Racing Champions & the
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Classic Thunderbird

  ------------ From my point of view!

July 1999
by A Line of Dot's

Updated Sept.2000, 2009 

Mint Editions on Hot Wheels Ford Dealership model
Click photo for larger view
For a company that's only been on the market for 10 years, Racing Champions has developed quite a reputation for nicely detailed models and a solid place in the collector market.  Most of their line is with models representing the race car theme but in 1996 RC decided to add the standard model car to its line called the "Mint Editions" and has done quite well.  Many models of cars have been added to that line that have never had a minature model made of it before.

The first models of the Mint Editions were introduced in March of 1996.   New models and/or colors were released monthly after that.  There were 6 models released in March and #6 was a yellow with white porthole top, 1956 Thunderbird.  Colors used for the t-bird were all "stock" colors for the year.  Seven colors of the t-bird were released in 1996 though only 6 colors were released in the "single" packs.  The seventh color, black, was only available in a special gift set of cars, released in October of '96 - Set #2.  Production of the single packs was supposedly at 40,000 per issue and each package had it's own serial number with a matching serial number on the chassis of the car.  Each model came with a plastic stand and a 2"by3" emblem mounted to the stand.  By writing to Racing Champions, you could receive a listing of their releases for the Mint Edition cars for 1996.

In 1997, the '56 Thunderbird was dropped from the Mint Edition line but appeared once again  in the "Stock Rod" series, in black and white with racing sponsorship decals for Texaco/Havoline.  It's the only known 56 t-bird that Racing Champions released in 1997.

For 1998, the Thunderbird was brought back 5 times, twice in the "Nascar 50th Anniversary" series and 2 times in the Stock Rod series.  Both of the Stock Rod issues were specials. One thru JC Penny's and the other was in a special, mail order only series with McDonald's racecar logos.  The t-bird was in the 3rd set of that special series and came gold-plated with the McDonald's racing logos - a very striking model.  The fifth rendering of this model for 1998 was in a new series, the "Hot Country Steel" series which featured several different country western singers.  These music stars picked the models they wanted to represent themselves and each model was painted with the stars' graphics and signatures.  The t-bird has only been used once - for country western star, Alan Jackson.

For some reason,  Racing Champions got off to a shaky start  in 1999 when it produced several of its  models mislabeled.  To start off with, it's model of the 1957 Ford Ranchero came out in packages labeling it as a 1956.  Previous issues of this model had been correctly identified so don't know why the slip up this year.  Then, a gold-plated Mint Edition of the 1956 Thunderbird came out in March BUT it was packaged with a gold and black Chevrolet Emblem.  The issue was limited to 9999 and has been very hard to find on the retail store shelves but eventually showed up in discount, discontinued merchandise stores.

Updates: By late 1999, the above model eventually appeared in discount toy stores and "close-out" stores at half the original price. In 2000 the gold plated McDonald's also started showing up in the same stores, making both models much more available to collectors.

Racing Champions had an excellent website where you can keep track of their latest releases for all their lines of models.  However, they do not consistently list their special issues on this site, just their standard issues.  They did have an archive listing of previous models released over the last 3 years.  R.C. also bought Ertl this last year.

Update 2009:  Caution when displaying or storing your RC models.  The rubber tires react with the plastic stands these are packaged with (this has been known for a number of years).  Suggest removing model from packaging.  If you want to continue to use the stand, put some natural fabric underneath the tires, ie. 100% Cotton, flax, wool, silk.  Another solution would be to cut some mirrored glass to glue to the top of the base.   This problem also occurs with other models by other manufacturers so do check your packages every now and then if you're not into removing your model from their packages.  It's also something to be aware of when displaying your models outside of the package and on stands - a wood or glass base may be your best choice for displays.

Since Racing Champions and Ertl merged in the mid-2000s, they have re-issued the 56 T-bird model under the Ertl Collectibles brand but have only found it used once - in 2005 in a 5-pack  - appears to be the same white model #11 as used in the Racing Champion series above but, since my collection is still packed away, have not been able to put the two together to note any differences.  Since RC2 also carries the Johnny Lightning brand, this may be why you're no longer seeing the RC model used.

Basic Description:
1956 Thunderbird; 1/55 scale; porthole hardtop, dual outside rear view mirrors, continental kit, opening hood, detailed engine.

  Click on "links" in left column for photo views of models

 Mint Edition #6   yellow w/white p.h. hardtop; white interior
Mint Edition #11  white.w/white p.h. hardtop; red interior
Mint Edition #16 grey w/white p.h. hardtop; white interior
Mint Edition #26 peacock blue w/black p.h. hardtop; peacock interior
Mint Edition #32  pink w/white p.h. hardtop; white interior; 
Mint Edition #37 red w/red p.h. hardtop; black interior
Mint Edition - Set #2 Black with black porthole hardtop; black interior; in set with 4 other cars
#36 Stock Rod white & black; red interior;  #28 - Havoline in gold letters on top and doors; Texaco in red letters; w/stand and racing card
#8 - 1956 - Nascar 50th Anniversary Yellow w/ black top & racing decals - '56' on side; black & cream interior
#8 - 1956 - Nascar 
Gold 50th Anniversary
Gold chrome with same decals as #8 Nascar above; cream & black interior;  limited to   9,998.
#12S - Stock Rod Mark Martin Winn Dixie  Black w/yellow tampo & #60; cream interior; w/card signed by Mark Martin; in  set of 10 - exclusive for JC Penny
#94 - Stock Rod McDonalds  gold chrome w/McDonald's tampo; red interior; in 3rd series of Bill Elliot;Pkg'd in small red cardboard box; was mail order only thru Racing Champions; eventually found in discount stores
#9 - Hot Country Steel - Alan Jackson  black w/white sides; signature on hood; NASCAR emblem on  trunk; his name printed in block letters on side
Motor Trend Mint 24K Gold  24K gold-plated w/ gold plated interior; packaged w/ black & gold Chevy Emblem -   (what a cut!!); gold-plated model stand; 1 of 9999.

A Line of Dot's

Lists:  1955 A-H 1955 I-M 1955 N-Z ?? 1956 A-F 1956G-J 1956K-N 1956 O-Z + ?? 1957 A-H 1957 I-R 1957 S-Z ??
released in:  1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
2009 2010
AVON Battle Bird,
Hot Wheels
Micro Models
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A Line of Dot's

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© 1999- 2009  by A Line of Dot's
Not affiliated with
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