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Johnny Lightning 1960s Batmobile

March 2003
1960s Batmobile
Johnny Lightning no. 6901
Model Type: 1/24 scale die-cast metal and plastic model kit
Molded Colors: Gloss black, black, chrome plated
MSRP: $16.95
Pros: Easy assembly, good detail level, excellent body finish
Cons: Are they taillights or exhaust pods? No decals

Playing Mantis has broken the recent dearth of all-new domestic model kit offerings by releasing Batmobile model kits in both its Johnny Lightning die-cast metal and Polar Lights injection-molded plastic media. The kits represent several past and future versions of the Caped Crusader's vehicles, and all of the new kits are fully licensed and approved by Warner Bros. and DC Comics.

Thanks to Johnny Lightning's prominent presence at mass-market retailers and hobby shops, it's a lead-pipe cinch that these new diecast kits, with their painted and trimmed bodies and zoomy packaging, are likely to find their way into the hands of plenty of new and returning car modelers.

All of which sounds good, but we wanted to find out how the Johnny Lightning offerings stacked up as kits. How are they to build? Are they just knocked-down assembly line fodder, or can someone with a reasonable amount of modeling experience put one together in their basement workshop? How are they in the hands of a beginner? Would they have the detail to satisfy more experienced modelers?

Based upon my experience building the 1960s Batmobile, the answers to all of these questions are overwhelmingly positive. The design and engineering that have been devoted to this kit result in a fun-to-build project that will satisfy modelers of widely varied experience levels.
The body is well-finished with a shiny coating of black paint with a tampo-printed "bat" logo on the hood, and lights, lenses, windows, body accessories, and opening hood are all pre-assembled. The model's rear end and tailfin treatments are strongly reminiscent of the 1959 Cadillac Eldorado, but the chrome-plated housings at the fender tips are confusing. Their close resemblance to the Cadillac items had me looking for a set of taillights, but such lenses were nowhere to be found. And if they're some kind of exhaust pods, why does the model have such snappy-looking chrome-plated dual exhaust tips?

Aside from such dubious detail questions (this model is based on a comic-book vehicle, after all), the chassis, engine, and interior have all been well-engineered. Everything fits together well, and the moldings are sharp and have enough molded-in features to satisfy most detail hounds. Although the instruction sheet stresses that the included paint call-outs are suggestions only, the designations are clear and fairly thorough.
The kit's V-8 engine is garnished with chrome-plated parts for the air cleaner and valve covers, and engine compartment details include the brake booster, shock towers, and radiator assembly. The wheels and tires are particularly striking, with finned brake drums lurking behind the chrome plated spokes and Bat Signal center caps.

A straight-up assembly job according to the instructions only takes 1-2 hours for an experienced builder, and a beginner could expect to spend an afternoon assembling this model. Detail painting could add considerably to the build time, but the added effort will pay off with a model that surpasses the detail of all but the most expensive assembled die-cast models.

If you're a dyed-in-the-wool plastic modeler who views the new wave of die-cast metal-bodied model kits with suspicion or outright contempt, you would do well to check out one of Johnny Lightning's latest. They're good, solid kits by any measure, and they may be just what we need to bring a whole new kind of modeler into our hobby.


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