Darby C Posts

10 More Off-The-Beaten-Path, Obscure, Odd Model Car Brands

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Over the past couple of years, we have shared some brands of diecast vehicles that are off the beaten path, obscure, or just plain odd. Some of them are offshoots of famous brands, some of from other countries and never widely distributed worldwide, and some disappeared quickly for various reasons. Here’s another batch of Odd Model Car Brands that fit all of those categories and then some…

Tonka Totes

Tonka Totes Dune BuggyWhen you think of Tonka, you usually think of indestructible metal vehicles like the Mighty Dump truck. But in 1971, Tonka tried something completely different. The Totes line were all plastic, including flexible axles that were unfortunately a bit too soft. Despite the neat designs and sparkly plastic, kids were disappointed when the wheels broke off, so the line was discontinued after only a couple years.

Weird Wheels

structo weird wheels dune buggyNot to be outdone by Tonka, Structo, another brand known for rugged metal vehicles got weird in 1971. Their Weird Wheels vehicles each featured one axle with two wheels. The bodies were designed with most of the weight underneath the axle, so the cars always rode upright. The first models featured recognizable cars (VW Beetle, 1930s hot rods, a dune buggy) and the second group got a bit wackier with an airplane, UFO and caveman in a hot tub. Weird indeed!

Mini Lindy

Mini Lindy camperAmong model car kits, Lindberg tends to fall a notch below more popular brands like AMT and Revell in terms of quality and detail. In the early ‘70s, they briefly hit it big with their Mini-Lindy series. Each kit was about 1/64 scale, although each car was scaled to take advantage of the same size wheels. So the AMC Gremlin looks giant compared to the School Bus. Priced at 79 cents a kit, and available in a rainbow of colors, these models were all the rage for a few years.

Imposters

aurora imposters vwAurora had been making a name for itself in model kits and slot cars for several years when they unleashed the Imposters series in the early ’70s. The short lived offshoot consisted of three mild mannered cars… A VW Beetle, A Ford Pinto, and a 1940 Willys Coupe. When these brightly colored cars were wound up, they would move slowly for a bit… and then the body popped up, the chassis extended, and the transmogrified dragster took off quickly. These were big and heavy (bigger than 1/18 scale) and pretty impressive to see in action.

Vatutin Electromechanical Toy Factory

Vatutin FerrariNothing remarkable about this brand, really… they made a series of crudely detailed 1/43 European cars with opening features. And they were never widely available in the U.S. But that company name… Wow!

Saratov Laboratory of Minimodels

SaratovAnother company probably most noteworthy for an amazing name. Their 1/43 models of Russian marques featured modest detail and lots of opening parts (all four doors on some sedans). In truth, this lab was really just concocting rehashes of other Russian brands, most notably Radon Models (also a great name!)

System I-Leg

System I LegIsn’t that the Lego logo? The billion dollar Danish company that makes plastic building toys? Yep. Before becoming the multimedia juggernaut they are today, Lego made a series of plastic and metal vehicles from HO to 1/43 scale. From 1955-1970, new offerings were all plastic, and approximately HO scale. None of them had a single element that allowed you to attach a Minifig, although their display cases did.

Wannatoy

WannatoysWannatoy? Of course you do! This company made incredibly simple plastic cars and trucks… A car might consist of a one part body and a pair of single piece wheel and axle assemblies. For something more elaborate, their “Bubble Top Coupe” included a fourth piece, the clear canopy.

VinylLine

Vinylline Mercury CougarHere’s another company that offered single piece bodied cars, but with more accurate detail and scaling than you usually see. And they made some desirable cars like the BMW 2500 and first generation Mercury Cougar. Color choices were odd (yellow wheels?) and they tended to warp, which is common for this kind of toy.

