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Thursday, November 12, 2015

2009 Mercedes Benz GL550 Oil Change X164

OK...  So this blog is supposed to be about 1:64th TINY cars, not 1:1 scale huge, hulking beasts of cars...
But I just did my first (and very overdue) oil change on my '09 Mercedes Benz GL550, and I was appalled to find that there were NO internet resources showing how to do an oil change on this car...  (Apparently high-end MB SUVs don't have the same DIY communities as those that support my Mazda Miata...). 

Ordinarily I wouldn't expect to need help with an oil change.  But after sliding around underneath the car and finding nothing that looked remotely like a drain plug, I decided to check the internet...   ...only to find that there was appallingly little information on the internet. So this blog entry is my attempt to remedy that situation! 

Apparently, the "correct" (and easy) way to change the oil is to pump it back out of the dipstick spout.  But I don't have a large enough fluid transfer pump, and didn't want to get my little one all oily, and I was bound and determined to change the oil the old fashioned way.

So here's the deal:

The drain plug is hidden beneath the plastic under-engine shroud at the very front of the car.  The good news is that you don't actually have to get your body under the car (you can reach in from the front).  (You can see jack stands in the photo - but these were already in place before I realized where the drain plug was). 

The bad news is that there are about roughly 8 hex head (10 mm) screws that you have to remove in order to get the shroud off - so you'll spend 10 minutes just cranking away with your rachet wrench - your arms getting more and more tired in the process.  This part alone makes me consider buying a fluid transfer pump for next time.  When you get the final bolt off, the shroud slides backwards and then drops away.  At that point the drain plug becomes clearly visible on the passenger side of the car, facing the front of the car.  The drain plug comes off with a 13 mm socket.  Now you are done with the hardest part. 

Once the oil is out, the filter change is really easy.  I bought my filter from the dealer for $20-$25 - its a basic paper filter as is common in German cars.  You need to remove the front shroud from the top of the engine - this time thankfully there are no screws - you just pull it up and it comes off. 

The oil filter cover is immediately visible - a black plastic cover - in the photo on the right you can see the shadow of the dipstick falling on the cover. 

Next (small) problem is that the filter is recessed - so it was a little hard to get my oil filter wrench around the filter cover.  But eventually I got it off, and then the filter assembly just lifted out. 

The old filter pulls right off of the assembly and the new filter slides right on.  Push the new filter into the assembly as far as it will go (there were directions on my filter that showed that I needed to push it further than I originally expected.  Then replace the whole assembly and put the filter cover back on. 

I put 9 quarts of oil into my car and filled it up to the top level.  Obvious note - check the oil level when the car is NOT still jacked up - otherwise the oil will be more on one side of the car and the dipstick will not show the level correctly.  Next time I'll plan to just put 8.5 quarts in and then very slowly add the last 1/2 quart.  (Note that I saw some internet references to a 2nd drain plug for another oil reserve - but it seems like I got out 95+% of the old oil so I'm not worrying about it).  

The last step is to reset the maintenance indicator light - as follows:
1.  Make sure doors are closed.
2.  Push engine start button without pressing brake pedal - turning on just the accessories
3.  scroll through the menus using the steering wheel buttons until the odometer is shown
4.  Press the "R" reset button (above the speedometer) 3 times very fast - you'll here a beep
5.  Press the down button on the left side steering wheel keypad
6.  Press the - button on the right side steering wheel keypad 3 times until you see a confirmation question
7.  Press the + button (right side steering wheel) to confirm the service reset. 

Hope this helps anyone else who loves their massive GL550, but doesn't want to pay the dealer $200 for an oil change! 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Auto World - Dramatic Decrease in Quality for "Deluxe" ($2.99) cars. Run - Don't Walk - Away from these cars... Put that blisterpack BACK ON THE PEGS!

Earlier this summer I purchased my first "Auto World" model.  Auto World seems to be another contender in the Johnny Lightning/Green Light camp, making yet even more high quality (heavy die-cast body and base, rubber tires, opening hood, etc.) models of 1960s and 1970s American iron. 

On one hand, I'm always encouraged by new castings and more competition.  On the other hand, don't we all have enough of these muscle car castings already...?  Can't we get a model of a car that hasn't already been modeled 100 times?

But out of the cars on the pegs, one particular model did appeal to me - 1 1976 Cadillac Coupe DeVille.   A model that WASN'T modeled before.  A model of a car that I didn't have in my 6000+ model collection. 

Plus, the primary advertising element of Auto World was that it was "True Scale".  If there is anything that I hate, it is a huge car modeled far too small, or a small car modeled much too large.  So I'm a big fan of the idea of "true scale".  And indeed, true to actual scale, this Caddy is BIG.  (It was actually the only car in Auto World series 1 in a separate "Land Yacht" line - a very appropriate name!).  (Interestingly, on the bottom of the car it is labeled as a '67 rather than a '76...). 

Once I got it home and opened it up, I felt OK with the purchase.  There were some pluses and minuses of it - the unique model, the true scale and the quality feel of it being offset by a hood that didn't open very well (and I would have preferred opening doors vs. the opening hood), a boring color, etc.   Overall, I was OK with the model, but it didn't knock my socks off. 

