Nothing beats finding models in “the wild” that have been on your want list for a while. It might make more economic sense to simply order online, if you have the option, because I just had to fill my car up at £1.31/litre, and it gets expensive driving around looking for cars (which is why you ought to look for them while you’re doing more important tasks!).
But there’s something refreshing about walking into a shop and coming out with a couple of cars to just brighten the day up. Serendipity works wonders. Smyth’s toy stores probably stock the best selection of Hot Wheels cars in the UK, so you can almost always be guaranteed to find something of interest there. Today it happened to be the Honda Series hanging on the pegs that caught my eyes. Other sets there included the Gran Turismo and Lamborghini sets, as well as some Real-Rider Pop Culture series cars which would make great cars for wheel swaps but I can’t justify spending £6.99 for a pair of wheels, sadly.
I was limiting myself to two, and it happened to be a toss-up between the orange Hot Wheels Honda Civic SI from the 8-car Honda series, or the yellow Mitsubishi Lancer from the GT series. The Honda just captured my heart a little more (plus, I know nothing about Gran Turismo).
I hadn’t even left the shop before I’d decided it needed some headlights and tail-lights adding – so I apologise for not having any before and after shots! It didn’t take long to get some white, silver, and orange paint onto the headlights to make the colour pop a little more and give the car some character. I love the exhaust on the car – not that I’d ever condone anything like this in real life.
A car that required no thought at all was the Hot Wheels Honda S2000. When I started this blog a few years ago, I featured a Realtoy Honda S2000 in yellow and editorialised on what a great casting I thought it was, with fine details and bright colour. I’ve now got my second Honda S2000, the fabled Hot Wheel version first seen around 2011, in the Honda series metallic red. And what a gorgeous colour!
While I can’t say that Hot Wheels achieved superior attention to detail than the Realtoy, I can say it has a much bigger attitude, and that’s what appeals to me about Hot Wheels – character and personality. This Honda smacks of it, so it has to be in the collection! The paint, too, is superior by far, and catches the sunshine ever so well. It also looks really good on a coffee table.
Tampo application is typical Hot Wheels, so casting grooves don’t really line up with print borders, and it’s about 2 inches off the mark – but who cares, it’s still cute., and you’re only going to care if you’re taking close-up photos (also the front is much better than the rear, which is the bit you like. Right?).
Last to mention would be the BMW M2 which I found a few weeks ago. Really great colour on this one, and almost worthy of being a Matchbox car. Although keen-eyed collectors will probably recognise inferior tampo application to the Hot Wheels, especially if it is compared to the finer details on the Matchbox BMW 1M.
This one’s already enjoying a recolour in red in the latest mixes, so keep an eye out!
That’s all for now folks – hope you enjoyed the pics and thanks for checking me out!
With the Lamley Group indulging in “TLV Week” recently, the masters of Japanese scale diecast have enjoyed plenty of exposure and discussion amongst collectors. Before I get onto the latest Tomicarama (which you can pre-order here at Ami Ami or here from Japan Booster) indulge me as I editorialise about my favourite premium diecast brand.
I’m not one to follow hype, which is why I can safely claim it’s pure coincidence that I only recently made my first TLV purchases. I had been like a lot of collectors; reluctant to dive into a model brand which commanded prices regularly in excess of $20 per car, yet repeatedly drawn back to scale replicas apparently made using a shrink ray.
With enough forlorn yearning, though, and nudged by some quality photography by Instagram collectors, I finally dedicated my budget to accommodate Tomica Limited Vintage. (TLV) How does one justify it? Well, you have to hold them in your hand to truly appreciate the old adage – “quality is better than quantity”.
Anyone who has studied Tomica Limited Vintage in any depth will know there is now a legendary narrative surrounding the way they approach diecast models. There is sometimes a little confusion about the Tomica range and its hierarchical structure. Tomica Limited Vintage is, as one soon discovers, quite the departure from standard Tomica – the company’s child-oriented range of toy cars. Sitting between them and TLV are Tomica Limited, which are standard Tomica models with added details. Then there are Tomica Premium models, which would satisfy most collectors with their superior attention to detail.
Finally, there’s Tomica Limited Vintage, which perches itself firmly atop the Tomica ladder, producing the company’s most exhaustively detailed models possible. It is not only the attention to detail that is remarkable, but their commitment to scale accuracy. All TLV models are 1:64, owing in part to the legend that no car will be made unless the design team can wheel the lifesize counterpart into their studio to be measured (no, apparently, they won’t work from blueprints).
To counter any scurrilous claims that I might be shilling for Takara-Tomy, it is also worth noting they are not the only Japanese diecast maker showing the West how it should be done. Kyosho make remarkably detailed models (including fender mirrors) and unlikely contender Konami has made some delightful models – one of my favourites being their Toyota Starlet.
After watching some retro Japanese commercials for the Nissan Cedric, and seeing a video by YouTuber Warm Tires, I could finally resist no more. Within a week I had two TLV models – the Nissan Cedric and the Mitsubishi Galant seen above. Upon showing them to colleagues and friends, I was met with such reactions as “It’s like they used a shrink ray!” and “If you sized it up, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference with the real thing.” I would hate to disagree. All Tomica Limited Vintage cars come packaged in their own box, rather than a blister, adding to their collector quality and reminiscent of the good old “Matchbox” days.