Shot Wheels

Shot Wheels

wacky packages shot wheels stickerSince the late 1960s, Topps has produced Wacky Packages, a series of stickers and cards that feature parodies of famous products, including “Shot Wheels” cars. (“Cheapest heaps in the world! Guaranteed to self destruct!”) The sticker only showed one model, the lemon-shaped “Lemlin,” but over the years, various customizers have built real models featuring punny twists on the names of real Hot Wheels cars (Squirting Image, Dead Baron, etc.). These were not just one offs, either… in some cases, the cars had a limited run of 300 or so produced models, selling for more than a lot of Super Treasure Hunts or other collector favorites. To people of a certain age, these are the perfect combination of nostalgia and snotty humor.

What’s Your damage? A Guide To Common Less-Than-Mint Conditions

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Anytime you’re looking at buying a collectible online, you’re probably hoping to find mint condition, still in the package, never been looked at for more than 30 seconds perfection. Alas, such conditions don’t usually exist in the real world. So if something is “Near Mint” or below, that means something has to be not perfect, right? Of course, if your plan is to take the item out of the package, knowing these terms might help you find a bargain that others would pass on. 

Grading items from “Mint” to “Fair” to “Poor” and everything in between is subjective, so we’re not even going to get into those distinctions here. There are professional grading services that can handle that for a fee. But let’s look at some common terms that show up in collectible listings. Of course, there are certain collectibles like stamps, coins, and comic books that have their own unique forms of imperfection, which we’ll look at sometime in the future.

For now, let’s look at issues with boxes and blister cards, (especially diecast models) and see if we can define exactly what they mean. Here are some ” Less-Than-Mint Conditions .”


package shelf wearShelf Wear – This is some light scuffing, scratching, or rubbing on packaging that comes naturally with a collectible being handled and moved around in the store. Unless employees and customers are using padded gloves and extreme caution at all times, most store-bought items will have at least a few minor imperfections like this.


rubbingRubbing – A common phenomenon in older models that were not secured within the package. Over the years, a Hot Wheels car may have rolled back and forth inside the blister enough for the paint on the center of the hubs to rub off. It’s a shame when the package is perfect but the item inside isn’t. This also can show up on the roof of cars.


yellowed packagingYellowed – Usually this refers to clear plastic bits again. Over time, some plastic just turns yellow, and there’s not much you can do about it. Can also apply to other blastic bits, like hanger reinforcements.

Smoke Damaged – In addition to yellowing of plastic, or discoloration of other elements, the item also comes with the added fragrance of nicotine.


soft cornerSoft Corners – This happens when the corners of the card get a little bit mooshed but not necessarily creased. Layers of the cardboard are often separated. From the right angle, this might not even be visible when the item is on display. Sometimes this can be restored with a bit of glue to stiffen is up.


dented blisterDented Blister – Seems self explanatory, right? Usually the corners of the blister, closest to the edge of the packaging are susceptible. It may be possible to massage the dent out, but that might cause cracks or stress marks, which may look even worse.


stress marksStress Marks – Speaking of which… stress marks occur when a plastic piece bends enough to become discolored (usually white or a lighter shade of the original plastic.)


cracked blisterCracked Blister – Cracked, but nothing is missing. In this case, the entire blister should still be present and connected in some way.


detached blisterDetached Blister – The glue has let go, so even though the card, blister, and contents are in good shape, this is problematic. Even if it came off perfectly clean, it’s hard to prove there were no shenanigans when the collectible isn’t completely sealed in place. If it’s partially attached, but there’s still room for the item to be removed, it can affect value.


creaseLight Creasing – This is a fold that in the card that is light enough to easily return to its original shape, but may have left a scar where the fold occurred. Usually there is no discoloration or missing material.


crunched cornerCrunched Corner – It’s pretty common for at least one corner of a box to be a little bit crunched in. How much that matters to a collector depends on whether anything is torn or discolored, if the seal is broken at all, or if the damage is on the back or bottom where it won’t be seen while on display.


broken sealBroken Seal – Some boxed items have a tape seal of some sort to indicate it’s never been opened. You can have a perfect bobblehead in a perfect box, but to some folks that piece of tape makes a huge difference in value.


