by Pete Hagenbuch
There's lots of good news for Mopar collectors right now. The long-awaited Airflow is here from Signature Models, and Burago is finally out with its Crossfire model. Unfortunately, my camera is in the shop. On warranty, I hope! I'll report on these later, and another new one from Yat-Ming, a 1970 Coronet R/T Convertible which is pretty well done.
Signature Models is a subsidiary of Yat-Ming. Signature models are of higher quality than the Yat-Mings and carry a slightly higher price tag, if you want to call $25-$30 high. What is high is their accuracy, their fit-and-finish, just their overall good looks. The car in question is the 1955 Imperial two door hardtop. I bought mine at the Walter P. Chrysler Museum Gift Shop in 2003 for $25. What a bargain! But that's what I've come to expect from Signature. And they haven't disappointed me yet.
The Imperial is a model that would attract buyers at twice the price, and more. The paint finish is as near perfection as I've seen on a mass produced model. Hell, it's just perfect with no qualifiers! Door fits are a bit less than perfect but make up for it with hidden hinges. Bright exterior trim is very nicely done, not too thick and with a good finish; no parting lines ore mold marks. The radio antenna is of a structural plastic which feels unbreakable and looks like what it's supposed to be, not at all like a broomstick.
The interior looks very realistic. The seats are contoured, not just painted, and are of a resilient plastic. The instrument panel is nice, gauges are inset and bezeled. Controls are all there too, handbrake lever, headlamp switch, turn signal wand and the infamous “stiletto” gearshift lever used only on 1955 Chrysler cars. The glass treatment is as good as I've seen on any model, regardless of cost. There is only mild distortion in the curved areas with no unsightly overlap, leaving a fully accurate looking headliner and sun visors. The door panels are neatly trimmed and the door sills have their bright moldings (a favorite feature to omit from low priced models). The interior is fully carpeted.
The trunk has little to make you open it. It contains a spare tire. The deck lid fit is excellent so leave it closed! There is a lot of machinery under the hood, including some wiring and hoses, and a battery with only three colored caps. Absolutely! Chrysler changed to 12 volt systems in the 1956 model year.
Most of the underhood looks kind of generic, and those head covers aren't right for this 331 cid Hemi. I use the popular name (registered trademark of Chrysler) for what was always the “Double Rocker” to Chrysler people. So leave the hood closed. It's fit is as good as the deck lid.
Okay, we have a great model for $25 to $30. There are a couple of problems. First, some of the exterior details are a bit fragile. I broke one of the gunsight taillights while writing this and it looks like its going to be hard to fix it. The other thing is one of my pet peeves: the headlights have pupils, an affliction that is shared by some fairly expensive models. They look like Hell and they don't have to be there.
I know I've limited myself to Chrysler brand vehicles in this series of articles, but I'm going to set a precedent here and mention another brand. Signature models has made a number of very nice models including Packards, Duesenbergs, and Aston Martins, but my favorite Signature is their 1939 Lincoln Zephyr convertible. I think this is one where all the pieces fell together on the first try. It is gorgeous!
Pete Hagenbuch, not content with designing the engines and fuel systems used in the actual cars, or in being a well-known slot car performance pioneer, has written reviews of numerous models:
Mattel’s Dodge Charger - $30 replica of the classic car
1957 Chrysler 300C
Pete Hagenbuch, Mopar engineer Pete Hagenbuch Interview Models and promos Model forum
Chrysler toys and models