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First Peek with Joe Kelly Edition Date

Highway 61/Supercar Collectibles’ 1970 AAR ‘Cuda
Highway 61/Supercar Collectibles’ 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda
AutoArt 1953 Corvette


Supercar Collectibles 1970 AAR ‘Cuda ---
Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly

I’m not exactly what you’d call a Mopar guy, but when it was announced that Highway 61 would be tooling up all-new 1970 ‘Cudas for Supercar Collectibles, I went a little buck nutty. I don’t think I was alone. Brand preferences (something I don’t entertain as much as some of us) seem to disappear when it comes to muscle models, and a lot of us who have the original Ertl versions of the car on our shelves – seminal, great looking models, in their time – have long pined for a higher-end image made by someone with the talent and knowledge to really do the mighty Mopar to rights.

Well, it’s happened. The announced new ‘Cudas are here. And the wait was very, very well worth it. Delivering on a promise they made in Chicago, Jim and Scott from Supercar have been kind enough to send along late-process prototypes for review (as well as a Little Old Lady Dodge and the Mr. Norm’s Dart – which we’ll get to next week). I think these will go a long way to take the chill out of the season.

And then, we’ll have a peek at the fabulous AutoArt 1953 Corvette Roadster, a model in current release that – at last – pays respect to a genuine American classic.

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  Supercar Collectibles 1970 AAR ‘Cuda

We all know that Tom Haverland and most of the folks who cash Diecast Promotions’ paychecks used to work for the "other" Ertl. And we all know that while they were there, their body of work – which brought many of us into the hobby of collecting 1:18 model cars – included a 1970 E-body Mopar.

So is it ironic that the same pool of talent has done the ‘Cuda as an entirely new, clean-sheet model for Supercar Collectibles? No. I’d say it’s more a full-circle type of thing. Maybe it’s what they might have done in ’93, had the stars been in the right place. A less cosmic explanation is probably closer to the truth: nobody would have known what to do back then with a highly detailed muscle car in 1:18.

Regardless, we sure know now. And these are a knockout. As spec’d out by Scott Dahlberg (who owns a few killer 1:1 Mopars) and Jim Thoren at Supercar, the AAR and Hemi models have all of the trappings that new-age 1:18 collectors are looking for, by way of vastly improved proportions, great paint and chrome, and opening and operating features that elevate these muscle models to precision replica status.

It’s a no-brainer to say these models are so good that they transcend comparison to the old Ertls. They simply come from a higher place. The castings of the bodies are crisp and true, giving off the high-hipped, muscular stance of the real cars. In the AAR, the tires are the correctly staggered E60-15s in front and G60-15s out back, and both models have sweetly cast and nicely painted rally wheels. Graphics-wise, both cars kick, even if the graphics themselves are glossy rather than matte finish – a result of the models’ being clearcoated once the foil and graphics were applied. Given the sharpness of the cars’ finishes, I can definitely live with that. And beside, the AAR is flat where it counts; the hood (cast of plastic to emulate the real car’s lightweight assembly), fender tops, and the upper regions of the doors get the blackout treatment. Against the purple paint, it makes the car as aggressive – and attractive – as the fish it scales. Hey… I made a funny.

Both models have great motors under their spring-and scissor hinged hoods. The Hemi, under a red shaker, is just about as good as model motors get. The black valve covers and plethora of painted, plumbed and wired details against the orange block are note-for-note miniaturizations of every Mopar muscle head’s dream. The 340 six pack under the AAR’s hood is more of the same. I really dig the hole-punched air cleaner sitting in the middle of that sub-hood shaker. I can almost hear those six little throats below swonking air when the throttle is blipped. Both models will have hood pins – along with a second pair, just in case – when delivered.

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Anyone who’s driven in a ‘Cuda will tell you that the interiors rock. I love the way these guys have imitated the grain of the inner door panels and the little ‘Cuda badges on each. The sills and carpeted floors kick, as do the floor mats. Dash detailing is great, with legible instruments and tidy, painted detailing around the bezels. Under tilting visors and a cool headliner, the seats tilt and slide, the steering columns have that funky crush zone molded in, and the glove compartments open. And there are cool fabric and photoetch seat belts on every seat. This looks like the cabin of a model costing a whole lot more than the sub-sixty dollar price tag they’ll be wearing.

