Tom Lowe and his Playing Mantis company acquired the rights to the Johnny Lightning trademark and started producing reproductions of the original cars in 1994. This was about the same time that Hot Wheels introduced a "Vintage" line of cars that were reproductions of original 1960s designs. Sales were moderately successful. Interest soon faded as most collectors were not that passionate about the cars even when they were new. They also revived the "Sizzlers" name with electric cars similar to the original Mattel cars. Currently, they sell a line of 1/64 scale adult die cast cars with more detail. Jeff Koch, formerly of Hot Rod Magazine, briefly acted as brand manager for Johnny Lightning, bringing his unique real automotive expertise to the line from 2001 through 2004.

Lowe reasoned that if there was a market for replicas of these old toy cars then adults would also be interested in die-cast models of some of their favorite real cars from the period. Muscle Cars U.S.A. debuted in late 1994 and soon became the bedrock of the new Johnny Lightning. Adult collectors were thrilled to find miniatures of cars such as the GTO, Mustang Boss 302, and Superbird.

With each passing year, Playing Mantis tested new themes: dragsters, pickup trucks, pace cars, Corvettes, James Bond, police, Mustangs, military, Hollywood, and Coca-Cola, to name a few. Going into the late 1990s the die-cast toy car business grew rapidly in the United States, and Johnny Lightning rode the crest of that wave into the 21st century. Playing Mantis remained in the South Bend, Indiana area for its entire ten-year existence.

Source: Wikipedia.

Playing Mantis value and price guide

What's your 'Playing Mantis 1994' worth? Here are some recently sold items (UK).

See all sold items for more prices.

Playing Mantis forum

"Ask questions, share stories or subscribe to our newsletter." - Fabtintoys -

: (first name only)*
(will not be displayed/shared)*



1 comment

Gary - September 4, 2019
I'm new to the JL Playing Mantis collection, only been collecting them a couple of months. But have managed to get what I believe to be all the funny cars form the line up. Is there a Club or Site available to collectors.Thanks for your help.
Good question! I only found a couple of Johnny Lightning fan pages on Facebook, so you might want to check those out.