Perspective is a powerful thing, especially in hindsight. Case in point: In the late 1970s and early 1980s, despite being rocked by a suitcase full of oil crises, corporate mileage mandates, and federal insurance and air pollution regulations, Detroit’s product planners and stylists somehow managed to keep the cars coming – and even made some look good.
Luxury was still in demand, and though their days were numbered, the full-sized Cadillacs and Lincolns remained relatively large, even if the planet-sized V8s that once pulled them around had been replaced by thriftier units. That wasn’t as easy at it sounds for Cadillac, who used GM-sourced V6 and V8 powerplants in place of the bespoke 472- and 500cid behemoths that had once moaned under their long hoods. Though a transplanted Buick-designed 4.1 V6 and a V8 with the same displacement were decent motors, the thought of a Buick or Chevy engine in a Caddy didn’t sit well with the buyers.
Things got worse in a hurry when an early attempt at fuel saving cylinder-cancelling technology brought forth the execrable 368cid V8, which GM called the “V8-6-4”. Those who bought it or had to wrench it called it other things. Despite a record thirteen revisions to its operating system, the engine never really caught on (except the occasional fire), and its mention still causes eye tics among the Goodwrench crowd. The motor mambo was slightly easier for Lincoln. Since no one was drag racing, anyway, the lux-level Blue Oval simply said b’bye to its 400 and 460 V8s, and engaged electronically controlled V8 302s and 351s in its full sized cars.
Most remarkably, the cars all survived into the ‘eighties still looking like Caddys and Lincolns, with comfort to spare. Cadillac survived a 1977 downsizing with its formal rooflines looking sharp atop a leaner, more creased body. GM’s luxury brand even regained some of its reputation as a technology leader by installing enough interior-mounted electronic gadgetry and dashboard indicator lights to keep a sub commander happy.
Lincoln, who had lopped off over 800 pounds and more than a few inches in 1980 by jumping onto FoMoCo’s “Panther” platform, kept its Rolls-Royce grille and C-pillar opera windows, even adding a one-year-only iteration of the Mark VI with four doors. It wasn’t the techno-showpiece that the Caddy was, but it managed to sell well to loyal customers. American luxury had gone to the trenches, survived a serious blow, and had started to rebound.
Lux Americana, in Scale
With that bit of history – and perspective – on the table, it’s hard not to smile when considering these 1:43 models from NEO. The little barges arrived here by way of the Dutch company’s Stateside retail arm, American Excellence. Sure, we dig the patriotic name – and the fact that this in-country arrangement will make the cars all the more accessible to the Yanks who want them – but it’s the subject matter that had us at “hello”.1:43, in particular well done resin-bodied models, has long been the turf of European cars, and NEO debuted on these shores with just that fare, including well regarded Audis, Amphicars, Saabs, and Mercedes specialties, all of which were very nicely done and fairly priced. So, we were happy to hear the company’s plans to roll out a veritable fleet of well-chosen American luxury and near-luxury cars. Happy? More like blown away. Knowing that American collectors would probably feel as we did, we couldn’t wait to see the finished pieces.
Well, the models are here, and they’re gorgeous. High density resin bodies are beautifully put up with sharp edges and crisp panel lines, then painted in deep, finely flecked metallics that read as very close to scale correct. Photo etch is everywhere; in the window trims all around, the rocker panels, the grilles, and even the wee (and we do mean wee) – ornaments affixed to the cars’ noses. More of the stuff is built into the elaborate wheel covers and wheels on both cars, and the added sparkle and scale visual makes the whitewall-equipped models all the more jewel-like.
Thanks to flat, clear windows all around, the cabins on both cars are easy to visit, and incredibly deep in their detail, right to the chrome-trimmed wood grain dash and door panels, the A/C vents, and the map pockets, grab handles, and arm rests on the seats and doors. The steering wheels on both look amazing – they’re scale-correct, with detailed centers – and the overall effect, beneath full, seamed headliners and visor detailing, is one of utter completeness. They haven’t missed a note.
Well, maybe below: the models are built atop bare belly pans, and only those elements that impact the cars’ profiles, like exhaust pipes or chin spoilers, get built in, or painted up. Deal breaker? No. The cars come secured in nicely done, clear-topped cases, anyway, and what’s going on topside is world-class in its depth and its execution.
Aside from a slightly skewed front wheel on the Caddy and a tweaked marker light on the Lincoln’s leading edge, these pieces have the look and feel of quality. They’re delicate – almost extremely so – exquisitely detailed, and seem to have been cobbled up by a crew that knows exactly where to put their best effort. Future plans include some inspired choices – Buicks, Pontiacs, Cadillacs, Lincolns, and more – and we can’t help but think that these models, and this company, will do much to get many American collectors to start investing in this scale.
Sounds like NEO and American Excellence have a good perspective.