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"Muscle Cars", August 1, 2012

Vintage Toy Box: Aurora Imposters

Steve Magnante

In stock mode the Imposters look like lightly customized factory replicas. All share five-slot mags with hard plastic Goodyear Wide Tread front tires and soft M&H Racemaster slicks. The wind up key fits into the hole on the passenger side of the VW and Willys. Note the misspelling of Volkswagen on the box.

I was an 8-year-old kid when Santa Claus answered my wish for an Aurora Imposter in 1972. Rendered in approximately 1:16 scale, the Imposter line consisted of a yellow VW Beetle, a blue Ford Pinto, and a violet ’41 Willys gasser. Each molded styrene plastic Imposter body was mounted atop an expandable metal frame. Weighing over 2 pounds, the Imposters were pretty exotic toys in their time, and at $6 apiece they weren’t cheap.

What separated Imposters from lesser toy cars was a purple key on the body. Turning it energized an internal spring motor, and pressing a small tab under the rear bumper caused the stock body and chassis to stretch out, revealing a chromed V-8 engine. The trunk lid popped open, and out came a helmeted driver. If that wasn’t enough, after the transformation was complete, the soft rubber M&H Racemaster slicks launched the car 60 feet.

The original yellow VW Imposter Santa delivered to me is gone, but thanks to eBay I recently bought a replacement — with its original box — for $82. The price may seem like a lot, but the memories conjured while holding the car and reading the cool box art were worth even more. I never had the Pinto or Willys as a kid, but that didn’t stop me from scoring them too. The Pinto set me back $45 (with the box yet!) while the boxless Willys cost just $22.50.

My curiosity is satisfied — with one exception. According to Internet buzz, the original Imposters TV commercial included action shots of an AMC Gremlin Imposter. Unfortunately, the commercial depicting the never-released Gremlin version used to be accessible on YouTube but has gone dark over copyright hassles. My quest is not over; I need to find that Gremlin!

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