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Chip Foose at Full Throttle

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Diecast customs have been important to collectors since 1968—you know, the year Hot Wheels hit the toy department of your local JC Penney store. When Mattel gave Harry Bradley free reign to design what was happening in real-life in terms of performance and custom trends, the diecast world was changed forever. Although at the time the leader in the industry, Matchbox lost its hold on the market and never recovered.

A few years ago, upstart Jada Toys challenged Mattel’s place on the ladder. Louis Tanahara joined the company after leaving the Hot Wheels’ design team. He envisioned cars designed with a more urban vibe—a place he felt Mattel was not yet ready to go. When Jada’s Dub City and Homies lines hit the market, the response once again shocked the industry and sent a ripple effect that is still being felt.

As Jada had done, Muscle Machines also took a run at the urban space. Maisto advanced the idea to develop several lines of slick and trick offerings. This left RC2, the other giant of diecast, to join the now crowded street of custom cars.

What RC2 needed was not just a line of custom diecast cars but a headliner—a showstopper. In the custom-car world, no one meets that requirement the way Chip Foose does. It was exactly what the doctor ordered—a blend of mass market and mass appeal. The result was the birth of the Johnny Lightning Full Throttle diecast line.

The Full Throttle line features cars, trucks and rods. The Foose line includes replicas of famous Chip Foose rods such as the Grandmaster and Impression and vehicles from his TV show “Overhaulin’.” Rock Rigs is an odd collection of monster 4×4 trucks that seem to ride on the Foose name rather than Foose design. All are available in two scales, 1:18 (actually between 1:18 and 1:20) and 1:64 (closer to 1:55).

The decision to bring Foose into the RC2 family seems like it would have been a no-brainer. After all, what’s not to like about Chip Foose? He’s truly one of the most genuine people in the automotive world. Likewise, who can dispute the integrity of RC2? A great deal of research went into finding what both wanted, and then they structured a deal that worked for both. RC2 wanted a big name, and Foose was flattered by the offer. But more than that, Chip didn’t want to be just another name in a long line of names. RC2 was ready to commit to Foose as their sole headliner. They also did a bit of extra homework to seal the deal.

Carson Lev, who handles all of Chip’s licensing programs (and now steers the Foose empire) knew that Chip had a dream car. Yes, even a guy who has seemingly done it all in the custom-car world has special dreams. While at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, Foose designed a car he called the “Hemisfear.” Despite the fact that Foose had designed and/or built many of world’s most amazing rods and customs, the Hemisfear project was never started, let alone finished. Lev knew how badly Foose wanted to build his dream car. The hangup was that Foose was involved with so many paying projects that were higher priorities, and he just didn’t have time. As part of their licensing deal, RC2 agreed to pay for the construction of the Hemisfear. In turn, the ultra-rod would become the center of the Full Throttle line. In addition, Foose Design will build a limited number of Hemisfear production rods—nearly all of which are already presold. According to DieCast X insider reports, Chip and Lynne were reading over the RC2 contract in the Foose kitchen when, with pen in hand, Chip came across the Hemisfear clause. “Hey, it says here were going to build the Hemisfear,” Chip said with great surprise; the deal was sealed.

What was of great concern to both parties was the Full Throttle line’s quality and price point. “What we wanted was superior quality at a price that would make a Foose-designed car available to everyone,” said Eric Tscherne, a key member of the RC2 design team. High impact, low drag—that’s what was called for and precisely what was created.

The Full Throttle line’s theme is beautiful design at a remarkable value. We reviewed two of the most famous Chip Foose designs are the Impression mega-rod and the Mustang Gambler 514 maximum muscle car.

Exterior. Both diecasts have exceptional visual appeal. The Mustang Gambler 514, a creation derived from a 1970 Boss Mustang, features strong, bold lines. An advance study of Henry Ford’s 1937 Model 78 DeLuxe Convertible, the Impression features lines that have a silky smooth quality. The fit of the doors, hoods and trunks is remarkable—very tight and consistent. The finish on each is not quite as stellar. The paint is well applied with very little orange peel. It’s the lack of reflective gloss that falls short of the Foose reputation. The striping on the 514 is a combination of Boss 302 and 428 versions. The Impression sports the better trim with nice teardrop headlights and sweet rear bumper. The 514’s trim is not bad, either, except for a train-wreck version of the galloping Mustang on the grille. The Impression gets extra points for the Carson-like top.

Interior. The interior of the 514 is actually good for a twenty-buck diecast. There’s not a lot of definable detail, but there’s also little or no clutter—something other entry-level 1:18-scale-diecast makers try to cram into the space as a substitute for realism. Opening the Impression’s suicide doors shows off an even better interior package that features two-tone door panels, seats and a center console.

Luggage space. The Impression does not offer an opening trunk—too bad. The 514’s trunk is a tiny, spec of a space that contains some audio enhancements.

Replicating power. Both hoods lift to reveal entirely different ideas of power. In the Impression, you find a good reproduction of a modern TPI V-8 with some color and light detail—not bad for its asking price. The 514, however, stomps on its Full Throttle stablemate with an engine that’s way above the field. The big-block Ford engine is overloaded with chrome and polished pieces accented with the right amount of black and silver—nicely done.

Chassis, tires & wheels. The molded undersides of the vehicles are nothing special, but the Mustang has a major detail edge over the rod. Ultracool wheels have become a Foose trademark. The low MSRP of these diecasts prevented RC2 from making the scale items live up to the real wheels. It isn’t that the wheels are bad; they just aren’t great. On the brighter side, the massive brake rotors are separate from the wheel. Tires on both are typical fatties with rubber-band-thin sidewalls Each has different tread patterns.

Last Words. RC2 put the Full Throttle line under the Johnny Lightning umbrella. It is, after all, the brand that has the second longest history of offering customized cars in diecast form. But, that’s pretty much where the similarities between the Full Throttle line and Johnny Lightning ends. In the $20 price category, this line carries the Foose star power to entry-level collectors and Foose fans who can’t get enough of his magic. It’s a good start to what we hope will become a line that focuses on the Foose cars that have defined the modern age of hot rodding.

Johnny Lightning Full Throttle jlfullthrottle.com

Model: Mustang Gambler 514

Scale: 1:18

Length: 9 in.

Wheelbase: 5.5 in.

Width: 3.25 in.

Height: 2.25 in.

Price: $20

Model: Impression

Scale: 1:18

Length: 9.75 in.

Wheelbase: 6.25 in.

Width: 3.75 in.

Height: 2.5 in.

Price: $20

RATINGS

Mustang Gambler 514

Body, paint 2.5

Wheels, tires 2

Engine 3.5

Chassis, suspension 3

Interior 2.5

Presentation 2.5

Collectibility 3

Impression

Body, paint 3.5

Wheels, tires 2.5

Engine 2.5

Chassis, suspension 2.5

Interior 3.5

Presentation 4

Collectibility 3.5

FEATURES

Rolling wheels

Opening doors, hood, trunk

DCX Back Issues 600x120

Updated: April 3, 2007 — 10:00 AM

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