It wasn’t long before I’d ordered my second, then third set from Japan Booster (the combined postage makes it one of the best sites to order them). While TLV focuses primarily on Japanese classics (and Tomica Limited Vintage Neo focusing on newer classics) they’ve also delved into European marques with the likes of Fiat, BMW, Lancia, Volkswagen, and Alfa Romeo. Tomica’s recent acquisition of the Ferrari license has had some collectors excited for the unlikely prospect of a TLV Ferrari, too.
Now, it’s worth noting that TLV does not produce only cars. In a similar fashion to Greenlight’s recent Mechanic’s Corner series (no doubt inspired by the popularity of the following) Tomica Limited Vintage produce what they call “Tomicaramas” (a portmanteau of Tomica and diorama, of course). Sadly, these adult playsets have been on the back burner for a while, so aftermarket prices have been a little out of hand…
But that is all about to end, with the September release of Tomica Limited Vintage. I have no doubt that the old sets – in particular the Bayside Motors Tomicarama – will continue to swell in value as they are displaced by newer models, but the latest release is particularly interesting for to me, and the moment I saw it, I had no hesitation about pre-ordering.
Vava over in Serbia was incredulous about me ordering a plastic diorama kit when I had demonstrated skill in making my own. “I think its always better to create your own diorama. Yes, you spend time and material but you can create whatever you want,” he said.
I agree to an extent, and that is the beneficial side of having the patience the create dioramas, such as my recent “Funabashi Motors” model.
However, followers of the blog will also note how much I adore the vintage BP service station by Matchbox, which I acquired back in 2017. That has a charm that cannot be replicated by any hand-built diorama, because it carries us back to England circa 1963 – nothing can replicate that. It’s a strange and different era. Any attempt would be recognised as a mere imitation. The box even has 10/6 scratched onto it by a shopkeeper’s pencil. “That would have definitely been a Christmas present for anyone lucky enough to get it,” says Lesley, a friend of mine who was around to remember those days.
As soon as I saw the blue and yellow Accelerator 426 Tomicarama, I got the exact same sensations upon seeing it as I did when I saw the BP station by Matchbox. It’s a snapshot of a time and place, and with it being Tomica, it’s a statement of quality – just as Matchbox was a standard of quality back in 1963. Without that benchmark, we might never have seen Hot Wheels, or Tomica, or any of the other 1:64 scale brands that exist today. So I had to have it. But why did the Accelerator 426 diorama entice me so much, while the Bayside Motors diorama hadn’t?
Here’s the promotional poster for the Tomicarama, sourced from HobbySearch:
Since this is at least the third (perhaps fourth) iteration of this exact playset, it’s often easy to assume it’s a simple recolour. But the name “Accelerator 426” seemed far too peculiar for this to be the case, and knowing TLV, I had my suspicions there was a story behind it. With a little digging, I discovered the website of Axel 426. I dumped myself onto street level on Google Maps with the address, and checked it out.
Accelerator 426 is a rather interesting auto dealership comprising a blue and yellow building (uncannily similar to the recreation by TLV) located at a cross-road in a relatively modest part of the Aichi Prefecture, with narrow streets and low urban sprawl. The cars on display are what sets it apart from the surroundings, there being an eccentric mix of classic cars in the two lots occupying opposing sides of the street. Their recent advertisements include, for example, plenty of classic American muscle and hot rod fodder, retro Japanese street cars, and even European thoroughbreds like a Jaguar E-Type and a Mercedes Benz saloon. That will certainly please any collectors who are sticklers for accuracy – here’s a Japanese diorama that won’t clash with the American diecast brands!
With this in mind, it leads me to believe that TLV won’t have only just started this trend. I’m sure that their previous Tomicaramas must have been inspired by real life garages. That’s why I believe that what I said about the BP garage in relation to this model holds true. This Tomicarama will be worth a great deal in the future, just as the others have done – not just monetarily, but as a means of capturing a moment. I have no doubts that Japan will look mostly as it does now within the next hundred years, which is why I might have different views of this playset if I was, in fact, native Japanese. The same couldn’t be said of Britain, though – there have been areas of the country changed beyond recognition. Even BP exists now only in name. But with the Lesney service station, we have a slice of Britain from another time in our hands, much in the same way that owning the Accelerator 426 diorama allows us a slice of Japan we can hold in our hands.
I’ll place it on my coffee table at home, and I’ll know that, just as the BP service station has saturated within it all those memories of 1960s Britain, of a time that is long gone and that will never be replicated – the Tomicarama, with its unique charm and simple design, comes from a place that is far away, unique, and impossible to replicate. And why would you want to anyway? We probably wouldn’t deserve it.
With the arrival of Hot Wheels’s Car Culture Japan Historics 2 and the Nissan Hakosuka wagon as part of the Cargo Carriers series, it seems the hype for Japanese cars in the diecast collecting world is as fierce as ever, and the Hot Wheels “dream team” are working hard to meet that demand.
