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First Peek with Joe Kelly Edition Date

Highway 61 1959 Nash Metropolitan Prototype
Ricko BMW Z4
RC2 2Fast 2Furious Honda – Lighted Version


Highway 61’s 1959 Nash Metropolitan Ricko’s 2003 BMW Z4
Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly

The cars we saw in Chicago continue to arrive. This week, we’ll get next to H61’s neat ’59 Nash Metropolitan. Then we’ll have a little spin in Ricko’s on-the-street BMW Z4 – just for kicks. And we’ll also have a look at the latest gee-whiz trickery in release from Ertl… err… RC2. Wait ‘til you get a load of this.

Click thumbnails to see larger images




  Highway 61’s 1959 Nash Metropolitan

If the finned ’59 Caddy was the greatest symbol of ‘fifties automotive excess, then the humble little Nash Metropolitan was the anti-icon. Small, wretchedly underpowered, and possessed of the upside-down bathtub styling typical of its stablemates, the imported, Austin-powered ’59 - which did zero-to-sixty sprints in the 19-to-22-second range – was the antithesis of the high-octane highway rockets that Detroit was lighting at the time.

But it makes for one hell of a neat model, and a great addition to the already quirky Highway 61 oldies lineup. Folks were drooling over this one at Chicago, and the words "gotta have" were uttered more than a few times. The prototype we have here seems to predate the samples that were parked alongside the real Metro that H61 had parked at their display, but even with a few tweaks still in the offing, the model is everything we could hope for.

This turquoise and white example will be joined in release by a red and white model when it hits the shelves. At an asking price just shy of fifty bucks each, this just may be a two-fer.

The sculpt is dead on, and the model has the oddly tall, narrow look of the Metropolitan, right down to the skinny wide-whites and moon caps. Once again, Highway 61 has rendered a replica that feels, in the hand, like a well-turned metal model you might have built yourself; heavy castings, great paint, and just enough home-spun detailing to add intrigue and personality.

Part of that intrigue is the multi-piece body casting, a great idea that allowed H61 to twist up the Metropolitan’s distinctive shape with accuracy. The personality comes via the usual checklist of working features, taken from the H61 "how-can-they-do-this-at-this-price" menu. There are the opening doors, on "real" hinges that replicate the look and operation of the Nash’s real units, and the dog-legged hood and trunk. The steering, though limited in its travel by the car’s structure, works, as does the suspension. The driveshaft – and engine fan – rotate with the rear wheels. A vinyl boot and very nicely detailed hard plastic up top come along, and both snick onto the model neatly and easily. The antenna raises and lowers, the vent windows swing, and the seat backs, both front and rear, fold forward, the latter for access to the Metro’s trunk. And yes, O, Casual Observer, the glove compartment opens.

I’m loving the lensing on this model; the headlights look deep and clear, as do the parking/directionals and the red plastic taillights in their separate bezels. The red "M" at the center of the grille (the mesh of which will be changed in production) and at the middle of each hubcap set the car’s colors off nicely. In the midst of nicely chromed bumpers (and great assembly values), details like the multi-element weather stripping, the evenness of the opening panels and the clean separation of the car’s paint lines speak to great quality at this price.

Engine detail is good; the little green 52-horse Austin A50 is plumbed and wired, living happily in an area dominated by the upstairs portion of the car’s heater and the oil-bath air cleaner. The VIN tag and heater labels are legible, and the motor even has a dipstick. As is usual for H61, the paint is great, even in here. Interior detailing, centered around infinitesimally printed hounds-tooth seats and a bare bones dash, is about what you’d expect in a replica of a sub-compact – nothing much to see, but it’s still marvelous in its replication by the H61 crew. The working visors, chromed door sills and neatly cast and chromed handles and cranks on the doors are neat little touches, too.

In front of the ersatz canvas-covered spare, a tweak of the delicate trunk handle will reveal a bunch of tools in repose on the matted floor and the car’s fuel filler tube. Flip ‘er over, and you’ll get an eyeful of a neatly cast, nicely painted and detailed undercarriage crazed by cast-in and painted fuel and brake lines, and a slick little exhaust that ends in a hollowed-out tip.

What a neat model. Car guys, myself included, have wanted one of these in 1:18 for a while. Given H61’s penchant for great value and cool detailing, we couldn’t have asked for a better group of modelers to make it for us.

Yep, it’s a two-fer. Now, if they ever make it in yellow…

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  Ricko’s 2003 BMW Z4

Score another hit for Ricko, current holders of the FNG* award for really slick model cars at next-to-nothing prices. Why do I say that? because this little Bimmer is good enough to eat – just the ticket for a model collector who likes the real car enough to want a model, but not enough to spend Kyosho numbers to get it.