Fast forward a few months to this morning, when I found the series 2 models of Auto World on the pegs.  What I didn't realize was that I was looking at the "deluxe" vs. "premium" line.  The price was lower - $2.99 vs. $4.99 - but the models looked similar.   They were the usual line of American iron, but at least there were again slightly unique versions.  The one that stuck out most was the mid 80s' Fox body Mustang SVO (Special Vehicle Operations), a 4 cylinder turbo-charged Mustang that was supposed to be a more refined (European?) option to the V8 Mustang that offered similar performance.  I was a kid back in '84 when the SVO came out - I was hooked by the different front headlights (made even better in '86 when they went aero) and 2 level rear wing.  Back then I lusted after the SVO - I wanted it badly! 

I have 1 or 2 SVOs in my collection already - I think I've got one from Hot Wheels - but I'm not crazy about any of them.  So this beautiful candy-apple red Auto World SVO went into my cart, along with a late '60s Chevy El Camino, a Buick GS, and a left-over series 1 Dart (unknowingly - from the "premium" line).   I questioned whether I should by the last 3, given my earlier complaint about how muscle cars are endlessly modeled.  But at least all 3 are from comparatively less modeled models (i.e. not '67 Camaros....), so I bought them, brought them home, and eagerly ripped into the packaging of the SVO...


These "deluxe" $2.99 cars have a very cheap plastic base, and even cheaper feeling plastic wheels.  These aren't the higher quality plastic bases and wheels you get in a $.99 Matchbox - these are the cheapy plastic base and wheels you get in a no-name multi-pack of unidentifiable cars at a dollar store. 

What a disappointment! 

They look nice - but don't feel nice AT ALL.

Amazed, I compared the packaging of the $2.99 cars vs. the $4.99 cars.  The packaging looked almost identical - with no mention of the "deluxe" vs. "premium" branding that is on the auto world website.  For the more expensive car, they bragged about the metal base and the rubber wheels.  For the $2.99 car, they go silent on the base (only saying "die-case body") and brag about the "silky smooth" rolling wheels (which is an outright lie...  With no spring suspension - the SVO rolls worse than a regular wheels Matchbox - any one who thinks its "silky smooth" has never touched silk.  There is NOTHING silky about it).

So dear readers, please steer clear of these awful Auto World disappointments.  Even at $2.99, they aren't worth it.   I will be returning my un-opened GS and El Camino to WalMart.  Perhaps I will even return my SVO, claiming that I'm unhappy with the quality.  Maybe at least that way WalMart can let Auto World know that consumers are unhappy...

And for you executives in charge of these "deluxe" cars - well - your cars suck....  They are NOT deluxe.  And I hope that you never claim to be car buffs - because you don't deserve to wear that label...   

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tomicas - China Trip #5

I've written a lot about my China/Beijing trip...  I really hoped that I'd find some cool diecast cars - and that was certainly the case.  I hoped specifically that I'd find a lot of Tomica - and that was less so the case... 

In the end, after visiting endless street markets, walking through many department stores, and even visiting the "toy market" flea market, I only found Tomicas sold in one store. 

The display was not as deep as I'd hoped for - with maybe 25 models - a bunch of which I already had - and none of the special edition models I was hoping for.  So in the end, figuring that it was my only choice to buy some of these, I bought almost every model that I didn't have. 

This meant that I didn't discriminate much in the models bought - and so bought a bunch of models that I wasn't terribly crazy about.  In the photos, I ranked them by how much I liked them, with the least liked models in the back right, and the most liked in the front left. 

The WRX STi and Lexus IS F are relegated to the back based mostly on their scale.  They are in 1:67 scale - and look small.  I have other Tomica WRXs that I like a lot more (particularly the first gen. blue one) - but not this one... 

The Renault Megane just looks blah - it reminds me of the boring Tomica RX8 model.

The 2 Lamborghinis are both very nice models - its interesting but I haven't hit a Tomica Lamborghini that I haven't liked. 

The Toyota Wish is another in a long line of very successful minivan's/station wagons - so hard to find from ANY other toy manufacturer - but a mainstay of Tomica's line.  The Z06 is nice and has opening doors.  The Z4 has a very cool removable roof.

Overall, not the best set of Tomicas I've ever gotten - but any set of Tomicas are worth having!

Check out my previous post (and upcoming next post) for more details on sets of Tomicas! 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


I love Tomicas... 

They make nice models - and they do models of cars that are infrequently modeled by other toy makers.  They also update their models when the automakers bring out a new generation of the car. 

The combination makes for a toy maker that is an invaluable part of any diecast collector's collection. 

They aren't perfect - the quality has decreased in the last 5-10 years - and they no longer do many opening doors (it used to be that practically every Tomica had an opening part).   But I still get more excited about Tomicas than about any other toy line. 

The problem is how hard they are to find in the US.  For a while I had a local Japanese toy store that stocked Tomicas and sold them to me at 2 for $5 - a great price and a fun destination.  But he closed down. 

