Auto-Archives Car of the Month — 1959 MG EX186 Prototype LeMans Car

Like the majority of British automobile producers, the MG Car Company developed experimental models which often, but occasionally not, became production models. The founder of MG Cars, Cecil Kimber, realized at an early time, that properly set up and successful experimental cars could provide a great deal of free advertising, and he was happy to supply factory assistance to any MG speed or endurance record attempt. Between 1929 and 1959 MG established 43 international class speed records with factory-supported EX vehicles, and several EX cars were the precursors of well-known production models.

From the very beginning, the EX designation was used for prototype MG projects and cars, but the first of the EX line to be revealed to the public as a prospective ‘record-breaker’ was EX120. It evolved from a collaboration with Captain George Eyston who attempted to establish the first 100mph speed for Class H cars (750cc) cars, using the diminutive 1929 MG Midget. His MG broke six international records on the way to becoming the first 750cc car to go 100 miles in one hour. Designed with the express purpose of smashing every Class H record, and completed late in 1931, the evolution of EX120 was EX127. In its illustrious career EX127 car set numerous records, and was the first car in its class to surpass 120mph.

 

EX186 is pushed out of the Abingdon factory for a first test run

 

The next car for Captain Eyston was the legendary EX135, based on a K3 chassis with both racing and record breaking bodies and built to assault Class G (1100cc) records. The original streamlined body was painted in cream and chocolate stripes, and earned the nickname “Humbug”. In 1934 it re-wrote the record books for its class, and two years later broke both Class G and F records by becoming the first 1100cc car to exceed 200mph. Following World War II, EX135 re-surfaced in a number of different configurations and took many class records before, in 1951, and sporting a TD engine, the car ran on the Utah salt flats to take more records in Class F. In its long career, and wearing an assortment of bodies and engines, the venerable EX135 broke the world record ten times in eight different classes, a tribute to both the builders and the driver. The next significant creation, EX179 was based on an MGA chassis and closely resembled EX135. With it, Eyston and Ken Miles took seven Class F and 25 American records. Using the Wolseley Twin-cam engine, the car took nine Class G records. The final record breaker from MG was EX181, a mid-engine car nicknamed the “Roaring Raindrop” for its unique streamlined body shape. In 1957, with Stirling Moss at the wheel, this model took the Class F record at 245.6mph. Two years later Phil Hill drove the car to an amazing 254.9mph. This was the end of factory supported MG speed cars except one you may never have heard of before today!

Whetted by a three-car entry in the 1955 Le Mans 24-hour race where the brand new MGA EX182, had finished 12th overall and 5th in class, Managing Director of MG John Thornley and Chief Designer Syd Enever laid plans to develop an MGA-based ‘prototype’ for the express purpose of winning the 1961 LeMans 24-hour race outright. They intended to utilize the then-new dual-overhead cam version of BMC B-Series engine, but recognizing that the engine wouldn’t give them a performance edge, (other cars would have more power), they planned to compensate with a specially built, lightweight, and extremely aerodynamic aluminum body. ‘EX186’ is the racecar that resulted from these plans. The car was built and test driven on the road, and by all accounts its performance was impressive, but sadly the Le Mans MG project was cancelled before EX186 was ever raced.

It was normal MG practice to destroy racing prototypes after retiring them, but in 1960 John Thornley managed to dispatch EX186 to US dealer Kjell Qvale, invoiced as “auto parts.” Qvale kept EX186 stored until 1966, after which it was sold and driven on public roads for about a year until its engine required overhaul. At that time, overhaul costs were prohibitive and the car was removed from service, parted from its engine, and stored in a barn on a walnut farm in Red Bluff, CA. Luckily, most of the car including the hand-built aluminum body and unique DeDion rear suspension survived virtually intact and, in 1982, having seen it advertised in Road & Track magazine, MG enthusiasts Joe and Cathy Gunderson and Steve Willis of Denver, Colorado, purchased the car. Since then, they have carefully and painstakingly restored it to the virtually original specification you see here. Tracking down missing original parts such as the gearbox has been one of the special challenges of the unique 30+ year restoration of EX186 which was on display at the Hagerty offices in Golden, Colorado.

