When Jun Imai announced last month that he was leaving Mattel, this is what we all thought and talked about:
And for good reason. Jun’s legacy at Hot Wheels will be JDM, and the era he ushered in with his many Japanese designs. What started with “Why is Hot Wheels doing a Corolla and Datsun!?!?” ended with “Awesome, they finally made a Laurel!!”. That’s quite a journey in just a few years.
But Jun was always quick to let you know he was not all JDM, and that is most certainly true. In fact, Jun took the same approach to all of car culture that he took to JDM. Start with the top layer, and then start digging. If the Hakosuka is the JDM equivalent to the ’69 Camaro, the Hako Wagon is the Greenwood Corvette. You know it, but maybe not quite like that.
So digging into Jun’s non-JDM designs is definitely a task worth taking on. It means I need to make another video to accompany the one above, but there are few worth showcasing on their own. The ’65 Ford Galaxie is one.
You know this happens all the time. A model sits in your collection forever, or maybe in a box of extras, and you have never given it any attention. Then one day, for whatever reason, you just notice it. You start realizing how nice it is. A google deep dive later you know more about the model and car it replicates than you did before, and you are now in full pursuit mode of the models you don’t have.
That is the Galaxie for me. I have held onto the Hot Wheels Racing Dan Gurney and Vintage Racing Junior Johnson models for years, mainly buried in a dump box in my storage unit. The only reason they stayed was because my father owned a ’64 Galaxie when he married my mom, and the ’65 was the closest HW replica there was. Of course a 427 cubic inch stock racing bruiser was a far cry from “Big Red”, as my parents called it, but it was close enough. Still, I had never really paid attention to the casting.
Then I decided to complete the 2011 Vintage Racing line. That meant two more Galaxies would join my collection as part of the 30-car line, joining the Junior Johnson I already had. The three Vintage Racing also happen to be the first three releases of Jun’s casting:
I found someone willing to sell me the models I needed to complete Vintage Racing, and earlier this week I put the set together:
In the video I obviously talk about every model, but it is the three Galaxies that truly got my attention. After filming this video, the model went into the wall display, but the Galaxies stayed out. I was smitten. I had never noticed the amount of detail in the model. It’s weight. It’s stance. It’s massive grill. It’s yacht-like size.
Here is a promise. If you haven’t paid attention to this model in the past, have a look. Take it in. It’s fantastic. If you have any love for anything car-related, and I think most of you readers do, you will want this model. Whether an ebay search, or a dig through your forgotten stash, this model will return to your collection.
What you will notice in hand is that the Galaxie is one of those next-level Hot Wheels. There are few that sit at the top in terms of realism and crisp details. They are usually premium, because the budget allows that much more. It is from that perspective that the model I would compare the Galaxie to is another Jun Imai design, the ’69 Nissan Skyline Van.
Beside the Skyline’s obvious cool factor, it is the crisp details throughout that really shine. The word “crisp” keeps coming to mind. The car looks more like the real thing than a toy. That was what I kept talking about in my Skyline feature, and what I didn’t know is that Jun had already hit that level with the Galaxie.
So the story isn’t over. The Vintage Racing models took their place on the wall display, the HW Racing Dan Gurney #121 joined them on the wall:
And – OF COURSE – I was back to my storage unit to see if I had the other two I was missing. And guess what? I found them:
The Cool Classics was buried in a loose model bin, and the RLC was sitting with other carded RLC models I forgot I had. It probably came as part of a sub plan that year, and I just threw it in a box.
The Cool Classics was checked for loose bin damage – it survived – and the RLC was promptly opened. ’65 Galaxie collection complete. And I’m smiling.
Six releases of Jun’s gem. With a 7th coming. And, oh, will it make a splash. It is this next release that makes it imperative to look for the Galaxie now, because there are going to a lot of collectors pursuing the old releases soon to accompany this:
Mattel has given me permission to show their images of the next release of the Galaxie, looking positively dapper in Gulf Racing livery, coming in the 50th Favorites line. Methinks this will be a popular release, and will bring a fresh appreciation to this casting.
Steve Vandervate did the deco (and took the photos) and it is gorgeous. I honestly can’t wait to put it next to the others.
I love rediscovering models. I have a feeling there are more Imai designs waiting to be rediscovered as well. It is surely a rich legacy. This Galaxie may be at the top.
(Find the HW ’65 Ford Galaxie on ebay)
4 Replies to “If you told me the ’65 Ford Galaxie was Jun Imai’s best Hot Wheels casting, I don’t think I could argue with you.”
I’m a fan of Jun’s work. Did he stay in the diecast industry or go into a different career?
Definitely a fan wish he would had followed up the 65 with the 67 because that was imo the better year. With the fastback it was sleek.
I owned a 65 Sedan back in the 1980s. It was my first car.
As a fan of early NASCAR, I could not believe my luck when Dan Gurneys 121 his pegs. There it was. Sam year as my 4 door.
I love the 65 model best. My buddy restomodded a 64 Hard Top to match in tribute Glen Fireball Roberts last car. The one that would be in part the cause of his death.
The 65 was a delicat blend of the rounded past and the razor sharp future Ford would see. The 66 was a bloated version, a brick…so much so that Junior Johnson would bend the front of that model down and raise the trunk up. They called the 66 Johnson car the Big Yellow Bannana.
The 65 however was a dignified serious looking car. One I still desire today.
I have to find Jrs car. I never saw it on pegs. And I hope distribution of the Gulf car goes wide. All too often, those dissappear into the ether of time only to appear as stratospherically priced rarities on ePay.
Jun is a master. I wish him well for the future. And I thank this gentleman for so perfectly rendering my favorite car and then sweetening the deal by painting it into one of my passions.
I love this model too, even though I only have the Cool Classics and the Dan Gurney HW Racing ones. I was especially tickled to find the Dan Gurney car on the pegs years ago because I used to live about five minutes from Staunton, Virginia (where Augusta Motors must have been, back in the day). Just a neat little connection that makes the car feel more special to me.