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Friday, April 6, 2018

Does the Yatming Maserati Bora deserve a spot in the “Top 30 Yatmings of all Time”?

Two years ago I wrote a post that I enjoyed, detailing out some of Yatming’s greatest hits, and making my picks for how I’d rank them...

But two years ago I didn’t have this car, the Yatming Maserati Bora.  It’s a classic Yatming, with a metal base, from the golden age of Yatming (wait, was Yatming ever really good enough to warrant having a “golden” age?!?  Maybe a “chromed plastic” age is more appropriate....).  Anyway, as a kid the real Bora was one of my dream cars, the last of the big V8 Maserati sports cars before Maserati became all about the BMW 3-Series-sized BiTurbos...  So with a new Yatming Golden-Age model of a favorite car, its time to determine whether the merits of this model put it into the same category as the best Yatmings?

Lesney’s matchbox also did a Bora model. Unfortunately, while 1970’s Lesney turned out absolute gems of models, like the superb Silver Shadow II, Mercedes 450SEL, Audi Quattro, Dodge Challenger and Plymouth Fury police car, it also turned out a number of oversized duds such as the recently reviewed BMW 3.0CSi (or worse, the Ford Capri) and many others.  The Bora was one of the better of the oversized models, but the combination of its size and unfortunate maroon paint conspire to make it a less-than-fully-favored Lesley model.  Can the benefits of this Yatming model exceed that of Matchbox, and does it deserve a place on my “Best-of-Yatming” list?

In short...  Not Really! 

While the size of the Yatming Bora is slightly smaller and more appropriate than Lesney’s Matchbox Bora, and while the Yatming has the critical metal base that characterizes many of the higher quality Yatmings, overall the model is not one of Yatmings best attempts.  Particularly galling is the plastic chromed front and rear lights/grill/bumper panels, which just look chintzy and plasticky. Given that they are attached to the metal base, it’s hard to see why they couldn’t have been better done as part of the metal base (in dramatic contrast to the excellent metal detailed trim on the Matchbox model).

The bottom of the side door windows were formed poorly, almost looking as if they were incorrectly stamped out, with too much metal remaining in the rear.  The models’ typically poor later Yatming plasticky wheels don’t do it any favors.  The lack of side mirrors is notable.  The body has a few examples of metal detail (air vents, etc.), but even those are offset by poor body lines that just make it look poorly designed/executed.  The Yatming relies on somewhat garish graphic stickers to try to add some excitement to the body, an approach that serves only to further cheapen the overall feel.  This is a car that feels like a cheap drugstore-brand toy, vs. a high quality diecast model. 

In short, this is not one of Yatming’s finest attempts.  So obviously it won’t be a top 10 model...  but is it good enough to at least crack the top 30?  I reviewed the top 30 list from 2 years ago, and in doing so I wondered about whether I even ranked those 30 models correctly.  How did the ugly brown undersized Thunderbird deserve a #21 spot, while cleaner Corvettes were in worse spots?  But I had a hard time putting the Bora with it’s poorly executed body, ahead of any of the 30 cars making up my list.  The top 30 list is safe...

So if it doesn’t make the top 30 list, is it even a worthwhile model to have?   For me, the answer is unclear.  It feels cheap - definitely an inferior model to the less-than-perfect but highly detailed (and much easier to find) Matchbox model.  If you are an avid Yatming collector you might have to have it, but for the rest of us...?  I'd advise you not to spend too much time looking for it. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Fine new models of the old 1970 Ford F-100; M2 Machine and Greenlight

In your local stores currently are two fine new models of the old ‘70 Ford F-100 (also '69 and '68).  Both are beautiful castings, exquisitely detailed.

My eye was first caught by the M2 Machines casting, especially the jacked up off-road version in slate grey.  The realistic separately cast LOOONG bed was a major factor in having my eye drawn to it, though the detail was also amazing... A beautiful truck, big and scaled exactly right for 1/64...  I loved it from the moment I tore open the packaging, and already had plans for a blog entry about it.  Then I found the street racer version in black and gold, and while it wasn't as cool as the jacked up version, it was still cool.  The only things I didn't like about it are:  The wheels/tires - which don't roll as easily as a "Matchbox" car's wheels should roll, the opening doors which don't open as easily as a "Matchbox" car's doors should open, and the lame detailing in the wheel-wells in the truck bed - which are too low and squared off to be realistic.   Everything else about the model was SPOT-ON, and the truck just tooked TOUGH!