 

 

 

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Diecast Hall of Fame Nominations Now Open for the Class of 2017!

As some of you may know, we’ve been working with a bunch of awesome folks in the Diecast community on this year’s Diecast Hall of Fame! We could not be more excited to share that the Diecast Hall of Fame celebration will take place during SEMA on November 2nd in Las Vegas at the House of Blues inside the Mandalay Bay Hotel. Join for a nightcap at 9:00pm to celebrate the new inductees. You can buy your tickets here.

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Of course that means that nomination season is starting NOW! Diecast Hall of Fame nominations are open!

To begin the selection process, we’re asking you to nominate your favorite diecast legends. Anyone who you think should be recognized for their outstanding contributions to our community. We are looking for nominations for the following categories –

People – Nominate Here

  • Automotive Legend – Those within the industry who have set the bar so high and achieved such success and accolades as to be considered premier automotive legends through design or deed
  • Customizer – Those who have taken the art of diecast collecting to a new level in their design efforts
  • Diecast Historian – Those who have continued to share their knowledge of the hobby and industry whether in print or on the web digitally with audio, video or static representation
  • Diecast Entrepreneur – Those who have made a successful living while improving the Industry for the collector

Models issued in the last 12 months – Nominate Here

  • Small Scale (up to 1/64 Scale)
  • 1/43 Scale
  • 1/24th Scale
  • Large Scale (1/18th Scale and Larger)

Brands – Nominate Here

  • Novice Model Brand of the Year
  • Automotive Brand of the Year
  • Diecast Dealer of the Year

Feel free to make multiple nominations, but please only submit one vote per person, model, or brand.

Once May rolls around, we’ll close the nomination process, so the newly appointed Diecast Hall of Fame Selection Committee can review all submissions. The selection committee consists of some of the most experienced automotive minds in the industry. Andreas Berse has been the Chief Editor for Modellfahrzeug, the largest German publication on model cars of all scales for the last 22 years. Matt Boyd is the Co-Founder and Editor of DieCast X Magazine. Matthias Braun is the General Secretary of the AvD, the most traditional automobile club in Germany. Carson Lev was a designer for Mattel and past Director of Hot Wheels Licensing. Chis Walker is a high-end customizer and was inducted into the Diecast Hall of Fame in 2009. And Mike Zarnock has written a number of books on Hot Wheels.

The Committee will select the top five nominations per category, and then, the voting will begin! You’ll be able to vote on your favorite brands and models later on this Spring!

To read more about the Selection Committee, click here.

You’ll have until the end of May to vote for your favorites in the 2017 class of Diecast Hall of Fame Inductees. The winners will not be revealed until the night of the event, so be sure to get your tickets here!

Don’t forget that you can check out all the past inductees detailed profiles in the Diecast Hall of Fame Official Archive.

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What Do Millennials Collect? Experience, Retro, Irony

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

There have been a lot of articles claiming that millennials don’t spend their money on “things,” so we thought it would be good to take a look at their collectibles market. Millennials tend to be more mobile than previous generations, so instead of buying a house (and things to fill it with), they tend to live lighter, putting that money towards experiences and travel.

So What Do Millennials Collect?

lego star wars destroyer

funko pop c-3poExperience, irony and retro are key ingredients. So going to to a Comic Con (experience) and snapping up the latest “Star Wars” items (retro) would fit the bill. The “Star Wars” franchise shows no signs of slowing down, given the number of movies, TV shows, and especially collectibles released in the last few years. And when those items have an inherent oddness (irony) to them like FunKo Pop figures, Lego building sets, or Hot Wheels character cars, you’ve hit the trifecta.

