Model Cars Posts

Unusual, Unique, Even Nonexistent… The AutoCult Official Archive Has Them All

Autocult leadAutoCult is the latest diecast company to host their Official Archive on hobbyDB. If you’re not familiar with them, that’s okay… you’re probably just as unfamiliar with the cars they model. But once you see what AutoCult does, you’ll be hooked.

Most model car companies play it relatively safe when they decide what automobiles to reproduce in miniature. It’s not a giant leap of faith to recreate a mid 1960s Corvette or a cup winning Formula 1 car and hope collectors will buy a copy. Sure, there’s great risk for the company, but the odds of reward are pretty good.

AutoCult does things pretty much the opposite way. Focusing not just on nearly forgotten, but in some cases, almost never-known cars have been their specialty. One-off prototypes, cars with production numbers limited by odd circumstances, legendary but fictional cars… you name it, AutoCult is interested in reproducing it.

Autocult Saab 92H camperTake their Saab 92H model. Not the Saab 92, a car which you’ve probably at least heard of… the 92H was a special one-off camper bodied version of the car, immortalized in 1/43.

Autocult VW Beetle MinihomeSpeaking of campers, how about AutoCult’s 1977 Volkswagen Beetle Minihome concept, a vehicle previously only remembered in the pages of Mechanix Illustrated. Autocult’s releases are organized into numbered series such as Campers (09000), Prototypes (06000), Delivery Vehicles (08000)… you can see the complete list of series on the Archive.

autoculttour vehicleOr speaking of really odd Volkswagens, this VW Kåfer “Wolfsberger Båhnle, a beloved tourist hauler used for sightseeing in Wolfsburg, Germany. Seriously, the question isn’t who would collect these models, it’s who would honestly take a chance on making them? It’s the AutoCult way.

Autocult Brandpowder_911_DSHeck, AutoCult even made a model of a concept so bizarre it only existed as a viral marketing campaign for a creative marketing firm… The Brandpower “911 DS” consisted of the front end of a Porsche 911 and the back of a Citroen DS, presented to the world as if someone had actually built it. Never mind the complications of where the engine would go, some publications were fooled into printing stories about it. Of course AutoCult had to build it.

Autocult VW curry busAnd seriously, what is this thing? Why, it’s a tribute to the ever lovable Volkswagen Bus and the ever popular but not too slimming delicaty of currywurst. And yes, it’s based on a real vehicle!

Autocult Mercedes-Benz SL-XNot to say their models are all oddballs… AutoCult’s new 1965 Mercedes-Benz SL-X answers the question of how one could possibly improve the legendarily perfect design of the Gull-wing SL… well, just look at the concept MB cooked up. And you can own it in 1/18 scale.

Models are released on the AutoCult website on a monthly schedule like a magazine. Each one is resin cast and limited to only 333 copies, so everything they do is rare. Consider their annual yearbooks, and other ephemera like the playing cards they offered in 2016, and it’s hard to resist what AutoCult is doing.

Autocult Ganz VolkswagenCustomer involvement comes at a unique level in projects such as their model of the original “people’s car,” or “volkswagen” by German engineer Josef Ganz. In a nutshell, this innovative rear engine concept was shown at the 1933 Berlin Motor Show, but forgotten to history to another similar, more famous Volkswagen. Autocult is actually running an Indiegogo fundraiser to recreate it – not in miniature, but to restore one of the actual 250 or so Ganz cars to its original glory. Neat, huh?

They’re the kind of diecast company we love at hobbyDB, and the kind you’ll love learning about.

Hot Wheels Blister Cards Influenced Diecast Packaging Forever

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Otto Kuhni, one of the great American artists of the last half century, passed away recently. If his name isn’t familiar, you surely knew his work. He was the artist who created the overall look of the new Hot Wheels brand in 1968 and continued to work for Mattel on and off until just a few years ago. He did the art for the carrying cases, advertisements, lunchboxes, and most importantly, the packages those toys came in. The fiery orange-yellow-red blister cards instantly created an identity for the whole brand, and influenced diecast packaging ever since.

Hot Wheels Otto Kuhni lunchboxPrior to his designs, diecast packaging was generally plain and not terribly interesting (although there were terrific exceptions). Most diecast cars were sold in boxes, such as Corgi, Dinky, and of course, the company whose name comes from those boxes, Matchbox. A few cars were offered in blister cards, however. Here are some early designs as well as later cool blister cards where companies realized that toy cars are fun, and they should be packaged that way too. Much credit has to go to Otto’s ideas.

