Model Cars Posts

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 Porshes 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.

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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

Diving Deep Into Corvette Mako Shark 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 fish story about the Corvette Mako Shark concept diecast model.


Motormax Chevrolet C2 Mako Shark

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

If you hear the name “Corvette,” what undersea creature immediately jumps to mind? Stingray, right? That name has been used on and off for over half a century on versions of the American sports car legend. The name first showed up on a 1959 race car, the “XP87 Stingray.” Like many one-off racers, it featured futuristic styling, but no one considered that was a clue to an upcoming production car.

But this is a story of another creature, the Mako Shark. In 1961, Chevrolet was considering designs to replace the original generation of Corvette. Many of the sharp, angular lines from the XP87 were carried forward for a new concept called the XP-755, a/k/a, the Mako Shark.

Motormax Chevy Corvette Mako SharkBill Mitchell, the new chief stylist at GM, had a thing for sharks, indicated by the giant stuffed Mako mounted on his office wall. Inspiration for the new car was not limited to the name… the front of the car featured a sharply pointed nose with a severe overbite. The sides had exposed exhaust pipes resembling gills. And the profile of the wraparound windshield could be interpreted as a dorsal fin. Furthering the look, dark blue body paint faded into a silvery white belly. It’s surprising there was no attempt to make tail fins to complete the effect. Equal parts ridiculous and awesome, the basic shape of the Mako Shark predicted the C2 ’Vette, produced from 1963-67.

Motormax Chevrolet Mako SharkRelatively few scale models exist of the first Shark. Motormax made an inexpensive 1/18 version in the mid ’90s. The car comes with the clear double bubble removable top, thoughtfully held in place by the visors to minimize extra tabs and slots. Through that top, you can see the spartan interior, with deepset, but readable gauges.

Motormax Corvette Mako SharkUnder the forward-flipping hood, the most notable detail is the eight exhaust pipes that travel independently out through the fender vents, connecting at the front of the rocker panels. The trunk opens too, revealing minimal detail, accurate for a running, but not entirely functional, concept car. The hood on the real concept was altered at some point to add even more gills to the design. This and most other models show the later version.

Motormax Chevrolet Mako SharkThe exterior captures the “sharkiness” of the concept with a few flaws that might drive a purist nuts. The splash panels under the nose and tail don’t fit very well, but you won’t see that very often. What does stand out is that crazy fading paint job. The original stylists spent quite a bit of time getting the blue and white tones just right. (According to some tales, Mitchell was never convinced that the hues matched his prized trophy fish, so the stylists stole it from his wall one weekend and painted it to match the car.) The transition from one color to the other should fade at an even height from front to back, but on the Motormax model, it looks like the doors were painted separately, and the fade line is significantly higher than on the surrounding door panels. You could try to repaint it, but you’d lose the emblems and other details on the rest of the car. Best solution? Display it with the doors open, and the line isn’t as obvious. Later, more expensive models, such as the one from AUTOart and UT Models do a better job with these details.

Motormax Chevrolet Corvette Mako SharkBy 1965, only three years into the C2’s production, Chevy started working on the Mako Shark II, which sent a strong, accurate signal as the design direction of the next generation of Corvette. We’ll dive into that fish tale sometime in the near future.

Motormax Chevrolet Mako Shark

Diecast Collector bkalland Enjoys Success On hobbyDB and scOOmer

Like many diecast collectors, Charles “Bud” Kalland started collecting a few favorites, mostly Ford high-performance models, and the hobby quickly mushroomed into an obsession. Also like many collectors, trading and selling a few extras became something of a business. And then it became his main business.

“My collecting over the years became a habit by holding on to items from trinket toys to classic cars,” he explained. “As my two sons grew up, there were toys that were cherished and played with and occasionally set aside for the future. At first it was trains. Then it was model diecast metal car kits of fantastic ‘Classic’ cars.”

He still has still have several Hubley kits from the late 1940s. When his sons wanted toy cars to play with in the 1960s, he bought them Hot Wheels cars because they wanted fast cars. “I still have some of those early redlines,” he said. “Serious diecast car collecting started in the ‘80s when his youngest son suggested he should start looking for special cars as he traveled the country on business.

As his collection grew, he started selling out of necessity to thin out his stash. “If I wanted to continue the hunt for special cars, I needed to sell something to make space for new ones. I’ve also changed the scale of my wants. If I want the highly detailed 1/18 scale casting, I better sell at least 10 1/64 scale cars. Yes, scale really matters.”

bud kalland

When he retired from his job, selling diecast became his new career. “I’m an early riser due to my ranching experience as a child,” Bud said. “If hunting brick and mortar stores in the early mornings is work, then that is my career now.”

He was impressed not only as a seller, but also as a collector. “Of all the internet sites I’m acquainted with, hobbyDB suits my interest best,” he said. “Facebook and social websites are a mess for accuracy, manufacturers are nice but it’s only about their brands. For me the internet isn’t just about entertainment, its mostly about accurate information.”

hot wheels store

Bud has found success selling on scOOmer as well as in his store on hobbyDB.

As for collecting, he is first and foremost a Ford guy. “It has to be Ford related. I would guess that a GT 40 or Shelby Daytona could be considered my favorite models.” He’s willing to look at other marques of course, if the model appeals to him, of course. “I have many Hot Wheels from conventions that are signed by designers, but most importantly by Larry Wood.” His favorite signed item is a Classic series Hot Wheels Firebird Funny car from the only Hot Wheels’ Regional convention ever held in San Antonio.

Bud collects other brands of diecast as besides Hot Wheels. Among the most prized items in his collection are “a pair of M2 Shelby prototypes that were sent me by Sean Taylor with a personal letter of explanation.”

bud kalland

And yes, he enjoys 1/1 scale cars as well. “I’ve owned Shelby cars, Excaliburs, Jaguars and even a Peugeot,” he said. “Over the last 10 years I’ve been enjoying cruising in my highly customized Mustang GT. It was a show car for a few years. Then came a Shelby shop suspension and transmission overhaul… then leaded custom body work, then custom flamed paint job… I’ve  often said, ‘this car talks to me.’”

Next time you’re cruising scOOmer or hobbyDB, stop by his store and say hello!