Model Cars Posts

Challenger Joe Has a Great Store and a Cool Story

Challenger Joe RothpearlChallenger Joe is one of the newest sellers on hobbyDB, and his hobby DB store is a bit different. So is his story. Challenger Joe (Joe Rothpearl, but he prefers to just use the nickname online) is a car guy… he likes all kinds of interesting rides, but you can probably guess his favorite, right? Yeah, he loves some MOPAR, but specifically Dodge Challengers.

“I built model cars as a kid,” he explained, “whatever cars caught my eye at the time.” But when he was a teenager, his perspective was locked in forever when his friend let him drive his 1970 Plymouth Barracuda. “Cool cars stop you in your tracks when you’re a kid. I was 15, so I didn’t have a license yet, but we did some donuts in that car, and I was hooked.” (He fondly remembers the /66 1/2 Charger owned by his family when he was three.) Like many of us, he went on to own other cars over the years, some more interesting than others, always longing to recreate that initial burst of excitement.

model cars

Joe enjoyed customizing model kits and shooting them outdoors in real lighting.

When Dodge first showed off their new retro styled Challenger concept in 2006, the bug bit him again. “I figured there was no way ever they would really build that car,” he said. But when they came out with a production model a couple years later, his jaw dropped. But he still didn’t get one yet. Then, when his father and father-in-law died not too far apart, he decided life was too short to not drive a cool car. “I went online to look for the exact package I wanted and found one only 10 minutes away…”

Not just any Challenger, though… he bought his with the upgraded RT package (kind of rare), the Super Track Pack (way more rare), the Classic Package (unusual) and in a particular hue (Billet Silver Metallic) that turned out to be very limited. “The tsunami in Japan disrupted the supply of certain colors for all auto manufacturers for awhile,” he said. After that, Dodge moved on to other colors. According to Chrysler, his car is one of only nine ever produced with that exact set of colors and options. Rare as the car is, he drives it daily, including the harsh winters of upstate New York.

About the store.. You may have noticed he deals primarily in models of Dodge Challengers. Part of that comes from the fact that he collects every possible mutation of those models and has a few extras. The collection includes early models from Matchbox and Hot Wheels (The Rodger Dodger is one of his all time favorite models) as well as newer models in every conceivable scale.

dodge challenger diecast

Besides this wall of miniature Challengers, which is about half of his 1:64 collection, Joe collects records and comic books.

The other thing about the store… all of his proceeds are being  donated to charity. “The money will all go to the Rochester Challenger Miracle Field,” he said. Wait a second, did he get to name this place? Nope, there’s a division of Little League baseball for kids with various disabilities, called the Challenger Division, and these fields are designed to cater to their needs. On top of his donations, hobbyDB is waiving its usual fees for his store so the maximum amount can go to good causes.

Joe deals with his own struggles daily as well. He gets debilitating migraine headaches on a regular basis and has also had a couple of neck surgeries. Despite all this, he’s an unrelentingly positive guy. “I have some good days and some not so good days,” he said. “I’ve tried all kinds of therapy, but when I’m in my Challenger, I feel no pain. It’s the best medicine.

dodge challenger diecastAs we mentioned, he’s a car guy in general. “I like any car that’s interesting,” he said. “I don’t want to get caught up in the negativity of only liking one brand or one model and saying bad things about the rest,” he said. “I’m a positive person. I like to make people smile. It’s my super power.”

His website, as the name indicates, is devoted to the Challenger of the Day. It might be a real car one day, or a model the next. “It’s nice to mix the different interest groups together,” he said. “I just like bringing people together for common ground, making people smile.” Visit the Challenger Joe Store on hobbyDB and you can help do that too.

dodge challenger diecast

Maisto Adds Their Collection to hobbyDB Official Archives

Maisto Mercedes

This 1967 Mercedes-Benz 280SE is indicative of Maisto’s high quality models.

The diecast database on hobbyDB just got a huge boost, as Maisto is the latest company to host their Official Archives. Maisto is a major player in large scale diecast, offering models in scales from 1/18 through 1/64. Including planes and other vehicles, there are over 3,000 Maisto items listed on hobbyDB.

Maisto made their mark in the diecast business with their 1/18 offerings, a wide variety of nicely detailed, reasonably priced models. Their biggest competitor in that realm was Bburago, who focused on European cars, while Maisto made models of just about everything else. Maisto acquired Bburago in 2007, forming a worldwide ring of automotive nationalities. (Just last week, we announced Bburago’s Official Archive as well.)

Maisto 1972 Chevelle SSMaisto’s models have included concept cars such as the 1993 Porsche Boxster, and classics that inspired them like Porsche 550A Spyder. They also did a version of the production Boxster for good measure. They have also made models of classic but underrepresented cars like the Datsun 240Z. Maisto has made more motorcycle models than most companies as well.