But then I saw this Greenlight casting, and the ‘gotta-have-it’ factor kicked in.  The Greenlight is a short bed version of the same truck (in some cases bashed as slightly different years, with appropriate tweaks to the impressively detailed grill), with more exciting paint, again jacked up, with slightly less realistic but much nicer wheels and tires that somehow conspire to make it feel like a toy to zoom across the carpet rather than a model to display...  this is a toy you want to play with!!! The hood opens but the doors don't, but I don't miss the opening doors at all.  The scale is again just right, though this one’s shorter bed allows it to actually fit a little bit better into a standard size die-cast 48 car case.

There’s no real competition and no obvious winner here, just two great castings that deserve a place in your collection...  The detail on the M2 models is slightly deeper and more magnificent than the magnificent detail on the Greenlight models, but you'd only see the difference if you were actually comparing them head to head as I am here.  Conversely, the wheels and tires on the Greenlight models are better and more suited for play than those of the M2 castings.  This all makes the M2 models slightly more suited for display, while the Greenlight models are slightly more suited for play, but the differences are pretty minor. . They are both great castings for play AND display.  Pick your color and trim (work truck?  off-road racing truck?  street racing truck?  Short vs. Long bed?) and hand over your $6, you can't really go wrong with any of the models!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Old School Comparo: BMW 3.0 CSI, Matchbox vs. Majorette... Who did it better?

This is an old school comparison test, from models designed in the mid ‘70s by two of the foremost diecast companies out there, of one of the most iconic cars of the decade...  BMW’s gorgeous 3.0 coupe...  Who modeled it better, Matchbox or Majorette?

The Matchbox model was a very popular model of the era. Although I didn’t personally have one in my collection, I was well acquainted with it from friends’ collections, and especially from my cousin Joey and Shawn’s collection.  Typically painted in bright orange (as well as a few much, much rarer colors), with opening doors, exquisite metal bumper/grill/headlight detail in front and bumper/rear light/exhaust detail in back, a nicely detailed interior, Matchbox’s soft ‘superfast’ suspension, and a BMW roundel sticker displayed prominently on the hood, it has all the elements of a nice model.  Couple all that with the fact that the model being tested here is in absolutely mint condition, and it’s hard to find a fault...  ...or is it?

Unfortunately, the fault in this very common mid-‘70’s Lesney model was a recurring theme in other similar castings (notably the abysmal Ford Capri, but also the racing Fiat Abarth and other models), which is that it is HUGE...   ‘Uge as the POTUS would say...

In real life the 3.0 was a graceful, delicate car, while the Lesney model is wide and squat, built like an NFL linebacker rather than a ballerina.  It dwarfs supposedly larger cars like the Lincoln Mark V, and even dwarfs the correctly scaled German 450SEL...  The extra wide Matchbox tires of the era don’t do it any favors, reinforcing its size.  Both the width and height of the model are out of proportion, ensuring that, regardless of how amazing the detail may be, the model simply fails to adequately look like a real 3.0... Harsh words for a mainstay of the mid ‘70’s Matchbox line!

Enter the contender, made in France rather than England, the Majorette model.  Unlike the Matchbox, I DIDN’T have a childhood experience with the model, and in fact, at 44 years of age, just YESTERDAY saw the model for the first time in real life...  (which should provide ample evidence for why today’s blog subject was picked!).

Also unlike the Matchbox, the model in question is at best in fair condition, with heavy paint loss of the once lustrous wine colored paint.  So, how does it compare?  Well, it compares very well...

The Majorette also has opening doors, with headlight/bumper detail that is EVEN better and deeper than that of the Matchbox model.  In addition, body detail is more precise....  evidence for the difference in detail is shown in the gas cap - which for the Matchbox is a square detail that could be a rear indicator light, while for the Majorette is CLEARLY a gas cap.  The suspension is just as soft as the Matchbox, the wheels are nicer, etc.  But the MOST crucial element is just the overall proportions, the accurate and correct proportioned modeling...  this car is the ballerina 3.0, the one that ACTUALLY resembles the real thing...  Winner - Majorette!

Friday, March 9, 2018

Renault 5 Turbo... 2 models with identical paint from Tomica and Corgi square off for a fight.. But what about Hot Wheels???

