Guest Posts Posts

Mini Mini vs Mini Not-So-Mini

When BMW took over the Mini brand of automobiles, enthusiasts held their breath waiting to see what sort of shepherd they would be for the iconic marque. The good news is they kept the factory in Oxford, and they designed a car that echoed the proportions along with some of the quirky details of the old car. On the other hand, many purists were upset that the overall size of the car grew significantly. 

Testors joy ride mini cooper

A good way to compare the two cars is to look at two 1:18 scale models.  In full size, the reincarnated Mini is about 20 percent larger in every dimension than the original. The proportions hold up here, seeing them at this size really brings that difference home. In one corner we have the Testors 1959 Mini, and in the other, the Joy Ride Austin Powers “new” Mini. Both models are out of production and gaining collector value in the secondary market, although affordable versions can still be found online.

Testors mini cooper

The Testor’s model came as a kit requiring some simple assembly. It’s odd that a company best known for making paint and glue for model builders would offer a kit with a pre-painted body that screws together, so no paint or glue is required.

joy ride mini cooper

On the other hand, a bit of paint would have made for a more accurate model, as the engine block is bright red instead of the correct greenish-blue of a real Cooper. The car seems a little pudgier and rounder than the original — especially in the roof area — but the overall shape is unmistakable. 

This model of the new Mini has an interesting lineage. It was marketed under the Joy Ride brand, a division of Racing Champions/Ertl several years ago. When you take the car off its base, however, the name underneath reads “Solido.”

In all likelihood Joy Ride needed to produce a model quickly to take advantage of the Austin Powers license, so they made a deal to use Solido’s molds. Also on that base you will find annoyingly long molded shafts to accept the screws that hold it to the base. 

Testors joy ride mini cooper

Here’s a perplexing detail: despite the fact that the Mini represents the UK as much as fish and chips or The Beatles, the Union Jack roof graphic is incorrectly executed on both cars — although the same can be said for the cars upon which these models are based. On the proper Union Jack the broad diagonal white stripes should line up straight across the flag in an X shape, while the thin red stripes should be offset in a pinwheel effect. The original Mini never did get the offset right, although the factory version of the modern Mini approximates it pretty well. However, the movie car wasn’t factory-painted; it was by the film crew’s prop department, and they completely rearranged the spacing so the stripes could be extended down the sides of the doors and the hood. The upshot is that although the graphics on the roofs are a far cry from an actual Union Jack, the “errors” on the models are fairly consistent to those on the real cars.

Testors joy ride mini cooper

Flag flaws aside, these cars are both a hoot to drive in real life, and good fun to have in your collection. And as a bonus they take up less space on your shelf!

This article originally appeared on diecastx.magazinecom

Designer Notes: Heller McLaren M7A

Lincoln Futura Philippe de LespinayPhilippe de Lespinay started with Heller, the French model kit company in the 1960s as a designer and project engineer. He also also worked for Cox, who are now known for their remote control and gas powered vehicles, but also created many kits over the years. More recently, he was the curator of the Los Angeles Slot Car Museum. And he’s on the hobbyDB Advisory Board, so yeah, he’s our kind of guy.

hobbyDB will be regularly sharing his insights on particular models he has worked on including production kits, never-produced projects, and his own custom builds. We hope you enjoy the journey through his career as well.

Read more about his history in the toy and model business here.

Heller McLaren M7A

Philippe de Lespinay McLaren M7A Heller

In 1969, I decided to make four kits of Formula One cars, but only three were produced. Unfortunately and for reasons I do not know, the tooling for MATRA MS80 was never built. But the basic 3-view and parts-distribution drawings did survive in my files.(We’ll cover that kit in a future entry)

Philippe de Lespinay McLaren M7A Heller

The McLaren kit could be built with or without the side tanks. Again, another model that drawn from pictures and not from the real car, but it is not that far off, is it?

Philippe de Lespinay McLaren M7A Heller

I painted the illustration below for the 1970 catalog in less than 1 hour, because time was of the essence. It was done with China ink and water. 