Maisto Datsun 240ZThe 1/18 cars from both companies usually host a feature of opening hoods, trunks and doors, as well as working steering and suspension. Some models, such as their Chevelles, are detailed to represent multiple years (’71 and ’71) as well as convertible or hardtop. Several models are available as prepainted kits with optional wheels and other details so collectors could personalize their cars.

maisto dodge 330 kitMaisto’s first entries in the 1:64 market were inexpensive and mostly fantasy creations unlike anything the company was producing at larger scales. More recently, they have focused on premium priced, well detailed models of real cars that fit in more with the rest of their line. In the Official Archive, you will be able to search for their products broken down by the many series they have offered such as Fresh Metal and Burnin’ Key Cars.

Maisto Fresh Metal

Maisto’s Fresh Metal 3″ series features a wide range of models based on real cars and wild concepts.

With Maisto and Bburago on board, the hobbyDB Official Archives now feature two of the biggest brands in large scale diecast. Combined, they represent well over 5,000 entries in our database.

Two Maisto Porsche Models That ’Ster the Soul

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 reading about a pair of Porsches that have more in common than it seems.

maisto porsche boxster 550A

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Porsche has always charged a premium for high performance cars, but every now and then they hit the reset button and try to offer a somewhat affordable model to entice new buyers. One early model, the 550A Spyder, a tiny, extremely lightweight speedster, gained fame (or infamy) as the car James Dean was driving when he died. Some revisionists would claim he was operating it safely and within the speed limit, but such nonsense tarnishes his legacy as a, well, rebel.

Flash ahead 35 or so years to when Porsche decided a no-frills, “budget” roadster would be just the thing for the 1990s. The 1993 Boxster Concept (a mashup of “Boxer” and “Speedster”), blended modern and vintage styling cues and proved to be an instant hit. The Boxster would soon go into production looking much like the show car (minus a few sexy details) and at a relatively low starting price, which is quite a miracle.

maisto porsche boxster 550AHere are two models from Maisto representing these cars in 1:18 scale. They both feature fully sprung suspension, opening doors and other panels, and show a stark contrast in the overall size of the real cars when parked side by side. Both are finished in the appropriate not-too-flashy silver with appropriate badging.

maisto porsche boxsterThe newer Boxster concept accurately skimps on details in one important area… the drive train. Since the concept was a non-running design exercise, one could only imagine what the engine would look like at the time or where exactly it would go. The chassis is also devoid of working bits because of this omission. Maisto also made a model of the 1996 production Boxster if you prefer that version.

maisto porsche boxsterThe Boxster’s interior reproduces some strange quirks that never made it into production… the door panel inserts are asymmetrical to the point where they don’t look like they came from the same car. The dashboard and rear view mirror also echo this lack of symmetry. Also, the seatbelts are mounted to go over the occupants’ inside shoulders instead of the more common arrangement. The soft red surfaces in the model look and feel like you could sit in them.

maisto porsche 550ASuch details are of no concern on the 550A, as there was very little interior included in the original 550A. And seatbelts were just considered extra ballast. Nonetheless, the details and surfaces that are present in the Spider look and feel like they were hand assembled from as few extraneous components as necessary for the sake of speed and simplicity. The super thin steering wheel is beautiful, too. The skinny tires and bare steel wheels look perfect on this car.

maisto porsche 550AUnder the hood, a very tiny engine is dwarfed by the spare tire. Up front, there is little more than a gas tank taking up the entire compartment. The chassis on this one is also quite smooth with only the necessary bits hanging down from the engine bay.
maisto porsche 550AIt’s great to see these Maisto Porsche models representing something besides the usual 911 offerings. Side by side, the 550A and Boxster make nice bookends for two cars that aren’t that far apart in concept.maisto porsche boxster 550A

Bbig News: Bburago Adds Official Archive to hobbyDB

bburago header

Bburago, the maker of fine diecast models in several scales, is the latest company to host their Official Archive on hobbyDB. With over 40 years of production to document, this will be one of the bbiggest… er, biggest archives on the site. As pioneers of 1/18 scale models, they occupy an important spot in the diecast community.
martoys logoFirst, let’s clear up the mystery around the name of the company. It is indeed spelled with a “Bb” up front. In 1974 the Besana brothers, 
Mario, Ugo, and Martino, who had earlier started Mebetoys, founded a new company in Burago, Italy. Martoys, as they called it at the time, focused on 1/24, at a time when most European model cars makers were making smaller 1/43 scale models. After a couple years in bbusiness… sorry, business, they changed the name to reflect the name of the town and also their last initial… hence the double “B.”

