Our final round of incredible 1:24 scale drag racer model kits.
The late ’60s and early ’70s was not just a great era for drag racing, it was also a great era for model car kits. Coincidence? Nope. Funny Cars and Pro Stockers were injecting more excitement into an already exhilarating corner of motorsports, and model manufacturers were issuing bookshelf-sized versions (or imaginative interpretations) of our favorite race cars faster than we could collect enough paper route money to spend on them. Kids weren’t the only ones building models, but models gave kids the chance to be hot rodders.
This is the third and final installment of Steve Magnante’s profile on some of the coolest models (and coolest box art) from that time period, with examples provided by collector and historian Mark Lewis. Magnante’s article was originally published in Elapsed Times magazine.
Our three-part encore edition of that article started right here a few weeks ago with Classic ’60s Model Car Box Art Part 1, examining 10 of Magnante and Lewis’ favorite kits. We continued the momentum in Part 2 with another 10-car field of cool 1:24 scale models. Today we’re crossing the finish line with the last batch of fantastic plastic drag cars, highlighting what made them cool and popular when they were originally introduced, and what has kept them that way for 50 years.—Hot Rod magazine
Javelin/AMX Super Funny Car
In our previous model box story, we showed you Jo-Han’s Stinger AMC Hornet FC kit from 1970. The following year brought more AMC love from Jo-Han. The Javelin/AMX Super Funny Car model (kit C-110-200) appeared in 1971 and could only be built as such. It shared its unmodified body shell with Jo-Han’s release of the showroom stock ’71 AMX model, and while the Logghe tube-frame chassis was nearly identical to the frame supplied in the ’69 AMX Funny Car kit, the ’71 chassis had a longer wheelbase to suit the second-gen AMX’s inclusion of a back seat (the real AMX’s wheelbase grew from 97 to 110 inches in 1971).
1955 Chevy Nomad Gasser
The AMT Wompin’ Wagon ’55 Nomad C/Gasser of 1966 (kit 2755-200) is one of our favorite model kit boxes of all time. The chrome straight-axle, ladder bars, blanked-out headlights, and buried Moon tank are simply perfect. The kit was based loosely on the real-world Wompin’ Wagon D/MP (Modified Production, category D) of Brooks & Wagers, but AMT took liberties with its rendering, the most obvious difference being a change in color from silver to yellow.
1971 Ramchargers Challenger
In the early ’70s, MPC complemented its line of Pro Stockers with a series of popular fuel Funny Cars. The ’71 Ramchargers Challenger (kit 1-0744-225) is one of the most coveted. Molded in white and red plastic, it’s a tasty kit, despite a major flaw shared with the rest of the MPC series. Rather than tool-specific, stretched Funny Car bodies, MPC elected to recycle the stock body shell used in its muscle-car kits and pre-assembled dealer-promo models. Sharp eyes will notice the box cover photo has been retouched to shorten the front fenders and reduce the wheelbase, thereby justifying the stock Challenger body shell found within. Builders will be happy to know the Challenger FC kit was recently re-released by the Model King, albeit without the royalty-triggering Ramchargers decals and box markings.
Schumacher Stardust 1970 Hemi ‘Cuda Funny Car
Another member of the dimensionally flawed but still very desirable MPC Funny Car series of the early ’70s, the ’70 Schumacher Stardust Funny Car model (kit 1-0743-225) displays still more box art retouching to justify the showroom stock ’70 Hemi ‘Cuda body shell inside. Note the reduced wheelbase and Shaker hoodscoop. In real life, Don’s stretch-nose ‘Cuda had a flat hood, but since the MPC ‘Cuda body was molded with an integrated Shaker, the box photo was changed for agreement.
Mr. Unswitchable GTO Funny Car
MPC predicted big sales in 1967, when it funded tooling for the Dick Jesse Mr. Unswitchable GTO Funny (kit number unknown). Mr. Unswitchable featured its own chopped and stretched body shell. Patterned after Jesse’s real-life exhibition match-racer, the kit includes a 6-71 supercharged 421 Super Duty engine, a tube chassis, and a re-creation of the wild, tire-smoke collection ducts employed on the real car. Though the real one got a ton of attention from car magazines (there’s a full feature in the January 1967 issue of Car Craft), its racing career was brief, and MPC never re-released the kit, a sure sign it wasn’t very popular when new.
The AMT CheZOOOM Corvair arrived in 1969 and paid homage to a pair of Chevrolet match-race icons. First, the striped roof-paint scheme is a close copy of the treatment applied to Pete Seaton’s orange, black, and white Super Shaker ’68 Corvair Funny Car, and second, the CheZOOOM name is just a letter away from the CheVoom moniker applied to Maynard Rupp’s bright-yellow ’66 Chevelle. Mechanically, AMT designers (probably unwittingly) also copied the mid-engine layout of Rupp’s Chevelle. We say unwittingly because the AMT gang placed the Corvair body atop the same mid-engine chassis used under the Hurst Hemi Under Glass ’66 Barracuda wheelstander kit (but with a Chevy 427 in place of the 426 Hemi). This was probably done more to amortize tooling than emulate Rupp’s machine. A detail worth pointing out is how box-art illustrator Larry Champine installed himself as the “driver” of this fictional fueler (see his name on the door). As a dedicated Funny Car kit (there were no stock or custom build options) the CheZOOOM has never been re-released.
1968 Chevy Impala SS427
The illustration on the box of the AMT ’68 Impala SS427 Shut Down Shaker, another Art Schrank masterpiece, combines drag race cues (L-88 hood, sponsor decals, American Racing mags, Red Line tires) and custom cues (rolled front valance panel, blacked-out grille, shaved door handles, high-back bucket seats) in a way rarely seen in real life. But isn’t that the beauty of model cars? Anything goes.
1968 Camaro SS396
We’re digging the little details on the box-art illustration for the MPC ’68 Camaro SS396 Hardtop model (kit 1568-200). The hideaway headlamps tell us it’s also a Z-28 Rally Sport, while the stock SS hood has been wonderfully violated by a phalanx of Hilborn injector stacks artfully covered by a clear plexiglass dome. Inside, the bright yellow rollbar builds the no-nonsense race theme, but the best part is how the passenger seat has been eliminated. Part of what MPC kit collectors call the “license plate series” (because of how the model year is presented on the cover), the kit’s release was timed to coincide with the release of the real ’68 Camaro.
1959 Chevy El Camino
010-ELAPSED TIMES MODEL BOXES PART 3
Let’s drool together over the AMT Shaker Engineering ’59 El Camino model (kit 2359-200) of 1967. Mark Lewis: “This is one of my all-time favorite boxes, for sure. The kit builds phenomenally, has steering front wheels, can be built stock, custom, or drag, and has a ton of great extra parts. The blanked-out low-beams just kill me.” The second issue of this often re-released kit, it represents a desirable 348 tri-power, four-speed El Camino (1959 was the first year for optional factory-installed four-speeds in fullsize Chevy cars), and that’s the stock build configuration. The race version includes a supercharged Caddy 390, which explains the trio of header primary tubes; early Caddy V-8 heads had siamesed center exhaust ports.