While it is common to find multiple toy companies model the same car, it is UNCOMMON to find them paint them in the same paint scheme.  But that's exactly what happened when both Corgi Juniors and Tomica decided to model the Original Hot Hatch, the Renault 5 Turbo, and paint them in the same rally-car yellow paint....  Sounds like an opportunity for a comparison!!!

Spoiler alert.  There is no comparison.  The Tomica wins hands down.  The Corgi is considerably larger, over-scaled for such a small car, and is very plasticky (particularly the side mirrors - though at least it has them vs. the missing mirrors of the Tomica).  The Tomica is correctly scaled, with a nice soft suspension (vs. the hard suspension of the Corgi) and with opening doors.   In keeping with the times (the early '80s) both cars have nice metal-work and trim detail, but the Tomica's is a little nicer.

Both cars have nice paint.  Its interesting to note that while the color scheme is obviously meant to be the same, it is still very different.  The base yellow paint is almost exactly the same shade for the two models, but everything else about it is different.  I call the paint a tie.

Overall, its an easy win for Tomica....    ...Or is it?

Enter the 30 year later challenger, Hot Wheels.

Hot Wheels doesn't have a Renault 5 turbo in yellow, but they did offer a high quality all metal Renault 5 turbo in blue or green, with rubber tires.  These are seriously handsome models, with amazing satin paint, a high quality feel, and of course, beautiful wheels and the afore-mentioned RUBBER TIRES!

While Tomica wins the award for the best original / vintage casting, and for the best yellow casting, the modern Hot Wheels castings are TOO GOOD not to easily sweep to a win over even the Tomica.  These castings are relatively easy to find on EBay, and for a price up to about $10, are definitely worth it.  The upstart challenger takes on the vintage cars, and wins....

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Current Generation Beautiful Camaro Models by Hot Wheels, Matchbox and Tomica

Here are three excellent (but non-premium) models of the newest generation Camaro, from 3 of the biggest names in diecast, Matchbox (convertible in red), Hot Wheels (silver coupe) and Tomica (black coupe).  

The newest Camaro is one of the hottest looking (let alone performing) cars available on the market today, such that there is a chance that a ZL1 could end up in my garage some day...  And the Camaro has always been heavily modeled by the die-cast giants, starting with the original Hot Wheels Redline "Custom Camaro" model of the '67 model (it took Matchbox about 30 years to do their own first generation model, though their model of an '80s Z28 (or was it an IROC-Z) with the opening hood is one of my favorite Matchbox models of the period).  Since then Matchbox has done several additional Camaros, while Hot Wheels has continued to model Camaros as well (though their 2nd generation (1970s) and 3rd generation models (1980s) were not favorites of mine).  Siku did a beautiful 1980s model, although one of the nicest 1980s Camaro models were the rubber wheel lock-up models by Kidco...  

Anyway, fast forward to 2018, and we have 2 very cheap and easy to find (visit any WalMart/Target/ToysRUs and hand over $.99 to $1.29) Camaro models by Matchbox and Hot Wheels, plus one slightly harder to find (visit EBay or other on-line stores, and pay a bit more than $.99...) model by Tomica...  All three models are very nice representations of the current Camaro.  

So which one is best?  Well, between the easy to find Matchbox and Hot Wheels models, I prefer the additional (and magnificant) painted-in trim of the Matchbox, even though I give it a few demerits for being a convertible vs. a coupe (I generally prefer coupes over convertibles).  On the other hand, the convertible gives Matchbox the chance to show off its interior (in easy to see gray, vs. the Hot Wheels practically invisible black).  Both cars have excellent wheels and tires, though Matchbox again squeaks out a win over Hot Wheels excellent rims with Matchbox' clean 5 spoke design.  Then there is the side mirrors of the Matchbox (frequently left off of models) vs. the no mirrors Hot Wheels.  After all is said and done, both models are very nice and well worth the $1 that they cost, but I give the easy lead to Matchbox.

And how do those $1 basic models compare to the basic (but still considerably more expensive once you factor in a higher base price (at least $3 even at the cheapest sites - plus shipping costs) Tomica ZL1 model?  Well, simply said, the Tomica outshines them both.  

In the photos, the black paint of the Tomica doesn't photograph well, but between the opening doors, the painted-in trim (better than Hot Wheels, but easily inferior to that of Matchbox, the considerably better metal trim detail (but without Matchbox' mirrors), equivalent base detail, the far, far, far better suspension (the Tomica's is Tomica-soft, while the other 2 essentially don't have any suspension to speak of), Tomica wins many categories.  That being said, Matchbox does win several categories, including painted in trim, mirrors, interior trim and wheels, but those 4 items are not enough to offset the losing items.  The Tomica ZL1 pulls out an easy victory.  

