One of my favorite episodes of Fast N’ Loud on Discovery channel is when Richard Rawlings and his friend Dennis Collins (who is also a big Jeep guy) go look at a Shelby Mustang they are looking to buy only to find more Mustangs, one of the Dennis describes as a unicorn. It was one of just a handful made with the exact options he explained. A car that could potentially generate a HUGE return on their investment, in the tens of thousands of dollars. The same situation is true of the plastic promotional model cars only the money is not quite as big. Continue reading Unicorn Promo Models→
As a kid my first promo model was a pink ’63 VW Bug. I had my eye on this at the local hobby shop for the longest time lusting over it although I doubt at age five I knew what lust was. Dad said is was mine if I would give up dragging around my blanket, yup just like Linus from Peanuts. Tough but I did it for my first promo model and the rest is history. I bet I’m not alone either touching up promo models or redoing them the exact paint code. Dad brought home lots of them when he went to work for American Motors in 1963. I didn’t have to give anything up when those started rolling in the door and I had boxes of them. Most promo model cars will come in the colors that their big brothers were painted in like this rare red 1970 AMX that I have in my collection. Sure AMC made a red AMX in 1970 but this color is more of an approximate, not exact color match. I must have painted and detailed lots of them but none to the detail I have seen on the auction sites. Continue reading Exactly like your car down to the paint code→
Bet I could count on one hand the amount of guys who never played with model cars growing up. We had them because there was a connection. Our parents, relative, or the guy down the street had one. Yup, he was the cool guy. We smashed them, burned them, and blew them up. Boy did I get busted for that one. Of course we did have special ones that never went out of our bed rooms like your first one. Remember it? I remember mine and it wasn’t a Rambler. I was probably about five or six. Dad and I had an HO train layout so we made several trips to the local hobby shop growing up in Madison, WI. to get more stuff. There it was, the shiny bright object before I even knew about shiny bright objects! It was a promo model car and dad knew I wanted it but I would have to do one thing first. OK, I’m giving a deep dark secret here. Like Linus, from Peanuts, I had this blanket that, well I sucked on. Hey I was a kid. So I gave it up. Yup, I wanted it that bad. Now you’re wondering what was the car? You would never guess in a million years! Wait for it…..an early 60’s Volkswagen Beetle, and it was pink. An early view of my softer side:) As I picked up on how this whole deal worked, I was giving up all kinds of promo models for doing stuff my parents wanted me to do and I made them think it was their idea.
Look ma, no hands!
Just the other day I was “just looking” on eBay and came across another early car I had that let me run it around with a remote control. This 1958 Ford Hardtop made by AMT was exactly like it. Took two D batteries and you could run it forward and backwards and turn it left and right. Hey this was the technology of the day. One of my relatives must have given it to me as a gift at one time, this one went for 140 bucks recently on eBay while this red 57′ sold for 99 bucks. But I also had one even cooler than that, a 1958 Skyliner that retracted the top just like the real one back into the decklid. Couldn’t find one but it was exactly the color of the real deal here only nowhere near as complicated.
The Skyliner was the only true hardtop convertible in the world when it was introduced in 1957. The top came down with a touch of a button but that was the simple part. To get the top into the deckle took three roof drive motors driving four lift jacks, four door-lock motors, ten solenoids, and four locking mechanisms for the roof. 610 feet of wiring made sure all that stuff was talking to each other. A good example is hard to find and when one is it will take about $75,000 to take it home. Too rich for me. I’m going to keep looking for the model I once had. Give me a shout if you find one.
I love American Motors’ products. Part of my sickness comes from my dad working for the company. Sure they had the clunkers but also had some cool cars. Dad brought home tons of stuff and now it’s time to thin things out a bit.
My collection includes full-line catalogues mostly from the 70’s and 80’s. Dad would bring them home, I’d page through them and throw them in a box. I even have some super-rare Press Kits.
My promo model collects has a little bit of everything. What I’m offering up are a couple of Javelins, AMX’s, and an Ambassador still with the hood ornament on it. Rare. So check out this micro site I put up and then let’s talk.
