Friday, March 27, 2020

Johnny Lightning 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T

The purple Dodge Challenger can be Lightning Fast!  

In this review we are taking a closer look at the Johnny Lightning 1971 Dodge Challenger R/T. This particular Johnny Lightning casting has a pretty good racing history.  It is not quite as famous as the Johnny Lightning Black With Flames Camaro, but this car has the potential to be very quick.  Let me start off by saying that it has been my observation that Johnny Lightning cars tend to do very well in races where no graphite is allowed. It has also been my personal experience that graphite does not always help the JLs as much as you might see with other cars.  I think there are two reasons for this.

First, (at least the cars we are talking about) already come pretty quick, so you don’t see as dramatic improvement.  Second, with Johnny Lightnings it’s often tricky getting the graphite where it’s needed.  Johnny Lightning wheels are a little different than traditional Hot Wheels wheels that you find today.  The Johnny Lightning wheels have a cap on the outside.  A good thing about this is that it keeps the wheel from rubbing on the chassis.  A lot of times that can be helpful, because the likelihood that the chassis isn’t super smooth can be pretty good.  The problem is, there still is some rubbing, it’s just in a different place.  While the wheel doesn’t rub on the chassis, the axle head does rub on the inside of the cap.  The real problem comes with getting the graphite inside the wheel where that rubbing is taking place.  There is no direct access, so you just have to squirt a whole bunch of graphite around the axle and hope that some of it works its way in.  You can pop the caps off, but it’s not easy and I’ve never been super successful at it without damaging the wheel or bending the axle, so I don’t really even try anymore.  However, I believe that if one became adept at getting those caps off without hurting the wheel or axle and getting a good coating of graphite in between the axle head and the cap, these Johnny’s could be even faster! All that being said, the Challenger is still a very quick casting.

One advantage that it has is the weight.  The Challenger comes in at 60 grams, so it is definitely a solid little car.  That weight gives it the momentum to keep its speed in the flat part of the race.  All that weight comes from a metal body as well as a metal base.  Metal bases are great on racers because it helps keep the center of gravity lower on the track compared to a plastic base car.   The lower center of gravity helps the car run straighter and more stable down the track.  That is especially important with the Challenger as it is a pretty narrow car and sometimes narrow cars can wobble and bounce back and forth between the sided rail a bit more than wide cars.  So the Challenger’s metal base and lower center of gravity help it overcome its narrow design.

The Challenger also has pretty good wheels.  The Johnny Lightnings from the era that the Challenger was produced tend to have good wheels that run straight and true.  This again is especially important to the Challenger as any inconsistencies in the wheels could cause wobbling that would be exasperated by its narrow body.

These Challengers can be great racers, especially if you are racing in a league that doesn’t allow graphite or you are able to get the caps off to get graphite inside the wheel.  But even if those aren’t the conditions you’re dealing with, don’t count this car out.  It can hold its own with the best.  Acquiring one of these little beauties would certainly enhance your racing collection.

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