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.
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!