In baseball, three balls and two strikes constitute a full count. Three and two are the key numbers for one of NASCAR’s most expansive diecast lines of the early 1990s, as well: over just two years, 1991 and 1992, Funstuf released a number of Winston Cup and Busch Series cars under three completely different labels—Pole Position, Trackside, and Pit Row.
The strangest thing about them? There’s not much to differentiate them to the untrained eye, outside of the packaging.
Despite being budget-friendly, plastic cars, the Funstuf issues did share a number of interesting common traits. Unlike even big names like Action and Racing Champions, they never released a car without a full, detailed interior—perhaps the only company to do so. Many of the paint schemes represented saw their first, or only, issues through the brand. And they did well with some of their General Motors issues, particularly the Pole Position versions of the Chevrolet Lumina and Oldsmobile Cutlass.
And yet there’s a strange amount of inconsistency.
Some of the Funstuf cars, particularly the Pole Position ones, feature a fairly accurate Lumina casting, while the Pit Row issues (such as Joe Gibbs Racing’s first-ever car, the one that Dale Jarrett debuted in the Daytona 500 that year) use a strange Lumina model that appears to have been inspired by Matchbox’s casting.
Admittedly, the Pit Row cars were some of my first as a child. They put together a six-pack of cars featuring Richard Petty, Dave Marcis, Lake Speed, Dale Jarrett, Morgan Shepherd, and a Pontiac pace car. I believe these were released in 1991 based on the driver lineup, as Shepherd would replace Jarrett with the Wood Brothers in 1992 and Geoff Bodine would step into Shepherd’s old ride with Bud Moore.
Despite minimal, if any, difference in the construction of the cars, the Pole Position and Trackside editions do somehow feel more detailed. For one, they feature a more extensive color palette—notice how, on the Pit Row cars, yellow contingency decals will occasionally be represented in white or even red. There’s just a higher level of accuracy on the liveries as a whole, whether it’s more representative colors or the addition of associate sponsors. Beyond that, the packaging seems to be the biggest difference—some Pole Position cars feature serial numbers on the package, while the positioning and artwork changes with each series.
In the case of driver or manufacturer switches, Funstuf also often made the less prominent or more interesting choice in representation. Joe Ruttman’s Dinner Bell car from 1991 was predominantly an Oldsmobile, but is represented as a Chevrolet in the Pole Position line. Likewise, both Chad Little and Jimmy Hensley, despite Little only spending six races with the team, made it onto the roof of Cale Yarborough’s Fords in 1992.
For some reason, Oldsmobile didn’t even make it to the Pit Row line, leading to a handful of inaccurate issues. The 1992 rides of Terry Labonte and Harry Gant were put onto Pontiacs, while Ruttman’s Dinner Bell scheme went onto a Ford and Eddie Bierschwale’s ride was rendered upon a Chevrolet. Meanwhile, tracking down a photo of the Mike Wallace Orkin car in real life has proven exceptionally difficult.
Overall, while Funstuf wasn’t part of the NASCAR diecast scene for long, they did produce some of the more unique cars in the early 1990s offering, including some that no other brands licensed. For someone who wants a full grid from the iconic 1992 season, they’re an indispensable presence.