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1973 – A Glorious Time for Grand Touring Cars

by priceminer (02/11/06).

Plymouth Hemi Cuda, Ertl #303

Renault 17TS, Majorette #260

By Doug Breithaupt

To the French, they are the ‘Grand Routier’, to the Italians, ‘Gran Turismo’, and to the English speaking world, ‘Grand Touring’ cars. The definition of a GT car is that it is a fixed ortarga-top 2-door coupe with rear seats and sporting power, adequate to spirited driving. While the rear seats of these 2+2 cars are often barely usable for small pets, they do offer a bit more luggage space for the weekend escape. Many GT cars are raced or rallied. Prices are usually in the luxury car range.

Many auto enthusiasts consider the 1970′s a time in which few cars of collector interest were produced. This is certainly not the case where GT cars are concerned. Actually, the GT car experienced a high-point during this period. For the following comparison, 1973 has been selected as the touchstone year. All of the cars shown here were available in 1973. While some were in the twilight of their day like the Volvo P1800 (now only available in ES estate form), others like the Aston Martin Vantage had many good years ahead. It is certainly true that as the ’70′s moved on, the GT car began to disappear. A case could be made that 1973 was the peak year for that reason.

Mercedes-Benz 250CE, Schuco #820

Isuzu 117 Coupe, Playart

Ford Mustang, Johnny Lightning

AMC Javelin, Johnny Lightning #P219

Chevrolet Camaro, Johnny Lightning #538

Chevrolet Camaro, Johnny Lightning #538

The toy car makers are still producing GT cars of the early 1970′s. The popularity of these models, especially some of the American muscle/GT cars, has had a re-birth among diecast manufacturers. A number of great GT cars like the Lamborghini Urraco, Ferrari 308GT4 and Alfa Romeo Alfetta have seldom if ever been produced in small-scale. Also missing are some of the early Japanese GT cars like the original Toyota Celica and Nissan Skyline. While Tomica produced these cars, I do not yet have examples.

Moving from east to west, one Japanese car is shown, The Isuzu 117 Coupe (modeled by Playart) featured an Italian design and was a handsome car. Seldom seen outside of Japan, it;s success encouraged the 2+2 Z cars from Nissan and the RX7 from Mazda. While Tomica produced several additional GT cars of this period, they are not presently in my collection.

Dodge Challenger, Matchbox #1

Jaguar 'E' type Coupe S3, Majorette #207

Jensen Interceptor, Corgi #3396

Lotus Elite, Tomica #F47

Aston Martin Vantage, Johnny Lightning #658

Citroen-Maserati SM, Majorette #250

The American approach to the GT was a combination of the pony cars and the muscle power provided by potent V8 engines. Ford’s Mustang was gaining size and weight by the early ’70′s and the ’71-’73 models were the last of the big Mustangs before the Mustang II of 1974. Johnny Lightning has done an excellent model of the 1973 model. Also from Johnny Lightning is the AMC Javelin, Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Firebird. Matchbox did the Dodge Challenger and Johnny Lightning did the Plymouth Hemi Cuda model from this same era.

The British GT cars are represented by Jaguar’s ‘E’ type SIII V12 Coupe, the Jensen Interceptor, Lotus Elite and Aston Martin Vantage. The ‘E’ type SIII is one of Majorette’s best and the only example of this car in 1:64. The Jensen by Corgi is a rare find today and only other example is by Playart. Johnny Lightning recently did the Vantage as part of their James Bond series and Tomica and Playart both did the Elite.

Lamborghini Espada, Siku #V317

Lancia Fulvia, Playart

Maserati Merak, Tomica #F7

Opel Manta, Schuco #839

BMW 3.0CS, Majorette #235

Ford Capri, Majorette #251

Moving to France, Citroen has only once produced a GT car. The SM combined Citroen engineering with Maserati power and was one of the most innovative cars of the day. Renault built the 17TS for the GT market. Both cars are appropriately shown as done by Majorette and are some of the nicest examples.

The Italians GT models are represented by the Lamborghini Espada, Lancia Fulvia and Maserati Merak. Siku was the only company to do the Espada while only Playart did the Fulvia. Tomica’s Merak is the best example of this car and includes a view of the mid-engine V6 which was also used in the Citroen SM. It is unfortunate that Ferrari’s GT cars of this period (308GT4, 365GT4 or 365GTC4) are missing. Ferrari’s 2-seaters of the same period were the obvious diecast choices. Fiat’s Dino Coupe and Alfa Romeo’s Alfetta are also missing from my collection.

Porsche 911E, Siku #1010

Volvo P1800S by Impy Lone Star

Five German GT’s are featured. Opel’s Manta was also sold in the U.S. by Buick and Schuco offered a delightful example. Also from Schuco is the wonderful Mercedes-Benz 250CE. Majorette provided the beautiful BMW 3.0CS and the Ford Capri while Siku did one of the best early Porsche 911E models.

Finally, Sweden’s Volvo is represented by the P1800S model although in 1973, it was offered as an 1800ES estate car. The Impy Lone Star models is excellent in every way except choice of exterior/interior colors.

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