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Saturday, May 20, 2017

A slightly uncommon car.... Corgi Junior Porsche 917

I like featuring unique and unusual cars/pieces from my collection on this blog.  Sometimes they are extremely rare.  Sometimes just something different from the ordinary.  And sometimes they are ordinary pieces after all, but ones that I like a lot.  

Some would say that there is nothing overly special about this car, a beat-up model of a mighty Porsche 917 race car, modeled by Corgi Junior.  But Corgi Juniors are already somewhat rare models, and this model has a nice feel to it.  

One of the things I like most about it is its size...   It is big and imposing taking up every millimeter of a standard slot in a Matchbox collector case.  Hot Wheels did an excellent 917 as one of the earlier entries in their Adult Collectible series (sold as part of the 4 piece Porsche set in the late '90s), but while that model had great realism / detail and an opening back, it always struck me as being a little small.  In contrast, this Corgi is imposing, scaring other race cars right off the starting grid.  
In other comments, I wouldn't have minded a more race-car-oriented paint scheme (not even a number on the side), and the gold color is rather bland and unexciting (think mid '00s gold Lexus RX300s!).  But the car rolls well on its standard issue wheel.  

Overall, a nice car that deserves a quick mention on this (heavily read) blog...! 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Alfa Carabo...: Matchbox vs. Hot Wheels vs. Corgi

Why do toymakers have to copy each other, each making their own model of a car already modeled by another toy company, and leaving so many other great designs unmodeled...?  How many '67 Camaros do we all have...   And C5/6/7 Corvettes...  Yet we have no Honda Accords, Ford Tempos or Toyota Camrys...? 

Such is the case of the Alfa Carabo - a show car - not even a real production car - but one that was modeled by each of the 3 major toy-makers.  Well OK, as long as we have 3 distinct models - let's at least decide who made it the best?!?

I have the Matchbox version in 3 colors and 2 varieties.  The purple and pink superfast versions, and the grey (unmarked and without an interior or actual windows) Super GT version. Corgi gave 2 varieties - the standard purple - and the wizz-a-wheels forest green version.   Finally, Hot Wheels gave us the Red-line version - shown here in later lime green enamel paint - but also available in earlier spectraflame colors.  The Hot Wheels version is unique in that it alone has opening doors - scissor-style-Lamborghini Countach doors that pivot upward. 

Who made it best?  Well, its easy to see who made it worst....  The cheap-o grey Super GT version is the easy loser. 

Among the remaining 3 models, its a hard fight.  The Hot Wheels feels nice, with a heavy heft and the opening doors, but in the end it is the green whiz-a-wheels Corgi Junior, with a separate insert for the hood-mounted air-ducts, that wins the title for the best Carabo model. An unusual win - Corgi doesn't often win these comparisons! 

Monday, May 15, 2017

An absolute jewel of a model... Eidai Isuzu Elf airline re-stocking truck

Every once in a while I come across a model that is as close to absolute perfection as is possible to get...

A jewel...  ...perfect in modeling, perfect in scale, perfect in weight/heft/feel, etc....

This blog is about one of those models.

It's from a brand that almost no one in the USA knows about - Eidai.  I first stumbled across the brand at a toy fair/flea market a decade ago - a garbage truck labeled as "Eidai Grip Zechai" - that has the similar qualities as this model. 

The model is probably slightly under 1/64 scale (1/60?), and is slightly larger than a standard Matchbox model - enough so that it is probably 1/2 an inch too long to fit into a standard storage case, and probably 1/4 of an inch too high.

The base is metal.  The cab and chassis are wonderful detailed.  The paint is rich.  There is a driver in the cab.  The cargo hold rises up on an X-platform and plastic doors on both ends open up.

While this model is hard to find and a little expensive on EBay, it is a veritable bargain for the quality you get.  $25 is a cheap price to pay for a model that will be the pinnacle of most collections...

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Norev Peugeot 407 - available as a sedan, coupe AND station wagon!

 How many times have you gotten a Matchbox sedan model, but thought "how cool would it be if I could get it in the wagon version"?

Amazingly, once in a while you CAN...!  Norev made the same Peugeot 407 available in 3 different body styles - sedan, coupe and station wagon!  And they almost made them all in the same color - I've got 2 of the 3 bodies in red and 2 in light gold.

I picked these models up when I was in Paris 6 years ago - at a Peugeot dealership.  They are nice models - with metal bases and nice detail.  The trailer hitches are overly large - making the  monstrous Majorette hitches seem tiny in comparison, and the wheels leave a little to be desired.  But overall they are great models.  Enjoy the photos!