But the Hakosuka Wagon arriving for 2018 is only the second station-wagon (or estate, as we call them) of Japanese origin to come from Hot Wheels, the first being Jun Imai’s Datsun Bluebird wagon which debuted in the Boulevard line (a fabulous series by all accounts) in 2013 – and it’s that wagon that arguably kick-started the Nippon craze.
Sadly, as I live in the UK, I wasn’t able to grab one of those Datsun wagons when they debuted, and by now the price for them is so high – driven by collector hype and a certain online blogger, no doubt – that it just doesn’t make sense to fork out $80+ for what is essentially a car worth less than the price of a Happy Meal.
In fact, the only Hot Wheels Datsun I’ve ever found in “the wild” would be the yellow racing livery which I picked up in the auto-parts dealer Halford around two years ago.
I wanted to customise one, since there’s been a tremendous amount of them on Instagram (and those who follow me there will have already seen it) so recruited my friend Vava from Serbia (he’s on instagram, @vavasallthingsdiecast – go find him and hit that follow button, he’s a great guy) to send me a 510 wagon with the “JNC Surf Patrol” livery. The clear windows on the model make it a great canvas for your imagination!
The surf Datsun rocked up at Paradise Cove on March 14, and I was already loving the casting. The blue came out so nicely in the sun that I was even a little hesitant to strip it at first. But those red wheels had to go immediately.
I had an M2 ’57 Chevy sitting around with a few bits missing (as is prone to happen with M2 Machines) and was heartbroken to have him just laying there unloved. I decided to take his wheels and put them to good use, and after lowering the suspension on the wagon, it sank onto these beautiful whitewalls. A bit of a left-of-field choice, since most customisers favour some deep-dish spoked rims, but I love the classic whitewall look, and since this technically started as a 60s wagon, I think you can get away with it. Putting surfboards on the roof in this early stage also convinced me that I needed a roof rack.
I always work from life, and so I did some research into existing Datsun wagons and the kinds of colours and mods on them so that my custom would look right. This was probably my favourite, gleaned from a Google image search (apologies as I have since lost the source).
Having fallen in love with that grungy grey/green style, I went for this metallic jade colour that I had already tried out on a Hot Wheels 1957 Plymouth. I feel it definitely works better on the Datsun, and it wasn’t long before I’d stripped the casting of the old paint and given him a new colour.
Once the paint was dry, adding a few details tastefully is all it takes to make the colour really pop. I loved that dual colour headlamp arrangement so had to emulate it – it’s not something I see often in diecast customs either, so felt it made mine stand out from the crowd.
It was at this point I also decided to construct a roof rack. I’d looked at some different designs online again and opted for a retro wooden style roof rack. These are fairly simple to make with some paperclips and crafting dowel and look great when finished. I fixed it together with clear drying superglue, though I’ve heard soldering roof racks is also a good alternative.
Once the detailing is finished and the roof rack fitted, it’s time to seal it all in place with some lacquer. This doesn’t make the paint completely invulnerable mind, and customised cars chip as easily as new Majorettes, so even with plenty of clearcoat be sure to look after your customs!
When the lacquer dries, a license plate finishes off the look, and then it’s safe to seal it up. Of course, you can apply the license plate first and seal it on, but I only apply the plates with a bit of blu-tac, so I can change them if need be.
And there it is – a custom Datsun Bluebird wagon. I love how it turned out, and it fits in perfectly with my dioramas. I also think it’ll look great sitting alongside the Hakosuka wagon, when eventually I get one.
Thanks for reading – I hope you have enjoyed today’s post, and good luck in all your own customs and collecting!
A thread came up on an online forum regarding perspective and photography of diecast cars.
It’s an interesting thing to think about, right? Why do so many people take ugly shots of their cars – just all scattered on a carpet, or in a dark room with grainy light, or on a creepy looking shelf in a basement?
Okay, I’ll stop being mean. A lot of people want to take a quick snapshot to catalogue their collection. But not me – I love my little cars and want to bring them to life in their own little scaled down world. Here’s a few shots from the last year that highlight my style of things.
Hope you enjoyed! And sorry to any of my IG followers who have not had an original photos in this post. Sadly life gets in the way sometimes.
Time for a new diorama post. You may notice that in the last post there is a new background for the cars. So it is time to document it here.
A while back I wrote an article for a magazine about community garages, about how changing technology in motor cars meant that small, family run garages couldn’t keep up with the diagnostics equipment needed to repair and MOT them. As such there was a fear that these businesses would not survive into the modern day, and that only a few specialist garages – those that repaired and restored classic cars – could survive. Memories hang in the air of these old garages – they have so much character to them, and I knew I wanted to pay my respects.
I was already planning on making a larger garage diorama, a home for the fictional Jasmine Palustris, her family, and all the quirky characters I have attached to the model cars I collect – and had been looking at some vintage garages on Google, but none of them really captured what I wanted. Elements here and there fit, but when I discovered this garage in Lincolnshire, run by father and son David and Lee, I knew exactly which garage I was going to imitate. Here it is.