And this from a new kid on the street, relatively speaking. I’m feeling like Ricko is the late-model car collectors’ alternative to Signature: few bucks, cool subjects, lotsa laughs. This roadster has a great, goober-free paint job, truly flawless assembly, and some of the sweetest tampo’d and applied badging you could hope for. The doors, hood, and trunk open, and the wheels steer. When parked, at first glance, it’s a Kyosho; the fit and finish of the opening panels and the model’s lensing and painted detailing say fifty bucks worth. The grille is perfect, and so are the peek-a-boo argent wheels and brake calipers at all four corners. And the thing just looks mean; long, swoopy nose, laid back windscreen, and just enough muscularity to warrant shelf space close to the light. And that’s from a guy who’s no big fan of the real ride. It’s simply one of those models that has appeal all its own, regardless of your feelings for the 1:1.

Interior detailing, by way of sharply cast and carefully painted pieces, is danged good, even if it does lack the eye-scrunching depth of some of the excellent, though higher-priced, models of the car. It’s flocked, and the doors swing on spring-clip hinges. That carpeting, taken with the well-painted and textured surfaces in here, makes for a cool cabin, especially at the price.

It’s only closer looks that tell the car’s cheapo tale. And that’s still not a bad thing – compared to similarly-priced efforts from other manufacturers.

The paint is a little bunchy around the door handles and other cast-in body details – but it does go completely into the sill-detailed door jambs, under the hood, and into the weather-stripped trunk well. That alone bests other low-cost models of the car. Though a little monotone, the clamshell motor is no more a sin than some we’ve seen, and does the job with chromed strakes atop the valve cover and a silver heat shield amid the worms, snakes, and adders under the black-bottomed hood. And the trunk, also carpeted, provides a snug place to stash a weekend’s supply of Viagra – but little more. Sort of like the real car, I guess.

The chassis detail is strictly lo-buck, despite silver painted detailing on the crisply cast plastic belly pan. There’s no working suspension; the rear wheels spin on a noisy metal axle. High points are the snap-out boot and snap-on up top, both have a snug fit and just the right look. Trick mesh screen on the air dam – actually a clear plastic piece printed from behind with the honeycombed effect, makes for an illusion that works from just about any angle.

As does this model. I’m really starting to admire this manufacturer for their acumen in reading what collectors want in a model car. Their Euro offerings may not be everyone’s cup of chai, but their quality and attention to details have been steadily improving. That makes the projections of what we’ll be seeing in their upcoming vintage and modern Lincoln and Cadillac images worth tossing and turning over.

Keep it up, Ricko.

Click thumbnails to see larger images





  RC2’s Fast and Furious "Street Glow" Honda Civic Si

Well, spank my ass and call me Sally, but this is about the coolest thing I’ve seen in a while. Seriously.

When a model car adds something as gonzo as working lights, it’s usually at the cost of having to keep the thing attached to a battery supply or transformer on the base; only builders and truly demon-possessed detailers have gone through the heartburn of mounting a small battery pack on the models themselves. And this usually requires the loss of trunk or interior space, right?

I think not, baby puppy. Leave all of that for the "Ready To Rumble" series of a few years ago. This little Honda wears its juice slung below, in the spot formerly reserved for the fuel tank. And through the magic of colored LEDS, a little light-carrying plastic tubing, and a neat double-switch system, this little tuner (and other, similarly-equipped tuners from the movie) just may introduce a whole new era of electrically-featured diecasts into the mainstream market.

Absolutely nothing has been taken away from the model (except for the fuel tank – no great loss); the doors, hood, and trunk still open. In fact, a neat aside is that the lighting extends into the model’s interior, emitting an eerie green glow when triggered.

And the triggers themselves are sweet. Not one, but two switching options await the fellow in need of finger fun. One is a timed mushroom button beneath the car. Press it, and the lights switch on for around ten seconds. The second switch, tucked under the car’s other side, is a traditional on/off push-and-lock unit that keeps the lights burning for as long as the battery holds out.

How long is that? I couldn’t tell you. I’ve spoken to a couple of retailers who’ve had the things on their shelves for a while, and despite lots of tiny (and a few substantially larger) fingers exploring the "Try Me!" on the model’s box, no dead batteries have been reported.

As cool as the Honda is – it’s actually quite a good rendering of the real car, and a big hit with car crazy kids – I can’t wait to swap out the green LEDs for white so I can transplant – or out and out duplicate – the technology for another model in my collection. I’d love to see the headlights and taillights blazing on a favorite car, if given the chance. Maybe RC2 will see fit to release these packages in one of their do-it-yourself kits.

Maybe not. Until then, for those who want to play along but are loath to experience the joys of hot solder and flying flux, these are on the shelves now, at a ten-buck premium over the usual RC2 FNF models. Better find one soon. These things are a riot.

See you next week.

Next week:


We’ll see what the man in brown brings…


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