I remember when the Chevy Citation was introduced by General Motors in 1980. This X-body car was Chevy‘s front wheel drive car. Because of the transverse mounted engine, no transmission hump, it had tons of interior space. My experience comes from working at two TV stations where the news department bought entire fleets of Citations. Those entire fleets sometimes spent more time in the shop than gathering the news. I was on a trip from Green Bay to Indianapolis to cover the 500, and on our way back, the clutch gave out just south of Chicago. So it was rush hour, on a Friday, a tow truck comes along, cha-ching, a couple hundred bucks, then tows us to a transmission shop, cha-ching, more hundred bucks. Luckily the shop had a hotel right across from it because we were going to have to stay overnight. So when I get back, this is good, you’ll like this, I hand in my expense account in and the bean counter questions the towing charge, ah, hello, you don’t make deals with tow trucks on the Illinois Tollway at rush hour, and then about the bill for the new clutch. So again, hello, no clutch, no car, so were my photographer and I supposed to push the car from shop to shop? Jeez, these guys. Don’t they know that sometimes you’re in a situation where there is no cheap?
Kind of got off topic there, back to the Citation. It was built to try to fight back the Japanese cars like the Honda Accord, still alive and kicking, and the Volkswagen Dasher, not around anymore. The Citation had through the roof sales its first year and the production lines were unable to keep up with the demand, causing huge delays in delivery to customers, some waiting nine months to receive their vehicle. Can you believe waiting nine months for a car? Well maybe a special one but not this one. First-year sales were more than 800,000, good enough for No. 1 among cars sold in the United States.
The automotive press loved it…but then didn’t
Car and Driver magazine named the Citation their 1980 Car of the Year but there was skullduggery a foot. Turns out that GM provided the writers with specially modified versions of the X-body vehicles in which the often noted torque steer (famous for) had been engineered out. Patrick Bedard of Car and Driver later admitted that they were completely surprised when they later drove a production version. In an article in 2009, the magazine put the Citation on their 10 Most Embarrassing Award Winners in Automotive History list. What a surprise, the 1983 AMC/Renault Alliance was also on the take back list. Go figure.
The reason it made the list was, because like so many other cars of that era (including AMC), were built crappy. Citation owners were having trim bits fall off in their hands, hearing their transmissions groan and seize, and the cars started rusting in a very short time. At times it seemed the suspension in some X-cars wasn’t even bolted in correctly. Because of an on-center dead spot in the steering, the ride motions grew funkier and funkier. GM tried to save the train wreck by introducing the Citation II along with the performance-enhanced Citation X-11. Chevrolet wanted to remind the car buying public that this front wheel drive newcomer was made by the same people as the Corvette and Camaro. It actually won at SCCA events running in the Showroom Stock B class. Bob McConnell drove a 1981 X-11 to SSB National Championships in 1982 and 1984. Of the 1.64 million Citation models built between 1979 and 1985, only 20,574 were in X-11 trim, meaning that surviving examples are a rare sight today.
And we’re done
GM dropped the Citation, and it’s other X-body siblings, after the 1985 model year, ultimately replaced by the L-body Berettacoupe and Corsicasedan in 1987. Better, sort of. This is a familiar car story from the 80’s, a ground-breaking car that never lived up to its billing. You have to wonder had the cars, GM’s or the other manufacturers, displayed both the initial build quality and lasting reliability of the Japanese competition, the automotive world might be very different today.
And they made a promo model
So I found this black one, an ’82, which is pretty good shape for being over 30 years old. Some minor scratches but otherwise everything was good but has little value, around 20 bucks. I suppose somebody might buy it to remind them of their time waiting in the shop. Then I found this Citation, probably a kit, and got a laugh. This guy probably hung around at the junk yards a lot. I know, I know, I’m an AMC guy so shouldn’t be throwing stones.
While that isn’t true so much anymore, it was huge in the 60’s as all the manufacturers were into racing, mostly the Trans Am series, even tiny American Motors. The Javelin had just been introduced in ’68 as AMC’s entry into the pony car category. The colors were red, white, and blue, the company’s corporate colors. AMC entered a pair of Javelins and were successful enough to unseat Ford’s Mustangs from second place in the championship, a remarkable feat given that it was AMC’s first season. This was big for the company because the pony car market was hot and they were tardy to the party with the Mustang, Camero, and Barracuda coming out about four years ahead of AMC
AMC needed to get its dealer’s involved and hosted a dealer event in Denver. I remember this because my dad had talked about it when he worked there. They gave the dealers this base white ’68 Javelin and added red and blue similar to the cars that were racing. If you look closely, they didn’t spend a lot of time in the masking department. Like the real deal, these promo models now are had to find, especially in good condition. I found this one on eBay recently sold for $177. The price due at least partially to the paint rubbed off. I have seen these go for $250 at swap meets.