PS.  To be fair, Matchbox did actually make multiple body styles in at least 2 recent models...   In the case of the E46 3 series, Matchbox did a coupe version (I have it in silver) and a sedan version (but only as a police car).  The Cadillac CTS was also available as a wagon and a coupe....   Both potential subjects of a future blog entry.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Old school comparison: Redline T-bird vs. Redline T-Bird - Topper Johnny Lightning vs. Mattel Hot Wheels

This is a comparison that's 45 years out of date - comparing 2 OLD-SCHOOL late '60s Ford T-Birds - BOTH with redline wheels....

Yes, we all know that the term "Redlines" means Hot Wheels Redlines - the creme-de-la-crime models of the diecast collecting scene.  And the Custom T-Bird's always been one of my favorite Redline models - a big American '60s muscle car, done with a few custom touches.  A cool car, with the only real downside being the very high price point needed to get into it these days - $30 or more for a fair/good condition model, $100 or more for a C8-C9 condition model, and easily $500 or more for a MIP model or a rare color.  Ouch!!!

But back in the day, Hot Wheels faced competition from the original Johnny Lightnings - made by Topper in those days rather than today's Playing Mantis.  Topper's even had red line wheels and so took on Hot Wheels head to head!  Most of those old Toppers were fantasy models - but they made a FEW realistic castings - and this "Custom Thunderbird" is one of their best.  One of the best things about these old Topper models is that they came with both an opening hood AND opening doors (but also with cast-shut doors - so hunt wisely!).   Unfortunately, the price points for Topper's realistic cars is only slightly better than that for Mattel's Hot Wheels - with reasonable examples in better colors often exceeding $50.  They are so rare that I haven't seen a MIP trade on EBay - so I can't tell you what the high end price points are...

So, which one is better?  Who made the better Custom T-Bird back in 1970?!?  Let's get to the comparison!!!

I only have 1 Topper T-Bird, in gold, while I have several Hot Wheels T-Birds.  But one of those Birds is in gold, so it makes it a gold vs. gold custom T-Bird comparison test...  What could be better!?!

At first blush, it looks like it'll be a tight race.  Size-wise, they are both right on top of each other - built big, sized just the way they should be.  Their dimensions are RIGHT on top of each other.  Definitely a draw in the size category.

Paint:  I'm a fan of Hot Wheels Spectraflame paint, but Topper's color is a bit richer, making Mattel's gold paint look like Fools Gold.  In the paint category, the Topper wins.

Metal Body Detail:  The Topper has more body contour than the Mattel.  The Native American Thunderbird symbol is actually cast in relief on the B pillar, just like on the real car.  The roof has a contour line, the trunk and hood has air body vents on it and there is an actual gas cap.  The Mattel's body is nice, but there aren't even door line markings, while the Topper has handles...  The only place where the Mattel scores points is in the hood scoop - where the Mattel looks more bad-ass...  Easily, this category again goes to Topper.

Grill and Light Detail:  This category is close, but Mattel eakes out a win, with the Thunderbird symbol being cast in relief on the grill, and an actual license plate bracket on the rear.  Everything else about the grill and light detail is nice for both cars - with nice metal relief cross-hatching on the grills, and a cast metal AND painted in backlight.

Base Detail:  Both bases are metal and have a lot of detail for the time, but the Mattel has more.  Winner - Mattel.

Opening Features:  The Topper has to win in this category - with opening doors AND an opening hood, though the engine detail is certainly nicer in the Mattel.

Interior:  Again, the Topper wins - in part since the opening doors allow you to see more of the interior.  But even so, the Topper has more interior detail.  Advantage - Topper.

Ride:  The Hot Wheels has an actual suspension - giving a soft and silky ride.   The Topper feels suspension-less - giving an easy (and important) win to the Hot Wheels...

Overall score:  With Topper taking 4 of the 6 six categories, it's hard to argue that Topper should win overall.  That's the way it should be.  If I hadn't looked at it by category, I would have still given the win to Topper.  But the Mattel model is still a very nice model! 

It's nice that the winner is (slightly) cheaper.  But the Topper Redlines are VERY hard to find.  When you DO find one, make sure that you get the one with opening doors... 

