Topper Johnny Lightnings

A resource for information on the Topper Johnny Lightning Diecast Cars!

Brief History of Topper Johnny Lightning

In 1969, Topper Toys introduced Johnny Lightning cars and track sets in response to the growing 1/64th-scale diecast market. New Jersey
inventor and author Henry Orenstein owned Topper toys and is responsible for their creation. Johnny Lightning introduced 13 cars and
several hard plastic sets that year. Topper based all but one car, the Custom Turbine, on real cars of the period. Flexible plastic track
was also sold, as well as accessories like a loop-the-loop and curved sections. In addition, Topper sold a Johnny Lightning helmet and
carrying case.

For 1970, Johnny Lightning introduced 31 new models, mostly based on fantasy vehicles. Six of the new models were "Jet Power" cars.
These cars contained a plastic bladder which could be filled with pressurized air that, when released, sent the car speeding down the
track. Topper also produced numerous new track sets for 1970.

Johnny Lightning sponsored five Parnelli Jones cars, including Al Unser, in the 1970 and 1971 Indy 500 races. Unser was able to capture those
victories in his blue lightning bolt decorated Johnny Lightning Special. After the initial 500 victory, sales of the Johnny Lightning cars
increased dramatically, from initially having sales falling far behind that of Mattel, to selling one Johnny Lightning to every three Hot
Wheels cars.

Only five new models were introduced for 1971, all part of a series called "Custom Cars". Each came packaged with plastic snap-on parts so
children could customize the cars to their liking. By the end of 1971, Topper Toys was forced to close due to business fraud which brought
an end to the domestic Johnny Lightning cars.

Interestingly, the Johnny Lightning cars were also licensed for production in Mexico and South America. In Mexico, the Ledy toy company released
a line called "Bolidos" consisting of twenty three different models. Bolidos were produced for two years and 20 of the 23 different models were
Johnny Lightning castings. Even more interesting, is that four of the twenty models were never released in the US domestic product line.

These are known as the four "Lost Toppers".


Some definition of some unique terms are in order when talking Johnnies...

Detroits - The five models from 1969 representing actually American made cars.

Mirror Finish - A unique brilliant paint finish found on early Johnny Lightning cars.

Open Door (OD) - Some of the 1969 models, early production, had opening doors.

Sealed Door (SD) - The opening doors were eliminated with some castings having smooth sides and others having the doors outlined.

Custom - Not to be confused with prefix used on many of the 1969/70 models, the Customs were five discreet 1971 castings that
came with additional stickers and loose parts that could be added to the base casting to create custom variations of the car.

ABC - The term references the "Afterburner" which was a concept for a battery powered trailer that was never produced.

Jet Power - Six models from 1970 containing an internal air bladder that were designed to operate with a the "Compressor" accessory.


Contributors to this website include many people.
In particular, the following have contributed a wealth of knowledge, photos and opinion:

Tom Brown
Tom Drzwiecki
John Freischlag
John Knoll
Dave Koehler
Bert Luitink
James J. Murphy
Jim Okon
Mike Otte
Myron Schmidt
Bennet Sebestin
Dave Thompson

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Non-profit, non-commercial publication of original images is permitted only with prior expressed written consent from the site owner.
For other commercial, for-profit or redistribution needs, please contact the site owner.  This site is not affiliated with Mattel, Inc.

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