While there is a winner, there is no loser.  All of the models deserve to be in your collection.  And at these prices, there is no reason for all three not to be in your collection. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Copied Porsche 910... Did Playart copy Corgi, or vice versa?

It sounds patently obvious to say that diecast cars are models of real cars...  ...Yet it is not actually always true.  In some cases, they are actually models of OTHER model cars.

I've seen it with Maisto flagrantly (and poorly) copying Matchbox' Audi Quattro.  And in this post, I show a fascinating example of Playart copying Corgi's casting (although I suppose that there is a chance that Corgi copied Playart casing).

There are several companies who produced models of this car, the most well known of which is the (red) model by Lesney's Matchbox.  That one actually looks very different (particularly in size, its easily the largest of the five) from the other models.  I also have a Dynawheels model (in brown), a Zylmex model (in blue, #910), a Playart model (in blue) and a Corgi Junior/Husky model (in yellow - a "Rockets" version with extra speedy wheels/axles).  Missing from my photos is a Speedy model that I spent an hour fruitlessly tearing apart my Matchbox collection trying to find.  Regardless, the last four are very similar in appearance and size, particularly the final two.  And upon closer examination, it turns out that the final two are actually copies of each other, with similar casting lines, choice of detail, etc. Examining the base and especially the opening engine compartment shows a very similar choice of detail.

In fact, the only two questions are 1.  Who did the copying...   Was it the second tier Playart copying toy giant Corgi, or was it the greater scandal of Corgi cribbing a design from no-name Playart, and 2.  Why bother?  Could it really have been that much harder to create an "original copy" of the real car?

P.S.  I suppose that as long as I'm showing 5 distinct (or is it 4?) models, I should at least pick a winner...  Who modeled the 910 best? 

Although I'm a big Lesney Matchbox fan, its easy to assign the Matchbox in 5th place.  Its a little too big, and just looks different from the others. 

The next 4 are closer in comparison, all nice and worthwhile models in their own right, even though several come from brands that aren't typically collected. 

In fourth place I assign the Zylmex, while its very nice - it just doesn't have the opening back hatch or the quality wheels of its competitors. 

The final three are in almost a dead heat.  But the Corgi's stance/wheels sets the model a little too high, giving it a 3rd place finish. 

Between the final two, the DynaWheels is missing the opening hatch of the Playart (and the Corgi), but the metal roof gives it an advantage over the all plastic roof of the Corgi and PlayArt.  The wheels also are slightly nicer.  Overall, its enough to put the DynaWheels in first place, ahead of the Playart. 

And of course the biggest irony is that the copy-cat Playart took 2nd place, beating out the copied Corgi...!

Thanks for reading! 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Tomica Premium - the next big thing in diecast!

Regular readers of my blog know that I am a big Tomica fan.  They also know that I am NOT a big Tomica Limited Vintage fan - models, while highly detailed, tend to be slightly smaller scale - enough so they don't merge well with basic Tomica models, and in my opinion are not worth the hefty price tags.

Enter Tomica Premium!

Over the last 2 months I purchased about 15-20 Tomica Premium cars, and am THRILLED with the scale, quality, detailing, etc.  Many have opening doors.  Rather than talking in depth about each model, I thought I'd just release a bunch of photos of my Premium collection.

Note to readers, I was PARTICULARLY impressed by the Supra, the R32 Skyline (in 3 colors/slight model changes), the 300ZX, the S2000 and the 1970s Porsche 911.  The least favorites (though all are nice) are the Celica All-Trac (odd wheels and no opening doors), the Miura (the lift-up rear is cool - but the front end is a bit more bug-eyed than accurate), the FD (3rd gen) RX7 in blue (I just don't like the customized look) and the 2 WRXs.

Note also that the FC (second gen) RX7 in white is a really nice model - but is technically part of the "Dream" collection, as is the 240SX/Silvia.

Overall, I'm highly recommending this new series from Tomica.  Price points are pretty reasonable given the quality - expect to pay about $5-6 from an internet shop like HobbyLinkJapan (again - a strong recommendation for HLJ!).

Enjoy the pictures!

Note - the yellow/green 911 is a basic Hot Wheels - but it looks nice and is in scale - so I included it in the photo!