Philippe de Lespinay McLaren M7A Heller

Philippe de Lespinay McLaren M7A Heller

This is the only surviving document of the kit’s parts distribution. It was published in Champion, a French magazine, in 1969.

Philippe de Lespinay McLaren M7A Heller

This model has been released with different box art over the years, such as the one below.Philippe de Lespinay McLaren M7A Heller

From Newsletters to Databases: The Evolution of Information

Ferrari

by Karl Schnelle.  This article appeared first on MAR Online, an excellent diecast blog and is republished with kind permission of both the author and publication.

I’ve been thinking lately about how our hobby has changed and how we get information about our hobby. Back when I started collecting as a kid in the US, there were not many, or really any, model car collectors in my city.  I somehow found a newsletter called Trader’s Horn  (1974-2005) that was a combination editorial by a knowledgeable collector and sales/wants ads. Then along came the MCCA newsletter (Michigan) replaced by Model Car Journal (California) in the 1970’s and soon gone by the early 1980’s.

Traders Horn newsletter

There were no toy shows that I knew of back then. After I moved to Chicago in the 1980’s, I discovered the big shows there and in Toledo, OH. Shows were good sources for adding to the collection but not really for knowledge about the hobby.

During that time, I discovered three books by Cecil Gibson from the UK (one is pictured below), then the series of books published by Schiffer in the US (still in print!), written by Dr Ed Force -about Dinky Toys, Corgi Toys, Matchbox, Solido, etc. So in the 1980’s, books become the main source of discovery about variations, gaps in my collection and what to look for next.

Diny Toys newsletter

Chicago had huge newsstands back then, so I discovered the first issue of Model Auto Review (1982) and  also Model Collector (in its fifth year, 1991). All the above was the status quo until May 1997. That’s when I joined a new website called eBay… perhaps you’ve heard of it? This did not replace books and magazines, but it did replace Trader’s Horn and many toy fairs.

Many online forums have popped up since then, but if you think about it, eBay has become the default database for collectors to lookup not ‘value’ but also variations and even find gaps in your collection. I’ll go to eBay many times to look something up with no intention of buying it. So for the last 19 years I have been doing that.

Then last year, I discovered a new site, hobbyDB, designed to be a database for collectibles of all kinds. The admin team are model car collectors so the DB is currently dominated by that subject now. With fellow collectors’ help, I have added sections on Märklin RAK and RAMI. Now I’m thinking about how to approach my other favorites: such as Tekno, Vilmer, etc.

With two online ‘databases’ now, I wanted to compare their content. One way to do that is in the graph below. I selected 10 representative brands to compare – some that I thought were popular and some that I like myself. hobbyDB counts are along the bottom x-axis and eBay counts are on the left y-axis.

hobbyDB versus eBay chart

One learning from this analysis was that Hot Wheels is amazing.  Or should I say epic, because I had to use log scale on the graph; that means it does not go 10 – 20 – 30 – … but 10 – 100 – 1000 – 10,000 – … because Hot Wheels are sooo much larger than the other manufacturers, both for eBay and for hobbyDB.  Perhaps the future of our model car hobby rests with Hot Wheels?  I do not know…

Another learning was that the trends on the two databases are about the same. eBay has many more items but they list every example for sale; hobbyDB only lists unique examples. In a recent blog post, that is in fact what one of the hobbyDB admins said:  “On hobbyDB, [a collector] can see everything that’s ever existed, regardless of whether it’s for sale or been sold recently.”

Just by coincidence, I also picked three that all cluster together in the middle: Brooklin Models, Franklin Mint,  and Dinky Toys.  I was surprised that they had such similar number of listings on each site.

On the low end of the scale are the Märklin RAK and RAMI, both brands that I helped upload to hobbyDB with 66 items each, but eBay lists many more RAMI items for sale than RAK. Is this indicative of the number made per item? Both are old and obsolete now. The Batmobile phenomenon is also shown on the graph: hobbyDB has 20 different Batmobiles, but eBay lists 500 for sale!