Baseboard (wood or MDF)
clear plastic (from a blister pack)
Varying sizes of cardboard
Battery power string lights
dowel (varying sizes)
model cars for dismantling
straw (or other item for chimney)
String (for washing line)
Printer (for signs)
1/64 scale accessories
a rainbow of imagination!
The garage houses the workshop, a storage room and an office, and sits in a yard with David’s house (he’s the one standing in the door). This was going to be the basis for my design. And so I began drawing some plans.
The first thing I wanted to do was make the garage unique to Mama J (or MJ) who is the character that owns it. Since I draw her as an anthropomorphic crocodile, I wanted to give her home a suitably redneck vibe, so I thought, even though it’s cliché, she could live in a trailer.
This was the first diorama which I decided to incorporate some lighting effects. I wasn’t going to do anything complicated since it was my first time doing anything like this.
I made the trailer in Adobe Indesign but you could use MS Word for this. Using construction card I printed the net design. The light does show through the material a little bit but I didn’t want to use anything that would make windows difficult to make in such a small size. In future I will be looking for some way to make it more opaque. After printing off the design, I cut out the black window pane shapes. I also cut around the top, bottom, and left side of the doors, and scored on the rear of the design over the hinge so they would open. I drew tabs on where I needed them by hand and then proceeded to cut out the trailer shape.
After having cut out the entire shape, I scored the lines appropriately so they would fold easily into the desired direction (remember that scoring makes it fold away from the knife mark). I made sure it all fit nicely by giving it a test fit.
Using pieces of blister-pack plastic (if you are a Hot Wheel collector, you should have plenty of this lying around, providing you don’t keep it mint in the packaging) I cut out squares for the windows, and using clear drying PVA stuck it to the window frames. Cut the sizes nice and big so they have more space to find purchase on the card.
The next thing I did was start creating a little patio area for one of the trailer doors. I also stuck a piece of wood-simulating card over a window for a bit of character. Note also that I made a small circle to mark where a chimney will go.
Using some nylon from an old pair of waterproof trousers, I added a tarpaulin on the top of the trailer, as I would imagine MJ wouldn’t be too worried about roof repairs when that’s the sort of thing that can fix a leak. That was all I was worried about until the rest of the diorama started coming into place.
The next step was to start thinking about the garage. I went to an antiques store in my nearby town where I found these two vintage car lifts. They were the perfect size to put inside the garage so this is how I determined the sizes of the rooms in the buildings. It would consist of a workshop, an office and a storage room much like David and Lee’s garage.
I designed the garage in Indesign just as before, making sure to measure out the doors and windows so that everything fit. The garage consists of four walls which I printed out, which will be stuck to hardboard. I didn’t need tabs since the hardboard will be easy to stick together.
I cut out the windows again, and left enough of the garage door in place to look interesting. The rest of the material from the garage door went to make some corrugated style sheets. It’s always a good idea to test the sizes at this point and make sure it all fits together, especially if you are moving things in and out (you don’t want to finish the garage then find you can’t squeeze the lifts through the door!) I also started making some signage for the exterior.
To make the walls, I drew the outlines of the walls onto hardboard, then used a jigsaw to cut out the shapes. I then proceeded to cut the windows out with a stanley knife. Use a file or sandpaper to get rid of any rough edges.
Once again, using plastic from blister packs, I made window panes, and glued them first to the cardboard before gluing the cardboard exterior to the hardboard interior.
Using all-purpose superglue I attached the four walls to each other.
Some more signs for the exterior made using a home printer. I used blu-tac to attach them in the event I wanted to move them around (which I did) and also because it gives them more depth, I think.
I made a test roof using cardboard to make sure the size was correct, then I made one to the same dimensions using hardboard. At this point I began experimenting how I will position the lights. The lights I am using are string lights bought from Wilkinson’s for about £3. The LEDs on these lights are part of the wire so they are very easy to use for this. At this point I also added the interior walls to the garage. There are two, you will see it in a moment.
Using masking tape I fixed the fairy lights in place to make sure they all covered the spots I wanted. The battery back for the lights would be hidden by the trailer on the edge of the board. The wire then leads into the trailer through a hole in the side, with two lights attached to the ceiling. The wire then leads through the opposite side, near the roof, and goes across the way to the garage. The lights then go around the back of the garage, under the roof trusses, in through the double doors. They loop around the interior of the garage then come back out the same way they came in, to finish off lighting the front of the garage.
Once I knew how it would all fit together, I made a few more signs for the garage, and added a unique backdrop to the workshop (you could paint it, add tools, or anything you like – I decided to make a backdrop of my home country’s flag, Moldova) and then put the garage and trailer aside for the time being to make the baseboard.
Marking out where the garage and trailer would go, I then marked out a path to the patio, and the yard and driveway position. Note also that I have added the interior walls for the garage, and so I have marked out a full floor plan on the baseboard, as I am painting the floors different colours. You will also see in this picture that I have added a cardboard base for the trailer, so it sits above the grass texture, and a small wall on the far side – this is where the battery back will be, and it is intended to wedge it between the trailer, to stop it from sliding off the board.
