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1958 Plymouth Belvedere
Manufacturer: Johnny Lightning
Release date 2007 (This one: Mopar or No Car)
Catalog number: 930
Date Purchased: March 2007
Date Completed April 2007
Number in collection: 1

Early in 2007, after an absence of several years, I decided to return to the hobby of collecting model cars. I no longer had my previous collection, so I was literally starting from scratch. That collection was made up mostly of plastic models, but in the late 1990's I started working with smaller, primarily die-cast cars. The majority of these are what most people would consider "toys". Which I guess they really are, as much as I don't like to admit that.

I decided to pick up pretty much where I left off, which was detailing small (in the area of 1:64 scale) die-cast cars. I chose the Johnny Lightning 1958 Plymouth Belvedere as my first subject. In the past, I preferred JL cars over other manufacturers. They offer nice detail from the start, and with a minimum of effort, can be made to look even nicer. This is also when their cars still had a metal chassis, as opposed to the plastic that is used today. Although the current plastic chassis seem to have the same amount of moulded detail, I like the extra weight that the metal base provided.

At the time I bought this car, I didn't have any way to drill out the rivets that usually hold the body and chassis together. I was able to detail the exterior, chassis, and engine (if provided) just as well as I do today. I had to leave the interiors pretty much alone, unless the car had an open top. I have decided to revisit these early cars, disassemble them, and add details that I wasn't able to add originally.

As I originally worked on this car before I started photographing them, pictures will be limited to ones taken during its recent changes.

Click to zoom Click to zoom
What I started with. Actual car I used for reference.

Disassembly was done by drilling out two body-to-chassis rivet at each end of the car. The parts breakdown is as follows:
  • The die-cast body, painted white with red roof and side accents. Emblems and body mouldings are tampo-printed markings. The hood opens to show a two piece plastic engine.
  • An unpainted die-cast metal chassis. Wheels/tires and axles are held in place by cast pins, which have been pressed to hold the axles in place.
  • Tires are soft and have printed whitewalls. Hubcaps are chrome-plated plastic. Backing plates are black plastic, and have the ends of the axles riveted to the inside surface.
  • a black plastic, two-piece engine assembly. The air cleaner is a separate piece, with the remainder of the engine detail cast into the other. Both pieces are painted orange.
  • A black plastic one piece interior with seat and side panels moulded to it. The steering wheel appears to be a separate piece glued to the dashboard. All interior pieces are painted red and have a nice amount of detail.
  • A single piece clear window assembly, riveted to the inside of the body.

I felt that the overall casting and printed markings were close enough to the actual car. After disassembling the car, only paint and foil were used to detail the car.

The following is a summary of the changes I made:
  • Wheels and tires: Sanded the tread surface with 220 grit sandpaper to simulate wear.
  • Engine: I painted the basic engine piece Tamiya flat aluminum with Testors gold valve covers. This is a closer match to the pictures I found of the actual car. I detailed the fan belt and pulleys with Testors acrylic flat black. The air cleaner is painted Tamiya semi-gloss black.
  • Chassis: Entire piece is painted Testors acrylic flat black. Engine, transmission, frame, suspension and exhaust system details were painted with Tamiya flat steel, aluminum, and semi-gloss black.
  • Interior: Seats, dash, and door panels are painted Testors flat red, with flat white on the seat and door panel insets. Everything except what would be carpeted on the actual car is coated with Testors acrylic semi-gloss clear. Remaining interior details were highlighted with appropriate colors, also using pictures of the actual car as a guide.
  • Windows: The window frames were already highlighted silver, so I saw no reason to remove this piece from the rivets inside of the body.
  • Body: Covered both bumpers and grill with Bare-Metal Foil to simulate chrome. Painted grill with flat black, then rubbed paint from grill bars after it dried. Applied Bare-Metal foil to door window trim, tail lights, side mouldings, and outside of grill area. Painted taillights with Tamiya clear red.
Disassembled parts, before reassembly To the left is the car prior to re-assembly.

Assembly was completed by pressing the parts together, filling the old rivet holes with epoxy putty, and touching up the filled holes with paint to match the chassis plate.

Pictures of completed car (click to enlarge)

The proportions of the completed car look very close to the actual car. The table below shows how close they are.

Actual car 
(mm / in)
(mm / in)
Dimensions of actual car based on model scale
(mm / in)
Calculated scale based on model to actual car
Length 5232 / 206.0 76 / 2.99 4862 / 191.4 1:69
Wheelbase 2997 / 118.0 44 / 1.74 2829 / 111.4 1:68
Width 2017 / 79.4 30 / 1.17 1829 / 74.9 1:68
Height 1359 / 53.5 20 / .79 1293 / 50.8 1:67

Johnny Lightning cars are generally assumed to be 1:64, but as you can see, this one is closer to 1:68. I really don't understand why they made it this small, unless it was to force the car to fit within packaging dimensions.

Aside for the small scale, I'm as pleased with the results of my original detailing efforts as I am as of this writing, which is a span of over six years. All I added was interior and engine detail, leaving any other work I originally had done untouched. This was the first of several Johnny Lightning cars that I bought when I came back to the hobby. After those initial few, I believe I had problems locating them, which helped encourage me to work on less expensive brands. I'm also glad I bought it when I did, as I haven't seen in released since then.

Liked what you saw? More cars can be found HERE .

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