The trunks’ major feature is the space saver spares and fill bottles, with a jack stowed alongside and a pinstriped mat on the floor. Both cars have their own types of deck spoiler, of course, and there are jacking instructions under the deck.

But the neatest feature here is the separate emergency brake cables under the models. These run through idlers and tensioners to the rear wheels across the neat primered/oversprayed chassis. Pretty cool stuff. The suspensions flex, and the driveshafts turn with the rear wheels. I love the fold-back side-exiting exhaust on the AAR, and the neat metallized finishes used on the bits bolted to both models’ bellies. These render an authentic feel to the pipes, muffs, and resonators. Chrome tips send the gases out on both cars.

If you’re a muscle fan, mid-scale models of the fast fish simply don’t get any better than this. Taken alongside the news that H61 will be presenting a ’70 Boss Mustang in time for Toy Fair (and having heard of the pending earlier Barracuda and further variations of this E-body mold set), I’d say that the same folks who practically invented the 1:18 scale hobby – and who later brought affordable precision to the scale – are pointing up their pencils again. Hold on tight. It’s going to be one hell of a ride.

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  AutoArt 1953 Corvette

It’s a source of ongoing amazement that AutoArt, who used to butter its bread with models of exotics and rally cars, has slipped so easily into making drop-dead beautiful models of American icons. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised; a close look at any of the maker’s prior releases affirms it’s penchant for replicating the finer points of any car
it’s cast an eye on, regardless of subject.

And so it is with their 1953 Corvette. In spades.

Forget the toys that have come before; cash ‘em out on eBay and spend your cookie money where it’ll do some good. What I’m saying is: Corvette lovers, your model is ready.

And it’s one hell of a piece. The car’s stance and shape are perfect, as are the completely transparent assembly values. By that, I mean there is no sign, anywhere, that this model was actually built. The car’s scale-on shut lines, flawless paint, and unerring replication of just about every noticeable detail would seem to indicate that it simply came to be.

That’s AutoArt’s trick – they’re the hands-down masters of flawless. Granted, on some models, that’s a little off-putting – sort of like driving an impeccably designed, yet completely soulless sedan. But on this particular release, it’s just the thing to bring the essence of the first Corvette home in scale.

Some of the best features of the model are the delicately cast and perfectly chromed shiny bits. The windshield frame, grille, wiper arms and bumpers – as well as the aircraft-themed side trim – are flashed and finished to top shelf standards, and then attached into recesses and locations on the body without a single gap or ripple. The metal screening over the headlights looks like it’s made from scale correct wire, and the lights themselves are deep-set, reflective units. A peek into the cabin offers up lush carpet, painted and cast red upholstery and door panels, and some truly eye-scrunching tampo’d detailing on the shifter knob and dash. The defroster vents – which might’ve been picked out in silver paint, if at all, on a lesser model – are separate castings, chromed, relief painted, and then set into the dash top. Touches like that- and the neat little "Corvette" tampos at the car’s sides – make this one a whistler.

Under the hood is an equally engaging model of the triple carbed, piped and wired "Blue Flame" six that uses AA’s usual high-grade castings as a base for a ton of hand-picked detailing. The blue looks true, as do the tampo’d badges, metallic finishes, and beautiful screened chrome air cleaners on those side-mounted carbs. There’s a prop rod to hold the hood, and the fender well and firewall detail surround the super sanitary motor nicely. Trunk detail is great, too, and the deepset cubby is cast in nicely embossed red that matches the interior tines well.

The car rolls on skinny, wide-whitewall tires centered by beautiful chromed and detail painted wheel covers, and the frame she’s built on is metal. There are brake lines and great exhaust detailing, and the wheels spin on pressed-in brass bushings. Even here, there’s precision, with the result being a replica that can also roll like the devil – should you have the stones to risk pranging a sixty-buck investment.

I’d say that the biggest risk might be passing this one up. It’s truly a delightful model, with the lack of any working features more than forgiven in light of the pristine assembly and virtually perfect renderings of just about every noteworthy detail of the real ’53. AutoArt focuses their eye – and yours – on what’s important here, and does it with class. Don’t walk… run.

Next week:


More Supercar – and a little British number from AA.


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