After having painted the grass area, I painted the brown surface which will hold the gravel of the yard. Then, I painted the blue floor of the office and storage area.
Finally, I paint a red floor for the trailer, and the black floor of the workshop.
Adding some grass texture immediately brightens up the diorama. If you have read my previous posts you will know how I add this – I use a mixture of PVA and water (around 1 part PVA to 3 parts water) in a tub and a brush to apply the glue to the board, then using a cup filled with the material and a pair of stockings over the top I apply an even coating.
This texture I got from my local hobby shop. I have also added some hedge in the corner to hide a bad cut in the board.
The little details are everything, and while waiting for things to dry and settle it is a good time to be making some small exterior additions. I made a beware of the dog sign, a washing machine, and added some dowel to the patio to give it a better wood effect.
I used a coarse gravel texture mixed with a soft grey for the yard, and a softer sand texture for the path leading up to the patio. The coarser gravel finds it harder to find purchase on the board.
To complete the patio I used pieces of dowel, of varying size, to create posts and a barrier. I also bought this Metcalfe bench for the garden.
Very carefully, I use multi-purpose super glue to fix the lights in position where I planned for it. This is probably the trickiest part, as you will need to keep the buildings close together as you move around them and fix the lights in position.
When the lights are in place, I fix everything down. I use the superglue to fix the garage and trailer to the base board.
I make some finishing touches to the trailer area after this. From dowel I make some wood palettes, a propane tank, a stereo (with part of a paperclip as an antenna), and some gas canisters, and using a piece of string I make a washing line with some clothes attached to it that were printed from a home printer. Using paperclips and a dowel holder I made a roof antenna, and with a straw I attached a chimney (I was not too happy with it, but it is too late to change it now).
Sometimes, it is just easier to buy something than make it yourself, and a large manufacturer can do a better job than I ever could. These muscle pack accessories from Greenlight are really great and fit well with any diorama.
A diorama wouldn’t be complete without trees. I didn’t want anything too obtrusive so I stuck a few in the background and one or two in the front. I also got this nice background, though I could use a bigger one at some point.
You can make your own trees, but I prefer to have the ease of buying them online. Plus, you get lots of them, and they really don’t cost very much!
I like to mix it up with palm trees, since the diorama is supposed to be in a tropical region.
With this sort of diorama you can go on forever adding new things and more scale pieces, but the final section I decided to add was this trailer by Greenlight. I love the awning and thought it would be a great story to add. I picture an eccentric uncle called Warren living here, who is the on-site mechanical genius who does the serious modification and repair work for the motor cars. He needed a great relaxing area, so I cut up some Zylmex car interiors to make some chairs.
And so, there is my rendition of a classic English garage crossed with a classic redneck trailer! I later added some weathering powder to the trailer to give it a rusted effect, which again goes to show how you can keep on modifying your models.
I daresay you would be able to do much more with a larger baseboard, of course, but you risk making it less portable the bigger you make it, which may limit your options for background and lighting.
I hope you’ve enjoy going through this build with me, and I hope it can serve you some inspiration if ever you make a garage of your own.
The blog has been quiet but I have been not. I have got so much stuff to get through that I just don’t know how I am going to manage it all before the year is out on top of my other commitments. But I am glad to finally be getting some stuff out.
It can be hard “diversifying” your die-cast collection in the UK. Most shops only stock Hot Wheels and chinese-knock off brands, and even then, distribution means if you’re a dedicated enthusiast you’re likely to be waiting weeks, even months, before any new models hit the shelves.
Matchbox are stocked in a few places, but finding new models is restricted only to Asda, and refer to the first paragraph for reasons why I still don’t have anything new.
American brands like M2 Machines, Greenlight, Auto World, and even most Hot Wheels special series never arrive here, so we have to pay through the nose to get them. I finally decided to take the plunge and spend some money on M2 and Greenlight. I’d read extensively about them and it seems that, despite the odd quality control issue, they’re very popular, and after discussing it with a friend, he encouraged me to go for it. And so I ordered two batches of models, and a third is on the way – and there were some other models trickling in besides.
I will be uploading several posts for these, since it is taking a long time for me to sort through all the photographs, so please be patient, and enjoy!
The first set of models to arrive included the Greenlight Hitch and Tow Dodge Monaco with Airstream Bambi, Shasta Airflyte, Volkswagen T2 bus, and the M2 Machines Ford Fairlane 500, Mercury Turnpike Cruiser, Buick Skylark, and Dodge Royal Lancer D500.
1957 Dodge Custom Royal Lancer D500
The Dodge was the first model I opened so it’s the first model I’m going to feature. It’s quite difficult to get non stock images of M2 Machines that aren’t video reviews, so it was hard to judge just how well these cars look out of the box. So here’s my take on them.
As a general rule, M2 Machines appear to be very detailed, heavy, but delicate. I have only just opened myself up to them, and some testimony from friends reveals that quality control has, in the past, been an issue, but this is apparently something that Castline has been working on. I did have some issues with my models. With this Dodge, for example, the bonnet (hood) didn’t sit well, so I stuck it down with some tac. There was a misaligned passenger side door, so I had to unscrew it and loosen it off so it sits flush (well, more flush than it did). All in all, not encouraging, but the level of detail on the car made me think it was a very small, niggly issue. Nothing to spit the dummy about.
