Friday, March 22, 2013

The complete Johnny Lightning Dukes of Hazzard line: Series 1

One of the most important lines of the modern era of Dukes of Hazzard collectibles is the extensive 1/64 scale diecast line Johnny Lightning released from 2006 through 2008.  The line includes so many Hazzard County cars that were never transformed into diecast minitures before, and really exemplifies the franchise's spot in the diecast and toy car world.  Only one previous line had so many different cars, the silver era 1/44s by Racing Champions.

Before 2004, Ertl, and its subsidiaries Racing Champions and Joyride, had been the only name in Dukes diecast.  JL's first foray in the Dukes world came as part of their release 6 of the Hollywood on Wheels series.  Other cars is this release were from Smokey and the Bandit, Vanishing Point, Herbie, and The Fast and the Furious.   

The three Dukes cars in the series had Dukes inspired card fronts and the same back as the rest of the series.  I don't have any other cars in the series, but I am guessing they don't all have the General Lee on the back like the 3 Dukes cars do.  

After 23 years of Ertl's standard General Lee diecast, this JL General Lee with rubber wheels and opening hood was a breath of fresh air.  Though it had a few issues, like lack of push bar and totally wrong looking wheels, this was the best the General ever looked in 1/64.  The 01s and flag look great.  

Not only did we get a great General Lee, but Daisy got double the love with both of her cars in the release.  Previous silver era releases of Daisy's Road Runner looked ridiculous.  JL released a great version of Daisy's yellow muscle car. 

Daisy's Jeep had been released before in 1/64, but it always seemed to be the wrong year.  Though it said Daisy on the hood instead of Dixie, this was a vary good representation of the vehicle most people relate to Daisy Duke.  

The movie brought so much attention to the franchise and it ushered in the modern era in 2005.  Though none of the JL cars are directly related to the movie, the popularity of the Hollywood on Wheels Dukes cars along with the commotion the movie generated led Johnny Lightning to begin a 1/64 journey through Hazzard County that we are all thankful for.  It started in 2006 with series 1 of the new Dukes line.  

There is a hard line dividing the products that came out with the movie and the TV show.  The movie logo has the "H" in Hazzard extend and form an underlining "Z" beneath the word.  The boxes for movie products are red.  JL made a slight faux pas with series 1 of the line and used the movie package design for the TV show based line.  These are the only show products with this design and logo.  All of the cars in the series are in fully plastic covered packages called clam-shells.  They protect the cars better and and are more durable than standard blister cards.  

The back of the clam-shell lists the cars in the line and gives a little info on the show.  

All the cars in the line also came with extras.  Series 1 came with cast photo magnets.  These additions make the line all that much better. 

The General Lee from series one was very similar to the Hollywood on Wheels release but had more accurate wheels.  It also had chrome added to the wheel wells.  The creators of the line paid attention to detail.  

The second car in the series was once again Daisy's Road Runner.  It is also very similar to the HOW car, but with, once again, improved wheels.  Nothing wrong with re-releasing a car if it comes with improvements. 

Cooter got some love in series 1.  His 99 Camaro was much improved from the past releases.  The previous Racing Champions release had a white strip instead of yellow.  This car is nearly as accurate as the recent JL 1/18 version

All three cars from the HOW release came in series 1 of the Dukes line.  The Jeep was also improved on with the correct "DIXIE" applied to the hood.  The wipers on top of the windshield were also painted this time.  The little details like that are much appreciated. 

Rosco's Patrol Car came with series 1.  JL didn't have the correct model year for the car, but they got close with this version.  

It is a 1977 where the correct version is a 1978.  Close enough for JL, as seen in future series, but just not right as seen in one of the last releases of the line.  

Rounding out series 1 was the General Lee the way most of us picture him, covered in mud.  Sure, he was spotless in the beginning and end of every chase when Bo and Luke jumped in the windows and out (somehow) but he looked like this while flying over Rosco, or a train, or a barn.  Everyone loves the dirty General Lee.  

The magnets that came with each car are collectibles on their own.  Thanks for including them JL!  Each JL car also came in White Lightning.  The first series had the standard white wheels.  I collect everything I can Dukes, but the prices for these WL versions get out of hand quickly.  When on ebay, they almost always go for over $100 each.  I was lucky enough to find a few, but not any in series 1.  

Sometime between series 1 and 3, Johnny Lightning released the Internet Exclusive General Lee.  It utilizes the same movie specific package of series 1, but is not a part of any series in particular.  

You could only get it on the internet, and was limited to 5004 pieces.  Besides Cooter's Place, I have never seen any of these cars in stores. They were all exclusive to the internet for me.  

Apparently this car originated from Ceecolectibles in Torrance, CA, which according to Google and a non-working phone number, no longer exists.  Wonder how they got mixed up in the high stakes game of world diplomacy and international intrigue that is Dukes of Hazzard collectibles.  Hope it wasn't cockeyed optimism or unbridled enthusiasm that lead to their downfall.  

The lack of characters on the package of this car is very telling to me that it is intended to be a representation of the movie General Lee, and not from the show.  My guess is the license agreement expired with Johnny Knoxville, Seann William Scott, and Jessica Simpson, but Johnny Lightning still wanted to make a movie accurate General.  The broken windshield with what could be seen as bullet holes gives it away.  

Though unofficial, this is a the movie General Lee that should have been released in 2005.  And it's a darn good version of it.  My love for the movie, mainly because I'm in it, causes this JL car to have a special place in my heart.  I wish there would have been more movie specific items released and not just straight re-releases in movie packaging.  

This car is also the first JL General Lee to have the push bar on it.  They did a great job on that as well.  

I am lucky enough to have a White Lightning version of the Internet Exclusive General Lee.  It has mud covered white tires.  

It is easier to see that they are white from the bottom.  If the White Lightning rule of thumb that there are 1% of the entire run made as WLs, this is one in fifty in the world.  Not too shabby.

That wraps up series 1 of the Johnny Lightning Dukes of Hazzard line.  There are seven total series with a few additions at the end.  I will cover all seven series soon.  It's kind of like an on-going serial, not unlike Lost.  But in this case I know where the ending is going and won't muddle up the Smoke Monster and make the Polar Bear pointless.  The polar bears should have meant something more!!!

Stay Tuned!

Go back and look at the first picture one more time, and click on it to enlarge it.  It is pretty impressive, admit it.