Slot Cars Posts

Odd, Obscure, Out-of-the-Ordinary: 10 More Unusual Model Car Brands

Ron Ruelle hobbyDB

Over the past couple of years, we’ve 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. Some of these unusual model car brands have strange histories, some occupy weird niches, and some of them make really exquisite models. What they have in common is that you haven’t heard of most of them… until now.aurora vibrators

Aurora Vibrators

The original early 1960s Aurora slot cars were slow, and not really ideal for racing. And they emitted a loud buzzing noise, resulting in the name “Vibrators.” Yikes! In the mid 1960s, the company upgraded the chassis for performance with faster engines and wider tires (which sometimes required cutting a bigger fender opening on older castings. And despite the loud name, the new ThunderJet chassis was also much quieter.

AJ’s Race Savers

aj's race saversSpeaking of slot cars, AJ’s was best known for their accessories and “hop-up” kits to make your cars perform better. They created their own segment of slot vehicle, however, with the Oscar Track Cleaner. These were futuristic street cleaner designs that actually functioned to clean the metal electrical rails in the tracks. The design was expanded to add ambulances and other trackside vehicles. Neat and clean!

Maxwell Toys

maxwell toysVehicles from this Calcutta brand fell into two categories: crude knockoffs of other diecast brands like Matchbox and Tootsietoy, or crude original models inspired by other diecast brands. There is something sadly funny about the ill-fitting, weirdly proportioned parts that makes you want to give them a home. Also, the box art is pretty great across the board.

Fine model

This was a curious brand from Japan… Every modestly detailed 1/43 car they made appears to be a sedan shape. No fastbacks, convertibles, wagons, trucks. Just sensible, Japanese sedans. Nothing fancy. Just, well, Fine.

Kawabata Kikaku

Kawabata Kikaku mazda cosmoLike Fine Models, this company made only models of 1/43 JDM vehicles. Unlike Fine, they were a bit better detailed and had a lot more variety, including sports cars, wagons, ragtops, and even a nice miniature of the legendarily strange and wonderful Mazda Cosmo.

Nakajima Dreamcar

Nakajima DreamcarAnother obscure Japanese brand, this company thought outside the box. Their niche was fantastic concept cars like the Ferrari Modulo or the Fiat Abarth Coupe 2000. These are cars that largely don’t exist from other diecast companies, so they are rather unusual.

Amaze-A-Matics

hasbro amaze a maticsIn the late ’60s, Hasbro produced “The Fantastic Car with a Brain.” These models were propelled by a drive system similar to an old computer punch card that dictated when the car would turn, stop or back up. The first batch included an early GT-40 and three very rare American concept cars. In fact, this might be the only model of the Buick Century Cruiser show car ever made. Later models (a Dune Buggy and a VW Beetle) were designed for customization including larger rear wheels and other features. These were released as Computacars by Mettoys in the U.K.

Wiz-z-zers Spin Buggys

This was a spin-off from another toy… literally. In the early ‘70s, Mattel created a line of gyroscopic spinning tops called Wiz-z-zers. Instead of the old method of pulling a string to spin the top, these had a built in friction motor with intense gearing that would let them spin for a really long time when revved up on that delicate hardwood floor. (Sorry Mom and Dad!) As cool as that was, the company also made the Spin Buggys (sic), a pair of vehicles that were motivated by firing up the top and dropping it into a hole in the roof so it engaged the rear axle for instant acceleration. You could choose from a blue funny car-esque model or an orange C-Cab delivery van. Both were made of thin, lightweight, flexible plastic, so while they moved quickly, they were also very delicate and few examples have likely survived.

The Essence Of The Car

essence of the carThis is a case where odd is beautiful. Imagine illustrating the most iconic features of a unique classic car in a few brush strokes… The Essence of The Car basically does that in 3 dimensions. These models are really abstract sculptures that use minimal shapes to unmistakably capture, well, the essence of a particular design.

Avon

avon mail jeepSure, you could give your 1970s man aftershave for Fathers Day or his birthday… but if that scented, burning liquid came in a car-shaped bottle, even better. Avon offered their wares in all kinds of shapes (including a mail box for the “First Class Male.”) But the most collectible were the vehicle based ones such as a Ferrari, Jaguar XKE, Corvette, and a U.S. Mail Jeep for that “Extra Special Male.”

Did you have any of these when they were new? Do you collect them now? Let us know in the comments!

Elva is Newest/Oldest Official Archive on hobbyDB

elva gt160 modelsElva, a British Sports and Racing Car manufacturer, is the latest Official Archive to appear on hobbyDB.  This Archive is a little different, though, as the company’s last car was produced almost fifty years ago. But the Elva name lives on under the tutelage of Roger Dunbar (a.k.a.. ElvaRacingRoger), who is currently reviving the name for a new production car. He also happens to be the Curator of the brand on hobbyDB.