That, and fit and finish issues are usually problems that can be applied to any die-cast brand. I’ve had a few Majorettes where the bonnet didn’t fit perfectly or the door didn’t snap shut cleanly and it never bothered me much, and even paying a little extra for these M2 Machines doesn’t make it much more than a slight distraction for me. But this 1959 Dodge does have one issue, which I will be keen to point out for any who want a judgment of the quality of the casting. Look at the placement of the rear axles.
I don’t know if I am the only one who can see this, but there is something not quite right about the placement of the rear wheels on the model. The wheel arch seems all right, but the positioning of the wheel seems a little too far back. From some angles it doesn’t bother me, but from others it does. I’ll let you decide!
Like all but one of the M2 Machines that joined the die-cast family, this Dodge is from the Auto-Thentics line. When you first begin to look into M2 Machines it can be a little overwhelming seeing all the different lines they do – Auto-Thentics, Auto-Haulers, Auto-Wheels, Auto-Drivers, Auto-Trucks, Auto-Lift, Auto-Trucks… the list goes on. But Auto-Thentics are seemingly the high-quality line. They have metal bodies, metal bases, opening parts, and separate light pieces, which makes them look phenomenally detailed – and they do.
Every angle of the car looks fabulous (excepting the rear wheel, which looks particularly bad for me in the above photo!) with its separate tail lights, chrome bumpers, unreadable decals, and even a separately attached chrome hood ornament. The wheels are fantastically detailed and accurate to the real life vvehicle, and while the colour schemes sometimes may be a bit lacklustre (this two-tone grey is rather business-like – I want my 50s cars to be fabulous blue, pinks and pastels) the quality is generally very high. The photos probably do not do this one justice – the darker, charcoal grey middle is a nice sparkly metallic, offset nicely by the gloss moonstone grey.
1957 Ford Fairlane 500
The next car to roll off the M2 Machines delivery truck was this fabulous Ford Fairlane in Berkshire green and Colonial white.
It wouldn’t be right to ignore the best-selling car in the USA for 1957. Initially I had wanted the two-tone green model, but as the early releases are so hard to find, I settled on the white and green model.
Moviegoers should recall that in Hitchcock’s Psycho, Janet Leigh abandoned her 1956 Ford Mainline at a convenient Ford dealer to replace it with a 1957 Ford Custom (there was a nice collection of Edsels in the movie, too).
And while this is indeed a 1957 Ford like hers, this isn’t a Custom 300 – this is the highest trim available (of course), the Fairlane 500. The Fairlane had a longer wheelbase, at 118 inches, than the Custom lines.
The model is beautiful, and so are all M2 Machines, so I won’t bore you too much by waxing lyrical about how well they have captured the long flanks and tail fins of the cars. But what I will mention is these cars are sometimes victim of poorly fitting doors and bonnets, something one might expect to happen with all the moving parts. Fortunately M2 Machines do fit together with screws so they can easily be taken apart and adjusted.
Lastly, I think M2 Machines could have done slightly better execution on the Ford’s “eyebrows” – I think they’re more pronounced than they have managed here – but all in all they’ve captured the car brilliantly. One of the wheels was a little stiff but it does roll when on a grippy surface. And the detailing is just excellent. You can barely see “Fairlane” written on the bonnet – it’s so fine. The wheels appear to be accurate.
1954 Buick Skylark
1954 was a bad year for the Buick Roadmaster Skylark. This beautiful big blue Buick has a sad face, and it’s no surprise, since the ’54 was the last year of the Skylark’s existence until it returned under the guise of special trim in 1961.
I was especially impressed with the fit and finish on this Buick – the doors and hood sit flush and tight, the chrome is nicely fitted and the tampo application is spot-on. When the Buick Skylark was introduced in 1953 it looked a lot different to the cleaner lines of the 1954 model, yet the shape, which was influenced by the Jaguar XK series introduced the same time, can still be seen, I think. Do you see it too?
I think the swoopy fenders give it away. I love the Jaguar, so that might explain why this Buick looks so good too. And I love the signature Buick grille – it’s a fusion of US extravagance and European stylishness.
You can see similarities around the back too, I think. This is a 1954 Jaguar XK by Matchbox, and it’s cool to have two cars of the same year side-by-side. The detail on the Matchbox is stunning for a $1 toy, but let’s not get sidetracked.
The photographs really speak for themselves with these cars. The lettering is easy to read on the front but probably suffers from being oversized to those who look for extreme accuracy with the design. But you have to love the hood ornament.
On the rear of the car we are treated to these fantastic chrome fins, separate pieces to the car, and that is where M2 Machines are so commendable. Each cars comes with 40-50 separate pieces as advertised on the packaging, giving the cars such intricate detail – a feat proudly advertised. See also the chrome bumpers, separate lenses for the tail lights, twin exhausts, and the Skylark branding there on the trunk. From this angle you can also make out some interior detail – it is really something to behold, no pizza-dish steering wheels here.