price stickerPrice Sticker/Sticker Residue – Price stickers added by the store are fairly rare today, but were very common years ago. To some, such stickers are a blight, but the alternative can be just as bad… sticky goop, discolored patches, or small tears in the surface.


factory sealed hologramMissing Hologram (or other identifying stickers) – Some newer models are supposed to come with a hologram sticker to indicate authenticity or some other status, such as an extremely limited run. If it’s missing or damaged, the value of the item can be lower. Also, if the sticker is placed on crooked at the factory, that can unfortunately make it less desirable.


cut blister card

Cut Card – Why do people do this? Occasionally you’ll see an older diecast car still in the blister, attached to the card…. or what’s left of the card. Was it for storage space? To send in an offer or proof of purchase seals? It’s still a mint car, but dang!


What other common imperfections do you run into either as a buyer or seller? Let us know in the comments and we might add it to our list.

Customizer Ernest “Boulevard Aces” Garza dies at 51

Ernest Boulevard Aces GarzaA prominent member of automotive and diecast culture, Ernest “Boulevard Aces” Garza, passed away recently. He was best known for his involvement with custom cars and organizing lowrider shows in the Dallas area, but he was also the Founder and Creator of Texas Hot Wheels.

He loved to share his ideas with other customizers, including small scale ones, brainstorming on designs and graphics. He also just liked the camaraderie of collecting and talking about the Hot Wheels with other members. Garza was also a User and contributor on hobbyDB in its early years.

You can see him hosting numerous videos on Youtube talking about shows and other aspects of car culture.

Ernest Boulevard Aces GarzaKirk Smith of KMJ diecast was one of his good friends and sent us this memorial image. “Ernest was so very happy when he received this Mike Lashley Custom Combo – 2 of his favorite castings – the 83 Chevy Silverado and the 55 Chevy Gasser,” said Kirk. “He loved the pinkies!”

 

Thanks To Elon Musk, There’s a Hot Wheels Tesla In Space

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

In an amazing combination of science, art, and promotion, a pair of Tesla Roadsters were shot into orbit last week by SpaceX. Elon Musk, head honcho of SpaceX and Tesla (as well as Solar City and Boring, a company whose flamethrowers are decidedly not boring) volunteered his red roadster for their mission.

Wait, a PAIR of Teslas? Yep, on board Musk’s used car is a Hot Wheels replica of the car.

Tesla in spaceIt’s hard to spot in photos, but on center of the dashboard is a small red object. That’s the 1/64 car, including a driver figure matching the mannequin who sits behind the wheel of the real car. In a nod to David Bowie, the pilot (clad in a SpaceX flight suit) is named Starman, and Bowie’s classic “Life on Mars?” blasts from the stereo.

The voyage of the Teslas will possibly continue for generations to come. Instead of orbiting the Earth, the car was sent on a trajectory around the Sun. As such, it will not come crashing down anytime soon. To get an idea of how freaking cool this whole thing is, you can watch an animation of the launch and deployment (sadly, the toy car isn’t rendered in the video). And if you have one of those apps that allows you to identify heavenly bodies, you can track it as Space Object “tesla_s3”.

hot wheels tesla in spaceThis venture isn’t as ridiculous as it sounds. It’s standard practice for the first orbital launch of a new rocket to include some sort of dummy payload. Most launches feature a more traditional looking, but non functional satellite. Musk thought it would be a lot more interesting to send his car into space instead.

“Normally, when a new rocket is tested, they put something really boring on like a block of concrete or a chunk of steel or something,” Musk told CBS News. “All that’s pretty boring. What’s the most fun thing we could put on because this is just a test flight? We’re not going to put any valuable satellites on board. So, the car is just the most fun thing we could think of.”

Actually, the Hot Wheels car is the most fun part for some of us!

More Colorful Model Car Brands You Might Not Have Heard Of

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

A while ago, we shared a list of unusual Model Car Brands with strange histories. The response we got was terrific, so we did another list. Since then, we’ve dug up enough other odd brands to compile yet another batch of model and toy cars you may have forgotten (if you ever heard of them at all.) All in all, this round of models comes from seven different countries if you’re counting!

