Kids probably don’t build model kits the way they used to, but in the 1960s and 1970s, every department store, hobby shop and toy store had an aisle jam-packed full of plastic car models. Most of them were the kind of cars you’d expect: Mustangs, Camaros, Chevelles and Trans Ams.
But if you dug around the dusty end of the aisle, the obscure-meter went right off the chart.
Ironside was a crime show that ran on NBC from 1967 to 1975. It featured Perry Mason alum Raymond Burr as Robert T. Ironside, a consultant for the San Francisco PD who was shot in the line of duty and rendered paraplegic.
The van depicted here is a 1970 Ford Econoline, and the box claims that it was created by George Barris for the television show, but the Internet Movie Car Database doesn’t list the van anywhere. That doesn’t mean it never existed in the show, but it seems odd that something that would’ve been prominently used in the show wouldn’t appear here.
Also, the recently deceased George Barris didn’t list the van on his website, and he’s well-known for claiming credit for everything.
The MPC model kit includes not only the custom van, but a power ramp and an Ironside wheelchair.
Six Million Dollar Man Evil Rider
Plenty of toy vehicles associated with the Six Million Dollar Man came and went over the years, and most of them were bad (See: Steve Austin vs. Maskatron in the Dual Launch Drag Set we wrote about last holiday season) but the oddest might be the Six Million Dollar Man Evil Rider cycle. It was a snap-together kit marketed through Fun Dimensions. Fun Dimensions was a division of MPC that marketed a lot of weird model kits, like the Vampire and Mummy kits of the late 1960s.
Six Million Dollar Man junkies will realize that the “Evil Rider” story never ended up in an episode of the TV show. It was, however, referenced on the cover of Issue 5 of the spinoff comic book released in 1977. Talk about obscure.
The “Moon Eyes” Mobile
Recognize this yellow beast? Japanese model producer IMAI served it up in Moon Racing Equipment livery in the 1980s, but it’s actually a ripoff of the Dean Jeffries-designed Monkeemobile from The Monkees.
IMAI had something of a cottage industry going by lifting the design of the Monkeemobile. It also issued a kit suggesting it was just a 1966 Pontiac GTO:
Fonzie’s Dream Rod
In keeping with the ripped off Monkeemobile theme, MPC issued a model kit called “Fonzie’s Dream Rod” during the middle-1970s, when Happy Days was cool and the Fonz hadn’t quite literally jumped the shark.
Apparently, Fonzie dreamed he played keyboards with the “pre-Fab Four.”
Che Riviera, Havana Banana, Beard of Paradise
We spent a week in Cuba with our friends from Car Talk last winter, but we didn’t see any of these hot cars running around.
Just after the Cuban Missile Crisis, AMT launched a series of model kits all aimed at making fun of Fidel Castro and his regime in Havana. The series included:
“Che Riviera,” an unaltered 1965 Buick Riviera, mildly customized with a “Beard of Paradise Airport Limousine” decal.
“Havana Banana,” a 1965 Oldsmobile Delta 88 lettered up with all kinds of jokes at Fidel’s expense.
The water transfer decals that came in the kit have the kind of jokes you usually need to watch a Johnny Carson monologue to hear.
Paul Revere and the Raiders Coach
Paul Revere and the Raiders, like the Fabulous Wailers, the Kingsmen and the Sonics, were at the forefront of a garage rock revolution in 1966, with their killer hit, “Kicks.”
So hot, in fact, that George Barris — there’s that name again — built the Raiders Coach, an articulated rig powered by twin, side-by-side Pontiac 421-cu.in. V-8s. Barris had built the Voxmobile for Vox guitars, so the organ at the back of the Raiders Coach had a Vox keyboard built in, with Vox guitars in saddlebags in the car up front.
MPC proffered the kit as “a wild stagecoach powered by a team of GTO engines.” You also got a full band of thermoplastic Paul Revere and the Raiders figurines.
Long before he’d hit paydirt in the role of Bert Campbell in the ABC series Soap, Richard Mulligan would play fictional TV U.S. Marshall Sam Garrett in the show-within-a-show comedy The Hero.
The show also starred Mariette Hartley, a decade before her run arguing with James Garner in Polaroid commercials.
The Hero lasted from September 1966 to January 1967, meaning that if you watch the opening credits, you’ve probably seen the best the show had to offer. Nevertheless, AMT issued a model kit based on Mulligan’s customized 1966 Imperial Crown Convertible.