The wheels are beautiful, and the camera does not do the paint job justice. The metalflake blue sparkles brilliantly in the right light. I also love the two-tone blue interior. Truly special to any Buick lovers.
1957 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser
My favourite car of the first set of M2 Machines I ordered. This model is absolutely wonderful.
Car historians will know immediately that this is the Turnpike Cruiser, or the high-end Mercury offering, by the anodized strip in the tail fin. The reason this car holds so much attraction for me is that it shares a lot of similarities with the Edsel, which was built late in 1957 for the 1958 model year. The roof line of the Mercury can be seen on the Edsel Corsair and Citation series, while the clean, sharp lines carried over with the lack of tail fins on the Edsel cars.
The lines of the mercury are beautifully captured by M2. The rear especially is something to behold. The light lenses, chrome bumpers and ornaments all fit together so beautifully here.
Strangely enough, there is a door fitment issue on this model, but it’s with the driver’s side door, which is closed when in the box. The passenger side door, which is open (strangely – I can’t understand why, since you can’t see the car very well on the passenger side due to the cardboard backing) fits very nicely.
Here you can see better the door fitment issue. It is not much, and while on display it would never bug you, but on photographs the problem is exacerbated, and I have known collectors to digitally alter images to correct door misalignment. I don’t worry too much about it. I think the car otherwise looks very beautiful, and it very heavy.
It’s always worth remembering that these cars have metal bodies, metal bases, and many parts, so they are in fact very heavy, and feel quite delicate, especially with all the extra bits of trim. I have had bumpers fall off, but a little glue and patience fixes everything. Above you can see the hood ornament, which looks quite large in comparison to the car.
My favourite part about the Mercury is the intricate attention to detail and knowledge of the model. Castline have paid attention to all the technological innovations on the car with the addition of the “Twin Jet” fresh air intakes above the windshield and the “Breezeway” rear window to give air-flow through the car – the rear window is open on the model, and it took me a while to notice, too. That’s super cool. I also love that they stuck the second emblem on the car on the trunk, behind the open “Breezeway” window.
Isn’t that front “M” below the grille super cool attention to detail? I love it. it’s interesting to note also that the colour scheme is real, seemingly, and I spied one that looks just like it here on the Heacock Classic website.
That’s all for part 1 – I hope you’ve enjoyed the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. In the next post I’ll be examining the Greenlight models also purchased from this batch. Until then!
If you’ve checked out the section of my blog where I show off my diorama, you’ll deduce that making displays and layouts for my model cars is one of the most fun parts of collecting!
So far all the buildings I have on my diorama have been my own, made using Adobe Indesign, some card, and a home printer. The reason being I want my layout to be unique, not something you could buy from a store and find in any diorama. This has, I think, given it an individual flare and character you don’t find on many dioramas.
There are exceptions to any rule though, and I now have a branded building to add to my diorama – the 1963 MG1-c Matchbox BP Sales and Service Station. This vintage playset was common in many households in the sixties, and replaced a single story garage
“Matchbox” MG-1 Service Station
I wanted this building for a long time – I discovered it some time last year and have been keeping an eye on the prices of online auction sites. These items retail very high – many of the sellers ask over £200, while even the poor condition ones go for over £100 (one model went for £100+, even though it was missing parts!)
Undeterred, I stayed patient, and eventually came across this example at a total steal. The garage itself is a little bit rough around the edges – the stickers were slightly damaged and there is a piece of the base missing – but the price made it totally worth it, being half of what I expected it to sell for – plus who doesn’t like a bit of character? The sticker issue I soon remedied with a temporary modern “Matchbox” logo, taken from a five-pack.
After winning the auction for the garage I decided I needed the pumps to go with it. It should be noted that originally these garages were sold without the pumps or sign. The pumps and sign came as the accessory pack “A1b” sold separately (you could also buy the G1 gift set, I believe, which included the pumps, sign, garage, and a number of vehicles).
The pumps I bought were very cheap at only a few pounds, and the reproduction parts (lamps and gas attendant) are virtually indistinguishable from the original pieces thanks to identical manufacturing methods. If you buy the garage these pumps are an essential. Unfortunately I have yet to find the diecast metal “BP” sign to go on the forecourt in a condition and price I’m happy with.
The pumps are diecast metal, while the gas attendant and two lamp standards are clearly green plastic. The stickers on the front of the pumps show the BP logo and an old-fashioned clock meter gauge. The lamp standards fit nicely into the metal bases while the gas attendant sits on those metal legs, and he comes off quite easily.
The rear of the pumps show only the BP logos. The pumps sit on a rim on the base of the garage, and for some reason I’ve found they stay better when the pumps face towards the garage and not outward – though it could just be my imagination!
These pumps arrived and had me very excited for the arrival of the rest of the garage. The detail for the time is always something to be admired with the old Lesney products, like the nozzle and hose, and the paving design on the base. Sticker application is sometimes a bit wonky, but these were put together by hand, after all! They are 3¾ inches long by ¾ wide. The total height from base to the top of the lamps is around 1¾ inch.
