So here are the three liberated rare-variant diecasts in my collection. Oddly, their liberations were not because of my hands, I simply found them with damaged/opened packaging and adopted them into my collection rather than see them get trashed/abused sitting opened on the shelves. So let's compare these rare gems and see what's what.
First is my newly-acquired autoworld 1969 Pontiac Firebird. This is the rare UltraRed collector's edition equivalent to a Hot Wheels Treasure Hunt or M2 Machines Chase car. They're easily distinguishable by their ruby-red metallic paint and white stripes. I found this at a Walmart with the packaging already opened and then clear-taped together but the car was 100% intact!
The regular version came in two colors: blue (set A) and dark red (set B). From the neat mini-storage box that comes with the car, this is the set B packaging, making it slightly harder to verify if this is a true UltraRed at first glance since they're similar colors. The only way to tell them apart is the white hood stripe and rear-end.
Underhood detail is decent, the Pontiac motor is a proper shade of blue and the brake cylinder is sliver but otherwise nothing great to write about.
The paint is easily the best of the bunch, a nice deep dark red metallic. All the details are tampo'd dead-on, no sloppy Hot Wheels or M2 quality hack-jobs here!
Interior is detailed but not painted. Lacking functional doors limits what you're able to easily see without having to pick it up and for a diecast costing 5$, it should have functional doors.
Next is this TOMY-era Johnny Lightning 1969 Camaro SS. This is part of JL's White Lighting series. Verifying a JL White Lightning is by-far the most challenging of any diecast company. Following their namesake, any part of the car could be painted white instead of its normal colors. Wheels, engines, interiors, body paint, stripes, bases, tires, etc. The only way to tell one apart is having a regular copy beside it.
I lucked out on this one, finding it in a Tractor Supply Company store alongside five normal-issue red '69 Camaros. While all the others had chrome wheels and black bases, the white wheels instantly caught my attention and picking it up revealed...
A white base. Bingo, it's a WL. Otherwise, this is your standard TOMY-era JL car; regular gloss paint instead of nice metallic finishes, plastic tires instead rubber, and typical signs the Chinese takeover reduced the level of quality that JL was once known for. The tampos are straight and correct but it's missing blatant areas like the SS/RS bumper-mounted reverse lights that my pre-TOMY Yenko Camaro SS/RS sports. The interior is about on-par or slightly less detailed than the autoworld Firebird; good but not great. This one was about 5$ as well but all Johnny Lightning cars sold through TSC came without any sort of packaging...heck TOMY already liberated them for you, how nice!
Last is one of my favorite loose chase cars, M2 Machines' 1970 Ford Mustang Boss 429. This variant is from their Auto-Projects series; giving your diecasts a more barn-find look with artificial rust, missing parts, dirty windows, mis-matched wheels. However, chase cars sport a theme of them in the middle of a restoration; primered, mostly put back together, and ready to be finished!
This one I found at a...wait, I can't recall-OH, a TJ-MAXX store on a discount. This one came in the blistered packaging instead of the smaller box that came with a clear case to go over the base. Sadly, someone had already opened the blistered and snapped off the plastic wing.
Luckily, I had previous experience chatting with Sean Taylor, VP of Product Development at Castline (of which M2 is a part of), over Facebook and told me to send an email out to a special address meant for customers who come across new M2 toys already damaged. They usually replace the entire thing but since only the wing was broken off, I simply asked if I could get a replacement wing. No shit, a week later a small letter arrived with a plastic bag containing new Boss 429 wing.
So, now the diecast itself. Obviously, you get what you pay for with M2 and they usually give you your money's worth in detail and accuracy. The engine bay is nicely detailed and I put it on-par with the autoworld Firebird. The tampos on this one are cleanly laid-out and spot-on, even the primer-grey paint shows zero signs of scratches or grease marks that flat-finish paints easily show. Also you get a neat base to display it safely and sometime a clear-plastic case to prevent it from getting dusty!
While I forgot to get a shot of the interior, it's easily the best of the bunch in terms of detailing. It also helps that the doors actually open so you can see all the details inside! This is the only one with tampos on the interior, this one having the wooden panels on the dashboard. Without arguing, the M2 is still my favorite simply because of all the details and features you get for the what you pay (about a dollar more than autoworld but sometimes cheaper if you find them at TJ-MAXX).