Tag Archives: hardtop

Die-cast: Auto World 1961 Pontiac Catalina Hardtop

1:18 scale Catalina a long, lean hot rod …

Ah, the Catalina. The name alone seemed exotic and somehow a bit sexy in the 1960s. But that was during a time when cars had names that stirred imaginations and were not just known by a collection of numbers or letters.

Pontiac was rife with great names during its long run, Bonneville, Firebird, Chieftain, Parisienne, Ventura, Silver Streak, Tempest, Star Chief, and Le Mans, to name a few.

Catalina was a big player and the name hung around for years. Now Auto World creates a 1961 version of the hardtop model and it’s up to AW’s usual fine standards.

The History

It wasn’t until 1959 that the Catalina was offered as its own standalone model, basically a low-cost starter Pontiac if you will. But it was restyled for 1961 and placed on an all-new frame known as the Torque Box. Sounds like it should be fast, right? That replaced the old X frame and one could argue this is when Pontiacs starting becoming lower, longer and wider. Remember the old advertising line, “wide-track Pontiacs?”

For 1961 Pontiac went with the lean long look that it stuck with for years, think Bonneville and Parisienne! The roofs also were squared off and the split grille returned and remained a styling cue for years. That included a somewhat pointed nose and hood. I always thought the split grille as cool as a BMW nose. But then I liked Edsels too.

Naturally speed was vital to car sales in the 1960s and Pontiac and Oldsmobile also were well regarded for their race results in the new burgeoning NASCAR series.

Catalina featured a number of V8 power plants, all based off its 389 cu.in. engine (modeled here) and linked to various transmissions, including manual ones with floor-mounted shifters. There was a four-barrel carb model creating 333 horsepower, plus a Tri-Power option with higher compression to make 348 horses, and another for drag racers with 363 horses. Near the end of 1961 a dealer-installed 421 cu.in. Super Duty V8 became available too.

               For the record these big boys rode on a 119-inch wheelbase and were 210 inches long. Think current SUVs. Six styles were offered, including a convertible and station wagon. AW models the 2-door hardtop, which looks a little sportier with no B-pillar.

               At auction today the average sale price of a ’61 Catalina is a little more than $39,000, but a perfect one, the auction sites say, could go for $99 grand.

The Model

               As with other AW 1:18 die-cast models the doors, hood and trunk open and the somewhat sparkly Richmond Gray is perfectly applied.

               One of the features that shines on all these 1950s and 1960s models is the chrome as the bumpers, window trim, wiper arms, radio antenna, door handles and the styling accent strip on the car are chrome. The nose and tail Pontiac emblems are well executed and Oldsmobile is spelled out on the rear panel below the 3-body trunk and between the snazzy red oval taillights with silver trim.

               Headlights are clear, but textured and the grille silver with black between the strakes for definition. Oh, and there are those little chrome winglets that extend vertically from the front fenders. Fun!

               Under that massive hood is a turquoise to baby blue V8 engine block and headers, three chrome carbs and plenty of black wiring and plumbing. The radiator cap and battery terminals are painted silver and there’s a caution label on the protrusion over the fan.

Good looking engine and under-hood detail here.

               Tires are treaded white sidewalls with no branding and at least one of the tires whitewalls was misprinted slightly. Matte chrome hubcaps feature a flat center cap with Pontiac Motor Division printed on it.

               Inside the interior here is a somewhat sparkling rusty red with white door trim panels and stripes across the seat backs, adding flamboyance to the big two-door’s interior. There’s also a cue-ball shifter on the center console, a chrome and red two-stalk steering wheel with chrome horn ring and three black pedals (including a clutch) on the floor. AW finished off the floor with a medium brown flocking to look like carpet and a rust-colored floor mat for the driver.

Giant cue ball shifter lets you know this Catalina is ready to rock!

               The dash is Grand Canyon wide and features a silver center portion with wide black and white speedometer, a radio and Catalina printed on the passenger-side dash. Buttons are silver and the door release levers and window knobs are chrome, plus the rear seat armrests include silver ashtrays.

That’s one wide dash with a lot of chrome!

               Catalina’s undercarriage is completely detailed too with fine drivetrain and suspension detailing including shocks. Plus there’s a matte silver twin exhaust system and mufflers along with steerable front wheels. Nice detail that even pricier composite models often skip entirely.

               All this and pricing still in the $115 range while the composites have grown to upwards of $200, or more if there’s a detailed engine. AW’s die-cast remains high value at an affordable price.

Like that Poncho license plate and the Pontiac name spread out on the tail.

               Just a final note that AW made a 1962 Catalina previously and it’s still available through the AW online store, autoworldstore.com.            

Vital Stats: 1961 Pontiac Catalina

Maker: Auto World
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: AM1254/06
MSRP: $115.99

Link: Autoworldstore.com

NEO’s 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

Often overlooked ’56 Chevy Bel Air gets its due …NEO's 1956 Chevy Bel Air

Whose family didn’t own a 1950s Chevy when the entire country was seeing the U.S.A. from their Chevrolet?

Our family had a green 1955 Chevy 210, the mid-level model that ultimately became the Biscayne. That car ran forever and was still an attractive hardtop (ok, a little rust) when we traded it for a white Plymouth Valiant convertible in 1963. Now NEO creates a two-tone 1956 Bel Air, a sharp two-door hardtop.

This was the second generation Bel Air and was considered a premium Chevy model.  So popular was it that the Bel Air was built at six Chevy plants across North America. Some were even made in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Sales were stellar, keeping Chevrolet American’s No. 1 brand.

