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     Fun: Johnny Lightning Die Cast Collectibles From Playing Mantis
    Our Favorite Toys
    When Playing Mantis picked up the Johnny Lightning Logo in 1993, I did not have a lot of hope for survival of this fledgling toy company. The Johnny Lightning trademark had been abandoned by the Topper Toy Company after 1971. Johnny Lightning could not survive the competition from Mattel Hot Wheels and Lesney Matchbox Superfast models. They had a few interesting models, but they were difficult to find and did not hold up well in play.

    Playing Mantis began producing castings somewhat resembling both old Johnny Lightning models and old Hot Wheels redline models. They scored a real hit when they produced a Sky Show El camino glider launcher. At the time this was one of the rarest of the rare Hot Wheels collectibles.

    Later in the 1990’s, they began producing some really cool new models like the American Heros police collection. These are very realistic castings of American police and fire chief cars. They all have zinc metal bottom plates and great details. The prices are higher comparably $2.00 to $3.00 vs. 88 cents to $1.00 for to Matchbox and Hot Wheel cars. It seems hard to take, but given that Matchboxes cost 55 cents in 1969, this is about the proper pocket money cost, given the inflation rate. The value has gone right out of the Hot Wheels and Matchboxes. They are just about reduced to junk toy level, or as Lesney corporation would have described them: “Christmas Cracker trash”.

    Lately, I have been snapping up many cool models. Among them are some very nice renditions of the 1966 and 1967 Ford Fairlanes. I had to have all of these as I once owned a refrigerator white 1966 Ford Fairlane 500/XL:

    • 1966 Ford Fairlane GT in navy blue chrome with opeing hood and rubber tires
    • 1966 Ford Fairlane four door in light yellow, rubber tires
    • 1967 Ford Fairlane 500/XL in metallic blue, opening hood
    • 1967 Ford Fairlane four door in gold, rubber tires - Johnny Lightning Hollywood on Wheels (Dragnet)

    Playing Mantis have also come out with some cool new year models and emergency vehicles. The 5 car search and rescue pack is awesome. It has a 1968 blue Ford Bronco beach patrol car along with a 1999 Ford F-450 tow truck. A GMC Ambulance, Chevy Caprice fire chief and 1981 Crown Victoria police car round it out. I even picked up the 5 car Volkswagen pack. It has a Kharman Ghia and a Beetle “Feuerwehr” car.

    One other model caught my eye and jogged my memory. Today I saw a 1979 Pontiac Firebird in metallic blue. I had to buy it. In 1979 I had a very close schoolmate whose dream car this was. It was not only this model year, and Trans Am model, but also this specific blue color. After school was out in 1979, I ended up changing schools, and never saw my friend again. Five years later, I learned that he had died in a car accident. I guess that he never did get his dream car. So today, I am reliving the other part of our mutual desire for this car. I am imagining us peeling up to the school in this car. We are lobbing water balloons and smoke bombs at our most disliked teacher. Then we are peeling off again over the horizon laughing all the way.

    Here is to you Alan.
    Posted on Sunday, April 17, 2005 @ 02:57:26 UTC by BB
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