car’s belly is eye rattling. From the front, where an enormous steel chin spoiler is riveted to the body of the model, the working suspension is captivating. Double doo-wop brake disks consisting of photoetched cross-drilled rotors sandwiching vented centers ride at all four corners. A better view is possible if you doff the road wheels and “track-scuffed” tires using the included lug wrench – always a worthwhile trip to take.

The castings that attach those wheels to the car’s metal nethers are sharp and work cogently to replicate the jounce and parry of the Porsche’s unsprung bits – with the incredible accuracy of their section and complex geometry, these are definitely a kick. But even this show pales in comparison to the act taking place under the car’s whale tail.

Exoto makes amazing motors, period. The sheer number of parts, and the painted and applied detailing that goes into these assemblies, is staggering. Not counting the braided stainless and anodized fittings that run to the impeller hubs and waste gates, I count fifteen separate castings used to replicate the twin turbos and exhaust system alone; each painted to bear evidence of the thermic trials under the car’s rear. These shine against the backdrop of the air-cooled barrels and pushrod tubes of the boxer’s six cylinder architecture – castings that look sharp enough to draw blood.

The tricks get even better – if harder to see – up top. Twin intakes, fully plumbed with stainless and anodized ends and linked laterally by the throttle rod, sit astride the cooling fan at the motor’s center. If that doesn’t get you whistling, check out the real rubber belts around the alternator – or maybe spin the fan itself a couple of times. Yeah – it’s pretty deep stuff going on in here. And it begs my repeating what I said last week about the fabulous 427 in Exoto’s GT40 MkIV: with detail like this, it’d be great to see these assemblies displayed on stands alongside the models.

The interior and boot of the model are a fun fest; the last 935 we reviewed had a figure of Rolf Stommelen at the wheel. As cool as that was (and, still is, thank you) pulling back the woven curtain on this model allows an unimpeded view of the cabin, a tidy nook centered by a tube framed slingshot seat, fabric and photoetch safety harness, and one of the sharpest, easiest to read instrument clusters in the 1:18 world. Coolest detail is the faux-fiberglass foot rest bolted to the floor, a bit of business that has just the right amount of translucency to suspend disbelief. Overall, it looks driveable in here.

More of that semi-opaque plastic is used to great effect under the boot, and the tanks and reservoirs here are linked by still more tubing. The whole shebang lives alongside cruciform struts and braces, realistic to simulated welds at their center. The tanks are empty, or I’d attempt hotwiring the damned thing.

I’m only half kidding. Exoto’s manufactured replicas attain the visual impact and mechanical excellence usually reserved for the very best – and usually singular – efforts of the master builders. That they achieve and maintain this standard thousands of times over in manufacture is unimaginable to me.

With this Porsche’s unerring attention to detail and unwavering standards of engineering and assembly, I get the feeling that Exoto can do pretty much anything they want, and do it best. Very highly recommended.

 

Click thumbnails to see larger images
 

 

 

 

 

  Ricko’s 1968 Alfa Romeo 33.2 Daytona - #20

Okay, so I’m stumped. Not totally; I have a few photos of this car and know enough about it to make a couple of semi-educated guesses that what we see here – Ricko’s full-production model of the V8-powered 1968 Alfa Romeo “Daytona” that ran as a factory prototype at Daytona in ‘68 – looks danged close to the car that Ninni Vaccarella helped to pilot to a fifth place overall finish.

I can also state that this is my first Ricko, despite lusting after the offbeat and wonderful models from the manufacturer that I’ve pawed at the trade shows.

A few trips to the web have produced photos of the real car on race day, and as far as shape, proportions, and livery, I’d say that Ricko’s nailed this one flat. The casting is well prepped, and even if the shut lines on the doors, tilting rear deck, and pop-off boot aren’t of the surgically-precise variety – mostly forgivable at a sub-thirty buck asking price – the fact that things fit as well as they do and open for display is a good thing.

I’ve long loved road going Alfas, and this boy-racer’s red and white paint, decent assembly, and substantial heft make it a potential racing highlight to the street Alfa section here. The numbers and sponsor logos seem to be close-cropped decals rather than tampo, and the fine mesh screens at the leading edges of the rear fenders are really printed plastic pieces. The glazing is clear, and the compound headlights remarkable. As far as assembly, only the glued on backlight disappoints, marred by smudges and oily fingerprints on the inside, where I can’t get to them.

The car has a couple of scaling issues; I haven’t any 1:1 measurements to refer to, but in comparison to a GT40, the car looks a tad small – maybe closer to 1:20 than 1:18. That parity is even more evident when looking inside the otherwise well-intended cabin at the seats and steering wheel.

The boot pops off via a pushbutton mounted to the diecast metal “tube” frame below to reveal a spare and cast-in, painted tank, and the car rolls on a solid pass-through metal rear axle and fixed suspension in the front. Detailing on the engine is accomplished with cast and painted wiring and a few other decent renderings of hoses, tanks, and such. Solid red pieces wrapped in loosely-wound springs replicate the shocks and rear suspension only marginally.

Again, this is a low-buck model, and it’s about as offbeat as models can get, especially to American eyes. So the scale and engineering shortcomings, reminiscent of the run-of-the-mill Bburago, should be considered as part of the deal. From what I’ve seen, other Rickos – including the Alfa 147 we’ll be looking at next week – fare better, for the buck. Keep an eye out for these on the discount racks.

 

Next week:

 

IMHE approaches, and I’m psyched. See you next week with more. ‘Til then, Happy Collecting!

 
     

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