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Replicarz creates stunning 1:43 Al Unser Indy winners

RELATED TOPICS: DIECAST
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By 1971, Al Unser was no longer just Bobby Unser’s younger brother – he was a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and Bobby had won just once.

The decidedly quieter, more humble Al had wisely hooked up with Parnelli Jones’ team and had the dominant PJ Colt chassis and a Ford V-8 engine behind him. That helped Al lead 190 of the 200 laps after winning the pole position as fastest qualifier in 1970. He would not only win Indy in 1970 and 1971, he also won the Indy Car National Championship in 1970.

Unser and the team also were lucky to have the colorful sponsorship of Johnny Lightning, a then-new diecast toy car maker that was challenging the likes of Hot Wheels and Matchbox. The result was a colorful bright blue racer with yellow lightning bolts in 1970, and a darker-blue version with those same electric bolts for 1971. Every kid in America knew this car and its color scheme.

Now Replicarz reprises the car brilliantly in 1/43 scale, with excellent attention to detail. This is part of Replicarz’ new 1/43 scale Indy Car series that already includes the 1947-1949 Indy-winning Blue Crown Spark Plug Specials.

The History

Al Unser came into the 1970 Indy 500 with just four Indy 500 starts under his belt, including a second-place finish in 1967. But he missed the 1969 race because of a bike accident that left him with a broken leg.

But driving for the team headed by Jones, who had won Indy in 1963 (and nearly won in 1967 in the famous STP Turbine), Unser was nearly unstoppable. He won five races during the previous USAC season – three on paved tracks and two on dirt. In 1970m when he was champion, Unser won 10 races – five each on dirt and paved tracks. The following two years, his teammate Joe Leonard won the championships, showing how strong the Vel’s Parnelli Jones Race Team was.

Unser was beating the likes of A.J. Foyt, his brother Bobby, Leonard, Dan Gurney, and Lloyd Ruby in a highly competitive series.
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The Model:

Both Replicarz models are beautifully executed. Many casual observers will assume these are the same cars in different color schemes, but they are not.

Close inspection shows the bright-blue 1970 model has a wider left-side pod that protected the fuel tanks, and the 1971 model is slim, with each side being the same dimension.

The 1971 model’s nose also has small winglets on the side, and yellow front-suspension springs. The Johnny Lightning decals, while similar, also vary some, and the 1971 model is #1, reflecting Unser’s championship the previous year, compared to #2 on the 1970 car. Various sponsor decals, which were rapidly growing in numbers by 1970, also vary from year to year.

Spectacular detail at this price and size includes the delicate, well-executed front and rear suspensions, with their slim supports and springs. There’s a fuel insert coupler on the left side of each; flat wings that run next to the engine compartment; silver ductwork to feed the turbo; and the silver- and-black turbo at the rear of the engine cowl. The car’s tall driver’s mirror also sits atop a unique tripod just to the right of the cockpit, which includes a black seat and steering wheel.

Al Unser’s name, along with that of Chief Mechanic George Bignotti, is printed on the cars’ sides. And the racers ride on brushed-metal-look wheels with knockoff central spinners and Firestone black slicks to give the cars a realistic race-morning look.
Replicarz’s 1/18 Indy Cars are special, but for folks with less display space or smaller budgets, the new lineup of 1/43 scale cars is a perfect fit to complete an Indy Car collection. Look for two more cars in this series soon, plus a 1/18 version of Jones’ 1967 Paxton STP Turbine.

Vital Stats: Johnny Lightning PJ Colt (1970 and 1971 Indy 500 winners)
Maker: Replicarz
Scale: 1/43
Stock No.: R43009 (1970 winner) R43002 (1971 winner)
MSRP: $89.99 each
Prefer 1:1 cars? Visit www.savageonwheels.com to read full-size new car and truck reviews and see videos by Mark Savage.

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