New on peg Johnny Lightning vs old stock for drag

Fat_Dad Sunday, 11/12/2023

Hey y'all, I'm a noob but 've been reading and trying to learn as much as possible. I have built a couple cars now and I've been doing some un-timed testing on my daughter's 24' Blu Track and one thing I've been wondering is, are new Johnny Lightning products bad for racing?

I had read people (drag) race them with good success, so I recently picked up a 76 Chevy Van (Schwinn) and a 77 Dodge Van (Mongoose) to test. I thought they'd be good because of their heavy weights but was surprised to find they can barely roll straight out of the package. They have wheels that aren't round and bent axles on both. The front driver's side wheel on the Mongoose doesn't even stay in contact with the track, it lifts for half a rotation while the oblong wheel rotates back 180 just in time to touch the surface again. 

I've kept an eye out at the pegs and examined other vans and there seem to be issues there too. 

Now, I've snagged a new-old-stock JL 76 Dodge Van from and the difference is night and day - it blows the doors off the other two. It's one of the faster stock diecast I have now. 

So, are new Johnny Lightning products bad for racing? If so, does anyone know approximately when they went bad? If not, what's good?



I'm noob myself... I like Johnny Lightnings as they have some really great castings. But those rubber wheels are total crap. Seldom are the axles straight either. I never really had any as a kid growing up in the '60's and '70's so I cannot compare the old with the new.

Others with more experience with them will chime in with the background but with a decent set of wheels, these can be good racers. Since most cars get wheel swapped anyway, I don't see why you couldn't get some better wheels and get good performance, depending on the weighting and kind of track you want to run it on.


View member profile
BlueLineRacing 11/12/23

Can't use rubber wheels but JLs in general are nicer to look at than they are to race. Stick with Hot Wheels and Matchbox for speed

  • How do people drag race JLs? Only super old ones? Was there a time when they didn't have rubber tires?? — Fat_Dad
  • Not all have Rubber tires but sometimes it’s hard to tell. There are a few decent JL castings for drag racing but it’s literally a few and they are pricey. Only time I choose to race a JL over Matchbox or Hot Wheels is in a JL race only and yes those do exist. — BlueLineRacing
  • Thanks for the good info Bluelineracing! — Fat_Dad
  • Beat me to it, Blueline! You said it exactly as I would have. — DXPRacing
  • 10 4 — Numbskull
View member profile
Fat_Dad 11/13/23

I'll add that I am asking in regard to races specifically requesting JLs. I honestly wondered if they were racing terrible cars for laughs but figured that couldn't be it. 

  • Best cars for drag racing. 1. BWF Camaro Street Beasts 2. 1971 Purple Challenger Mopar or No Car 3. 2004 Coca Cola Studebaker……There are some heavy vans that are decent also but nothing I can recommmed — BlueLineRacing

One of the main issues with Johnny Lightning, is the exact problem you found with those vans you got. Quality control is a real issue. You can buy five of the same casting and all five of them have a problem. So it's always a risky purchase. If you search a site like eBay, I would look for ones that say, they have the razors edge wheels. That way you know that they are definitely plastic wheels, not rubber, and there's enough of those castings to find something semi-decent. Regardless, you are going to have to do some work with the wheels  and a lot of various lubrication techniques to get any sort of speed out of them. And even then they may not be faster than a comprible weighted Hot Wheels or an older Matchbox.
shameless plug, check out, Chase family racing on YouTube. I race a bunch of Johnny Lightning's. You may see something worth purchasing. 

  • Thanks Chasefamilyracing - I'm subscribed on YouTube! — Fat_Dad
to join the conversation or sign-up now