This Dinky Alfa Romeo really looks pretty amazing on its rather basic package. The layout is simple, and colors are very limited due to printing technology at the time. Even the effort required just to change the name and model number was something of a pain in those days. One odd touch is that the car is mounted so high on the card, something you don’t see today.

Husky, an early attempt at 1/64 models by Corgi, also featured simple, not terribly colorful blister cards. This fire engine is unique in that someone got a little creative and added the silhouette of the cherry picker as if it were rising from the vehicle itself. But most featured identical base art to keep costs low. Another neat thing… if you see this era of Husky card, there is often a hole punched in the circle where the price is located, like on the fire engine. Presumably, that happened when a store wanted to charge a different price.

hot wheels blister cardBut then along came Hot Wheels! Brightly colored, dynamic graphics, a custom cut shape, and even a bonus in the blister in the form of the collectors button. (Note the off-center hole punch, arranged to allow the asymmetrically weighted card to hang level.) Not only were the free wheeling cars revolutionary, but the Hot Wheels blister cards themselves created a stir with consumers – and with other toy companies.

matchbox superfast blister cardCompetitors responded quickly. Matchbox began retooling their cars as the SuperFast series, with similar speedy wheels and wilder designs on their new cars. The packaging moved to blister cards, though the art was not quite as exciting as what Mattel was offering. Hedging their bets, Matchbox still included the traditional box inside the blister as a bonus. In fact, many of their cars were still available right in the box, same as always, as if the company saw this new fangled packaging as a fad. The combination of old versus new wheels, and different packaging options has created a colossal number of variants for collectors.

johnny lightning blister cardJohnny Lightning was a new startup from Topper Toys in 1969. Thematically, they represented the closest competition to Hot Wheels, with cars ranging from crazy fantasy designs to mild customs, all built for speed. The packaging had a chaotic, exciting design to match. Curiously enough, they had to make a design modification early on… the “BEATS THEM ALL” tagline ran into a legal challenge, as it could not be proven that JL cars could indeed do that. It was modified to “BEAT THEM ALL” to imply possibility, not fact.

johnny lightning jet power blister cardA later line of JL cars, the Jet Power series, featured their own bespoke card design, with a very energetic illustration of one of the cars in action. Sadly, these new cars underperformed the promise of the packaging and were a flop. More sadly, Topper ended the entire Johnny Lightning line (and just about everything else) after only three years due to company wide financial difficulties.

corgi rockets blister cardCorgi tried to compete in the high speed 1/64 market with their Rockets series. Note the two hole configuration on the card, requiring double pegs to hang the car from. The folks who stocked the stores couldn’t have been happy about that. Cool graphics, fast cars, but no match for the Hot Wheels marketing behemoth, at least in that scale. Corgi remains a major force in diecast, but wisely decided to focus more on their main market of 1/43 and larger cars.

tomy tomica blister cardTomy (Tomica) had a lot of fun with their packaging as well. Their Pocket Cars series was printed on a card that looked like denim, complete with stitching and buttons. Such designs really stood out from the pack and looked impressive together on the pegs at the stores. Many of their later series like the Series 60 also had playful graphics.

woolworth peelers zee toys pacesettersMinor brands like the Woolworth’s /Woolco Peelers cars saw the benefit of an exciting package, even if the vehicles themselves were a notch below in quality from the big brands. Or consider what Zee Toys was doing with this Pacesetters blister, mounting the car in a position to go along with the lines of the graphics.

It’s hard to say where modern diecast packaging would be today without the influence of Otto Kuhni’s designs for Hot Wheels, but it’s safe to guess playtime would be little less exciting (also read Otto’s Diecast Hall of Fame Obituary). If you have a favorite diecast blister design, let us know about it in the comments!

Cult Scale Models Joins hobbyDB as Latest Official Archive

Cult Scale Models is the latest company to host their Official Archives on hobbyDB. The company specializes in large scale, high end resin models, which is an unusual combination, but when you see some of their offerings, you’ll see how they got their name.

“In the last 100 years of automotive industry many cars have been produced,” their website proudly proclaims. “Some successful cars gained a CULT status, even long after their production had stopped. Cult models now creates these models for you in scale 1:18.” Odd variants of well-known models, unusual nameplates from familiar marques, and underrepresented vintages of otherwise common cars are among their specialties.

