Fleer 1973 Plymouth Fury
by Dick Williams
Background of Fleer/White Rose Police Products
(If you’re already familiar with the White Rose/Fleer series of police cars and helicopters, just skip to the review of the ’73 Plymouth below.) Many collectors are more familiar with Fleer’s sports trading cards that come in packages of bubble gum than with their police diecast products. However, Fleer markets virtually the only accurate diecast models of vintage American police cars made today.
Fleer Collectibles bought White Rose Collectibles a couple of years ago. At that time, White Rose, located in York, PA, was engaged in a long-term contract with the Centennial Committee of the Pennsylvania State Police to produce a series of models that would represent various periods in PSP history, culminating in the celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the Pennsylvania State Police in 2005.
White Rose had hired Dennis Deal, a retired Maryland State Trooper who was well known as an avid Road Champs customizer and police collector, to oversee all their police model operations, from research to production to delivery. Dennis was a great choice, as he was (and is) a stickler for accuracy and detail. The first car White Rose produced for the PSP was a 1949 Ford, followed by a 1988 Chevy Caprice and a ’69 Plymouth Fury. Although the Pennsylvania cars were sold only to active and retired troopers and other employees of the PSP, many showed up on eBay, some at high prices. (The frenzy over the earlier PSP Road Champs car, produced exclusively for PSP employees, probably influenced this decision. The “$250 Road Champs” became legendary and some PSP employees probably had visions of augmenting their retirement with sales of diecast patrol cars.)
White Rose produced a series of other patrol cars based on each of the first three models developed for the PSP contract. Along the way, White Rose also introduced a police Mustang series that was not part of the PSP order. Each of the series came with an incentive to entice collectors to buy the entire series. For the ’49 Ford, it was a free acrylic covered display case; the Mustang and Caprice series each had a gold-plated car in the car company’s demonstrator markings (not very popular with collectors as they didn’t represent a “real” car). The ’69 Fury series had the most desirable premium: a model of a New Hampshire State Police car – the first officially sanctioned model of a NHSP car ever made.
White Rose also introduced a Bell Jetranger helicopter model for another PSP committee, the HEMC (Historical, Educational and Memorial Committee, which was raising funds for construction of a PSP Museum in Hershey, PA). Like the Centennial cars, the helicopters (initially, at least) were available only to PSP employees and, at first, commanded very high prices on eBay. The last two models were opened to public purchases direct from HEMC when they didn’t sell out.
Fleer purchased White Rose in the midst of the release of the ’69 Fury series and moved White Rose’s operations from York, PA, to Fleer HQ in New Jersey. Warehouse stocks of White Rose cars, including several new ’69 models in the pipeline at the time, were dumped at very low prices (about $5 per car in some cases).
While the ’69 Fury was a much-desired subject and the 14 models in the series (counting the PSP and NHSP cars) included a wide range of color schemes, markings and emergency lights, many collectors felt that the car’s proportions were off considerably. A comparison of the model with photos of the actual car clearly bears that out, in my opinion, even without measurements. While the overall proportions of the car (length, height, wheelbase, width, etc.) may be correct to 1:43rd scale, the model clearly has “issues,” most notably the height of the body from the top of the wheel wells to the top of the hood and trunk, which clearly is too tall. This throws off much of the rest of the car, especially the height of the windows and the front end. The windows appear to be too low and the front end, from the bumper to the top of the hood, appears too tall. The effect is less noticeable on some cars because of their color schemes (for example, the North Carolina Highway Patrol car), but it’s disappointingly obvious to an enthusiast.
The strong suit of the ’69, like all the White Rose police models that preceded it, was that it was the only model ever made of that particular police car. Also, the colors, markings and police equipment accurately matched the actual departments represented. Each car had the radio antenna, spotlight, and the appropriate type of roof light or lightbar in the correct location for the department depicted by the model. The colors were meticulously researched by Dennis Deal, who amassed a collection of vintage door decals and emergency equipment. His research included interviews with retired troopers who drove the vintage cars in service, obtaining color formulas and samples of actual paint from old former patrol cars, and combing through photo archives, maintenance records and order specifications. Dennis uncovered a trove of information about some of the earlier cars, including rare color schemes. It is unfortunate that the Chinese manufacturer who made the earlier White Rose cars sometimes was not as meticulous as Dennis in duplicating the cars themselves in scale. However, the research and accuracy of the colors and markings on White Rose and Fleer cars are probably as close to perfect as any vintage police car model is likely to be.
