Model Cars Posts

Majorette Moves to Become A Major Player in U.S. Market

majorette blister cardDiecast hunters at Toys R Us may have recently noticed a familiar old brand they haven’t seen in almost two decades. Majorette, which has not been sold in the U.S. since 1999, is making a comeback. “Toys R Us was looking to introduce a diecast line different from what all other mass retailers had,” said Brand Ambassador Andy Goodman. “Knowing the quality and longevity of the brand (it started in 1964) TRU worked with their parent company, Simba-Dickie Group, to strike a partnership to bring the very popular European brand back to U.S. collectors.”

majorette boxster challenger lamborghini

Many new Majorette models include opening doors or engine covers.

During their absence, Majorette made the move from toylike models to more of a collector brand. Their vehicles are in still in the 3-inch range, which is around 1/64. Scales vary for each one, and are still marked on the bottom of each model, a tradition for the brand. But they are now much more accurately proportioned and detailed than what you might remember from your youth.

Majorette Mercedes

Majorette’s diecast cars in the 1970s, such as this Mercedes 450 SE, had more toy-like proportions.

“I really think everything was toy like in the 60’s 70’s – not many people were collecting model cars back then,” said Goodman.  “Collectors were becoming a recognizable group with a presence in  ’80s and ’90s, and they wanted realistic replicas of their favorite and dream vehicles. Majorette noticed and began to deliver the accuracy the community was looking for.”

majorette subaru wrx

Majorette’s newer models, like this Subaru WRX STI, are more accurately scaled and detailed than their early efforts.

The brand has always been popular in Europe but never made the same impact in the States. Part of the reason was a lack of models based on American marques, which they have addressed lately. For the past several years, the Camaro, Ford F-150 and Mustang have been among their most popular cars. Their stable still includes less common models as the Audi A1, Mercedes G Wagon, and Jaguar F Type as a way to differentiate them from other diecast companies.

majorette f150 camaro

The relaunch includes more American marques such as the Ford F-150 and Chevy Camaro.

Collectors should appreciate the value of these models as well. They are designed to retail for around $3.49, but can often be found for even less in some stores. Not bad for models of this kind of quality.

As for upcoming plans, Majorette has signed on as a sponsor for the upcoming Diecast Hall of Fame awards, so attendees can experience their offerings up close. “Majorette also has a great partnership planned for 2018 with Toys R Us,” said Goodman. “You’ll see the launch of the internationally popular Dubai Police Line, their Vintage collection and a special raw collection that’s to debut in the U.S. market first.” Those are some welcome and major developments in the world of diecast.

Did you have a favorite Majorette model when you were a kid? Let us know in the comments!

These ’65 Chevies Are Better Than The Real Thing!

Over the past few years, we’ve contributed articles to Die CastX magazine for publication on their website and in their quarterly print edition. We hope you enjoy our comparison of two Chevelle-based cars from 1965.

diecastx chevelle and el camino

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

The 1964 Chevelle was a pleasant and sporty mid-sized car, but fell just a bit short of being an exciting ride. Chevrolet quickly fixed that for ’65 with a more aggressive front end and some beefier engine options. For some reason, scale models of both years have been scarce compared to other years.

It only took about 40 years until Lane Exact Detail Replicas came out with a ’65 El Camino …  No one had offered a model of this year Chevelle, Malibu or El Camino before, and Lane offered versions of all of them. They retailed for over $100, a price that brought not only amazing detail, but limited availability of only 1500 copies.

Lane 1965 El CaminoAround the same time, American Muscle released a 1/18 scale Malibu SS model from their Authentics line. This car retailed for around $65, for which the buyer also got some incredible detail.

ertl 1965 Mailbu ssThe exteriors of both cars show excellent fit and finish, including different levels of shine on the grill as needed. Details like the headlights, marker lamps, and door handles are separate bits, carefully installed for extra realism. The El Camino features separately molded chrome trim on the sides and around the bed and windows. Each car also features a radio antenna that can be raised or lowered. As nice as these look so far, you really have to open them up to appreciate the quality of these models. By the way, the doors a realistically hinged, and the Malibu even has a tiny sprung button that holds them shut.

Lane 1965 El CaminoThe interior of the El Camino is astonishing. The vinyl seats have a realistic sheen and feature separate seatbelts with detailed buckles. The passenger seat flips forward to reveal the spare tire. Every texture from the metal dash to the roof liner (a detail found on both cars) is well done. You can even see the texture and logos on the “Body by Fisher” kick plates. American Muscle’s interior is also of much higher quality than their regular, particularly the simulated wood steering wheel, flocked carpets, and readable gauges.

Lane 1965 El CaminoThe Elco’s engine detail is full of surprises, with some very finely detailed and fragile parts throughout. The radiator cap, which is multicolored, has a small hose running back to the plastic reservoir, which is painted to look like it’s half full of fluid. There’s even a plate where the hood pin latches to the body. Best bit of all might be the tiny replica of the glass GM washer fluid bottle, complete with labels.

ertl a925 Mailbu ssThe Malibu isn’t too far behind under the hood, with far more separately molded and colored components than you usually find in a model. One detail that really stands out when the hood is up is the photo etched metal grill insert, which lends an incredibly deep bit of detail to the front end. Another thing you might not have noticed: The hood hinges work like the real car, complete with springs.

ertl a925 Mailbu ssSpeaking of hinges, the hood hinges on the El Camino are the type you usually find on a 1/18 scale model, but the tailgate is another matter. When you lower the gate, there are very thin folding metal straps that drop into place like a real pickup. The Malibu counters that with a trunk complete with houndstooth floormat, spare tire and printed jack instructions.

Lane 1965 El CaminoUnderneath, both cars show some innovative detail. The El Camino has quite a few separately colored components instead of the usual single-piece chassis molded in black. The Malibu has some great working features including separately sprung suspension on each wheel and a driveshaft that turns when rolled. Both cars were pioneers in packaging that didn’t require ugly mounting tabs and screw holes, so they deserve a lot of credit here.

ertl a925 Mailbu ssLane 1965 El CaminoThe attention to detail makes it hard to choose one of these ’65 Chevies over the other. Maybe get the Malibu for the lower price and grab the Elco because you can’t get one elsewhere. Then marvel at both.

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.