The last couple of photos show the other T-Bird models:

In the one to the right, I show the Playing Mantis re-make of Topper's Custom Thunderbird (in purple).  This model stays pretty true to the original, but loses the opening doors and the vintage appeal.  It's a nice model for $3-5, released in the late '90s, and has nicer paint and a smoother ride than the original.  But I still heavily prefer the   authentic Topper Johnny Lightning!  I also include Hot Wheel's Authentic "Spoiler" version of the T-Bird - now called the "TNT Bird" - in dark red.  This casting is the "Custom T-Bird" casting, but with a blown engine and no hood.  It's a great model - a favorite of mine.  While I like all of the Spoiler cars, this T-Bird is definitely one of my favorites!  Unfortunately, the Spoilers are no cheaper than the regular cars - you'll pay dearly for this model!!!

Finally, I show a few other color variations of Mattel's custom T-Bird and Mattel's TNT Bird! 

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mitsubishi Montero (Pajero) - is the Fast Lane Montero a good Montero - and can it compete with a Tomica?

I recently vacationed in Costa Rica.

Vacations always cause me to evaluate and regard and see ordinary cars differently.  For instance, Beijing China was filled with beautiful Volkswagons, with black early '00s Passats functioning as limousines, and mid '80s generation Passats functioning as funky-cool police cars.  It made me want to have one of my own - which was odd - since I ACTUALLY have a blacked-out early '00s Passat...  But somehow, the Chinese Passats in Beijing just looked cooler than my suburban commuter Passat... 

In Costa Rica, the car that really caught my eye was the Mitsubishi Montero.  These cool looking rugged 4X4s were the high class limousines of Costa Rica.  Never mind that in Chicago these are 150,000 mile $4K used car specials, in Costa Rica they were GOLD.  Never mind that I have a nice '09 Mercedes Benz GL500, I NEEDED to have a Montero.  So guess what I started searching Craigslist for...?

 ...and of course, this got me thinking about Matchbox cars, and whether I had a nice Montero...  ...which I in fact
do - a "Fast Lane" (drugstore brand) Montero in teal...

I normally have no respect or patience for Fast Lane cars, but this one looked nice, and was a casting of a seldomly modeled car.    

There is a lot to pick at about the casting...  The cheap wheels, the overly shiny plastic for the grill, the plasticky roof rack, the plastic baseplate without even a word on it, the teal color, the odd graphics, etc.  A lot of collectors wouldn't even give it a 2nd glance...

But on the other hand, there is a lot to LIKE about the casting...  Its nicely sized - REALLY nicely sized, big in the same way that a real Montero is big.  It's nicely detailed - a pretty reasonable model in its own right.  It looks cool dressed up with the pusher bar and the roof rack.  And of course, its a Montero when I have very few other Monteros...  This is a cool model - even though its from a cheapo-manufacturer!  Overall, a nice and valued part of collection! 

But how does it compare with other Monteros?  My other Monteros are Tomicas, which given the high quality quotient inherent in most Tomicas, is bound to make the comparison a little difficult for this Fast Lane... 

I have 4 Tomicas badged as Pajeros (Monteros), though 1 is a Pajero junior and 2 more are short 2 door vs. full 4 doors.  Only 1 is a real full size 4 door Montero/Pajero, in silver with a green stripe along the side.  It has opening doors, and large wheels (that I'm actually not very crazy about).  But overall, it is a very nice casting, correctly sized, with great detail.  If you don't have it, you should get it.  There is no doubt that its nicer than the Fast Lane, in almost every regard.  (But that doesn't mean that I don't like the Fast Lane casting...).   So no, the Fast Lane Montero CAN'T compete with the Tomica Montero - though both are highly regarded castings in my eyes!

 The other shorter Monteros are also nice pieces.  I have 2 that are non-Pajero-Juniors, one in silver and one in green with a light on the roof.  I don't like the wheels, but I love the classic Montero big front ends...  But I can't help wishing they were full 4 doors vs. 2 doors. 

The Pajero junior is a police truck, though I think I have another (older) Pajero junior casting in green that I wasn't able to find for the photo shoot. 

I like all of the Montero castings.  The 4 door Tomica is easily my favorite, but the Fast Lane is still a nice casting... 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

'70's Mopar police cars - which would Rosco drive?

...all this talk about the '68/'69 Dodge Charger comparo post (General Lee!) and the recent '70s Firebirds post (Smokey and the Bandit!), inevitably makes me think about the other guys - the '70's police cars, sometimes driven by daft Rosco Coltrain-types, sometimes driven by the heroes themselves, who were always competing with the good/bad guys...  And for some reason, they were usually in Dodge and Plymouth Mopar police cars vs. Chevys and Fords... 

So... have these '70's Mopar police cars been modeled in 1:64 scale...?  Are there any good models?  Read on and see...!

