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B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2

Reviewed by:   Rusty Hurley
     
  B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car
 
 
 

There are only a few stumbling blocks between Paul Lewis’s 36-year, three-wheeled, bubble-car dream: two arms of the Federal Government, the Detroit Establishment and, just maybe, the dream itself. – John Pahsdag writing about the Fascination for Motor Trend in June, 1973.

There are visionaries who walk among us that see the world through a different lens. In the automobile industry, sometimes these people attain the business acumen, monetary fortunes and personal alliances needed to ram their ideas home even if it’s through a skunk works – think Billy Mitchell and the Sting Ray or Carroll Shelby and the Cobra.

But for every success story there are many tales of the enigmatic genius, floating between brilliant and criminal (and many times with elements of both), that have a gift to see daring dreamscapes others cannot imagine. In some cases these dreams can be thwarted by conventional forces not ready for the paradigm shift – the name Preston Tucker being the most famous car man to fit this mold.

For others it’s a little murky – better at inspiration than implementation, they leave a trail of broken hopes and bankrupt investors. John Delorean lives here and so does Paul M. Lewis, the man behind the captivating Fascination.

Paul Lewis was a man of his age, born near the turn of the century, he was fascinated by aviation and the applications it had for everyday life. In the 1930’s, he designed and built the Airmobile, a three-wheel vehicle similar to the Fascination that would retail at $400. The SEC (reminiscent of what happened to Tucker) found Lewis’s plan more of a potential fraud. The investigation it launched cooled what was already apathetic investor enthusiasm. Of the three prototypes built, one resides to this day in the famous Harrah’s museum in Reno.

So Lewis bided his time working in the toy business but the idea of building an aviation-influenced car never left him and in 1966 under the guise of The Highway Aircraft Corporation, he developed the original gold and black Fascination as a propeller based three-wheeled car.

The propeller proved to be unworkable for a variety of reasons and was replaced by 1565cc Renault engine mounted mid-frame giving it remarkable balance. The car itself was remarkably functional: weighing only 1800 lbs, it was designed to reach 100 mph. Two wheels were mounted at the front enhance stability. Lewis lined up investors and dealers (at $10,000 each), but the moment he needed to make the switch from dreamer to manager his ego failed him.

When he advertised completed cars would be available to the public, the EPA contacted to let him know that they needed a production version to test for six months prior to any such sales. He ignored Department of Transportation safety division demands for tests saying he knew the car was safe and that was all anyone needed to know. When Pashdag showed up at the works to take a test drive, he did find a working prototype but without such as a windshield or gauges. While he found the car to be a revelation in operation (like an airplane it could turn 180 degrees) he correctly judged the chasm Lewis didn’t see between nice idea and finished product.

Ultimately it all came to a bad end for what had been billed as "Tomorrow's Car Today". While Lewis complained of a Detoit-based conspiracy against his environmentally forward innovation, ultimately the facts in evidence would point to hubris as his undoing.

Five Fascinations were built. Keith and Eileen Carpenter own three of them - asked if they still drive them, they said no because there was too much gawking. For a car that’s 35 years on, that’s saying something.

And talk about gawking, the model, handcrafted in resin by B&G is likely to have the same impact on your collection. This is not a model that will sit well in a line of Fords or Chevys. It deserves a place of honor like the great prototypes such as the kind Great American Dream Machines were so good building.

It comes in a beautiful acrylic case with polished onyx black surface and an engraved plate with model and series information. Of the five Fascinations made, B&G has modeled three in various combinations of red and white. The series limit, by the way, is a short 130 to 150 per model.

Any concept car-type model needs to accurately reflect the shape and stance to get the wow factor you want and B&G couldn't score any better on either account. The swoop of the egg shaped cabin (reminiscent of airships) dives gently into the undulation of the rear, complete with bullet faux engine housings is no small achievement.

The red over pearlized white colors on the cabin are flawless and the same can be said for fit and finish of all parts. Wheels and tires are nicely scaled and balanced. The cabin, which appears almost palatial, is easily viewed through the windows. Inside the ribbed two-tone seats are modeled in exquisite detail. The gauges and other interior detail Pashdag lamented about not finding are in place and handsomely modeled.

The execution of the bright work is perhaps the most special element. The engineering of filigree detail such as the rear luggage rack and the basket weave front bumper support are the finest I’ve seen in this scale. There are details that add pop like the vehicle’s unique chrome surround bumper, the articulated aerial and smartly trimmed windows. The lighting and badging are splendidly done and the wipers are modeled in such a way to give the illusion of being multiple pieces.

I may seem like I am gushing here – but honestly this model is simply a miraculous work. Selling at about $230 there are probably enough of these models to go around – for now. But don’t get caught out in the cold, if you want one, now is the time to ante up.

Unlike Mr. Lewis the folks at B&G seem to have captured what collectors want most; pristine craftsmanship of a highly original subject. Call me fascinated by their execution of the Fascination.

(06/29/2009)
 
 
  B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2 diecast car

 
 
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B&G | 1:43
B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2

B&G 1:43 1974 Fascination Fascination #2

 
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