The main building comprises four pieces. The base, which also includes the ground floor garage and shop, a doorway, and the staircase to the upper floor. The upper floor comprises showroom, the ramp, and the roof signage. The base is 9¼ inches by 6½ inches. The ramp adds 1¼ inch to the back of the garage, which stands 3¼ inches high. The sign at its peak adds just under 1½ inches to the total height of the garage. The lower floor is 7 inches by 3½ inches and just over 1½ inches high, while the upper floor is 6¾ by 3⅛ inches, 1½ inches high. The roof sign uses two tabs to sit into a pair of slots in the top, the ramp clips onto the base and slots into the rear of the building with two tabs also, and the upper showroom is detachable.
These dimensions may come across as small compared to modern day garage playsets. I suppose children were satisfied with more modest toys back in the sixties. The whole thing manages to fit on my mouse pad! But once you get used to the size (this thing, I imagine, will be dwarfed by the Hot Wheels “Ultimate Garage”, but I know which one is more charming and characterful) it’s really a nice display for cars up to 1:64 scale and you can fit a fair number of them on it.
The first thing to note is that, despite the small scale (the garage is listed as OO scale on advertisements) modern Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars do seem to sit quite comfortably on it – two cars, so long as they have quite a narrow track, can fit side-by-side in the forecourt, although it’s a good thing Mattel don’t have opening doors on their cars anymore, since there’s no chance of them opening in this situation…
And if you’re not convinced by that, I managed to fit one of my full loaded Matchbox Majors Guy Warrior car transporters in the forecourt with no problems at all.
Hot Wheels seem to fit in quite nicely with the playset too. I think the bright colours work well with the garage, and since Matchbox and Hot Wheels are pretty much the same size, it probably comes as no surprise that Hot Wheels causes little offence – so long as the designs of the cars aren’t too wacky.
I stuck some Majorette models onto the garage, and they do look incredibly attractive. However Majorettes, old and young, are very bloated in size, so they do begin to make the garage look quite small. Perspective matters a lot here.
Moving on to the different sections of the main building, the first section to observe is the workshop. In here you’ll find space for two vehicles, one of which will be parked on the ramp to the right. Don’t bother trying to get any of your newer cars on here unless they’re Oxford diecast or similar scale… this ramp was designed for early 60s Lesneys. The rest of the workshop can accomodate almost any vehicle, however, and I tend to enjoy parking my Dunlop van in there!
Oh, and don’t forget to grab your BP Dodge wrecker – that’s an essential for this garage.
The little staircase that leads up to the first floor is a nice touch of realism, but the garage starts getting cool next door – 3/4 of the building is dedicated to showing off your awesome cars through showroom floors and those big art-deco windows. The curved plastic means there’s lots of visibility into the showrooms. The first one is on the ground floor and isn’t as great as the upper floors due to the green base; some colours don’t show up well here, and the light doesn’t get in as easily thanks to the ramp at the back giving more shadows. Nonetheless it’s a cosy little place for a couple of cars to sit side-by-side. I don’t know whether this is a dedicated showroom or is meant to be part of the workshop – the garage is a ’30s design and I’m not too familiar with how it would work.
Much more awesome is the upstairs showroom, where you have a bit more creative freedom when it comes to arranging your cars. Bear in mind that there’s a hole in the floor where the staircase comes up! Two cars works really well up here for the minimalist, luxury car look, or if you want to put more on display, you can fit two cars side-by-side on each side of the showroom quite easily.
At this point it’s worth demonstrating how the rear of the showroom looks, with the ramp providing access. It’s a nice layout! But good luck getting anything other than a vintage lesney or a very narrow car up that ramp – it’s only an inch or so wide.
When you fill all three showrooms with vintage Lesneys, they sit comfortably side-by-side without any issue. The garage was designed after them, of course, so it’s to be expected that they’re accommodated with no problem. This makes it a perfect way to display the models.
Having said that, placing your modern Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars in there looks equally as good. The garage feels a little more crowded, but the fact is you can still fit eight cars in this display quite comfortably (nine if you’re not worried about one being hidden behind that central wall) and it makes just as good a display for modern cars as it does for vintage, since the model is so timeless, and the vintage look is so cool.
If you hadn’t already guessed, this garage gets a 10/10 from me. Even in its slightly ratty condition, it doesn’t disappoint, and I think a perfect example would just make me more reluctant to play with it. It’s a fantastic way to display your cars and the vintage factor is beyond cool. It’s also a relic of many childhoods, so you feel an immediate attachment to it for that reason. It’s a must for any serious Matchbox collector, and a great display for any diecast brand that fits. The Art-Deco design is more attractive than nearly every other model garage that comes to mind, too.
I also would imagine it’s totally fun to customise, and I have plans already for how this garage will sit on my diorama. In a few months time I hope it will have a place in the Dinorama, surrounded by palm trees and highways and with some signs outside – I will preserve the garage as it is, of course, making no permanent cosmetic changes, but make it unique and fit in with the rest of my diorama in a way that I can really make it my own. Oh, and I need to get that BP sign!