Each of those brands goes well beyond the “Star Wars” theme, so the potential for collectors to diversify is a huge market. Lego is now a $2+ billion brand  (there is a huge market for old and new kits!), Hot Wheels is grossing more than a billion dollars, and FunKo, despite only being founded in the late 1990s, is on its way there.

nintendo nesVideo games are a huge part of the Millennial experience too. but modern systems increasingly lack physical games to purchase in favor of downloads and online multiplayer action. However, older gaming systems have a certain appeal and have become a big collectible business. And it’s not just late 1990s/early 2000s games these people played while young, but even systems their parents might have owned, including Nintendo and Atari systems from the 1980s.

minus 5 dungeon of horrorsModern music doesn’t usually have a tangible form anymore either. It’s mostly downloaded and streamed, not really “owned” like it used to be. The huge exception: vinyl records are increasingly collectible. In fact vinyl records are projected to sell 40 million units in 2017, with sales nearing the $1 billion benchmark for the first time this millennium!

Some artists like Jack White (White Stripes, Dead Weather, Raconteurs, etc.) treat a new record as an additional level of performance art beyond the music itself. It’s one thing to record a record live in one take… it’s another to record it direct to vinyl, instantly making a very limited number of pressings available for only one day. Consider that White recently released a record that secretly had to be played from the middle of the record outward, and the odd presentation becomes almost as important as the music.

Speaking of “records,” they used to be widely sold in places called “stores.” To celebrate the continued existence of such shops, Record Store Day (April 22, 2017) has become a huge annual nationwide event. It’s fun to stand in the very long line in front of the store and explain it to those not in the know.

“Record Store Day? Are they giving away free stuff?”

“Nope. In fact, they’re charging even more today.”

death cab for cutie cassetteIt’s true. Many artists release special recordings just for this event, often very limited editions in premium packaging, and none of them at all cheap. A few years ago, a band called The Minus Five created just 750 copies of a five record set of new material, including about 100 copies with each record in a different color (Yours truly was able to snag one of the regular copies that day, but not the multi-hued version.) In another instance, Death Cab For Cutie decided to release a new album only on cassette only (which led to Cassette Store Day becoming a thing!). In most cases, these come with a digital download in case you don’t have the right listening equipment.

Speaking of which, stereo equipment is a big deal with Millennials as well. For all the convenience of a tiny device that can put 10,000 songs in your pocket, there is still great appeal to a big honking multi component vintage stereo system. They sound amazing but are anything else than cheap. The market is there and it’s growing.

star wars record player star wars record player
Which brings us to this Star Wars portable suitcase turntable, another Record Store Day exclusive for 2017. To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original movie, this retro record player will be on sale in a store near you. Experiential, Ironic, Retro… this might be the ultimate collectible for millennials yet.

If you’re a Millennial, let us know what you collect in the comments selection!

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What are Beanie Babies Worth? Whatever Someone Will Pay

beanie babies value

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Collectibles sometimes go through a life cycle like this: extreme popularity, followed by rising values, followed by a bursting bubble, then maybe even a backlash, then a total lack of interest, then a retro-inspired spike in curiosity, then valuable classic status again. In other words, something will often be cool and popular, until it isn’t, until it is again.

We mention this because it’s been almost 20 years since Ty Beanie Babies abruptly ended their original production amidst the hype of being too popular. Wait, what? Well, the stuffed toys started out kind of rare, which sparked great interest. Also, each design was eventually “retired,” meaning the supply was cut off forever. Collectors were willing to pay a premium to complete their collections, and the increased interest convinced Ty to release more and more stuffies faster and faster. The craze looked unstoppable. Observe:

darwin & Co ron ruelle

Yes, it really was like this in the mid to late 1990s.

But eventually, the market became flooded, collectors got tired of the chase, and the market tanked. Beanie Babies were so popular that no one wanted them anymore. And the kids who made up the original target market were getting old enough to not care about stuffed animals as much anymore. Ty abruptly ended the circus with a black bear called “The End” and moved onto other lines of stuffies marketed as toys, not collectors items.