Cult Scale Models Aston Martin shooting Brake

If James Bond needed just a bit more room for gadgets or equipment, he might have gone for this Aston Martin DB5 Shooting Brake. Few were produced, few models have been made of it.

Cult Models is the brainchild of ID bv, the business of Jaap van Dijk and Mark Asbreuk. If those names sounds familiar to collectors, they are also the founders of Matrix Scale Models. “I have always been interested in cars and during my studies I worked at Volvocar company in the design department,” said Jaap van Dijk,  “End of the nineties, I decided to step out and became my own boss.”  Mark had started A.M.C. Miniatures which made high-spec 1/18 Scale models.

In 2000 Jaap bought Replicars where Mark after a stint for Modellissimo then worked.  Later they together formed another company, Neo Scale Models. The difference here is while those brands mostly focus on 1/43 scale models, Cult does theirs in 1/18 only.

Cult Scale Models Mini ClubmanFor instance, despite changing marques a few times, the iconic Mini Cooper didn’t change its styling much during its original production. But in 1969, BMC decided a more modern replacement was needed. Enter the Mini 1275GT and the Mini Clubman. The “hot dog” grill and headlight design was met with a mixed reaction and the original 1959 face (which continued alongside it) ended up out-living it by 20 years. Since then, however, the Clubman has developed a devoted following, for whom Cult offers a 1974 Clubman Estate.

Cult Scale Models Aston Martin LagondaOr take the Aston Martin Lagonda… with its wedgy, very long coachwork, it’s one of the more controversial Aston Martins ever produced. Which is why there aren’t a lot of models of it. (Johnny Lightning made one in 1/64, just to be part of their Evel Knievel series). But Cult was willing to take a chance on it, and considering the very limited numbers they produce, there will be enough fans to buy them all.

Cult Scale Models Jaguar E TypeAnother example is their Jaguar E-Type. Widely considered one of the most beautiful automotive designs ever, Cult’s model is a later Series II car, which featured some minor changes implemented to accommodate U.S. safety standards at the time. While most companies offer models of the more “pure” early Jags, Cult decided the later one needed some love as well.

Cult Scale Models Volvo BertoneCult’s offerings are mostly European marques, although many of them will be familiar to U.S. collectors, yet just a bit strange. The Volvo 262 Bertone carries much of the boxy styling familiar to the brand, but with a lower, sleeker roofline. You’ve probably seen one in person, maybe, but probably never seen a model of one, either. It’s obscure enough that you forgot about it, but you want one now, and Cult has you covered.

A browse through their Official Archive will reacquaint you with of plenty of other cars that feel oddly familiar or familiarly odd. Either way, you’ll eventually want to be part of this Cult.

Meet Collector, Scratch Builder, Fabricator Jack Reynolds

jack reynoldsWhen you see the models of Jack Reynolds, you might not know what to think at first. Is he a collector? Well, kind of. But he collects mostly his own models. Is he a model manufacturer? Yes, but he doesn’t sell his models, so not in the traditional sense of the word.

jack reynolds mc laren

Something about McLaren orange that just looks perved on a CanAm racer.

Jack is a Scratch Builder … well, that’s not even the perfect explanation of how he makes his model cars. Let’s let him explain. “I sometimes use other sources for a few parts,” he said. “That’s why I refer to the cars as ‘scratch built fabrications.’” For the last 20 years or so, Jack has built large scale cars with some amazingly intricate detail out of sheet metal, wire, resin, and anything else he can get his hands on. When we say large scale, we mean it… 1/6 to 1/8 are his favorite scales.

D Type Jaguar

D Type Jaguar

Just about every bit you see in his cars is hand built, and one of a kind. “Sometimes a part with a compound curve is just beyond my ability or I don’t have the right tool,” he said. “Early on, I used other sources for tires and wheels, but they were usually a compromise. For example, in order to make an accurate 1/8 scale Halibrand wheel with a 3 tread Firestone it is necessary to create it with resin.” Most of his cars are assembled by screws, so they can be disassembled for further work or detail.

jack reynolds maserati

The handmade sheet metal on this Maserati captures the look of a purpose built, slightly used race car.