First up is the one of the newest models, the retro Dodge Monaco Police car, released in the last few years by Matchbox.  I've heard other bloggers comment on how excellent of a model it is...  ...but for this casting along with the other retro Matchbox, I remain solidly luke-warm.  I think I'm put off by the overly shiny (and hence cheap looking) plastic grills combined with the ultra-wide wheels... 

But even I have to admit that this particular casting's not too bad.  It's size is reasonable - and I'm a guy who loves seeing the big '60s and '70s American cars modeled - especially when its a more normal car vs. another endless muscle car.   It's trim and detail are reasonable.  On the downside, it's tires are too wide (though the wheels look good), it's light bar too fake and plasticky, it's bottom base-plate ridiculously fake and plasticky, etc.  As with other retro Matchbox castings, I wonder why collectors are so interested in them - especially when authentic vintage fair-good condition castings are available for not much more on E-Bay.

Next up is the champion, the Lesney Matchbox Plymouth Gran Fury police car, a car from my childhood and so the archetypal Matchbox police car for me...    Yes, this one is an immediate favorite for me. 

It's a smidgeon longer than the above Monaco, a full size car from the Lesney era.  THe metal baseplate gives it a nice heft, the light bar is solid, the metal work in the grill is quality, etc.   All in all a great model!  ...Though not as great of a model as the earlier Mercury police car (but that's not Mopar!), nor of the Hot Wheels Mercury police red-line (a favorite model of mine), but a solid contender from the Lesney era.  On a scale of 1-10, a solid 7....   Does it get any better than this...?

Next up are the Kidco Dodge Monacos, in regular, lock-ups (rubber tires!) and burnin' key car form.  All but the key car have opening doors and a full interior.  They are sized right in line with the Lesney, though I wonder how realistic the 2 door configuration is for a police car.  The plastic bases and grills detract relative to the Lesney, but the opening doors are a nice touch, as are the rubber tires on the lock-up Park Service model (which as the nicest version, will be the one used for the comparison).

The suspension isn't up to Lesney standards (the lock-up version has no suspension), but otherwise the car compares favorably.  I would again rate it a 7 of 10, though the lesser "normal" Kidcos (blue and yellow above) are probably only a 5, and the key-car version without an interior is probably only a 2...

Zylmex did an older Plymouth (in the background to the right), with a metal base and opening doors.  The plastic grill looks a bit cheesy, and the car is sized a tiny bit smaller than the Kidco and Lesneys (though large for a Zylmex.  The light bar is awful but the rest of the car is A-OK, again a solid 7....

A Yatming is up next.  If you read my "top 30 Yatmings of all time" post, you'll understand when I refer to it as a poorer, newer, cheaper Yatming casting, with plastic base and grill and no opening parts.  It's size is right in line with the Kidco though, and even as I see its flaws I still like this casting. 

It's fun to see both Kidco and Zylmex out-quality the Yatming, given that Yatming occasionally has real quality products...  Too bad they didn't a police version (or if they did - I don't have it!) of their Coronet (1st on my list of the 30 best Yatmings of all time!). 

Tomica comes up next, the last of the vintage models, with thier F-Series (US Market) Dodge Coronet in police and taxi guise.  It's sized right in-line with the Zylmex and has similar detail, but done in metal vs. plastic.  It has typical Tomica quality, with a soft suspension, nice trim and opening doors.  I give it another 7...

Playing Mantis is next to the fight, with their Johnny Lightning Dodge.  This one is BIG and solid, without opening parts, but undeniable presence.   The metal detail (real pusher bars!!!) and paint are both beautiful and it comes with rubber tires, though for me the newer casting lacks vintage appeal.   For the sake of argument, I give it a 7, though I wonder if it doesn't deserve more....

Finally, Greenlight comes along with THEIR '74 white Monaco, a HUGE car, much larger than the rest, with exquisite detail and crazy large lights.  The size is a bit off-putting - does it really need to be this much larger than the others...?, though the rest of the models attributes are captivating (glass stop lights?!?).  Correct wheels and hidden headlights give credibility to this model - I have to give it at least an 8.5...

But where is ERTL?  Didn't they do a Dukes of Hazard line that sold for 30+ years (sometimes you can STILL find it on the pegs), with Rosco's police car...?!?   To answer the question, Yes, they did Rosco's police car, though for an odd reason they chose to press an existing casting of an early '80s Oldsmobile 88 into service instead of creating an authentic casting...  This was a rare oversight, since the other ERTL DoH castings are more authentic.  But regardless, an Oldsmobile's not Mopar, so I excluded the casting (it would have ranked poorly anyway...!). 