Then I bought them through some dedicated internet sites - toyeast and others - that allowed me to buy many models and pay 1 shipping rate.  But again, they seem to have stopped stocking these cars. 

This time I found a vendor on Amazon, and yesterday I got my package of 10 cars. 

I love them! 

I've pictured the cars in order of how much I like them - going from least favorite in the top right to favorite in the front row. 

I love that Tomica makes ordinary sedans.  And while this time my least favorite is the pink Toyota Crown Athlete, I have other Toyota Crowns that are among my favorite Tomica models.  But this one is an ugly salmon pink, and it looks much too narrow and a bit small.  Just an uninspiring model - particularly when I love so many of the other Crowns. 

While the Crown is the easy choice for my least favorite of this purchase - the other cars are all much closer in preference.  This set included 3 (three!) Lotus', including 2 different castings of an Exige...  The Scion FR-S (Toyota 86) is a great casting, as are the 2 mini SUVs of the Subaru Forester and the Toyota X-Trail (both with opening hatches). 

The Mercedes SLS AMG deserves mention for its opening gullwing doors.  The Porsche 997 911 is OK - but somehow left me a little bit let-down...

Overall - a great purchase!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

China Post #4: Not quite as great Hy-Truck models

This is my 4th post about the models collected on my recent trip to Beijing, and I still have more models after these yet to write about....   All in all, a pretty successful trip from a toy car perspective...!
My last 2 posts were about the fabulous KDW models that I found.  But before I found those models, I found these "Hy-Truck" brand models for about the same price. 
Unfortunately, while they look nice and have a nice and heavy heft to them, the actual quality is not where I'd like it to be.  For instance, I have to press very hard to get the treads on the one vehicle to just barely turn - a child would not be able to get them to turn.  What good is a vehicle that doesn't move?  They'd have been better off to make it a wheeled vehicle rather than one with treads. 
While that issue isn't a problem with the other (wheeled) vehicle - and while it has an impressive telescoping arm and working stabilizers, I was underwhelmed by the fact that the bucket can't actually be lowered all the way to the ground... 
In addition to the above complaints, the level of detailing is subpar.  Overall, I'd recommend avoiding these "Hy-Truck" models and focus on KDW models instead!

Friday, August 21, 2015

China Post #3: High Quality KDW Trucks

If you read my last post, you'll see that I bought a KDW truck crane (scale = 1:50?), and was very impressed at it details and long long LONG working boom... 
Well, at the same time as I bought that truck crane, I also bought these 2 KDW tractor trailers - and if anything - I actually like these more than the crane...
The blue container truck has 2 removable containers.  Unlike the containers of the Matchbox Super Kings model from the late '70s, these containers are made of heavy weight metal. 
The trailer bed has a telescoping feature, which collapses when you don't need to carry both containers.  And they are a number of indentations to hold the container at 10 + different positions. 
The green tractor from the flatbed set is interchangeable with the blue container set (in fact - they are the same tractor casting).  The flatbed includes a nicely detailed excavator, which is probably sold as a unique model (and would be well worth buying on its own). 
Overall the units have a very high quality feel - at least as good as a SIKU or Corgi casting.  But the value was tremendous...  I paid $15-$20 for each set - when the excavator alone would be worth that cost. 
As mentioned in the crane post, I bought them in a little store in Beijing.  You can buy them on EBAY, for roughly 2X what I bought them for.  In fact, I'd advise you to make that purchase.  At $30 per piece - I don't think you'll be disappointed!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

China Post #2... KDW Crane with 3+ foot long working boom!

In order to keep my huge diecast toy collection from becoming too expensive or too overwhelming, early on I decided to establish some limits to it...  Back in '96/'97, I decided that I would only collect 1:64 scale Matchbox-type cars, like the ones sold in their 1-75 series. 

The problem, as discussed in earlier blog entries, is that the 1-75 2.75 inch cars and trucks really were not true 1:64 scale, particularly when it comes to heavy trucks.  In order to get 1:64-ish scale trucks, I needed to buy vehicles that Matchbox sold in their King Size/Super King ranges...  So I've gradually allowed my hard and fast rule to be broken, collecting larger toys as long as they fit roughly into 1:64 scale...  Hence toys like this one...

This is the 2nd blog entry from my China trip.  In this case, a wonderful mobile crane, modeled by a company known as KDW... 

And what a high quality toy it is...  Look at the length of that boom extension!!!   The end of the boom (the top yellow part in the first photo - actually pivots 180 degrees to double back on itself during transport - its held in place by a removable pin - and the company provides a spare pin for us. 

My *only* complaint is the out-rigger stabilizers.  While they come out nicely, they aren't actually effective at stabilizing the crane.  With so much weight in the boom arm, the crane tips EASILY, even without any load, any time the boom goes out to either side. 

This piece is available on Ebay, just type in "KDW".  I paid only about $12-$14 for it, in a comics store off of Dashilan Street, in the QianMen area.  But if you don't feel like paying for a $1,800 plane ticket to Beijing, then $30 plus shipping on Ebay will sound like a good deal, particularly for such a high quality and incredibly functional and realistic model... 