According to some sources, though, Beanie Babies are headed for an uptick in interest. The kids who had them the first time around are now in their late 20s to mid 30s. Which means they have disposable income (possibly) and a sense of nostalgia (maybe). Combined with the fact that the supply of these toys hasn’t grown in two decades, well, they might be worth something again. So let’s look in on some possible values for some of the rarer Beanies. Well, here’s what people are asking, anyway, along with some real world results.

beanie babies for sale

There is a big difference between asking price and actual value… (Screenshot from eBay)

Princess Di BearAsking price: $500,000

This purple bear with a white rose was released in the aftermath of Princess Di’s untimely death, so prices shot up in a wake of instant nostalgia. There are several variants for sale on eBay at very high prices. Actual value: There are several completed auctions for under $15 for these, although there are some rare variants that are supposedly worth more. Not too much more.

beanie babies princess di garcia

Princess Di Bear (left) and Garcia Peace Bear

“Garcia” Peace BearAsking price: $5,000

It’s got a swirly “tie-dyed” pattern, so no two are alike. Again, riding on the wave of Jerry Garcia’s death, kids snapped these up… wait, how many kids in the mid ‘90s were Deadheads? Actually, this wasn’t even an official tie in to the Grateful Dead, it just took on that nickname. Regardless, the price of these tops out well under $100, which isn’t too bad.

Pinchers/Punchers the LobsterAsking price: $1,500

beanie babies pinchers punchersLook at that snuggly wuggly wobster… er lobster. Aside from the fact that he was one of the very first wave of Beanies, and there aren’t a lot of lobster stuffies, the value on this shouldn’t be out of whack. The very first ones had the name “Punchers” on the tag, and everyone seemed to think it was a typo, because it was quickly changed to “Pinchers,” which makes way more sense. So if your tag (you kept the tag, right?!?!) has the original name, it’s worth 10 times the regular one… so $50 versus $5.

Valentino BearAsking price: $38,000

beanie babies valentinoSpeaking of tags, the early Valentino bears have a rare typographical error (“Surface” is misspelled as “suface.” Somebody must have been fired for that one, right?). But the error isn’t on the heart shaped paper tag, it’s on the little tag that’s sewed on to every stuffy. With a later correct later version, it’s a $5 bear. With it… Maybe $25.

Snort the Pig/Bull – Asking price $5,000

snortActually, it’s a cow.  It looks a lot like the Chicago Bulls mascot, but for some reason people mistakenly call it a pig. And for some other reason, people want a lot for these critters. Maybe it was because this was the height of the Bulls’ run in the NBA. In reality, You should be able to find one for around 10 bucks.

The lesson here is, yeah, some of these are worth some decent money, possibly more than they cost when new. But not retire-to-your-own-private-island money. The best advice, really is this:

  • Collect these if you like them, or if they bring back fond memories.
  • Sell them if you have them in your attic but don’t have the interest in them anymore.
  • Don’t think you’re going to retire by taking advantage of the speculation market on Beanie Babies.
  • Don’t take out a second mortgage to buy any of them.

One more thing… if you do collect Beanie Babies, add yours to our database! In fact, we could really use a curator or two to help maintain accurate and complete listings for this subject! And while you’re at it, start buying and selling them too!

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Star Wars and the Power of Costume

Matthew Nelson

Matthew is a writer and member of the Data Team at hobbyDB, where he enjoys blogging about the random things he collects.

In honor of the Star Wars: The Last Jedi teaser trailer released today, let’s talk Star Wars!

The Denver Art Museum recently held a first-of-its-kind exhibit called Star Wars and the Power of Costume that featured over 70 costumes from the original trilogy, the prequels, and The Force Awakens. The exhibit offered glimpses into the designers’ creative process supplemented with countless photos, sketches, short videos and other inspirational bric-a-brac that contributed to the Star Wars aesthetic.

Darth Vader’s initial designs, for example, took inspiration from gas masks and German SS helmets from World War II. Darth Maul, too, went through a number of iterations, the earliest of which depicted him as a pre-adolescent demon-like child with red dreadlocks (which you can see below).

This exhibit officially ended Sunday, April 9, after a one week extension to accommodate the large crowds, but you can still see the costumes I snapped below during my tour through that galaxy far, far away.

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