Posts from ‘Automotive Collectibles’
by Don Sikora II
Note: The following story was excerpted from the April 2017 issue of Collectible Automobile magazine.
Back in the Sixties and Seventies, buyers in the market for a small sporty roadster had quite a few choices. Sure, they were mostly British or Italian, but there were choices. Heck, even a decade or so ago, Americans had several reasonably affordable two-seat drop tops to shop. Remember the Pontiac Solstice and Saturn Sky?
At the 2017 Chicago Auto Show, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ aftermarket division took the wraps off the latest in a long line of special-edition Dodge Challengers. The 2017 Mopar ’17 Challenger commemorates the 80th anniversary of the Mopar brand. It’s a limited-run model that adds a special paint job and other unique trim features to a 392 Hemi Scat Pack Shaker Challenger with a 6-speed manual transmission.
Shopping for friends and relatives can be something of a challenge—especially if that person is old enough to have acquired a certain amount of fun/frivolous/indulgent stuff for himself or herself.
Jun Imai has one of the best car-guy jobs in the world. As Design Manager for Mattel’s Hot Wheels toy-car brand, Jun gets to make automotive daydreams into reality every day. As always, the current Hot Wheels lineup includes plenty of outlandish, pure-fantasy cars—vehicles designed to stoke the imaginations of children and engineered to zing down orange tracks and off ramps. But over the past few years, Jun and the rest of the Hot Wheels design team have also made the Hot Wheels brand a lot more relevant to full-size car culture.
A rare chance to view the work of participants in the historic Fisher Body Craftsman’s Guild (FBCG) model-making program is coming up in Salt Lake City, Utah. A number of advanced-design scale models made for the national competition, which was sponsored by General Motors from 1930 to 1968, will be on display during the GSL-XXV International Scale Vehicle Championship and Convention.
One of my most prized possessions isn’t especially valuable in the greater scheme of things. Fully restored, in mint condition, it might bring $1000 if the right buyer came along. But, like most heirlooms and inherited memorabilia, this item’s cash value has nothing to do with why I hold it dear. And, decades after taking possession of it, I came to realize that it has ties to one of my all-time favorite automobiles, making it even more wonderful.
Just like sports broadcasts and Donald Trump’s hair, consumer-product packaging is one of those things that changes so gradually that most consumers are scarcely aware of the subtle shifts. Even iconic brands are regularly tweaked, updated, or outright redesigned to look fresh and new in consumers’ eyes. As the years roll by, those original products gradually make the transition from “outdated” to “historical artifact.” If you’ve ever seen the “throwback” cans of Pepsi or Mountain Dew, or the retro boxes of cereal that are issued from time to time, you know what we’re talking about.
I grew up in the 1970s, so my earliest memories of “cool” cars are clouded by the realities of the day. Yes, I fondly recall the Road Runners, AMXs, and Z/28s of my youth. But remember, these were the 1977 versions of those legendary nameplates that were largely reduced to wearing tape stripes and white-letter tires.
I have a confession to make: I never really outgrew Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars. My interest has ebbed and flowed over the years, but it has never gone away completely . . . and these days, I seem to be in “flow” mode. Part of the reason is that Mattel has been pushing a lot of ’80s-nostalgia hot buttons recently in the Hot Wheels line. They’ve released a steady flow of ’80s TV and movie cars over the past couple years, such as the Ghostbusters Ecto-1 ’59 Cadillac ambulance, the Back to the Future DeLorean, KITT from Knight Rider, and the A-Team van. (In my experience, all of these “Hollywood” vehicles are frustratingly hard to find in stores; collectors snap them up almost as soon as they’re put out.) And, Mattel has reintroduced the Hot Wheels “Hot Ones” line as a separate nostalgia series. Oh, boy. You know you’re getting older when the throwback reissue series is comprised of many of the same cars you had as a kid.
Having worked as a design sculptor in the styling departments of three American automakers, Ron Konopka values the skill and workmanship that go into creating the models that historically have been used to establish the looks of cars. That’s what motivated him to obtain and restore a deteriorating ¼-scale plaster model of the 1956 Nash Rambler—a rare artifact of the long-defunct American Motors Corporation.