Fleer was more interested in various White Rose diecast products that could be used to expand their sports collectibles business (for example, buses and Zamboni ice dressing machines) and even eventually released the helicopter casting in a range of team colors. However, Fleer pledged to honor White Rose’s contract with the PSP Centennial Committee, which called for a total of six models to be produced.
After the purchase of White Rose by Fleer, the remaining models in the series were gradually released: a 1941 Ford Tudor sedan (first diecast model of a ‘40s Ford police sedan ever made), a 1972 Plymouth Fury, and the latest model, a 1973 Fury. Again, each model represented a major change in markings of PSP patrol cars. A change in manufacturers in China has resulted in some truly beautiful and highly accurate models to match Dennis Deal’s personal concern with accuracy.
Unfortunately, no more series of police cars were forthcoming after the ’69. The cars were available for special orders, but few of these have been produced, as can be seen from the accompanying list. (Prior to the Fleer takeover, the only cars produced apart from the series and the special incentive models were in a 3-car New York City set of ’49 Fords. The set included an NYPD patrol car, an FDNY Chief’s car and a plain civilian model. The FDNY car was the only fire car ever made by White Rose or Fleer.)
A recent development is the introduction of a series of civilian 1941 Ford models – one in each Ford factory color available to buyers of the real 1941 Fords. The cars are available as a set and individually from Diecast Direct. Hopefully, this will be a big seller and generate some revenue for some police car series!
Review of the 1973 Plymouth Fury Model
Fleer now is shipping their long-awaited 1973 Plymouth Fury to the Pennsylvania State Police Centennial Committee. The model’s debut was delayed nearly a year, but that was because Dennis Deal sent several prototypes back to China for corrections. The result of this painstaking attention to detail is one of the nicest American police models ever made and a worthy companion to Fleer’s earlier ’72 Fury. Many differences are obvious between both model years, not only in the colors and markings, but in details such as grilles, bumpers and bodies.
The overall effect and appearance of the car is outstanding, and the proportions of each part of the body relative to the rest of the car look excellent. The blue and yellow paint (reminiscent of NY State Police cars of the same period but a lighter blue) with large keystone-shaped door insignia is one of the most attractive of the PSP color schemes. The quality of the paint and finish is excellent.
This model compares very favorably with photos of the real car in various police books. The subtle curves and character lines of the body have been captured well (accurately replicating the shape of the body behind the rear doors was an area of particular emphasis by Dennis with the manufacturer). The intricate grille and rear bumper on the ’73 are works of art and replicate the real vehicle very closely.
The chrome plated, full wheel covers, the same ones used on the ’72 Fury, really stand out and are one of the best features of this model. They have fluted edges and tiny, readable “Plymouth” lettering on the center hubcaps. Quality of the chrome finish is outstanding. Similar lettering on the rear bumper also is sharp and readable. The tires have excellent tread and sidewall detail and are not too skinny (one of the few negatives of the Corgi Monaco). Black paint simulates the rubber “bumperette” tips introduced on the ‘73. Delicate, sharp “Fury II” scripts adorn the front quarter panels. The interior is black plastic with minimal detail, but is hard to see and does not distract from the appearance of the model. Likewise, the underside of the model is a black plastic plate with some molded-in chassis detail. Curiously, the Fleer name appears nowhere on the underside, only “PSP 2004” and “Made in China.”
About the only really negative point of this model is that the ends of the chrome-plated, plastic front bumper/grille and rear bumper/taillight pieces do not extend quite as far as they should into the body. The missing length (about 1/16th inch in front and 1/8th inch in the rear) is simulated with silver paint applied to the body where the tips of the bumpers should be. Since the paint is not nearly as shiny as the chrome plating and the rest of the bumpers are separate parts, it is the only significant shortcoming on the model, in my opinion.
