I’ve been marching to the beat of Greenlight’s drum since 2009, and in the years following, I’ve freed hundreds of cars from their blister prisons. Of course, once I was done admiring them, they were bagged and tagged and relegated to Rubbermaids in my detached garage. I will occasionally dig through the body bags and reminisce about hunting diecast at Toys “R” Us, but these days it’s more of an “add-to-cart” addiction.
Wow, talk about starting this out on a high note.
Although most of my earliest Greenlight memories are fuzzy, I do have a few that stand out. First, I vividly recall leaving a Dodge Charger Virginia State Trooper Green Machine behind at Target because I wasn’t keen on their chase pieces and also didn’t like that it wasn’t properly painted. What do they say about hindsight? Another memory more apropos to this post is that, while GL offered nearly perfectly proportioned castings, their tire choice in some instances left much to be desired.
I’m staring at you, steamroller tires.
Just like our diecast’s 1:1 counterparts, wheels can make or break a car. Choosing the appropriate width and aspect ratio of the sidewall is just as important as selecting the wheels themselves. One wrong calculation or misjudgment and the aesthetics of your ride is thrown out of whack. It’s almost like wearing Vans with a tuxedo (although I think this is a thing now).
It’s in this department that Greenlight oftentimes got it wrong. I speak in the past tense because, while there are still some head-scratchers being released, it seems with each new casting, GL is trying harder for pinpoint accuracy. And I commend them for that.
Before more words are spilled on this topic, it should be made clear this will not be a diatribe against a company regarding something so trivial as tire width on a diecast car. The realistic design application for each wheel is [mostly] spot-on, and there are many occasions in which GL hit it out of the park. Their 1970/71 Pontiac GTO casting is one of my favorites, its Rally II wheels perfectly matched. The Road Runner/GTX has a 50/50 success rate, in my opinion. Same for the 68-70 Charger. All great castings worth adding the majority of releases to your collection. And Greenlight really levels up the realism by applying factory colors to their castings, another huge win for collectors worldwide.
Similar praises can’t be paid to the 1970/71 Challenger, unfortunately. And that’s a bummer, because when it comes to an iconic muscle car, the Challenger is one of the prolific ones. The only versions produced by Greenlight featuring the smaller width tires are the Black Bandit T/A and the 1970 Sam Posey #77 race car. All other releases (as far as I can recall) are kneecapped by disproportionate rollers. Despite these shortcomings (widecomings?), I still found it easy and enjoyable to add the High Impact paint options, among others, to my Jammers.
The biggest offender by far is the Ford Crown Victoria. It’s mostly utilized in the Hot Pursuit series, where it’s adorned with numerous police liveries from around the world. Hands down my favorite series, only a small percentage of the CVPI features the alternative P71 wheel covers in place of the steel wheels. The 2007-2010 Dodge Charger, another ubiquitous casting for the boys in blue, sports either the stock silver five-spoke wheels, blacked-out generic five-spokes (also found on the Ford Explorer Police Interceptor) or smaller diameter black five-spokes. Scaled up from 1/64, the massive rubber would measure 355 mm…at all four corners! In comparison, the reasonably sized tires come in at a more believable, but certainly not completely accurate, 255 mm. Please note I took my measurements with a ruler. I’m sure they’d be exact had I used a micrometer.
Combined with the lack of side-view mirror on some castings, the appearance is awkward at best. Thus my striving for validation of my chief complaint. But there is hope…
Over the last few years, Greenlight has been on a winning streak when it comes to introducing new castings. The Foxbody Mustang, released back in 2010 if my memory serves me right, was a champion of proper width. The Dodge Monaco, which followed in 2012, took a few years to find its fitted footwear, but never while on patrol. Rather, it was in Country Roads Series 13, in 2015, which saw the 1977 Dodge Royal Monaco repping the most realistic wheel and tire combo yet. It turned out to be an anomaly for the casting, unfortunately, as I haven’t found another release not rolling wide wheels.
The 1967 Ford Custom, wearing a vintage Chicago PD livery, came along in 2015. It has yet to be tainted and still stands as one of my favorite classic cop cars, particularly as a New Jersey Troop car.
I could go on, and on, and on. And I will.
The 1970s Dodge Coronet/Monaco and Plymouth Fury. The Pontiac LeMans. The Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser. The 1955 Chevrolet wagon varieties. The Checker Marathon. The Ford Torino, both coupe and sedan. The Ford LTD wagons and the Mercury Grand Marquis Colony Park. The Volkswagen Squareback. The Chevy Caprice. The Datsun Z and 510. The Skyline GT-Rs. The Squarebodies. The Ranchero. The Mustang II. The Mercury Cougar. The DUALLYS! Greenlight has been churning out surprise after surprise and, with the recent release of the 2020 catalog, will be keeping that momentum up into the new decade.
And that isn’t even an inclusive list. The one thing these new castings have in common is that they all feature appealing wheels, with a factory appearance or a period-correct tuner sense.
So while I can complain into the void and clap back at trolls on this topic all day long, I would be wasting valuable energy that could be used for excitement towards the future. Sure, there will continue to be some missteps. The final generation Crown Vic was just released in Hot Pursuit 32 in a Laredo, Texas uniform. Pictured above, its proverbial footgear look more like clown shoes than combat boots. GL did spiff it up a bit by adding trim rings to the otherwise black steel wheels. I don’t recall them doing that before. With the upcoming release of the 1992-1997 Crown Victoria, I’m curious to see how much use is left in the tank of the former.
Other new castings on the horizon that have my attention include the 2020 Explorer (with proper wheels!!), the Studebaker Commander, the Kaiser Jeepster, AMC Matador, the 1992-96 Escort RS (!), and so many more. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a great time to be a diecast collector. Roll on.