Look out for more KDW toys.  They are as good or better as the larger Corgis and Sikus. 

Saturday, August 15, 2015

China Trip! (1st Post). Drugstore-ish cars found in Beijing Night Market

Dear Readers,

Sorry for the delay in getting updates to Matchbox Frenzy...  I just got back from a trip to Beijing, which included a lot of car thought (real cars - based on the mushrooming native Chinese car industry - and model cars - with the *hope* that I'd find stuff that I don't find in the USA).  I tried to update my blog while I was there, but the Google/China rift meant that the blog was blocked to me while I was in China...  So here I am, a few weeks late. 

As I said, given how many diecast toys are actually produced in China, I really hoped that I'd find some cool - and hopefully inexpensive - stuff, particularly Tomica. 

Unfortunately, though I searched through all of the bazaars and flea markets and toy stores that I could find (including the toy market located behind the pearl market), I found very little Tomica...  1 store only - and their selection was not as great as I had hoped.  You'll see my Tomica finds on a later post. 

And as for pricing - well - there are many things that are super inexpensive in Beijing...  Street food, subway fares, taxi rides, etc., but that list does not include diecast cars.  The Tomica and Siku that I found were on the order of $5 US per car (incidently - the Matchbox/Hot Wheels that I found were not much cheaper).  So they weren't expensive - just not as cheap as I'd hoped. 

But I did find some cool stuff, starting with the set of cars shown here.  I have no idea what brand they are.  They seem like what you might get in a drugstore - though the heaviness of the cars makes them feel higher quality than say a Maisto.

This packaging of cars - all packaged in groups of 4 - was fairly commonly found in many of the night-market/flea market types of vendors.  Actually, the most interesting things about these night markets was how much repetitive merchandise you found - almost as if there were wholesale suppliers selling merchandise produced expressly to be sold in night markets.  It made the vendors feel less original... 

I probably paid about $9 for this set - not sure if I got ripped off or not (I probably did...).   The cars actually feel pretty nice.  They are slightly large - not quite as big as Sikus, but a tad larger than comparable Matchbox Cayennes.  Given that they are models of large SUVs, that probably means that they are close to correct 1:64 scale. 

The set included 4 luxury SUVs; a Range Rover, a Cayenne, an Audi Q7 and a BMW X6, all reasonably well modeled, all with opening doors.  Unfortunately, they have pull-back friction motors in them - so you can't pull them back without winding up the motors.  The paint scheme is also a little unfortunate - its hard to imagine a construction company giving their engineers Porsche Cayennes to toodle around in.  But a nice set of cars to have found regardless.  Incidentally, this is my first model of a BMW X6... 

Overall a nice set of cars.  If you see them on EBay for not too much money then I'd recommend adding them to your collection.  The only problem - since there is no brand - I don't know how to search for them...  On the other hand, if you go to the Beijing night market off of WangFuJing street - then look for this set. 


Monday, July 27, 2015

The scale problem - both in Matchbox size and in real life

Matchbox cars are toy cars. This sounds obvious, but it becomes reality when you realize that most "Matchbox" scale cars are actually 2.5- 2.75 inches long rather than true 1:64 scale, resulting in VW Golfs that are the same size as enormous off-road quarry dump trucks. 

The photo to the right illustrates this...  A "small" Ferrari 308 that is in much larger scale - but almost the same physical size - as an enormous Fire Truck. 

As a kid, the scale issue scarcely bothered me.  As an adult, it irritates me immensely. Most "1:64" scale commercial trucks are much closer to 1:90 scale, and you need to buy trucks from the larger "super-king" ranges in order to get trucks that are really 1:64.  Even within ordinary passenger cars you see the scale issue - with Matchbox' compact early '70s Ford Capri dwarfing the full size late '70s Mercury Cougar Villager Wagon.  Sometimes I try to get around the issue by buying small cars (Honda Fits,etc.) from Tomica, who tends to run slightly smaller than true 1:64 scale, and larger cars and trucks from Siku, who often runs closer to 1:55 scale.

Over the years I've tried to train my mind to see true scale, closely looking at 18 wheelers and cement mixers on the road, and comparing how much larger they are than ordinary cars. So I was amused last week when I saw these 2 1:1 scale red 2 seat convertibles, and thought about how they appeared to be different scales.  The tiny back-end of the Triumph Spitfire is dwarfed by the fat, high rump of the Cadillac Allante.  The Cadillac appears to be 2X wider than the Triump.  And yet, they are both accurately sized 1:1 cars...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Rare Matchbox Transitional Mustang... ...but in the super-rare regular wheels white-color!

Regular readers of my blog know that my favorite die-cast brand is Matchbox, and my favorite Matchbox's are the super-fast transitionals...

On of the rarer and harder to find of the transitionals is the Mustang, and one of the very rare variations of this rare model is to get it in the same white paint as the regular-wheels version. 