Silver paint also is used to simulate chrome on the door handles, door and trunk lock, trim around the glass and the chrome strip between the blue and yellow colors on the side. It doesn’t shine like chrome, but keep in mind this is a model in the $15 range, and even Corgi used paint to simulate chrome trim on its ’74 Monaco. Other comments in the “nit-picking” category are slightly oversized door handles that look like they belong on a more recent car (the ones on the ’72 model were more accurate for the period) and undersized headlight buckets. However, Fleer gets high marks for having four separate headlights, each set in its own chrome bezel. This is the same setup as the real car, but a look at photos of the real McCoy shows that the headlights occupy more space in the front end than on the model – tough to accomplish in 1:43rd scale.
Apart from the painted, simulated bumper ends, the minor nits mentioned above don’t detract from what is a gorgeous model overall. Even the painted “bumpers” aren’t very noticeable unless you’re looking for them (or you’re a fanatic, like me).
A roof-mounted whip antenna and the side mirror, both chrome, are protectively packaged in a plastic envelope. (The antenna may need a drop of white glue to stay in place, and the mirror locating pin might need to be trimmed a bit to prevent a too-tight fit.) No spotlight is included, but the actual PSP cars didn’t mount them, either. License plates say “STATE POLICE” on the front and “PA-1973” on the rear, both quite authentic looking in yellow on blue. The model is packaged in the typical, rather flimsy, Fleer window box with a color photo of the actual car and information about the PSP in 1973 printed on the back.
Although this car, like the other five PSP cars, will be sold only to PSP employees, no doubt it will appear on eBay shortly. I would say it is a “must have” model for police car collectors.
There is hope that a combined series may be made from this car and the ’72 Fury model. As with the ’72 Fury, “dog dish” hubcaps will be available as options for special orders of this car (as used on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police version of the ’72 Fury sold by North West Police Products, now sold out). Dennis Deal wants to replicate unusual and unique colors and markings of several state agencies that will fill gaps for collectors. Several cars may be available by the end of this year, including special dark blue and white New York State Police Thruway patrol cars and white South Carolina Highway Patrol cars with black and gold markings.
Dennis also is hoping to work out an arrangement with the NYPD’s licensing firm to produce ’72 and ’73 NYPD cars, representing the last year of the green, white and black RMPs and the introduction of blue and white cars.
This model was meant to end the series commissioned by the PSP Centennial Committee. However, it’s possible that the Historical, Educational and Memorial Committee (which ordered the series of four PSP helicopters) might consider adding a couple more cars to the PSP series.
Surprise Announcement – 2005 Crown Vic
A surprise from Dennis Deal was the news that Fleer will produce their first modern police car next year. The Centennial Committee added an additional car to the series in honor of the Centennial in 2005 - a 2005 Crown Vic.
My first reaction was, “Not another Crown Vic, when we need Polaras, Coronets, Belvederes, Diplomats, etc.?!” However, this one will be made with the customary attention to detail shown by Deal on all the White Rose/Fleer products. Not only will it have the new chrome, spoked wheel covers and honeycomb grille, it will have accurate replica Goodyear RSA police radials, down to the tread pattern. The spotlight will be correctly mounted through the A pillar and not the windshield glass (as with Gearbox and Road Champs). The hood and doors will open. The opening doors properly will include the frame (nothing looks more toy-like, in my opinion, on a model than opening doors on a model that leave the frames attached to the body) and there will be a full equipment console and video camera inside. The trunk will contain accurately painted, typical police equipment, such as a case of flares and radio gear.
The car will be designed with further “premier” sales in mind, with a variety of lightbars and both full wheel covers and steel wheels with center hubcaps available.
I’m not a big fan of opening features on police models, especially hoods, but the Centennial Committee specified those details. Accurate police equipment in the front seat and trunk should add to the interest of those features.
I have photos of an unpainted prototype shot of this model and it looks great – even the door lock buttons are included in the detail! I’m not allowed to publish the photos as the car is in its very early stages, but if it lives up to its potential it will be by far the best Crown Vic diecast ever made in 1:43rd scale. (The best so far probably is IXO’s, but so far that is only available in taxi and “civilian” versions.)
Dennis intends to evaluate the potential market for a blank, customizers’ version of this car before deciding whether to produce one. However, the Fleer car, if priced competitively, should be able to carve out a sizable portion of Gearbox’s and Road Champ’s premier markets. I have no information on suggested retail price yet. The opening features may make it rather expensive, but I’m hoping it will be about the same as a Gearbox model, which also has opening everything but without the detail of the Fleer product.