Saturday, November 27, 2021

Of Party Crashers, Crickets, and Martians

 Ok, that was a weird title, but it sums up this week's post pretty well. First, let me give you a very brief rundown of our players.

Ward Kimball was one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men." He designed Jiminy Cricket, and won two academy awards for animated shorts. He was a true Renaissance man. He was a railroad enthusiast who refurbished his own full sized steam locomotive. He was the founder and trombone player for the Dixieland Jazz group "The Firehouse Five Plus Two." He was also very interested in space exploration and U.F.O.s. He was responsible for the Disneyland TV show episodes "Man in Space," "Man and the Moon," and "Mars and Beyond." I mention this because it ties in with our next player...

George Pal started his career as an animator. Later he got into directing and producing. He is known for producing "When Worlds Collide," "Destination Moon," "War of the Worlds," and "The Time Machine." His movies were known for being grand in scope, even if the budgets might not have always been. He won numerous science fiction awards and was nominated for scores of Academy Awards (finally getting on honorary one).

How do these gentlemen come together? This:

Yep, apparently Ward Kimball gave George Pal a signed copy of this album. 

I bought this album online from a guy that got it from George Pal's estate. I have no COA, but the signature is genuine. What I don't have is the story behind it. I can guess parts of it.

In about 1960 (when the album came out) Ward Kimball probably gifted the album to George Pal and signed it for him. They probably knew each other because of their overlapping careers and interests. 

But I can't be sure. I can't even find anything that says that they knew each other.

But they must have.

This is a treasure that needs more research. I would like to know the real story. Maybe someday I will. For the mean time, I have it framed on my wall. 

Until next time, keep searching for (and researching) treasure!

Monday, November 22, 2021

Hornets of Green

 Last week I brought you a bunch of Batmobiles, so this week I bring you another super car: The Black Beauty!

The Green Hornet was a one season only show that featured Val Williams (as Britt Reid- the Hornet) and Bruce Lee (as Kato). Of course, the real star of the show was the mildly modified car.

The car was a 1966 Imperial Crown hardtop. Dean Jeffries (of Monkeymobile fame) designed it, and kept it pretty close to stock in appearance. Of course, it had all kinds of weapons and gadgets for crime fighting. 

Here's a trivia question for you- who drove the Black Beauty? If you said The Green Hornet, you'd be wrong. The driving was all done by Kato, the Hornet's sidekick. The Hornet rode in the back, where most of the gadgets were. 

The car was hidden right in Britt's regular garage in an intetesting way. Britt would pull his car into the garage, get out and flip some hidden switches on the wall, and clamps would grab his car. Then the whole floor would flip and there was The Black Beauty clamped to the other side! As someone who has owned a lot of cars that leaked oil, I can't really see how this would work in the real world. Fluids everywhere! Oh well.

Today, we'll look at three examples that I happen to have. First, we have the coolest: the Corgi Green Hornet from 1966. Actually, the Batmobile and the Black Beauty were released at about the same time. The Batmobile was Corgi model 267, and the Black Beauty was 268. It makes sense, since the cars were on the same network and lived in the same "universe." 

Here's my example:

Corgi was big on functioning features, and the Black Beauty has a few. The grill pops down to launch a red missile, the trunk pops open to launch a spinning radar...thingy..., and by turning a green tab on the bottom of the car, you can make the Green Hornet aim at bad guys. Although he's tough to see due to the green windows, Kato is driving...

My car does have issue in that I don't have any missiles or spinners so I'm not sure if those functions work.  Still, it's pretty cool.

Next we have a Johnny Lightning example from 2001. That seems like just yesterday to me, but it was 20 years ago when I bought it new. Here she is:

The details are probably closer to the real car...but it doesn't actually DO anything other than roll. It's kind of cool to display next to the much bigger Corgi model.

Lastly, we have a model kit by Polar Lights from a couple years later:

As you can see, I put it in a display case. It blended in with the black base, so I painted the base gray (to look like a road...sort of) and added a couple of details I cut out from the box. High art it's not, but I like it. 

The gadgets are probably best represented on this car. The silver nozzle on the back is a smoke screen generator. At least I'm pretty sure it is. As you can see, it has missiles aplenty, which beggs the question; where does one buy replacement exploding car missiles? 

So there you have it! There are other examples out there, but I've never been as interested in the Black Beauty as in the Batmobile. Still, I'm glad I have them!

Until next time, keep searching for treasure!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

A Bevy of Bat Buggies

 This week I've brought together a bunch of examples of the Batmobile from the past 60 years or so!

