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January 13, 2013

Die-Cast: Auto World Funny Cars

by Mark Savage

L.A. Hooker, Don Garlits dragsters flat out racy

The L.A. Hooker flopper's body features a stunning paint job.

The L.A. Hooker flopper’s body features a stunning paint job.

Everything in the racing world just seemed better in the 1970s, and in the drag racing world Funny Cars were the rage. They looked, well, funny, sort of like souped up street cars with a LOT longer hoods and a giant air scoop sticking out of the windshield.

For race fans, these were full-sized Hot Wheels cars with monster nitro-powered engines that made them fly (sometimes, literally) down drag strips. Like any racing series, the NHRA Funny Cars had its legends, including machines like the Hawaiian, L.A. Hooker, Bounty Hunter and Big Daddy Don Garlits, who made a name for himself in a variety of dragsters through the years.

Here, Round 2’s Auto World brand comes with a new series, Legends of the Quarter Mile, including all of the aforementioned. Our review floppers (a common nickname) were the L.A. Hooker and Garlits machines. Back in the day these dragsters had fiberglass bodies fashioned to at least somewhat reflect the street models’ appearance. The L.A. Hooker machine was made to resemble a 1971 Mustang and the Garlits machine a ’71 Dodge Charger.

Dave Condit drove the Hooker Mustang and later won the 1974 World Funny Car Finals, while the team, appropriate to the car’s name, was based in Southern California. Condit and his brothers ran and worked on L.A. Hooker and are cousins to John Force, a 15-time Funny Car champ. Condit died in 2011.

Gary Bolger drove the black Garlits/Bud Richter Charger in ’71. The car had started with a Mustang body, but switched when Chicago area Dodge dealers backed the team. However, it only ran part of the season before the deal fell apart and the team put its Gold Digger Mustang body back on the racer.

The Low Down

No matter the history, these wild looking dragsters are simply way cool to look at, whether their plastic bodies are propped open to see the innards, or if you leave the body down. Auto World uses more than 150 parts here and it’s obvious, the majority of those parts go into the engines, suspensions and die-cast chassis.

Auto World recreates the blossy black Don Garlits funny car.

Auto World recreates the blossy black Don Garlits funny car.

These are solid models due to the metal chassis, but feel light because the bodies are molded in plastic to reflect the look of the real car’s fiberglass bodies, which kept the cars weights to a minimum when racing. The Hooker body is a gorgeous metallic red and orange with a giant white Coca-Cola decal on the rear window. While the Garlits machine is a glossy black with red, white, black and gray roof that appears airbrushed like the original.

Both cars have rubber Goodyear labeled slicks and attractive chrome wheels. In back are small wheelie bars with wheels that rotate too. Inside is the stark dragster cockpit with long steering column and tiny steering wheel and the low-slung racer’s seat and seat belts. Yes, there are a couple red fire extinguishers too.

Yet it’s the giant supercharged engines that are the real heroes here with a giant air scoop sticking out of the windshield and with full plumbing and wiring. There are plug wires, injector lines, fuel lines and both throttle and steering linkage that are well executed. These models display well.

Or if you prefer to leave them in the 3-window box the cars come in for display, there’s a window on the bottom to reveal the highly detailed undercarriage. The boxes themselves are impressive, with timing tree lights on top, along with a photo of the real dragster in action, plus an historical photo collage on the back panel.

What’s not to like?

Not much. These are priced at $89.99, so well below many 1:18 die-cast cars with this much engine detail. Plus Funny Cars are fairly rare models in the die-cast world, so it’s fun to see something different, and so well executed.

FAST Stats: Legends of the Quarter Mile: L.A. Hooker, Don Garlits

Maker: Round 2 (Auto World)

Scale: 1:18

Stock No.: AW1106 (Hooker) AW1107 (Garlits)

MSRP: $89.99 (each)

Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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