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32,948 Posts
Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Road Champs was originally founded by Jack Robbins as JRI Inc in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylavania in the 1970s, as a distributor of diecast toys.

Their first offerings were to market Yat Ming made castings under their in house brand label of Road Champs. The company location moved from Bala Cynwyd to Union, then to Harrison and then West Caldwell, New Jersey. Some of the series names that the Yat Ming made castings were marketed under as Road Champs were "Gas Saver", 'Cars of the Sixties', 'International Flag Cars", and "Mini Tractor Trailer". Their "BJ and the Bear" series also carries the additional copy right of '1981 Universal Studios' on the van's base plate and was marketed by Grand Toys (Canada).

Another series marketed by JRI was 'Junior Die-cast Metal'. This series used castings manufactured by Summer.

In the late 1970s, Road Champs were also additionally labeled as K-Mart brand products.

In the early 1980s, after ending their association with Yat Ming, JRI began manufacturing their own diecast products. Their Road Champ 'Special Editions' had opening doors, 'speed' type wheels and a "working" suspension design. Another line of castings made by Welly were marketed as an economy line in the Road Champ 'Road Machines' line up as single carded blisters, in a 30 car set called 'Super Set' or a 30 vehicle set called "Hard Hats Construction".

Production of the Road Champs castings were first noted to be from Hong Kong and after being relocated was changed to just China in 1983. No new factory location or association is given.

In the early 80s, other series issued under the Road Champs name include - "Ragtops". These castings had removable plastic tops with most having a separate cover to put in place over the 'open' top. "Future Classics' and the "Heritage Series" was also issued. The "Funny Car" castings were fitted with a rip cord (pull cord)that powered an internal motor. The "High & Mighty" series were cars made into 4x4 vehicles. And lastly the "Hi Rollers" series was offered. These were mostly found on individual blister cards. On in select markets, they could be found in picture boxes.

In the late 1980s, Road Champs began offering stock car type castings. Some of these also had the 'rip cord' powered motor function.

In the early 1990s, the "Racing Demons" series" were sold as singles or in sets. These casting featured numerous sponsorship logo tampos. The 'Deluxe Series' included limos, RVs and fire engines. Two different tractor-trailer sets - done in 1:87 scale - were called "Big Shots and "Anteater". Their "Stock Car Series" was based on real 1990s NASCAR racers.

Another series of commercial type vehicles called "Super Size" came in singles and a 5 pack boxed set.

Previously, almost all manufacturing had been primarily focused on just 3" (1:64) scale castings with just a few exceptions, But in the mid 1990s Road Champs began producing a series of 4" (1:43) sized castings of police vehicles using various state and local logos and other city services vehicles.

They also produced another series of RVs called "Country Tour Bus" featured country music singers and groups.

Another marketing effort was focused toward using business corporation logos in their "Bigger is Better" series of tractor-trailer sets.

Two pack "Rippin' Racers" with the 'rip cords' motors were also issued during the 1990s.

Toys R Us used Road Champs in their in house diecast brand called "Fast Lane" as an alternative budget friendly diecast line for their customers.

In 1997, Road Champs was purchased by JAKKS Pacific. (3) more Road Champs branded series were issued after this ownership change. In 2000, the "Car & Driver' series was issued. This series had dark opaque windows and no interiors(?). The next series was called "Shock Factor' and included a small wrench to adjust the stance of the casting. The last series was called "Attitude Racers" and featured tampo applications of various WWF stars that was released in late 2001.

Referenced resources -

HobbyTalk members - @Bristol
Road Champs | hobbyDB
JRI | hobbyDB
Encyclopedia of Small-Scale Diecast Motor Vehicle Manufacturers - Sahakangas, Foster & Weber (2006
Jakks Pacific - Wikipedia
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Road Champs | Model cars & diecast toys | Sales & value
Road Champs

36 Posts
Currently I'm divesting myself of a lot of diecast. Just an FYI to add to the Road Champs. When I got rid of them they went fast and at a decent price. They were the mid-1990s items in 4-inch (1:43). I don't remember exactly but the street sweeper and garbage truck will forever stick in my head.
Don't really know why the Road Champs were that popular. For example compared to Racing Champions which aren't worth anything. I did notice that the castings on Road Champs were good. Raised logos on some, etc.

32,948 Posts
Discussion Starter #4
I am going back through some of the history posts here at HobbyTalk and refining the brand association links they have had during their business life times. Road Champs is a good example of one brand that I often hear dismissed by other collectors as not being relevant - "because they just used other brand diecasts and didnt ever make their own!" Well, as you can see that is not the case. And many other collectors already know that, but here I have tried to pesent a consolidation of that history to show how they evolved to make a long line of their own diecasts -once they established themselves in the diecast world - marketing diecasts made by another company. As did many other brands in America, Europe and Asia when they first started out.

At the end jakks Pacific entered the picture and carried the Road Champ brand name along for even longer with their 3 series offerings.

The diehards can say a 'Yat Ming" is a 'Yat Ming' is a 'Yat Ming" no matter where it came from, but we also know for awhile - at least - they were also made to be "Road Champs"!

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