Dream Become True

Dream Become TrueNo, that’s not a typo, it’s just clunky translation. This company started as “Dream Become True”, possibly playing off Chinese auto company Build Your Dream. They then changed it to “Dream Becomes True” which is still kinda clunky. Their main offerings are Model Cars in 1/32 and 1/24 scale, which are fairly detailed and include working parts as well as lights and sounds.They also make some pretty basic models of mostly high end exotic cars in 1/64, including about the only model of the Koenigsegg CCX available and, even if the doors don’t open correctly.

Gay Toys

gay toys school busSimple, inexpensive toys molded in color… what could go wrong? The sheer coincidence of the name unfortunately became a headache for the company, (parental objections, etc.) so they didn’t produce many models under this brand. And well, when you try to do a search online for them, well, just make sure you keep “safe search” turned on. Even better, look for them on hobbyDB instead.

Quiralu

QuiraluQuiralu models were made in France in the 1950s and ’60s and included several microcars. The company and their models went into hibernation for many years until the original molds were resurrected in the late ’90s. They were used again to make a limited number of models with the same body castings but slightly different tinplate base and window glazing. The colors for each generation are often loud and fun.

Radon

radon model carThe name Radon probably doesn’t have any strange connotations in Russian like it does in other parts of the world. These cars are cold war relics, from a Russian state factory. They are mostly 1:43 scale diecast Soviet vehicles, including marques that aren’t likely to be reproduced in any other country. As a bonus, they do a lot of limos and other service vehicles, which are always neat to look at.

Rextoys

rextoysThis Portugal based company is best known for their models of 1930s American cars. Detail is simple, but the cars sometimes come with well-known passengers… You can get the Cadillac V16 Convertible with President Franklin D. Roosevelt riding in the back, or, if you prefer, Italian actress Cicciolina. But not together, even though that would be really awesome!

Simba

SimbaThey Farbwechsel when they Temperaturwechsel! Simba, despite the very elephantine name, was a German company that made mostly models of German marques. Their color change cars were revolutionary at the time, as they were among the first where the color depended on the temperature of the water.

Smelly Speeders

Maisto Smelly SpeedersSure, these look like standard Majorette models. Except they have some odd color combinations, especially the brightly colored tires. And when you open them, well, the reason for the name becomes obvious. Each car was scented in generally favorable aromas such as coconut or strawberry, not unlike those emanating from your car air freshener. Unfortunately, if you find one in the package, there’s a good chance the scent has worn off over the decades.

Tomte-Laerdal

Tomte-LaerdalStarting in the 1940s, this company produced primarily models of German cars but also one of an American military Jeep. Bodies were made of a single piece of rubbery plastic in a single color (some look kind of swirly) with a separate clear windshield in some cases. Details were crude at best. Later models mostly eschewed the clear parts for solid molded windows. Based on their Datsun 240Z model, it’s safe to say they were still making these at least into the early 1970s.

Starmada

StarmadaStarmada is fairly new to the model car business, debuting at the International Toy Fair in Nuremberg in 2009. They offer mostly European marques with a heavy emphasis on Mercedes-Benz. These are sold under the name Brekina in many countries. Two really neat things about them… they make a lot of odd body styles such as limousines and hearses. And if you can believe it from the photos, these cars are 1/87 scale, some of the most detailed cars you can get for an HO railroad.

Victory Industrial Products

Victory Industrial ProductsVictory Industrial Products or VIP was a small company that began its life during the second world war in a boat house which stood directly alongside Kingston Bridge in Hampton Wick near London. It was founded by two men, Captain William John Warren and Gerald Fenner Burgoyne who set up the company to manufacture small electrical components for the Ministry of Supply. Not quite nanotechnology, but the components were useful for making model trains, 1:20 plastic models and 1:32 slot cars. They were mostly odd, utilitarian cars, but charming in a huge way.

Do you have any favorite odd brands we haven’t covered in these articles yet? Let us know in the comments!