I just received this one in the mail, an Ebay find.  It's pretty beat up - the paint is heavily chipped and the trailer hook is gummed up and twisted off, but the wheels and axles are straight (a pet peeve of mine) and the glass is all sound.  It is original and authentic and ready to be played with. 

The price was surprisingly low, even though the shipping costs from England were high.  I expected to be out-bid given how difficult of a model it is to find.   

Overall, I'm thrilled with the purchase and the model.  This is a favorite casting of my mine, and I frankly never expected to find it in white - beat-up or mint. 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hot Wheels Adult Collectible - White 8000 Shell Tanker and Ford F100 Pickup in Shell Livery

Its been a little while since I last posted - life just got extra busy and I didn't have the chance.  Plus, I wasn't feeling inspired about what to blog about. 

I have some exciting new Ebay finds on their way to me - and a host of existing cool/rare/nice cars in my collection, but somehow none of the posts were coming together. 

This post has been in draft mode for a while, so I thought I'd finish it up and at least give my readers something new to look at. 

The Hot Wheels "Adult Collectible" series has been an expensive favorite of mine for the last 2 decades.  Unlike the other (and less expensive) premium series of Hot Wheels, which take existing models and layer on nicer paint, trim, wheels and rubber tires, the Adult Collectible series usually are unique castings, sold only as Adult Collectibles.  If you want that casting - you don't get to buy it cheap as a lower trim model.  And that can be difficult, since the Adult Collectibles are not cheap - with an average retail selling point of around $8-10 per car! 

This 2 car set was interesting, in that the tanker was a casting of a typically un-modeled model.  It is more in scale than usual for a toy car (another hallmark of the Adult Collectibles - they eschew the "make everything 2.75 inches long so it fits in a standard Matchbox case - regardless of whether its a 35 foot long Mack cement mixer or a 13 foot long Honda Fit" approach of most diecast  brands) - so beware that it WON'T fit into a normal sized case.  I also liked the yellow and orange Shell paint livery. 

The Ford F100 is a bit more common of a model - but a nice model anyway.  It reminds me of the slightly older Ford F-1 pick-up in Shell livery in the historic gas station re-enactment at the Gilmore car museum in Michigan (a GREAT place to visit if you ever get the chance).   Maybe someday I'll include a blog with some more photos of that great and beautiful car museum (nice cars and nice grounds!), but here's that Shell Ford pickup from my visit 9 years ago (yes, my son and I now look different than we did back then!).   

Friday, June 12, 2015

Hot Wheels 288 GTO Phil's Garage

I've been a fan of the real 1980's Ferrari GTO since I read a Road and Track article around 1985 comparing a GTO with the new Testarossa with a Countach.  Partly I've always been a fan of the Scagliatti Ferrari look of all of the early/mid '80s Ferraris (308, 328, Mondial, BB and GTO).

So when Hot Wheels introduced a model of the 288 GTO, I instantly bought it (shown in yellow).  But then when Hot Wheels introduced the up-market Phil's Garage version of it , with nicer wheels and more detail, well, I was smitten!

This model is beautiful.  Its amazing how slightly nicer trim changes a $.99 model into something that I'm happy to pay $3.99 or more for - but that is certainly the case with this car!

Great car and great casting, both in basic and up-market form. 

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Modifiers Escalade - You need one in your collection - worth buying even for today's inflated price points...

One of the cooler die-cast car gimmicks in the last 2 decades were the "Modifier" series, by X-Concepts (who the heck are X-Concepts?!?).  The idea was that they would give you the parts to a car and allow you to build it yourself, finishing with a screw-on baseplate rather than a riveted baseplate. 

In the process, you'd get to choose what components to use - with each package containing 2 sets of wheels, 2 sets of window glass with different window tints, sometimes alternate interiors, etc. 

I have a number of these models, including a Civic, an Integra, an Accord Coupe, and an Eclipse.  These small cars were nice, but their wheels always seemed too small, and while the finished products were nice and it was fun to "customize" them (at least within the prescribed band), they weren't overly compelling. 

But for some reason the trucks were nicer.  I have a white F-150, and these 2 Escalades - in black and green. 

These are the nicest Escalades I have.  Substantially nicer than the forgettable basic Matchbox car (or was it Hot Wheels....  that should tell you how forgettable it was), and even nicer than the white Hot Wheels Adult Collectible Escalade ESV shown in the backgrounds of the photos (a car that was let down by a covered bed, oversize wheels, and a general feeling of somehow just not being right...). 

But these Modifier Escalades are sized just right, and fun with the customized window glass. 

Since I have 2 models in 2 colors - I am able to swap components between the 2 cars.  My only complaints are the black and off-color carbon hoods (OK on an Integra - but really - a carbon hood on an Escalade?!?) (less noticeable on the black painted model), and the slightly large mirrors (the first place where paint chips develop). 

Aside from the nice extra long and realistic Suburban made by Hot Wheels and only sold in their more expensive lines (avoid the overly short Matchbox Suburban that is sized to fit in a normal case - and so is incorrectly the same length as the similar generation Tahoe...), this Escalade is the nicest model I've found of a full size GM SUV.  After buying and opening mine, I liked it so much that I picked up an extra copy to keep Mint-in-Blister!  