The History

After launching a restyled model for 1955 that was an overwhelming success, Chevy mildly restyled the 1956 model to replace what was known as the Ferrari grille with a full-width one that was more conventional at the time. Likewise the wheel wells were tapered for a more graceful appearance and the taillights were altered to include jet-like protrusions so popular on all cars of the day. Chevy also hid the gas cap inside the left fin, as it had on some Cadillacs.NEO's 1956 Chevy Bel Air

Wisely Chevy created a sharp two-tone version, as in the sample here, with the roof, rear deck and top of the rear quarter panels being painted in an accent color. Here it’s white to offset the dark red to near purple of the car’s nose and lower portions. The model’s color is closest to the original Dusk Plum offered in 1956. Continue reading NEO’s 1956 Chevrolet Bel Air

Die-cast: NEO’s1961 Chrysler Newport Wagon

NEO’s Chrysler Newport touts edgy styling …1961 Chrysler Newport wagon

There are some relatively obscure cars from the 1950s and early 1960s that just don’t get their due from die-cast car makers, even though these vehicles are stellar examples of that era’s radical styles.

Now NEO has created a 1961 Chrysler Newport wagon that highlights some of that edgy styling with modified tailfins and an artistic use of chrome side trim. This is another of NEO’s sharp looking 1/43-scale resin models of this exciting era in U.S. car design.

 

The History

Cars were big in the early 1960s as families were growing (remember the Baby Boom?) and station wagons were needed to haul all those kids around, like minivans today. But not all parents wanted to tool around in a boring box. So Virgil Exner and his Chrysler design team came to the rescue!1961 Chrysler Newport wagon

Continue reading Die-cast: NEO’s1961 Chrysler Newport Wagon

BoS 1957 Buick Century Caballero Estate Wagon

Resin Buick Century shows wagons could be stylishwagon2

Remember when cars were interesting? Remember fins, and chrome and giant grilles and wide white-sidewall tires? Remember when cars weren’t just initials and numbers and hyphens? Remember two-tone cars?

I do, and if you’re of a certain age you’ll recall hardtop wagons that were almost as sleek and exciting as regular hardtops, like the 1957 Buick Century. Well, BoS-Models has re-created a beautiful Century wagon, the Caballero Estate Wagon in 1/18 scale. The resin sealed body review model was a stunning metallic light blue over cream.

The History

The Caballero hardtop wagon was only made for two years, 1957 and 1958 with only 14,642 sold during that period, so it’s a rarity in the vintage car world. Today, some sell at auction for more than $100,000. No wonder, the car is a knockout.1957 Buick Century wagon

It’s special because of its beautiful lines, and lack of a B-pillar, as in any hardtop, gives it a clean, sleek look. Its two-tone paint job enhanced by the sweeps of chrome along its sides and around its windows gave it a streamlined appearance compared to the standard boxy wagon. Continue reading BoS 1957 Buick Century Caballero Estate Wagon

NEO’s 1959 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Hardtop

Oldsmobile 98 was a land yacht, but in 1:43 scale it’s just right …NEO's 1959 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Hardtop, Cadillac, 1:43 scale

Cars used to be boats, as in they were so long that some folks called them land yachts.

Case in point, the 1959 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Hardtop … size, etc. and riding on a monster 126.3-inch wheelbase. That’s just a bit shy of today’s Chevrolet Suburban. No wonder the 5 kids fit so well in the back seat and the trunk carried luggage for a family of seven or eight.

NEO recreates the lengthy Ninety-Eight in all its chrome-trimmed glory in 1/43 scale and for a modest price, considering the inflation in small collector car prices the last couple years.

The History1959 Olds, Oldsmobile, 98, Ninety Eight, Buick, Cadillac

The Ninety-Eight was Oldsmobile’s largest, and finest car, sharing its looks with the next model down, the Eighty Eight. Olds had four models in its Ninety Eight line-up, but the hardtop (meaning no B-pillar) was the looker of the bunch. All were related to other top GM models, the Cadillac Eldorado, Sixty Special, Deville and Series 62, plus Buick’s big boy, the Electra.

The Olds models featured power air scoop brakes, Jetaway Hydramatic transmission, power steering, a Safety spectrum speedometer, rocker panel moldings, and clock. Power came from a 394 cu.in. 6.5-liter, Rocket V8. You gotta love any engine called a Rocket V8! Continue reading NEO’s 1959 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Hardtop

2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club

Miata still sets a high bar for sports car marketmiata

When it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! Mazda’s designers and brain trust have shown great wisdom to follow that axiom with the Miata sports car.

For 25 years now the MX-5 Miata has made its mark by NOT changing much. There have been tiny body styling tweaks and interior tucks and thankfully the horsepower grew from 116 originally to 167 today. But Miata has remained true to its original design and purpose, being a lightweight, superb handling sports car with enough pep to put a perpetual smile on a driver’s face.

Soon Mazda will unveil a new Miata, and we’ll hope the designers still don’t break what isn’t broken. But for now we can relish in the fun and modest price tag the current model embodies.

Two years have passed since I last drove a Miata and reading back over that review I couldn’t find anything I’d disagree with from the most current drive. Here’s my latest synopsis.

miata1The “true red” test car was the mid-level Club model with a black power hardtop. That means it’s a convertible, but the hardtop keeps it quieter inside than the standard cloth top. Naturally you pay more, but Miata is still a value-minded roadster. The base Sport model with soft top lists at $24,515 with delivery and the tested Club with hardtop was $29,460, with delivery. Moving up to the Grand Touring hardtop pushes the sticker to $31,345. Continue reading 2014 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club