Mac Ragan shelby

MCHOF Inductee Mac Ragan Reflects on a Memorable Career in Model Cars

For the last quarter century, Mac Ragan has been one of the most influential people in the diecast industry. From his involvement with Johnny Lightning and related brands to GreenLight to Round 2, Ragan has helped advance 1/64 scale models from mostly toys to serious collectibles.

The Model Car Hall of Fame recently sat down with him to check in on the now-retired Inductee in the Hall of Fame.

Johnny Lightning 1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona
Mac created the deco for this Johnny Lightning 1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona as an homage to the car raced at Le Mans that year. The actual car wore the number 59.

Ragan became brand manager for Johnny Lightning in 2003, about a decade after the revival of the original line. “My primary responsibilities were to plan out the yearly release schedule, such as Mopar or No Car, Johnny Retro, and Pony Power,” he said. “Then I would choose the castings for each assortment, and specify deco schemes for all of the individual cars.” Advances in casting, painting, and graphics made this an exciting time to be in the diecast business. “I love the Johnny Retro series because, with judicious casting selection and a new paint technique, it was able to rekindle memories of early Johnny Lightning and Hot Wheels cars.”

After a few years, the JL revival stalled, and Ragan worked with other brands. He would eventually return to the re-revival of the brand. “Auto World, owned by Round 2, contracted with me to create some castings for its new 1/64 line. Later, I’d join the company to help relaunch Johnny Lightning and Racing Champions.” 

While Johnny Lightning had moved from reissues of their original toy cars to more detailed collector models, those other brands were certainly crafted as collectibles rather than playthings from the beginning. Over the last 20 years, 1/64 scale has seen a seismic shift in that direction. Ragan is a fan of correctly detailed vehicles for the most part.

GreenLight 1973 AMC Javelin AMX
Among Mac’s favorite casting designs is this 1973 AMC Javelin AMX he created at GreenLight.

“Ultimately, I’m into factory-correct colors, wheels, and options,” he said. “I spent hours researching this for each assortment.  The first car I created the deco for was a 1962 Chevy Bel Air.  It features a very common medium metallic blue body, white roof, and dog dish hubcaps…a grandma car!”

Hemi Cuda from the JL Mopar or No Car series.

Of course, it’s fun to throw some creative license into the mix. “I love the Johnny Lightning ‘Mopar or No Car’ Release 7. This assortment probably has the brightest and most varied colors of any I ever created,” Ragan said. “And the box sets were a particular joy because I wasn’t tied to whatever photo we could find for the bonus “PhotoCard” included with most cars in the Playing Mantis years.”

Early in his career, he wrote and compiled several authoritative collectors guidebooks. He has been having fun documenting his collection of mostly 1/64 diecast on his Facebook and Instagram. He is also tinkering with the idea of more diecast books. “I’d like to publish some photo-based limited edition books,” he said. “I’d also enjoy creating a website to be the permanent home for the posts collectors read on my social media accounts.”

His social media has been active in showing off some lesser-known brands of model cars. “I love showing models that collectors may not have seen before, or may have forgotten about because they aren’t the latest releases. Foreign brands like Norev and Guisval, short-lived brands such as 1 Badd Ride and Cigarbox, and promo models are all fair game. I also mix in cars I designed, which is noted with the #macraganoriginal hashtag on Instagram.”

For someone who is supposedly retired, Ragan sure has a lot of irons in the fire.

Johnny Lightning 1959 DeSoto Police Car
Originally introduced as a car from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Mac reimagined this Johnny Lightning 1959 De Soto as a police car from his hometown of Auburn, Alabama.

Looking back he has a lot to remember fondly. “Frankly, what I’m most proud of is exactly what I was hired to do: create compelling assortments that were designed to catch the collector’s eye and hopefully go home with them.” 

As for his legacy, he has a humble outlook. “I hope I’m remembered as a friend of the hobby. I’m happy to help collectors with questions and donate rare cars to charity auctions. Ultimately, I’m a collector like everybody else,” he said. “With a little hard work and some good timing, I got very lucky.”

6 thoughts on “MCHOF Inductee Mac Ragan Reflects on a Memorable Career in Model Cars

  1. I always enjoy reading anything written by, or about Mac. He is such a great guy and is so approachable. I’ve conversed with him on several occasions through his Instagram account.

  2. Mac is a great person, he is the real thing in diecast collecting! He knows a lot but he teaches you as a big brother. I enjoy a lot his posts in facebook and instagram, and i love discovering #macraganoroginal models. I always lean from Mac and i’m so grateful to be his friend from Peru! 🤗🤘🏿🤘🏿

  3. Mac is also a helping person in sharing his knowledge and collectibles. He has donated to our NATMUS model toy museum which now has over 7,000 models on display in our toy museum located in Auburn, IN. Thank you Mac. Larry G.

  4. Hello Larry! Thanks for reading the article. I appreciate your very nice comment. And I highly recommend the National Auto and Truck Museum to all car and toy-car buffs! –Mac

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