This model is worth picking up even if you have to buy it on E-Bay for a substantial premium.  (The only listings I'm seeing right now are starting at $20 before shipping - 5 X the original $3.99-ish price point).  

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Re-sprayed Hot Wheels MR2... ...with Matchbox alloys

In the same vein as the re-sprayed Land Rover that I showed a few weeks ago, and from roughly the same time in my life (pre-kids - about 12 years ago)...

The model is the early 90's Toyota MR2 by Hot Wheels - a nice model in its own right - with cool aftermarket rally lights across the front bumper...  I re-sprayed this favorite model in charcoal, with additional detail for lights. 

But the coolest part of this project was the wheel swap - to the nicest-looking Matchbox wheels that Matchbox ever issued.  Actually the wheel swap was not easy...  while the overall axle length matched up well, the original wheels were wider than the Matchbox wheels, so the narrow chassis allowed the replacement wheels to float in and out of the wheel-wells.  I had to add some plastic to widen the chassis to get the wheels spaced at the end of the axle.  My frankenstonian fix works well and the wheels roll perfectly - just don't turn the car over to see the rather ugly bottom! 

Monday, June 1, 2015

Thoughts on this Blog - Comparison Tests

It's interesting that blog readers seem to focus on whatever is most recently published.  This is not surprising, since the blog is published in a chronological fashion.  But as such some of my best articles quickly get lost and obscured by the latest post. 

The articles for which I'm proudest, the ones that are the most meaty, those that have the most information, those that I put the most time into, and the ones that show off my collection the best, are the comparison tests...  I've put together 4 different comparison tests so far, with the latest (and most interesting) being the Car Carrier comparison from May 19, 2015.  But I've also published a '68/'69 Dodge Charger comparison on April 24, 2015, a European Luxury-Sedan Based Ambulance test on March 28, 2015, and a Mercedes Benz 450SEL comparison on April 4, 2015.

In addition to the above formalized comparisons, many of my posts include less formal comparisons - such as the Ferrari 308 article. 

I'm proud of most of my posts - I wouldn't write them if I wasn't interested in the topics.  I surprised by which items get the most traffic - my re-painted Matchbox Land Rover 90 over-indexed on hits.  While this is a cool piece, I was surprised that the base and wheel swaps of the Matchbox pick-ups (the wildlife truck and the Mountain Man) got so little attention. 

I've always been excited by my collection of Malibu Land Rovers (a higher hit post) and Muscle Machine Japanese Race cars (a relatively lower hit post), but don't understand why one post gets more interest than the other?  My posts about favorite Johnny Lightning models - the Chevy C10 and Chevy Chevelle were both low hit items - yet the castings themselves are very impressive (that's why I blogged about them!) and I include photos of my deep collection of color variations. 

My 2012 post about my Impy Mercedes has 3X more hits than any other posting.  I don't know why - maybe there is just less information on Impys and so my blog post comes up faster in internet searches...? 

Finally, I'd encourage comments to any of my postings (as long as they are appropriate and respectful).  Sometimes I feel like I'm writing in a vacuum - and the only way I know that anyone appreciates my content is from my page view count... 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

SIKU tractors - 2616 and v270 Zettelmeyer Lader Europ L.2000

SIKU is surprising (and satisfying) manufacturer...  When it comes to larger scale (or at least larger size) die-cast, no one else has quite the same selection or quality. 

I've never gotten an adequate sense of everything SIKU has done - I've never found a collector guide or a catalog.  But as I keep on coming across more and more cool stuff, my interest in and respect for the brand has grown. 

Their toys are easy to find on Amazon or EBAY, unfortunately their price points tend to be high - its not unusual to find new larger toys priced at $30+ or $50+ even prior to high shipping costs.  And their vintage pieces on EBAY - even in the smaller scales, are typically a lot as well.  But once in a while you get lucky, as in this case...

I just bought these 2 vintage tractors off of EBAY. The smaller red and yellow item (marked on the bottom as 2616 - made in W. Germany) appears cooler at first glance, with retractable stabilizers that actually work, a lifting and movable front bucket and a lifting and flexible backhoe arm.  Interestingly the backhoe runs along a track on the back of the tractor, allowing it to move side to side.  I'm also partial to any SIKU made in W. Germany vs. Germany - just since it means its older.  That being all said, I was a little let down by the cheap, toy-like wheels, and I has disappointed that the front bucket only had 1 hinge rather than 2. 

The 2nd red and gray tractor has less movable parts, with only the front movable bucket.  However it has a 2 hinges and the hydraulics are tighter, so the bucket stays in whatever place you put it.  It feels like less of a toy and more of a collectors piece.  It is marked as V270 on the bottom, along with "Zettelmeyer" and "Lader Europ L.2000".  Zettelmeyer L.2000 is also cast into the side of the unit. 