And what about Hot Wheels - doesn't it have an entry here?  Well, again, no.  They did several '70s police cars, including the wonderful Mercury Park Lane and a 442.  But these were both replaced by a generic police car which did not appear to be based on any real car...  From the headlights and grill you could almost believe it was Mopar - but the rest of the car makes it clear that it is no specific model...  Shame on you Hot Wheels - this car might have been the first example of the current trend of non-licensed castings.

So, how do these 8 castings - 6 vintage - 2 retro modern - compare...?  Which is the best '70s Mopar police car...?  First, let me be clear - these are all super-nice castings...  This is a hard decision to judge!

Well, the first one to eliminate is the Greenlight...  Don't get me wrong, it is an AMAZING casting.  Possibly the nicest casting ever done by Greenlight.  This is a display case car - a museum car - an heirloom car.  The problem is the scale...  It just doesn't FEEL like 1/64.  It might actually be correct "true scale", with the rest of the entrys being too small - but I don't really think so.  I think that this is more like 1:55 scale - and as such - it just doesn't really belong in this bunch of cars.  The Greenlight wins in a special category of cars - those bound to be displayed in a museum.  For those of looking for "Matchbox-like" cars - ones that you can zoom around on the carpet and chase Bo and Luke in their General Lee - read on! 

Among the remaining contenders, it becomes a very close fight - probably the hardest 7 casting battle to differentiate that I've done to date.   There's not a loser in this bunch - I really like all of the cars.... And how fun is it that we have 3 cars from non-name brand vintage labels - the Kidco, the Zylmex and the Yatming, duking it out on an even playing field with the Tomica, the Lesney Matchbox and the Johnny Lightning!?!  This comparison serves as evidence for anyone who needs convincing that these old drug-store brands are worth collecting...! 

The new Matchbox is the first to go.  A good casting.  If it had opening doors, or a suspension that actually had some give, or a shade of plastic for the grill that wasn't SO glaringly bright, it might have actually gotten higher in the finishing order.  But not a bad finish for a retro Matchbox, all things considered, and I have to admit that I'm impressed by this casting.  You need a couple of these for your police station layout... 

The Yatming is the next easiest to eliminate.  It is the cheapest of the remaining, with the least features...   But I still like this casting.  I'm glad I've got it.  Its a great addition to my collection - just not quite up to the standard of the other castings.  It takes a proud and hard-fought 6th place. 

With 5 cars remaining, the competition gets even tougher...  The perennial favorite Lesney Gran Fury...  the soft and silky Tomica Coronet...  The over-achiever over-detailed Johnny Lightning Dodge with rubber tires...  the forest preserve dark horse Kidco lock-up with rubber tires, or the even darker horse upset Zylmex Plymouth with opening doors...? 

The Kidco falls next - it just feels like the wrong real car to model a police car on...  A 2 door?!?  Plus the grill is a bit cheap-looking... 

Thinking about it, looking at the models, and running them back and forth, another car falls out of the pack...  This time its a real surprise, as the Tomica gets relegated to 4th place (by me - the blogger who loves Tomica!).  It just lacks the "gotta have it" factor for me...  nothing I can put my finger on - but this is what a comparison test is all about.  4th place - just missing a podium finish... 

In 3rd place it'll be the new model - the Johnny Lightning.  This is a great model with amazing detail, great heft, and wonderful rubber tires...   but lacking the vintage appeal of the other models.  A great casting by any view, and with opening doors, possibly a winner... 

2nd place is the dark horse candidate - the Zylmex Plymouth...  I REALLY wanted this model to win - just to see Zylmex beat out Tomica, Lesney Matchbox, Mattel Matchbox, Greenlight, Kidco, and Johnny Lightning for the title...  And it ALMOST beats them all, all except for Matchbox!  Nice job Zylmex - I love this car! 

And that leaves Matchbox as the winner.  When this test started I really wasn't sure that the Gran Fury was going to be able to hold off the challengers.  But this casting is a quality casting - and the quality kept pulling it back to the top of the pack.  One of the best of the late '70s Lesney castings, and the best '70s Mopar police car in 1/64th scale...! 

P.S.  This really was a fun comparison - of 8 wonderful castings.  All of these are great, and every one's a winner.  If I wrote the blog tomorrow night, I might pick out an entirely new order. 

P.P.S.  There are many people who would pick the Greenlight to win outright - no comparison - and I understand and appreciate that attitude.  It's an amazing piece.  In a way its far nicer than the other modern casting - the Johnny Lightning...  ...but also in a way it just out-sizes everything else - which for me, was its downfall!