Just received the notice on my news feed... Johnny Lightning is going out of business after several years as one of the coolest brands in small scale cars. I'm sad... Even if some of their castings weren't spot on accurate in terms of size and scale, they were still some of the coolest out there, with a character all of their own. Part of that character, at least to me, was that they'd always try to do stuff no one else was doing, with no regards to things such as themes, series and uniformity. The final years of the brand, with the Forever 64 releases, were pretty much a free for all mashup of automotive culture. If it was cool, they'd do it.
Police cars in Drag Racing trim, with full backing from the Beat the Heat program? Sure. Land yachts setup for demolition derbies, with ridiculous graphics and crazy stuff written on the fenders? Why not? Hot Rods in the most traditional sense of the world? Obligatory. Movie cars, sometimes made without the consent of the studios that held their rights, copyright be damned?
JL was kinda like the Mazda of Die cast companies. They did stuff no other brand would simply because they could, they didn't have a large company with sales projections and target markets telling them what sells and what doesn't. On the other hand, the lack of a large company backing them made it harder and harder to maintain the quality fans were used to, and the eventual sale to Takara Tomy, of Tomica fame, crippled their ability to be original. With costs still on the rise, and quality still on the drop, Tomy decided to axe the company to avoid cannibalizing sales from their Tomica line which, while cool, just isn't JL cool.
Still, in a sense JL lives on. Autoworld, which I mentioned several times already when they released their first wave of 1:64 scale cars, is managed and staffed by the same responsible for the Pre-Takara-Tomy JL, but they haven't yet shown the same kind of originality I got used to from JL, and with prices going up and sales going down, I'm not sure they ever will.
Like I said, terrible news...