Taken together, these tractors complement a burgeoning collection of larger SIKU pieces, particularly tractors and other industrial work equipment.  While I always have a difficult time swallowing the initial purchase prices, I find myself very rarely disappointed or regretting the purchase.  And given that I these 2 items are both vintage, and were purchased at a relatively low bid EBAY price, I'm very satisfied with this purchase!

Monday, May 18, 2015

Massive Comparison - the Car Carrier Extravaganza!!!

When I was a kid, I dreamed about how cool it would be to have a Matchbox tractor trailer that could actually fit a real Matchbox car inside of it.   I thought about this a lot, since I had a Matchbox 1-75 series 18 wheeler (one of the early ones, with the Matchbox logo on the trailer), but the box of the trailer was too narrow to fit a Matchbox car into. And, I had the awful Matchbox 2.5 inch long car carrier from the mid '70s (#11 - pictured to the right, in the foreground), with 3 tiny plastic cars permanently affixed to it, but even the 9 year old me knew that it was not what I wanted.

In the early '80s some manufacturer (Road Champs?) had a whole series of relatively cheap quality big rigs, and one of them was a car carrier (My cousins Joey and Shawn Sherburne had an example - I think it was orange).  But again it was too smaller and narrow to let any car other than perhaps a tootsie toy onto it.  My friend Andy Bradshaw had 2 kingsize car carriers from his brother's collection - that fit 4 and 5 cars onto them - but they seemed too big and out of scale - certainly bigger than my above-mentioned 18 wheeler... (Later as an adult, I realized that the King Size trucks were actually closer to true 1/64 Matchbox scale than the trucks in the 1-75 range...). 

Then Matchbox expanded their tractor trailers into the 'Convoy' series, and brought out a glorious tractor trailer that was pulled by an ordinary 1-75 truck (a red Kenworth COE - the right hand example in the below photo) but that fit 3 real Matchbox cars onto it, with even a ramp that lowered so cars could drive up onto it. I was simply bowled over, awestruck, by how perfect it was....  To this day it represents an excellent example of how a toy company could make a functioning toy while still staying within reasonable size dimensions.   

Since that time I've considered myself a connoisseur of car carriers and have eagerly collected them, with the provision that they had to be able to carry ordinary 1-75 Matchbox cars.  And it now seems like a good time to run a comparison test, to see which one is best.  Can my childhood favorite Convoy series rig win the crown for best carrier, withstanding severe competition from some of my newer additions?

I found 17 unique castings in my collection, across 5 distinctly different scales.  The smallest is undeniably the worst, and the clear loser in this competition, the earlier mentioned 2.5 inch long Bedford car carrier with the tiny affixed plastic cars.  It has nothing going for it - little detail, no interior, un-removable cars, etc. 

The next size up is where the fun begins - in roughly 1/90 scale (though these pieces were sold as part of the 1/64 scale collections).   I have 4 examples - the early blue/grey Lesney grey wheel Accessory Pack example, a yellow EFE piece with an Atkinson tractor, the earlier mentioned red Matchbox Convoy series pulled by the Kenworth COE, and a rather customized Hot Wheels Adult Collectible pulled by a classic Ford COE.  I forgot about the Hot Wheels unit until after the main photo-shoot - so I have a separate photo of it below.

The Accessory Pack and the EFE tractor trailers will fit smaller cars onto them - particularly the grey wheel or smaller regular wheels cars from the early-mid 60s.  However even with those, only the smaller examples of them will fit onto the bottom rack.  The Accessory Pack piece does not have a movable rack or any way to manually load the cars, and also doesn't have an interior on the cab.  In contrast, the EFE tractor is a beautifully detailed piece, a real show piece.  The top rack drops down and there is a ramp to allow car boarding.

I've already talked about the red convoy series.  It'll fit most matchbox cars onto the bottom or top racks, as long as they are not extra wide or too tall.  A huge plis is that tt can be pulled by any 1-75 series tractor.  The example pictured is my actual childhood example - though I also have a version in blue that I picked up as an adult.  The Hot Wheels piece is more different than the others with a very different trailer design.  The lower rack is artificially low so it'll only fit the specific cars that it came with (a Midget Sprint car and a C1 Corvette). 

Then I move into the next size of carriers - which I think are closest to 1:64 scale.  The picture to the right shows 7 of them, although the 2 in the middle are identical Corgi units but with different cabs (for the sake of the comparison test I will only include 1 of these). 

Starting from the left, I have the Lesney Major Pack #8 with the Guy Warrier tractor.  This is a nice piece with a folding top rack and a loading ramp, holding 4 total cars.  There's not much to critique on it, other than the fact the cab is permanently attached to the trailer, the loading ramp is a little steep, and there is no interior in the cab.  Next up is the Lesney Super King #11 DAF car carrier in yellow.  Again the cab (I love the DAF cabs) is permanently affixed to the trailer.  The trailer fits 5 cars with adjustable chocks.  I love the bright yellow color (its also available in a rarer blue color which I don't have). 

Next up is a Corgi Juniors Volvo unit from the '80s.  What is so unique about this carrier is that it has a trailer that can carry an additional 4 cars.  Both ramps drop and allow easy loading and unloading.  This unit also has adjustable chocks for each piece. 

