Auto World’s Ponty celebrates NASCAR’s legendary Fireball ….
There are perfect names and nicknames for race drivers, no doubt adding to their mystique and popularity.
As a kid I had two early favorites, Jim “Herk” (as in Hercules) Hurtubise and Edward Glenn “Fireball” Roberts. Herk was famous at the Indy 500 and Fireball was a legend in stock cars. Sadly, both were badly burned in racing accidents in 1964. Herk survived, Fireball did not.
I was in the stands at the 1963 Yankee 300 at Indianapolis Raceway Park cheering on Fireball, No. 22 in a Holman-Moody Ford, but unfortunately he didn’t finish. A.J. Foyt won in a Plymouth.
So I was stunned the following May when Fireball died a few days after an accident in Charlotte’s World 600 where he spun to miss two other wrecking cars, hit an inside wall and the car erupted into flames. Fire did a lot of damage, but Roberts also was asthmatic and that apparently had weakened his lungs. Still, he seemed such a tough character, it was hard to understand the loss.
Here though Auto World celebrates 1962 when Fireball won the Daytona 500 in a black and gold Pontiac prepared by Smokey Yunick. This is a 1/18 scale version of a ’62 Grand Prix reflecting the same color scheme as Roberts’ car and was one of only about 30 created by Jim Stephens Pontiac of Daytona Beach, one of Fireball’s sponsors.
1962 was Fireball’s year, although he had started racing stock cars in the late 1940s. He always was a winner. How great was he? In a 15-year career he raced in 206 stock car races, and won 33. He finished top 5 in more than half and top 10 in roughly 60%. He won the Daytona pole three times, 1961-63 and was NASCAR’s most popular driver in 1957. Later he was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990.
If you read my DC reviews you may recall Auto World released a snazzy 1961 Pontiac Catalina not long ago, and this 1962 Grand Prix is a looker too, just a bit less sleek than the Catalina. The Grand Prix has a thick, solid C pillar vs. the thin sloping one for the Catalina. Also, the chrome fender trim protrudes out to the edges of the fender over the lights here, whereas on the Catalina they are smaller and less pointed.
There are other differences too.
For instance, the side trim on the Grand Prix consists of a gold streak indented in the body’s side, whereas on the Catalina this was a raised chrome strip.
The nose is more interesting here with the dual chrome-trimmed headlights extending out into the body side panels that feature a more rounded, some might say sexier, look up. Plus the center of the hood’s nose is more pointed with chrome trim and the extended portions below the hood feature the gold trim used on the rest of the car, reflecting the look of the Roberts Daytona winner.
Taillights are totally different on the ’62, being sort of crescent moon shaped and tucked inside wide chrome trim with extensions that frame the horizontal tail trim, again accented with gold lines.
Engine detail is sharp as one expects on any Auto World car, with twin chrome carbs and headers, plus proper plumbing and hoses and a big battery too. Nifty too that the underside of the car is well detailed so you can see the bottom of the engine and all suspension and exhaust systems, consisting of twin matte silver pipes and mufflers here. Naturally the wheels are steerable.
Inside the interior is less flashy than the Catalina, with black seats and chrome trim and side hinges, and yes, the front seats will fold forward and the steering wheel turns the front wheels. That wheel has a matte silver hub and horn ring with black grips on the sides, but gold trim top and bottom.
While the dash is black with matte chrome trim everywhere, including all buttons, there also is Grand Prix spelled out in gold trim on the passenger’s side dash glove box. There’s a white cue ball shifter on the center console with chrome button on top and a giant gauge (looks like a spotlight) at the console’s front, which could be a tach or race speedometer.
Windows are chrome trimmed, including the vent windows, as are the wiper arms and blade holders. Headlights are clear but etched and taillights are red, naturally. Door handles, bumpers, rocker panel trim and a large driver’s side fender mirror also are chrome.
Hubcaps are the same design as on the Catalina, but with gold trim around the chrome hubs that have Pontiac Motor Division printed in a ring around the hubs.
There’s a fun orange and blue license up front that says GR-RRR!, with Royal printed below, while in back the green on white Michigan plate says simply, Fireball.
One note of warning if you handle your models much before displaying them. Wear a glove here because this black paint scheme is prone to showing finger smudges.
Pontiac enthusiasts should note too that AW has made both a 1961 and 1962 Pontiac Catalina and they are available through the AW online store, autoworldstore.com. Note too that this was an early release model for review and it’s not available on the AW site just yet, but will be shortly.
One final note on Fireball. His nickname didn’t come from his racing feats, but from his days as a minor league baseball pitcher. You guessed it, he had a mighty fastball, so was dubbed Fireball.
Vital Stats: 1962 Pontiac Grand Prix (Fireball Roberts edition)
Maker: Auto World
Stock No.: AM1291/06