DCX Online Exclusive: Auto World Christine ’58 Plymouth Fury
By: Matt Boyd
Make a list of the top ten most recognizable movie cars of all time. What’s on it? A silver Aston Martin? A black Trans Am? A green Mustang? Chances are you didn’t have to go very far down the list to find a certain sinister red ’58 Plymouth Fury.
The title character of John Carpenter’s film adaptation of horror master Stephen King’s 1983 novel Christine has seared its place into automotive pop-culture. No surprise then that Christine has been depicted a number of times in diecast over the years—most notably in 1:64 by Hot Wheels, in 1:24 by Danbury Mint, and in 1:18 by Ertl’s Joyride division. When Auto World took custody of Ertl’s tooling library it got access to the 1958 Fury, and after some strategic upgrades designed to enhance detail and collector interest they have released two new versions of Christine—a ‘daytime’ version with transparent windows (seen here), and a sinister ‘nighttime’ version with blacked out windows. I prefer the daytime configuration, as it allows collectors to better admire the interior upgrades to this model. As a cool perk, both versions feature functional headlights!
The first of Auto World’s film-specific models to come out, Christine has since been joined by 1:18 versions of Denny’s ’68 Charger [click HERE to read the full review] and villain Buddy Repperton’s ’67 Camaro [reviewed in the Winter 2017 issue of Die Cast X—click HERE to order a copy of the issue in print or digital].
Christine herself is certainly the most familiar. Auto World adapted the Ertl casting and while it has been significantly upgraded, it is the most basic of the three. Old-school dogleg hinges on the doors and hood are telltale signs of its origins.
The exterior paint on the model presents very well and there’s no mistaking that one-of-a-kind white-over-red color scheme, decorated with yards of silvery chrome. The trim has been upgraded and now sports a multi-tone metallic finish—traditional chrome is accented by aluminum look in the center of the fin trim. Mopar aficionados know that that color combo wasn’t technically an option on the Fury— “Buckskin Beige” with gold trim and a white interior was the only scheme officially offered by Plymouth in 1958 but the movie dialogue does mention Christine was a “special order” color, which would certainly have been possible from a connected dealer.
The opening scene in the film supports this; it shows her as the lone red car among a line of beige models coming down the assembly line…and claiming her first victim! (Eagle-eyed viewers will also note that a mix of Savoys and Belvederes—identical in sheet metal but lacking elaborate side trim—supplemented the rarer authentic Furys during filming in several scenes. This explains why there is no “Fury” script on the fin trim—on the movie version or the model.)
Christine also got a special-order interior; a red and silver vinyl replacing the usual all-white upholstery. There is red flocking on the floorboards and tons of detail on the dash and instrument cluster too. Note the distinctive position of the rearview mirror mounted on the dash rather than on the windshield.
In the novel King mentions several traits of Christine’s interior that contribute to her menacing aura. Ghostly lights, a radio that only plays ‘50s music and a column shifter that moves on its own. That last example may strike collectors funny; you’ll note that there is no shifter—on column on or on the floor. 1958 Furys didn’t have them; they had dash-mounted pushbuttons for selecting gears, which is accurately depicted in the film and on the model. You can make out the button panel to the left of the steering wheel on the dashboard face.
There is a good close-up shot of the engine in the film, and Auto World did a good job replicating Christine’s 350 V8—a brand-new engine series Plymouth introduced in 1958. Called the “Golden Commando,” it was the inaugural version of Chrysler’s B-block—which would be a mainstay of Mopar muscle throughout the 1960s and early 70s when it was punched out to displace 383 cubic inches. Christine carries the 305-horsepower version topped by a pair of Carter 4-barrel carbs; (there was also a Bendix fuel-injected version rated at 315hp, but the FI system was prone to failure so the dual-quad version is preferable.) The highlights are of course those chrome oval air cleaners perched atop a gold-painted intake manifold, which the model executes nicely. The plug wires are a bit too thick, but heater and cooling hoses, and various other lines are more scale. Overall this engine has been updated very well—the only under-hood hint of the casting’s origins is the old-style dogleg hood hinges.
While the Dodge and Chevy models that complete Auto World’s Christine trio have functional springs and revolving drive shafts, Christine herself makes due with a more basic chassis and a rigid suspension. The benefit of the legacy chassis plate is that it contains the switch for the LED headlights and a battery compartment in the gas tank. The detail on the chassis itself is pretty good, and there is a nicely molded and painted exhaust system. Classic looking whitewalls and chrome hubcaps finish off the package.
All models are judged by a combination of subject-appeal, quality, accuracy and collectability, but movie cars are a special breed. With a star car the faithfulness with which the model depicts the on-screen machine trumps real-world accuracy, and the appeal comes mainly from the pop-culture importance of the film. If a model has these two things, collector interest is virtually guaranteed. Christine has them in spades. No one cares much that ’58 Furys didn’t come in red, or that this model has legacy dogleg hinges. This lady in red is one every film buff and fifties fan will want to bring home!