Ledy Bolidos and The Four Lost Toppers

In 1993, Carter Pennington published a small 21 page booklet describing all of the Topper Johnny Lightning models made for the US market. In his booklet, he describes four models which were obviously designed but never mass produced by Topper. All four are replicas of American made cars, with the Mustang and Camaro being the two most iconic American muscle cars, the other two being the Dodge Charger and the Lincoln Continental. Although Pennington owned several “preproduction” pieces, no mass production pieces were widely known in the US for over 30 years. The reasons behind the decision to abandon the four models was lost to history, as were four models, hence the term “the Lost Toppers”.
Page from Carter Pennington’s “Collector’s Guide to Topper Johnny Lightnings”

Lily Ledy

Lili Ledy was Mexico’s premiere toy manufacturer but because of trade law restrictions, all toys they sold had to be manufactured in Mexico.  Thus, many popular US toy lines were licensed and produced by Lili Ledy in Mexico resulting in wonderful variations that toy collectors search for to this day.  A lot of favorites like the Star Wars, Mego Superheroes, G.I. Joe and Kenner TTP are included along with some interesting Mexican market items such as a line of die cast cars marketed as “Bolidos”.
Bolidos were made for only two years: 1972 and 1973 with a total of 23 models, all designs licensed from foreign companies. In their promotional materials and packaging, LEDY assigned names that differ from the names assigned by the original manufacturer, however the logos and model names embossed on the base of the car remains the same as the original manufacturer. Three of the 23 models were licensed from an Italian company called Mercury Speedy Velox and twenty of them have the “Topper/Johnny Lightning” nomenclature and logo on the base.

1972 Bolido

1972 Christmas Catalog

The 1972 Christmas catalog was an insert to the Reader’s Digest “Selecciones” magazine. Attached using a glue strip, the catalog couldbe removed intact. On two pages, it illustrates 18 different models, each with its own product number. Among the eighteen models are thethree models from Mercury Speedy Velox, eleven Johnny Lightning models, recognizable from the US product line and four other models…
    OMG!!! The four “Lost Toppers”!!!
      • Mod. 878 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL
      • Mod. 879 CAMARO CHEVI
      • Mod. 882 DODGE CHARGER
      • Mod. 887 MUSTANG MACH 1

 

    • The “Lost Toppers” had been found in Mexico…

 

1973 Bolidos

1973 Montgomery Ward Catalog Page

    • A page in the Mexican version of the 1973 Montgomery Ward Christmas Catalog shows 5 additional models each with its own product number. All of these are found in the US domestic line.

Finding the “Lost Toppers”… The story as told by Shawn McClinic:

So it’s sometime in 2004,  at a major convention,  and a bunch of the elite Topper guys are discussing (arguing!) the new wrinkle in the world of vintage Johnny Lightning cars…  an Eldorado and Thunderbird with black interiors, lousy paint and sealed doors WITH doorlines show up at the convention as does a Lincoln Continental.

The Eldorado and T-Bird could be explained by saying someone reverse engineered them and that they were true knock offs/counterfeit. But the Lincoln…  well,  it’s one of the “Lost 4” as they are commonly called;  the cars Topper intended to mass produce but due to casting issues, trademark infringement and many other ‘theories’, they just weren’t done.

Those four are the Lincoln, Mustang, Camaro and the Charger.  And according to ALL of the topper gurus at the time,  the only Lincoln known to be made by Topper was one complete prototype and a very few test samples. The Eldorado and T-Bird could be explained by saying someone reverse engineered them and that they were true knock offs/counterfeit. But the Lincoln…  well,  it’s one of the “Lost 4” as they are commonly called;  the cars Topper intended to mass produce but due to casting issues, trademark infringement and many other ‘theories’, they just weren’t done.   Those four are the Lincoln, Mustang, Camaro and the Charger.  And according to ALL of the topper gurus at the time,  the only Lincoln known to be made by Topper was one complete prototype and a very few test samples.

According to Carter and those elites at the time, there was no way anyone could have reversed the Lincoln.  Carter owned the protos and all of the test pieces that were known were accounted for as well,  so where in the hell did it come from?  Enter eBay!  That’s right,  eBay.

A guy in Mexico City posts a Lincoln, black interior, ugly red paint and a bottom shot that look like this…

 

 

and… the Topper collecting world goes nuts!!! This isn’t to say that this was the first time these cars were seen, but this was THE turning point. We come to find out from this gentleman that a toy company by the name of Lili-Ledy had produced a line of die cast cars and accessories from September 1971 until around May 1974.  These little gems were called “BOLIDOS”.  They made 23 different models and,  this is the shocker…  the “Lost 4” were included in those original castings.

So everything the Topper guys were spouting as gospel,  that these cars were never mass produced, was wrong.  So what else had they gotten wrong?  It sent the diecast community into a bit of a tailspin but it also gave the average collector….hope.  Most of us could never afford a one of a kind proto or test shot,  but with Bolidos,  we all have a chance to own a small piece of Topper history, and a lot less expensively.  There is still a question that no one has been able to answer on this topic…  who sold Ledy the molds and when?

We know the cars and sets appeared in the 1971-72 Ledy Christmas catalogue and did so for every year up to the spring catalogue of ’74. So did Henry Orenstein sell them before he was indicted for fraud in Nov 71?  Had he made arrangements previously?  No one knows.

 

    • And Henry won’t speak on it,  so we may never know.

 

 

 

 

Original article from Ted Grays THE ONLINE REDLINE GUIDE

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