bburago mercedesSales took off quickly for the new brand, as there were not a lot of affordably priced models in the larger scales. The fact that some of their models were offered as kits widened their appeal as well. Bburago became a trailblazer in the late 1970s when they introduced  1/18 scale models to the mix (as well as some simpler 1/43 offerings) and it is for these well-detailed but affordable large-scale models of exotic and performance cars. Early 1/18 Bburago models focused on European cars from the 1930’s, including Alfa Romeos, Bugattis and Mercedes. As they expanded their offerings, they started making models of newer cars of the ’50s and ’60s, followed by modern performance cars, including Lamborghinis and Ferraris.

bburago bugattiMany of the very early cars from the Bburago brand were produced in small numbers and prized highly in collectors markets, such as this Lancia model.

bburago lancia

You may have noticed Bburago often offers the same car in several scales (1/18, 1/24/ and 1/43), sometimes even in the same colors. Not only is that cost effective from a design standpoint, but it’s fun for collectors. An adult could get the delicately detailed larger model of, say, a Lamborghini Diablo, while the kids could play with a more rugged, less expensive model of the same car in a smaller scale.

Unknown (1)

Unfortunately, making models in Italy became more and more expensive as time went on. This expense, combined with the decision by Ferrari to award an exclusive model-making license to Mattel (which meant Bburago had to immediately stop making all of their Ferrari models), led to the company’s acquisition in 2005 by the Hong Kong-based May Cheong Group, owners of the similar Maisto brand. Under new parentage, Bburago continued to make many of its previous models and has introduced many new ones – including  new Ferrari cars now that Ferrari has ended their Mattel-exclusive deal.

And speaking of Maisto, if you’re a fan of that brand, we have more exciting news… hobbyDB is also working on an Official Archive for that brand as well. A special thanks goes to Charles Hepperle, formerly of Bburago, as well as Rick Berman and Jose Uriarte of Maisto, who provided a colossal amount of information and work on this archive and the upcoming Maisto project.

DKW and VW: Two Lessons in German Economy

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 comparison of the DKW Junior and the Volkswagen Golf, two different lessons in German microeconomy.


dkw volkswagen

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

It’s hard to believe the two cars seen here were stalwarts of German economy automotive engineering separated by only a decade. The DKW Junior was available until the mid 1960s, while the Volkswagen Golf debuted in 1974. They could hardly be more different vehicles. The same goes for the models.

DKW, (Dampf-Kraft-Wagen) was one of the marques under the Auto Union brand. They first offered this very basic two-door sedan with a two-stroke engine in 1959, just as fins were hitting their peak as an automotive styling trend worldwide. This DKW Junior model from Revell, does not skimp in the way the real car did. Exterior details include elaborate taillights and a separate sunroof piece (designed to allow a version with the hatch open). The very tiny gas cap has the 4 rings of Auto Union (now the Audi logo) engraved on it.

dkw junior modelUnder the hood, there’s not a lot to see, but that’s because it mimics the incredibly simple engine of the real car. There’s a working prop rod to hold the hood open. Another neat detail is the radiator mounted behind the engine. The chassis underneath includes lots of small suspension bits, although none of it functions.

dkw junior modelThe seats are really nice on this model with a tiny checked pattern on the seating areas. The brackets that hold those seats in place are given much more thought than cars this size usually show. There is also a molded roof liner, which includes the lines for that sunroof again. Like under the hood, inside the trunk, is a tiny wire buried near the hinges that can be used to prop the decklid open. What was a cheap solution on a real car becomes a delicate detail on a model.

dkw junior modelBy the late 1960s, DKW was sold off to Volkswagen, and served as the launch point for the rebirth of the Audi name. Speaking of VW, around late 1969, they got serious about developing a replacement for the colossally successful and iconic, but outdated Beetle. The origins of the modern hatchback are apparent in the first generation Golf (or Rabbit, as it was called in the United States), with its efficiently squared space and transverse mounted engine.

volkswagen golf modelThis 1974 Golf LS by Vitesse is actually simpler in construction than the DKW (which makes sense, as It retailed for around $25 new, while the DKW was a higher end model). It represents a very basic, stripped down version of the car, long before VW gave it the GTI treatment and made it into a hot hatch.

volkswagen golf modelOne nice detail about the interior is the number of extra molded bits such as the side and window chrome and the black plastic gas cap. The engine is far simpler, and even though there are wires in place, they look flat and two dimensional. Also from underneath, the chassis is solid around the engine instead of showing some daylight like on the real car.

volkswagen golf modelThe seats aren’t quite as impressive as the DKW, especially the bolsters that hold them in place. Still, if this was a car from your younger days, it’s a decent model to have of it.

Comparing the two, the DKW is the far more detailed model of the far more interesting car. Since you don’t have to put up with the anemic performance of its tiny engine, this would be the choice for your next German economy car.

dkw junior model