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50's Version

60's Version


Johnny Lightning Strikes Twice!
by Scott Beckmann

"Batmobile", that word is probably one of the most familiar words spoken by a model-building enthusiast dating back to the 1960's. From the original Aurora small-scale kit of the 1960's to the latest motion picture vehicles from recent films, builders flocked to their hobby shops to get their hands on this futuristic crime-fighting machine. Though the recent released movie version of the Batmobile are very cool, they just didn't capture the interest of the majority of the mainstream modeler. It was the 1960s version that the majority of the builders yearned for. Possibly for nostalgia reasons, or maybe because it was a vehicle that was synonymous with "Batman" himself, it was the sleek black car with the far-out crime fighting equipment that we all wanted in our collection. To sum it up with a quote from the original Aurora kit box-art, it was, "Fantastic"! Sadly, the legal hassles of the modern era have made it all but impossible to have the original style Batmobile re-released. That is, until now.

Playing Mantis has released this model under their Johnny Lightning brand in two different versions of the comic book style Batmobile. One kit is of the 1950's version and the other from the 1960's. Each kit contains a pre-painted die-cast body with flawless black paint. (And I do mean flawless!) Also included are black styrene assembly parts and chrome detail parts to complete the kit.

Now I will be the first to say I am not a big fan of pre-painted kits. I think it takes away some of the creative freedoms of the builder. But these two kits have made me a believer. These metal beauties are stunning when assembled. The directions are easy to follow and assembly was probably one of the easiest I have done in some time. The directions (located BEHIND the box insert) were fairly easy to follow and written in dual languages. Included in the sheet was the painting guide. As I read them I had to smile, statements like, "Seats are black, or dark blue, or red, or burgundy", rekindled my painting freedoms. I chose red due to the box art clearly showed the seats in red. Now in defense of the instructions, these are comic book style vehicles and the inks used in comic books to show definition were usually reds and or blues on black. The balance of painting was really no challenge to the imagination. (Red for the fire extinguishers, green for computer screens ect.) In it's defense, the 1950's version actually had a better painting guide than the newer version. It's interior was a combination of black, steel and wood.

The 1950's interior contains a rolling crime lab. The rear of the vehicle contains cabinets, a desk, ruler, pencil, paper, beaker with holder, telescope and a lab computer complete with six test tubes. The rear also has two fire extinguishers and what appear to be stereo speakers. Up front there are twin bucket seats with a floor shifter. Some interesting gauges and a bat-phone compliment the dash. (Maybe the first ever car phone.) The massive rear wing running down the rear of the car dwarfs the exterior of the car. The wing is joined to the body by two screws provided in the kit. NOTE: Be aware, the screws that hold the wing in place are two smaller screws mixed in the hardware bag. I used a jeweler's screwdriver to tighten the screws and did not have any problems. The actual "model kit" parts were minimal and the kit was a nice afternoon project. On the 50's version, the interior is the main detail, the under-carriage has good detail, but in the end, interior is the selling point.

The 1960's version was a little more complicated. Besides the interior, it has a detailed under-carriage WITH a detailed engine compartment. (Viewed by the opening hood.) To detail paint the dash-board (accenting the instrument panel) you will have to disassemble the upper body and remove the dashboard. The instructions clearly show a painting reference for the instruments but the gloss paint makes it next to impossible to detail them. I opted to just paint the dials white and paint in red highlights. Not exactly what the instructions called for, but effective just the same. Some of the other interior details include, a fire extinguisher, Bat Phone, a crossbow weapon mounted in the passenger side door, radio, steering wheel with bat emblem in the horn button, floor shifter and twin bucket seats. As stated earlier, the kit also includes a detailed V-8 power plant. (A far cry from the turbo powered Lincoln in the television series.) and also a very nice dual exhaust system. Much like the 50's version, this car was a breeze to assemble. Once I finished mine, I looked at it from ground level and recognized it from the opening credits of the original Batman TV series. This is THAT car!

Some of the key points I would like to touch on, the front wheels steer on both cars. So they display very well. Also, on the same line, the tires and wheels are very well made. I applauded Johnny Lightning for designing the rims to twist off the sprue without damaging the inner wheel or leaving chunks of plastic to trim. What they have done is notch out the mold injection area into a recessed area on the rim. Johnny Lighting also has a very nice tire with these kits as well. On a side note, I doubt if the 1950's car would have had radial tires, I would have been much more happy with bias ply.

Suspension parts and under carriages are held to the body by machine screws which strengthen the kit substantially. With the front steering assembly and the rear drive-train secured by this hardware, the wheels and tires snap into place much easier than in some previous kits I have assembled. This virtually removes the chance of breakage.

These kits are geared for a level 2 builders but I would recommend them to anyone. Once painted and assembled, these vehicles have the appearance of display pieces commanding $50 and up. At about $15 a kit, you can't go wrong. These are a must for any Bat Fan!

Thanks to Johnny Lightning, I now have a fresher outlook on pre-painted kits. I am a changed man. Until next time.