Why does there always have to be good news and bad news when interesting new Willys Jeep scale models hit the market?
It has been 15 years since Matchbox did Elvis: The Graceland Collection, and GreenLight specializes in models with celebrity tie-ins, so a series of 1/43 scale diecast vehicles connected to Elvis Presley seems logical. And three of the releases so far have been Jeeps!
But some of the bad news is pretty bad, starting with incorrect model names printed on the packages, and stamped on the display bases. For the blue "1963 Jeep CJ-5" both the year and model designation are incorrect; it should be CJ-5A (see below.)
For the pink "1960 Jeep Surrey CJ-3B", the year is correct, but of course Elvis' Graceland runabout was a DJ-3A not a CJ-3B. (It's the opposite problem of a recent Ixo 1/43 High Hood Surrey labelled as a DJ-3A!)
The blue Jeep is based on the 1965 CJ-5A from the movie Tickle Me, but the model's squared-off rear wheel openings indicate that it's the unique version of the CJ-5 built in Brazil by Willys and later Ford. In fact this casting looks very similar to a 1/43 diecast model that was produced in 2015 for the Brazilian market as a 1963 Jeep Willys CJ-5 (80K JPEG), which presumably is where GreenLight got both their mold and their 1963 date.
As of 2018, there have been additional vehicles in the Elvis series, in various scales, including a 1/64 version of the CJ-5A. The smaller size means it is less detailed, but it does have the right wheel openings, and a more correct hood badge. The Kaiser Jeep hubcaps are a first in 1/64 scale. The packaging (80K JPEG) still refers to it as a CJ-5 rather than CJ-5A.
The blue Jeeps must be selling well, because as of late 2019, there is also a 1/18-scale version. The larger size means the details are cleaner, but this time GreenLight has used a later AMC-style CJ-5 body casting with incorrect details including the wipers, mirrors, front and side marker lights, and longer wheelbase. The packaging still calls it a 1963 CJ-5!
GreenLight has to be given credit for digging a little deeper, beyond the Surrey, to find the blue Jeep in the relatively obscure 1965 Presley film Tickle Me.
Maybe they spotted the Jeep on this poster for the film, which incorporates a photo of the rear end (30K JPEG).
Presley plays Lonnie Beale, an out-of-work rodeo rider (and part-time singer) who gets a job on a dude ranch and falls for the beautiful fitness instructor Pamela Merrit (played by Jocelyn Lane). The wacky plot involves girls in bikinis, hidden treasure and a ghost town, and it's almost a parody of an Elvis movie.
The Jeep is a 1965 CJ-5A Tuxedo Park Mark IV, finished in Sierra Blue. It belongs to Julie Adams' character Vera, owner of the Circle Z dude ranch catering to wealthy women, who would of course want the most dolled-up Jeep available.
The CJ-5A Tuxedo Park model was introduced in 1964, and since the movie was shot in October and November of '64, it seems obvious that Kaiser Jeep would have provided the producers with a 1965 CJ-5A, to be seen in theatres the following summer.
The Tuxedo Park hood badge is represented by a silver stripe on the hood of the 1/43 model, along with the appropriate silver front bumper, rearview mirror, and hubcaps. GreenLight also got the side-mounted spare correct, which helps to hide the square wheel opening.
The rear is missing the chrome bumper, and there is a piece sticking out of the tailgate which appears to be a tab for attaching a spare tire. If it was right in the middle we could call it the license plate light, as seen on a prototype CJ-5A photographed at the 2007 Spring Willys Reunion.
The 1/18-scale version has a more detailed Tuxedo Park badge, but unbelievably is missing the spare tire, despite selling online for about US$65 or more, three times the price of the 1/43 model.
This rear view shows the incorrect "Jeep" stamped tailgate and rear gas tank filler of the AMC body, and the lack of chromed taillights and bumper.
What better Jeep for a wedding than a Tuxedo Park? Lonnie and Pamela get married at the Circle Z, and the last scene of Tickle Me is pretty much a Jeep commercial, as they drive off into the distance with Lonnie singing to Pam. (It reminds me of the many Bollywood Jeep Songs from Indian movies.)
The producers originally wanted Brigitte Bardot as Presley's female co-star, but wisely settled for the delightful Jocelyn Lane, who was sometimes referred to as "the British Bardot" (until she quit the film business in 1971 to marry a Spanish prince.)
Comic ranch hand Stanley is being pulled behind in a wash tub, one of many goofy details that send this movie over the top.
The GreenLight 1/43 Surrey is also based on an earlier casting (see Surrey Jeep Toys for more details). For an inexpensive model it is a reasonably detailed DJ-3A, with the exception of the size and positioning of the headlights.
I'm guessing GreenLight got confused and called it a CJ-3B because they did their research by reading Elvis Presley's Jeeps, and noticed the page was part of CJ3B.info.
If the Brazilian CJ-5 casting doesn't make a totally convincing CJ-5A Tuxedo Park, it makes a really poor U.S. Army M38A1. The A1 was the Jeep driven by Presley during his two years in the Army, as well as occasionally in his movies.
As of late 2016 I haven't seen the packaging for this model, but the advance publicity suggests it is going to be called a "1963 Army Jeep CJ-5!" That is really lame, and is not going to be a big attraction for serious collectors.
You can see from the hood number, that it's not intended to represent the Jeep in Presley's 1964 movie Kissin' Cousins. In this movie, Elvis plays a U.S. Air Force second lieutenant who is sent to persuade his hillbilly cousins to sell land to the government for a missle base! But the Jeep plays a minor role.
GreenLight made a much better choice, and lettered their model as a Jeep that was actually documented in use by Sgt. Presley with the 32nd Armored Scouts in Germany. It is seen in one of the best sets of photos of Presley during his U.S. Army service, taken in February 1960 during training exercise Operation Winter Shield.
This A1's hood numbers match the model, although GreenLight may have had to guess at the last couple of digits, since I haven't seen a photo that actually shows the whole number. The stencilled refuelling information on the driver's side is taken from a different Jeep seen in Elvis Presley's Jeeps on CJ3B.info.
They did correctly put the spare on the tailgate, but a nice touch would have been to include the gear strapped to the hood. The mud painted on the model matches the dirty Jeep in the Winter Shield photos, but I think maybe Presley as an Army driver would rather have seen his Jeep cleaned up before it's put on display!
So, the good news is these are great ideas for scale models, but it's hard to recommend them, because of the inappropriate castings and incorrect labelling. Of course, this recycling of old models is probably one shortcut which helps GreenLight release new Jeeps as frequently and inexpensively as they do. On the other hand, there's really no excuse for the sloppy documentation.
Since the Army Jeep has just been announced in late 2016, it appears that there may be more Elvis vehicles coming in 2017. Let's hope GreenLight continues to be imaginative (but maybe do a bit more research.) There is certainly room for more non-Jeep vehicles in the series. So far I think those have been limited to a 1955 Cadillas Fleetwood (70K JPEG) in several colors and scales. -- Derek Redmond
See "Elvis: The Graceland Collection" in 1/64 scale from Matchbox.
Also on CJ3B.info, see the full story of Elvis Presley's Jeeps, and more of Elvis' Movies.
See more Scale Model Jeeps from Greenlight.
Return to the Toy Jeeps Pages on CJ3B.info.
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