Back to the real deal. For 1968 to get a red, white, and blue Jav you would order a white one and the dealer would take care of painting the red and blue. These are hard to find and if you do stumble upon one, most likely they are a clone as it was easy to do. While ’68 was a great year for the Javelins in the Trans-Am series, ’69 kind of stunk and AMC didn’t like that. So they went to Roger Penske with pretty much a blank check and said make us win. Penske wasn’t really getting paid anything from Chevy so this was a great deal and the winning would come, due mostly to the driving of Mark Donahue.
So on to 1970 with Penske/Donahue. This limited edition Trans-Am Javelin was introduced in time to promote the 1970 SCCA Trans-Am Season. Only 100 limited edition units were manufactured at AMC’s Kenosha plant, pulled from the standard production line and painted in factory Red, White & Blue to replicate the Javelin Racing team colors. They featured a high-performance 390 with factory ram-air induction, along with other fast stuff. It also included a custom Trans-Am homologated front cow-catcher and a rear adjustable “air-foil” style spoiler. Only 30+ of the original 100 cars have been discovered and are currently registered through the Trans-Am Javelin Registry. Johan did produce a 1970 Javelin, like this one I have but to my knowledge only the ’68 was done in red, white, and blue.
OK, yup I’m an AMC guy but this era was one of the best in racing history and while the read deal, according to Hagerty, will cost you about 25 grand, and good luck getting the owner to part with it. This replica pops up on eBay and you can get it for a whole lot less.
Up until this point, all of the promo models I have written about have been plastic but there are a segment of collectors who concentrate those made of metal, most of them banks. Produced mostly in the 40’s by Banthrico Company in Chicago, IL. Banthrico models painted in authentic Big Three colors and used as “paint chips” so dealers could gauge the upcoming colors on real models. These primitive promotionals included Buicks, Cadillacs, Lincolns, Packards, DeSotos, Chryslers, Dodges, Ramblers and, of course, the more common Chevrolets and Fords. Today these cars are sought after, and in mint condition can garner several hundred dollars.
I have two examples to share with you both near and dear to my heart this 49 Nash and a 50 Chevy. This Nash pictured was available only to the Nash dealer as a bonus for ordering a car. Original dealer cost for the carton of 12 promos was $12.50. What a deal. Think about it if you had bought a case or two. Bingo, lots of cash.
This other example, a 1950 Chevrolet 2 door and also close to my heart as my grandfather had one, maybe a Skyline Custom. I think it was that drab green like this one I found. They were huge sellers for Chevy, in the millions. This model is pot metal and has rubber tires, it has some paint missing but overall good.
These banks can go anywhere from$50 to several hundred dollars depending on the shape they are in. Since I have lots of the plastic promo models, I might move into the bank cars. For the good ones, it is certainly something you can bank on giving you a return. Sorry, had to throw that pun in there.
I hate to see a car company go out of business, or car line dropped, especially being such a big AMC guy. Most likely the cars they produced utilized several innovations to separate them from their competition. The rear engine Chevy Corvair, Unibody Construction by American Motors, and Electroluminescent instrument panel lighting by Chrysler. Of course there are tons of others. One that Mercury utilized was the The Breezeway window in the mid 60’s. Mercury did this in an attempt to differentiate itself from the the Fords they were based on. The thought behind the concept was that a driver would open the vents in the dashboard then the back window and have fresh air flowing through the car. Because the roof was slanted, no rain would get in. Hmmm, I’m thinking air conditioning would have worked better here.
The concept got good reviews
The automotive trades liked the Breezeway. Motor Trend pointed out in a test of a Monterey Custom sedan for its March 1963 issue, “The window has three primary advantages, all equally valuable as far as we’re concerned. There is, of course, more head room for rear seat passengers than with the window sloped in the regular manner. The window’s roof overhang provides a generous sunshade for the rear seat. … Finally, the window opens, operated by a dash control, and is very handy as a ventilation aid.” Car Life liked it too. “About the styling of the current Mercurys, we can only say that the ‘notch-back’ rear window provides the best ventilation and rearward visibility we’ve yet found on a ’63 car,” it said, but added, “It does make the rear-end appear abnormally long.”