Hot Wheels Epic poster

To understand more about the Batmobile and the Hot Wheels markets, read another recent blog from another of the hobbyDB admins: How Big are the Collectible Markets? Are we really spending $200 billion every year on them? You might notice I included the brands from this blog in my graph above. I think it’s a fascinating story. The Evolution of Information deserves some more thought.

Designer Notes: Heller Brabham Cosworth BT15 F3 Formule III

Lincoln Futura Philippe de LespinayPhilippe de Lespinay started with Heller, the French model kit company in the 1960s as a designer and project engineer. He also also worked for Cox, who are now known for their remote control and gas powered vehicles, but also created many kits over the years. More recently, he was the curator of the Los Angeles Slot Car Museum. And he’s on the hobbyDB Advisory Board, so yeah, he’s our kind of guy.

hobbyDB will be regularly sharing his insights on particular models he has worked on including production kits, never-produced projects, and his own custom builds. We hope you enjoy the journey through his career as well.

Read more about his history in the toy and model business here.


Heller Brabham Cosworth BT15 F3 Formule III

As with many of Heller’s kits, Paul Lengellé beautifully illustrated the box art.

Heller Brabham Cosworth BT15 F3 Formule III

Here’s the original drawing of the kit’s parts. The engine and gearbox were the same as on the MATRA MS5 kit, so they are not represented here.

Heller Brabham Cosworth BT15 F3 Formule III

I built the kit for use by Heller in trade shows in 1968, and these pictures were taken by a professional for the company. Please note the suspension springs in steel wire wound around an ordinary nail, that make the model look so much more realistic than any of the period.

Heller Brabham Cosworth BT15 F3 Formule III

The chassis was assembled from molded flat sections and could almost pass for the real thing.

Heller Brabham Cosworth BT15 F3 Formule III

The only “bad” detail on the model is the Weber carburetor that is not only inaccurate but looks a bit stupid. But have a look at that Hewland MK9 transmission!

 

Heller Brabham Cosworth BT15 F3 Formule III

In the early 1970s, AMT released some Heller kits under their own brand. The Brabham was paired up with Heller Matra F2 kit and featured new box art.

AMT Matra F2 Brabham F3

Designer Notes: Heller/AMT Renault R8 Gordini

Lincoln Futura Philippe de LespinayPhilippe de Lespinay started with Heller, the French model kit company in the 1960s as a designer and project engineer. He also also worked for Cox, who are now known for their remote control and gas powered vehicles, but also created many kits over the years. More recently, he was the curator of the Los Angeles Slot Car Museum. And he’s on the hobbyDB Advisory Board, so yeah, he’s our kind of guy.

hobbyDB will be regularly sharing his insights on particular models he has worked on including production kits, never-produced projects, and his own custom builds. We hope you enjoy the journey through his career as well.

Read more about his history in the toy and model business here.


Renault R8 Gordini
Heller AMT Renault R8 Gardini

After a minor dispute with Heller, I designed this Renault 8 Gordini racer for a company called Verneuil. But Verneuil did not have the capability of production and I was offered a better deal at Heller and returned. So the kit was eventually produced by Heller.

Heller AMT Renault R8 Gardini instructions
Here is a kit I assembled for factory pictures and the 1969 catalog. I added some decals from an American slot car decal sheet. The kit was simple and did not have opening doors, but had plenty of engine detail. The Delta Mics aluminum wheels were a typical upgrade from the stock steel wheels.

Heller AMT Renault R8 Gardini

Heller AMT Renault R8 Gardini

AMT negotiated with Heller for the distribution of the car kits, and issued 4 different “double” kits in 1971. The injections were packed in clear plastic bags and sent to the American company that repackaged them in large boxes with their own illustrations, that unfortunately paled compared to those of Paul Lengellé. The Gordini was packaged with a version of the Heller Renault Alpine A 210 as one of the sets in this series.

Heller AMT Renault R8 Gardini Alpine A 210