In other words, it’s not really cheating. But just the same, he’d rather spend a lot of effort on a piece if it creates the best detail. “It”s all about complexity when it comes to time involved. Four wire wheels may take longer than a complete but simple body. Sometimes I get frustrated that I need 4 wheels,” he laughed. “Lately I’ve been building parts with no plans for a complete car. I enjoy this exercise as there is little or no duplication. Often when enough parts exist a car will materialize. Much less hurry this way.” (If he sounds like someone with time on his hands, he’s been retired since 2004.)

jack reynoldsHis first project was a 1/6 scale McLaren racer that met with a tragic end when it careened off his shelf. “To date the #33 Bowes Seal Fast Indy roadster is one of my most complex models,” he said. You can see it above as well as many more on his website.

jack reynolds wheels

Jack’s obsession with scratchbuilt detail extends to the wheels he builds for most of his cars.

Since he doesn’t sell his creations, he never makes the same model twice. “I enjoy the challenge of creating something new such as the spoke layout of different makes of wire wheels. When I was about 12 years old I carefully studied a wire wheel in Road&Track magazine and still use that as a basic layout. Making more than one model of a car is just labor.” As far as other hobbies, he has a significant collection of racing memorabilia. “I worked for a racing publication and was also a racing video photographer for 7 years during the mid sixties and early seventies,” he said. “I’ve attended the 1000 km of the Nurburgring, the Grand Prix of Monaco, the Indy 500, and numerous other motorsport events.”

 So, basically, he’s our kind of people. Check out his models on hobbyDB!

jack reynolds dino

This Ferarri 246 Dino model can be seen at the top of the article, just to give you a sense of the scale of Jack’s models.

Rally ‘Round these Hot Hatch Models

Over the past two years, we’ve contributed articles to Die CastX magazine for publication on their website and in their quarterly print edition. We hope you enjoy this story about the miniature versions of a couple of pioneering hatchbacks.


Sun Star Ford Escort Kyosho Lancia

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Not long after the invention of the automobile, someone figured out that stuffing a bigger engine into a smaller car would make that car exponentially more fun. One modern variation on this concept is the Hot Hatch , transforming pedestrian hatchbacks into screaming rally cars. Add a turbo, tweak the suspension, strip out heavy options, and add a body kit, and you’re in business. From early Mini and Fiat 500 rally cars to the modern Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evo, these cars offered crazy factory performance on a relative budget. If you lived in Europe in the late 80’s to mid 90’s, you may have seen examples of these two: The Lancia Delta Integrale and the Ford Escort MkIII XR3. Here are a couple of 1/18 of these cars to consider.

The Lancia model shown here is from Kyosho, so you know you’re in for some insane levels of detail. The bright yellow exterior is offset by lots of separately cast details, such as the black door handles (which themselves features tiny chrome keyholes), badges, turn signal repeaters and so on. Every little badge is legible. Heck, there’s even a tiny loop under the rear bumper, the designated hook for pulling the car our of a ditch when you hoon it just a bit too hard on a dirt road in the country.

Kyosho LanciaThe opening parts are hard to access, as the panel gaps are precise and tiny. When you open that rear hatch, (marvel at the defroster detail before you do) there is a movable cargo cover, showing the donut spare tire. In a rare feat of miniature engineering, all four doors open, and are sprung so they snaps securely shut. The interior is sparsely appointed like the original, but what’s there is impressive: flocked seats, red buttons on the seatbelt retainers, and readable gauges.

Kyosho LanciaUnder the hood (it’s hinged at the front, by the way) the engine detail is remarkably well done, with flexible wiring harness, readable warning labels, and a structural support beam connecting the fenders. The whole car feels tight and precisely engineered.

Sun Star Ford EscortThe Ford, from Sun Star, is also well done, especially considering the original price of the model was about half that of the Kyosho car (about $40 vs. $100). The paint is chalky yellow hue (Subaru offered a similar color on the WRX). Like the Lancia, there are gobs of separate black plastic bits, including mudflaps and bumper parts, giving it that signature ‘80s-on-a-budget look.

Sun Star Ford EscortAlso like the other model, it features the moving cargo cover in the back, as well as even more detailed seatbelt clips and gauges. The seats are rendered to represent vinyl, striped in two hues of gray. Underhood, engine detail is about what you would expect, but Sunstar took care in replicating the tiny, hidden sheet metal details like weld spots in fenders, something you never see in a model at any price.

Both cars have working suspension, and have all windows rolled up, which is kind of unusual (it also makes it hard to open the doors). The different sheens from paint, chrome, flat plastic lend an extra air of realism to both cars. There aren’t a lot of models of these cars made in any scale, so if hot hatches are your thing, grab these two.

Sun Star Ford Escort Kyosho Lancia