But then they kind of mucked it up.
It did differentiate the Mercury line from the Fords but then for the 1963 model year Mercury added a more conventional-looking Marauder hardtop to the line, sharing the sleek “slantback” roof of the 1963-1/2 big Fords. The slantback roof had been introduced for the benefit of Ford’s NASCAR racers, and its appearance on the Marauder was intended to support Mercury’s own return to racing in 1963. I remember Parnelli Jones driving one at the Milwaukee Mile. Yawn…Mercury buyers weren’t blown away by the looks of the Breezeway, and Mercury’s total 1963 sales were down nearly 40,000 units from 1962; the compact and mid-size lines outsold the big Breezeway cars by a significant margin. Sales were little better the face-lifted ’64s, which deleted the four-door hardtop Breezeway in favor of a four-door version of the Marauder hardtop. Business rallied a bit for ’65 and ’66, but model-for-model sales of the full-size cars were depressing; only the four-door sedans broke into the five-figure range. Off into the sunset the Breezeway went.
A tough car to find now
On my search for Breezeway now I found the pickings slim but not expensive, mostly around 8 grand, but these would essentially be project cars and not show cars. Not that they couldn’t be and if you’re looking for that, there are some good deals. Good examples of the promotional model cars are also hard to find but of course a lot easier on the finances although not cheap. You can find plenty of restoration projects for well under $100 on the action sites and if you’re good at modeling, they would be pretty easy to fix up and maybe even take it to the next level like in this previous post.
But for you who want the car, maybe just one like you owned, or are that collector looking for that one last color be prepared to pay around 300 bucks and up. Going to one of my favorite places to shop for cars (please don’t tell my wife) is Wheat’s Nostalgia. Joe has a couple of cars up for sale. This 1964 above is one of the best examples around. Graded a 10 out of 10, just like it left the factory. Besides having the box, this one has no scratches (tough to find) no warping, chrome and class are outstanding. While your dad may have given you one like this back in 1964 and maybe paid 2 bucks for it, this one is going for $610. Think about it, 2 bucks in ’64 and 610 now. Not too bad. Joe also has (or had) a couple of other Breezeways, also 1964’s. This white one is a 9. Most collectors would be quite satisfied with a model which has this grading as it is near mint. A “9” might have some rather minor chrome rubs, re-plated original chrome, or possibly a tiny paint imperfection but nothing broken or missing. $525 and it’s yours to take home. This black one, again a hardtop, went for $315. Finding one in black is difficult. I really like the look of the 2-door hardtops. So if you’re in search for another project, there are plenty of them on eBay. No worries because there are tons of resources to help you out and you will see in the links below. If you’re stuck, shoot me the question and I’ll do my best to connect you with the people who can help make your project a perfect 10.
I love some of the cars of the late 50’s and early 60’s. Some were huge and of course there were the fins. Fins were in at the time because designers were taking their cues from the jet age. The luxury cars all had them like the Chrysler Imperial. Early on these cars were all designed by one of the legends of auto design, Virgil Exner. When he joined Chrysler, he discovered that the company’s vehicles were being styled by engineers and not by designers making the cars kind of frumpy looking.
Exner took over and frumpy was gone. General Motors and Ford were caught napping as Exner’s designs featured a lowered roofline making the cars sleeker, smoother, and more aggressive. These were really wild for the time period. The front featured featuring a swooping bumper, gaping mesh grille, giant chrome eagle, and hooded quad headlights, and tall rear fins with bullet style tail lamps with a chrome ring surrounding it. The chrome ring called a “Sparrow Strainer” an element taken from jets at the time that utilized a functional treatment meant to keep the birds out. This car looked like it had an attitude with all the chrome and extended fenders giving it the look of some big cat on the attack.
He also had some really cool design elements inside the car like a space age dashboard. No incandescent bulbs were used instead electricity running through a five-layer laminate caused the phosphorescent paint to glow in the dark. Chrysler called it “Panelescent”. With its glowing green face and red needles it looked eerie and surprisingly modern. Does this design sound familiar? Most of the new cars use updated lighting technology to achieve this look. Let’s not forget about the squared off at the top and bottom steering wheel designed for better leg room and view through the windshield in the straight ahead position. Exner was always battling the board with his designs and won until sales started to slip. The public hand grown tired of the look.
