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1969 Pontiac Firebird
Manufacturer: Johnny Lightning
Release date: 2007 (This one: Musclecars)
Catalog number: 959
Date Purchased: June 2007
Date Completed August 2008
Number in collection: 12

1969 was the last year the Pontiac Firebird used its original body design. Like its fraternal twin, the Chevrolet Camaro, it received significant changes to the front and rear sheet metal, although the basic package was largely unchanged. one way the Firebird differed from the Camaro was that the front bumper was largely made from Endura polyurethane, much like the Pontiac GTO started using in 1968. The Firebird was different by using a chrome loop-style bumper in the center of the front end.

Johnny Lightning made a nice replica of the Firebird convertible, which I bought in 2007. Like other JL cars, they offer nice enough detail to look good as purchased. I've found that with a minimum of effort, can be made to look even nicer. Being an older issue, this is when their cars still had a metal chassis, as opposed to the plastic that the company uses today.

As I originally worked on this car before I started photographing them, pictures will be limited to ones taken during ones taken while writing this article.

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 with opening hood, painted orange. Emblems, bumpers, lights and body mouldings are tampo-printed markings. The hood is held in place by a retainer that is riveted to the inside of the body, which I didn't remove. There is a one piece plastic engine inside the under hood compartment, which I did remove to make painting easier.
  • 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. The wheels are chrome plated, and a non-stock, eight-hole design. Backing plates are black plastic, and have the ends of the axles riveted to the inside surface. Note: I have seen pictures of this same release with a 5-spoke wheel design, but using the same packaging as this one.
  • A black plastic one piece interior which includes detail for the seats, console, and door panels. This piece is painted white. There is also a separate black plastic dash and steering wheel. The dash attaches to rivets on the inside of the body. The steering wheel appears to be glued to the dash. I didn't separate these pieces, as I didn't want to damage them.
  • A clear plastic windshield, with a silver painted frame. It is riveted to the inside of the body, and I didn't remove it. It wasn't necessary to detail this piece body, and I didn't want to risk damaging it.
  • A convertible top boot, which is painted white and attaches to the body by pins that had heat applied from underneath.

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.
  • Chassis: Entire piece is painted Testors acrylic flat black. Engine, exhaust system, and suspension details were painted with Testors Pontiac engine blue, Tamiya flat steel, aluminum, and semi-gloss black.
  • Interior: Painted seats and door panels with Testors acrylic flat white. Painted dash, steering wheel, console. and floor Testors acrylic flat black. Woodgrain areas of console, dash, and steering wheel are Testors acrylic flat brown. Remaining interior details are highlighted with appropriate colors, using pictures of the actual car as a guide.
  • Body: Painted entire underside of body casting with flat black. Applied Bare-Metal foil to both bumpers, windshield frame and wipers, wheel well trim, rocker panel mouldings, and trim at the base of the side windows. Head, park/turn, and tail lights detailed with Tamiya clear red, clear orange and Testors flat white. Body panel lines are drawn in with a metal tipped 'quill' pen and black ink. Remaining exterior details are highlighted with appropriate colors, using pictures of the actual car as a guide.
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 4854 / 191.1 72 / 2.83 4600 / 181.1 1:68
Wheelbase 2746 / 108.1 41 / 1.60 2599 / 102.3 1:68
Width 1877 / 73.9 29 / 1.15 1869 / 73.6 1:64
Height 1260 / 49.6 24 / .79 1362 / 50.8 1:63

Johnny Lightning cars are generally assumed to be 1:64. This one is pretty close, but seems to fall short in length and wheelbase. That could explain why this has always seemed a bit short and stubby, at least to me. It would have to be about 4mm longer to bring the length closer to 1:64.

Aside for the scale issues, I'm generally pleased with the results of my original detailing efforts. The primary change I made was to paint the engine something closer to the factory color. I also replaced some of the foil trim that had come loose over the years.

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

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