In 1966, Batman burst upon the TV screens and into the hearts of America. The show was campy and colorful and totally over the top. Adam West's deadpan delivery could have been "square," but the wild colors and fancy gadgets showed that it was all in good fun. 

The best gadget, by far, was the Batmobile. It was built by George Barris out of a Lincoln Futura show car that he purchased for one dollar. He really didn't have to do much to it, so I'd consider it a "mild modified" car.

There where a ton of companies that made their version of the  car then, and now. I think its easy to say that it is the most important TV car ever built. For a dollar.

Anyway, over the years I've collected a few. Here are my examples...

First, we have the 1/64 scale Playart example. This was produced in 1966 and looks a lot like the Corgi Husky car. However, Playart was a Hong Kong company, while Corgi hailed from Great Britain.

Here's the rather unremarkable underside.

Next we have the iconic Corgi Batmobile! 

Although Corgi started to make this model in 1966, this one is from ten years after that. You can tell that its the 1976 version because 1. The wheels don't have the red bats, 2. The trailor hitch, 3. The "flame" doesn't move in and out as it's rolled.
It does still have the rocket launcher pipes and the blade emergency brake.
I would like to have a 1966 version (like I did when I was a kid), but they are a little pricey.

Also in 1966, Aurora made a slot car Batmobile. I don't have one. I DO, however have the newer AutoWorld car. I love it!

This car is a work of art. It is packed with details, for such a small scale, and it is FAST.  And, by the way, it is several hundred dollars cheaper than the 1960s version.

Speaking of newer examples, a few years ago Hot Wheels came out with this:

Although produced by Mattel Hot Wheels, it's a larger scale, measuring about four inches long. They did a fantastic job with this car and if you put it along side the Corgi example, the Corgi suddenly looks pretty crude.

However, like the Corgi, there is a later version:

                           Ignore the Corgi....

Yep, just like Corgi, they added a trailer hitch, and Bat Boat! They clearly were taking aim at the most iconic version, and they did a fantastic job. Of course, it doesn't do anything except roll, so Corgi still wins there. (The boat does float)

Speaking of iconic versions, what about the actual comic book version from the 60s? Well, we have that covered too. A few years ago, Johnny Lightning came out with a die cast metal and plastic model kit of the DC Comic Batmobile. Here it is...

This model includes quite a bit of detailing. There are oil and smoke ports on the back, and a V8 under the hood. I had to paint everything except for the black and most of the silver parts, but it was pretty easy. This thing is pretty big, as you can see by the side by side picture with the Corgi version, and it has a nice weight to it. All in all, a pretty good effort on Johnny Lightning's part!

So there you have it! Will I get more Batmobiles? Probably eventually. Heck I might even replace my original Corgi version. I'll just have to keep my eyes peeled!

Until next time, keep searching for treasure!

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Of Legacies and Dragsters

 The items I have for you this week are not actually old, but they represent the greatest drag racing rivalry ever.

They were easily the biggest thing in racing from 1965 to 1970. Don "the Snake" Prudhomme in his earth-shaking Barracuda facing off with Tom "the Mongoose" McEwen in his fire-spitting Duster.

Up until Prudhomme and McEwen, drag racing was a fairly specialized sport, mainly in areas like southern California. What changed all of that was the toy giant Mattel. They sponsored both cars and came out with several generations of Hot Wheels, that I have covered in previous posts. No boy in the early 70s was immune to the excitement of drag racing!

Flash forward about 50 years, I was in Hobby Lobby just looking around. As I was flipping through the slot cars on the pegs, I saw a brilliant red piece of my childhood. It was this:

 Yep, the Mongoose. In slot car form! As far as I know, these cars have never been released as slot cars before. The detail is fantastic and these are much more detailed than anything Mattel put out in the 70s (they have since released some very fine larger scale models). I particularly like the wheels.

Of course, I had to find the Snake! I went to a couple more Hobby Lobbys with no luck. So, I went to the old faithful eBay. I found only one, but it was about as cheap as the Mongoose, so I snatched it up. Here she is:

Now I have both, ready to tear up a slot car drag strip! Here are some more pictures of my wonderful find:

Now the problem. I would love to run these cars, but I also like them in the package. I could buy two more, I suppose, but that seems a bit too frivolous. Knowing my history with these sorts of things, I can almost assure you that in a few months they will be freed from their plastic prisons. 

Until next time, keep searching for treasure (even at Hobby Lobby)!