Exner out, Engel in, fins out
In 1961, Chrysler scored a coup by hiring Elwood Engel away from Ford, where he had designed the 1961 Lincoln Continental. Engel’s waisted little time making his mark on future Imperials featuring the more familiar three-box design. His first car was the ’64 and some said it looked similar in design to was thought to strongly resemble the 1961 Lincoln Continental. However, Engel used subtle curves and parallelogram angles to give the Imperial a distinct and novel look.
If you’re looking to collect the real deal, you better have deep pockets. The older ones, like the 1958 are prized possessions of collectors. This is a frame off restoration that began as a rust-free project. For cars of this era, finding a car with out it are hard to come by since they have all rusted away. There are however examples, not as good as this one, that are nice and can be bought in the mid 20’s.
Even though the promotional models don’t have to deal with rust, they too can command a decent amount of cash. I found several going for $150 but these examples, a 10 on the 10 scale 64 convertible (super rare) was going for $800 while the 62 was going for $750.
So which is my favorite designer? I would have to go with Virgil Exner just because I love the fins and that might be because I am an aviation nut.
I remember 1963 for the good stuff. My favorite band, the Beach Boys, were cranking out hits along with a new group from England. Of course I know it’s the Beatles. ’63 was also the year dad packed up the whole family and moved us from Madison, WI., to Milwaukee, WI., where dad went to work for his new employer…..wait for it….American Motors. It was also a good year for AMC since the Rambler Classic was named Motor Trend magazine’s Car of the Year. I also remember another car, non-AMC, that caught my eye. It was a ’63 Lincoln Continental Convertible with the suicide doors that one of our female neighbors drove. Maybe it was just the person driving the car but I had never ridden in a convertible. Sort of that lust thing happening here?
The ’63 was the fourth generation introduced in ’61. It might not have been because it was originally intended to be the 1961 Ford Thunderbird. The design was enlarged and slightly altered before being switched to the Lincoln line. It was the first postwar four-door convertible from a major U.S. manufacturer.
It was because the marketing guys wanted them, right?
Not exactly. “Suicide doors” date back to horse-drawn carriages and were a purely practical decision. The new Continental rode on a wheelbase of 123 inches, and the doors were hinged from the rear to ease getting in and out. When the Lincoln engineers were examining the back seats that styling had made up, the engineers kept hitting the rear doors with their feet so hinging the doors from the rear solved the problem. The doors were to become the best-known feature of 1960s Lincolns. Suicide doors were especially popular in the gangster era of the 1930s, supposedly due to the ease of pushing passengers out of moving vehicles with the feature, according to Dave Brownell, the former editor of Hemmings Motor News. The last mass-produced car model with independently opening suicide doors was the ’71 Ford Thunderbird four-door sedan. Safety concerns (the lawyers) prevented the subsequent use of such doors and some car companies have used a version when the back door won’t open until the front one is. They don’t use the term anymore. That might be a tough sales pitch. All the Lincoln’s came with huge V8’s since gas was only 29 cents a gallon then.
This generation of Continental is favored by collectors and has appeared in many motion pictures, such as Goldfinger, The Matrix, The Last Action Hero, and the Inspector Gadget films. It has also appeared on TV. Oliver Douglas, (Eddie Albert) in Green Acres owned a Lincoln Continental convertible and it is the vehicle of choice for Michael Chiklis’s character Vincent Savino in the series Vegas. I love both those shows. Watch Vegas for all the older cars in it.
In my research for this blog entry to see what they are going for now, I started out at my favorite place, Hemming’s and found the example on the left at The Auto Collections museum right off the strip in Vegas. You have to go there! Tons of cool cars and they are all for sale. Win big my friend, win big.
While the car is valued around $77 grand by the National Association of Automobile Dealers Association you can find good examples in the $40’s like this California car on the right. Ah, I can see myself in that car. Hawaiian shirt on, shorts, sunglasses and of course a cold beer.
Good examples of the promo model are hard to find and when they do show up at an auction they are not cheap. This ’63 comes from our friends at Wheat’s Nostalgia. If this isn’t a 10, it has to be pretty close. The vent window posts are there and with no cracks. Another item that will knock down the price is a missing hood ornament and this one has it. There were 27 bidders on eBay for this and it eventually sold for $233. I’m thinking if there are kids or grand kids for the new owner, it goes right into the display case. The only thing it’s missing is that female driver.