The next 2 newer Corgi units (in blue) also have trailers - but these trailers run flush with the first trailer - allowing the cars to be driven from one trailer to the other.  In addition, this is the only design of them where the ramp for the front most trailer only drops half way down, requiring usage of the rear-most trailer to actually load cars (refer to the right photo).  This ramp design actually feels like the most realistic ramp design among any of them.  These are nice units - with a very modern and sophisticated feel.  One has a Renault cab, the other a Scania tractor. 

The last 2 units in this (approximately) 1:64 scale are the newest units and are widely available in the US at Walmarts and similar stores.  The first is by M2, and features a classic Dodge tractor.  Only the back half of the top rack actually drops down, but it is works fine, or would if there was a ramp that actually reached to the ground.  While I'm pleased to have this carrier, and like the old fashioned look of it, I'm a little disappointed that they didn't make it feel even higher quality.  The trailer has a plastic feel to it.  The last of these units is from the newest Matchbox tractor trailer series.  It looks nice from a distance, however the trailer is 100% plastic which really hurts the feel of it.  There are no wheel chocks at all, adjustable nor cast.  It holds 5 cars, but it really doesn't feel as nice as the '80s Convoy version. 

Now I start getting into the larger scale trucks, which still hold Matchbox size cars, but where the cabs seem a  little out of scale... 

First up is the coolest - the Corgi Tri-Deck carrier.  This version is so cool precisely because it has 3 (three!) car decks, allowing it to hold 7 or more cars.  It also has a retractable set of dolly lifts for when the trailer is separate from the cab.  This unit is a very rare unit and one of my favorite pieces - I like it so much that I have 3 examples of it! 

After the Tri-deck Corgi is another Corgi - the blue Carrimore Mark 4 with the Ford tractor.  While this one doesn't have 3 decks, it looks and feels very high quality, again has retractable dolly wheels, and the COE cab tips up to reveal the engine. 

The Lesney Super Kings K-40 Courier transporter is next.  This has a nicely molded set of ramps/racks, with molded in wheel chocks.  It feels nice until you compare it with the high quality Corgis, when it suddenly feels like a toy rather than a collectible. 

The yellow SIKU is a more modern unit (15 years old), but is nonetheless 100% metal.  It also has an attached trailer, (with a concave and convex break point - allowing it to turn corners without losing connectivity), and holds 7 cars.  Each of the 2 top decks drop down, allowing creative loading, and alone among the units it has 2 individual wheel tracks that reach the ground and retract when not in use. 

Finally, the Majorette unit.  It doesn't have all of the bells and whistles of some of the competitors (and feels more like a toy than a collectible), but it is all metal and holds 5 cars.  It is a high quality and solid unit, just without some of the real exciting twists of the other carriers. 

There is only 1 example of the largest size group, this green Corgi Ford Transporter.  This one is actually too large for 1:64 Matchbox (the wheel tracks are too far apart - and my Mercury Police Cruiser falls through the middle), and is really made for Super King or full-size Corgi toys.   It has individual wheel chocks and a dropping top ramp, but doesn't feel quite as nice as some of the other larger Corgis. 

So, which one is best?  For this comparison test, I compared all 17 units across 13 categories.  Most of the categories were in a 10 point range, with 5 having only a 5 point range.  The maximum possible score was 105.  ....and the winner is ...:

The Corgi Tri-Deck, with a score of 94 points.  This wasn't at all a surprise to me - it came into the competition as one of the favorites.  Three decks is hard to argue with, especially when you add in the additional quality of the detail on the cab, the detail on the wheels, a jack to hold the trailer up when not attached to the cab, and movable wheel chocks.  What surprised me was that the Siku came in 2nd, a unit that has some very impressive qualities (particularly its loading ramp arrangement and retractable ramps to get to the ground), but whose overall appeal seemed slightly less than some of the others.  3rd (Corgi Carrimore) and 4th place (the huge Corgi Ford) were also from the larger sizes, proving that my point system did not offer enough value to the more Matchbox 1-75 sized carriers. 

It wasn't until 5th and 6th place that we moved into the more moderately sized, with 2 more Corgi's claiming those spots (heavily helped by their having the 2nd trailers, and a nod of recognition to the very unique loading ramp movement of the Renault/Scania).  This really is an amazing accomplishment for Corgi - their 5 units were all in the top 6!  In contrast, the best placement for Matchbox' 7 units was 7th place - the DAF Superfast. 

And its not until 9th place (a tie) that one of the smaller units finally place, the Hot Wheels COE.  It was held back by its plastic body. 

Somehow by childhood favorite (the red Matchbox Convoy Kenworth COE) ended up 3rd from last, in 15th place.  The fault was mostly that its 3 car simple approach was less exotic than that of its competition.

And as expected, my childhood non-favorite, the tiny Bedford, ended up dead last. 

Anyway - a fun experiment and comparison.  I hope you enjoyed reading it.  And check back again, since I feel that I may want to re-compare the trucks using different categories and different scaling, to see if the rankings get shaken up.