Saturday, January 31, 2015

Collector's Corner - Motormax 2001 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor

If you've ever checked out eBay for police car diecasts, you'll know that it's a highly lucrative business. Collectors are often willing to pay a hefty price premium for an authentic replica, custom or otherwise, of their local agency's cruisers. A multitude of brands produce dozens of department liveries, and those that aren't covered by official releases are accommodated by releasing a plain black or plain white car ready to be detailed with waterslide decals offered in the online aftermarket. Some builders run wiring through the big 1:18 scale cars and install battery-powered LEDs that allow the squad car to have flashing lights and sometimes even sounds. It's a pretty cool effect. Unfortunately, a lot of the better police car replicas are rare and expensive, such as Auto Art's Ford Crown Victoria and UT Models's Chevrolet Caprice.

This is the very reasonably priced Crown Vic by Motormax, a casting which has been around the block a few times. I believe it is the old Auto Art casting, reused by Motormax, Daron and Greenlight. Which is funny, because they all have different lightbars and liveries, but are fundamentally the same. And yet the Motormax version is cheapest.

I am used to Motormax being just about the bottom of the barrel for 1:18 scale quality and detail. They are usually budget models for kids who will play with, scratch and probably break them. And then there is this car, which has four opening doors and surprisingly high levels of detail and quality of construction for a $30 model. I originally purchased it as a pursuit vehicle for a stop-motion animation I filmed for a college class project in 2010.

Looking at this car, one can tell that it's a budget model. The headlight lenses have obvious mounting pegs, there is no working suspension, no embossed logos on the tires and the hinges are massive dogleg and gooseneck affairs with the exception of the rear passenger doors. The interior is all black plastic and the engine is all molded in the same black plastic. The body graphics and paint are crisp and of good quality. Knock on wood, nothing has fallen off of the car in the time I've had it. My biggest gripe about it is the oversized Ford blue oval on the trunk lid.

If you're looking for a Crown Vic Police Interceptor in 1:18 scale, a car like this isn't a bad option. It's available in some twenty variations to date, ranging from an unmarked Special Service detective car to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police constable's car to a fire chief's car and the ubiquitous yellow taxi.
With customizable unmarked versions available and a variety of grilles, lightbars, pushbars, spotlights, wheels and other pieces, the Motormax Crown Vic seems like it can be made to match just about any department's cruiser (at least in North America) at minimal expense.

K9 unit not included.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1971 Mini 1000 Automatic

I've sort of made a recurring thing posting classic Minis every so often. Here's another monthly Mini, if you will. It's our first factory-automatic one, a 1971 Mini 1000.

I really like this little car. It's such a pure Mini, all one color with no fender flares, no rally stripes, no accessory lights. Just factory-matched Blaze Orange for a bit of cheek and a set of actual Minilite wheels providing just the right stance. The interior is beautiful, retaining the car's original right-hand-drive configuration and dainty little four-speed automatic shifter on the floor. It even has a set of period UK license plates and matching California vanity plates with the same characters. This is one of my favorite vintage Minis, even though it isn't a Cooper. In fact, I may even like it more because it isn't a Cooper. It's an economy runabout with a nod to convenience, a little retro style and the ability to park virtually anywhere. What's not to like?

Sunday, January 25, 2015

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1972 International Harvester 1210 Travelette Pickup

I've heard a number of jokes about International Harvester trucks and rust. And I know that a lot of them really did succumb to rust. The 1970s IHC pickups are rare enough to start with, even before factoring in attrition from hard work and road salt and moisture. International always was kind of a niche player in the light-duty truck market, doing most of their business with heavy commercial trucks and the Scout SUV. Despite this, the Light Line pickups were offered in a wide range of styles, drivetrains and bed lengths.

This truck is a 1972 or '73 1210 Travelette (crew cab) with the Bonus Load longbed. It appears to be a factory V8, 4WD truck with the 164" wheelbase. Oddly, it's powered by a Cummins diesel, leading me to wonder if it still sits on the factory frame or if it has been transplanted onto a full Dodge Ram heavy duty chassis as has been done with other IHC trucks with diesel swaps. The license plate, 1LONGIH, is certainly appropriate. This is one long International Harvester. I'm impressed by how straight the frame is, given the truck's length and its age. A lot of older trucks start to kink in the middle from being overloaded. This one is also pretty rust-free, which is good.

There are a few IHC pickups in my area, some of which I really should photograph, but this is the only Travelette of this generation that I've seen in person. If it were mine I'd source a rear bumper and put on a full set of the black steelies that are on the rear wheels. Though I doubt I'd ever own one, because I don't haul giant things and parallel parking is hard enough already. Different strokes for different folks!

Monday, January 19, 2015

San Francisco Street Sighting - 1951 Pontiac Chieftain DeLuxe Eight

I mentioned a couple of years ago that Bernal Heights is an unusual area full of unusual old cars, and that curiously it seems to be home to a lot of vintage Pontiacs. I've found a rat-rod '51 sedan and a beautifully restored '54 Chieftain there, and most recently this unrestored survivor '51 Chieftain DeLuxe.

The '51 Pontiacs marked the brand's 25th anniversary and the company celebrated by bumping up the horsepower rating of the straight-eight engine from 106 to 116. Models mostly carried over from the 1950 model year, with a mild facelift and revised chrome trim. Pontiac did a fair job of disguising the car's Chevrolet roots with their Silver Streak styling motif. This Chieftain is a highly optioned example with a lot of factory dress-up pieces including the Protection Group (front, rear and corner bumper guards) and the Appearance Group (chrome fuel door guard, fender skirts, exhaust deflector and deluxe translucent plastic Indian head hood ornament). The exterior side mirror, windshield visor, turn signals and back-up lights imply the Basic Group, Comfort Group and Convenience Group have all been checked on the options list. On a car like this, you could opt any or all of the accessories individually if desired. I miss the days of crazy option and accessory lists, when you didn't have to pick one or two packages of stuff or be limited by one package's exclusion of something else that you wanted. This car hails from the Midwest originally, and still carries its dealership sticker from Mainline Motor Company of Grand Island, Nebraska. This must have been a really sharp-looking car in its day. The trim has oxidized and the original paint is failing, but the body still appears solid. I'd like to at least see the trim re-chromed before it starts getting holes in it. The wheelcovers are in great condition, making me wonder if they're a replacement set. Either way, this is a beautiful car with amazing patina and a lot of potential.