If you’re not familiar with Elva, that’s understandable. And unfortunate, as Elva made a series of relatively inexpensive race cars as well as production models of small, fast, sports cars. The name comes from Elle Va, French for “she goes.” Their early sports racing cars were seen on circuits on both sides of the pond, used for hill climbs and budget-minded racing series such as Formula Junior. Faster is usually better, so Elva race cars were found mingling with Lotus, Cooper and all the other serious manufacturers of the period.  The cars were continually upgraded and used a number of power units including Coventry Climax, Ford, Cosworth, DKW, Porsche, BMW, the V8 grunt from Buick and Chevrolet to make lightweight race winning cars. The cars are still raced around the world, often still bringing home trophies.

elva service truck

Roger Dunbar drives the Elva Service Truck to historic races and other events to fly the flag.

There was enough early success on the track to create their first road car, the sporty 1958 Courier roadster. It was essentially a front mid engine car using MGA ‘B-Series’ engines combined with swoopy, gorgeous fiberglas coachwork.  Development of the sports racing cars continued during the 1960s, New models included the beautiful GT160 coupe that attracted much attention but due to competition rules changing, just three prototypes were built.

elva headerDunbar’s history with Elva is extensive. He has been with the company since 1970s, and in 1986, formed the Company Elva Racing to provide specialist parts and undertake vintage restorations and race preparation. “This involved in particular the marque’s sports racing cars and the Courier models on both sides of the Atlantic,” he said. “Elva Racing Models was just an extension of the intense interest in the marque.”

elva gt160 coupe

The Archive features information on the real cars, as well as various scale models. Many of the cars are made by Axel’R with cooperation from Dunbar. “We’ve commissioned various 1/43rd models of the GT160, Elva-Porsche, and Elva-BMW sports racers in different formats.” He said. As for what cars to expect for future scale offerings, Dunbar says “Whatever will attract interest and that we haven’t covered yet.  However there has to be an Elva connection.”

elva mclaren kitsIn the 1960s, slot car manufacturers produced a number of excellent kits of the McLaren-Elva series. Monogram, Tamiya, and AMT also offered some of their cars in 1/24 scale kit form.

As for Dunbar’s favorite full size vehicle, his answer is kind of tricky… “It’s the lovely old 1947 Elva Engineering van, which is a Morris Commercial type PV,” he said. So, not a sports car, but an exact replica of the support van for the original company. It can often be seen at Goodwood and other events. “I commissioned a stunning 1/43rd scale model of the full size van. We also have the Ford E83W pickup. Both of these vehicles represent the original workhorses used by Elva Engineering in the late 1950’s.” Of the more sporty cars, he would choose the Elva GT160.

elva truck models

There is a surprisingly bulky award winning book detailing the history of the company available via David Bull Publishing entitled “Elva: The Cars, The People, The History” by Janos Wimpffen.

While the new Elva road/track car is close to being announced (and perhaps a model of it will be appropriate sometime) it’s nice to know there are faithfully produced models of the previous era available and maybe others on the way. “I have worked with various very talented model makers based in the UK and Europe who have skillfully produced excellent models on our behalf,” said Dunbar. “I’m always happy to hear from people who have an interest in Elva.”

Have you ever owned an Elva car? Big fan of the marque? Let us know in the comments!

Guest Collector Highlight – ‘Slot Colin’ Hughes

This article was originally featured at safestore.com, a provider of personal and household self storage – something a lot of us collectors need 😉

Every once in awhile we come across a collector’s story that just seems to make sense to us. So when we came across an article that opens up with, “anything that’s got four wheels that looks good” we continued on and wanted to share this fun collector highlight with you.

Slot Car Collection

When asked how he felt about his collection being photographed Colin Hughes said, “I’ve never seen them all out of the box in one go…So I’m really looking forward to taking the whole collection out and talking about it.”

For self proclaimed car fanatic Colin Hughes, collecting began as it does for many of us, with a hobby. Colin’s hobby, slot cars.

Of getting into collecting he says, “I started collecting cars about 6 months after getting into racing. The cars were being damaged and I liked them when they were pristine so I started buying one to race and one to go on the shelf.”

Slot Car Collector - Colin Hughes

Colin is also passing on his passion for collecting to his kids by collecting LEGO, Skylander and Disney Infinity toys with his children.

Now Colin has amassed one of the largest slot car collections in the UK, with over 1,200 cars, it includes everything from classic rally to modern GT, LeMans, and prototypes; he even has a sterling silver Dodge Viper (with an edition size of 300!). Our friends over at Safestore (The largest self storage provider in the UK and second largest in Europe) interviewed and did a write up of Colin in their “Stuff is Great” blog series.

Colin seems very much the typical father of two and when asked about owning one of the largest collections of slot cars in the UK, he very humbly responds, “I’m just Slot Colin.”

That answer doesn’t do him or his collection justice and we never would have known his story if not for the safestore blog. A fun, quick read that highlights a fellow collector and shows that the love of collecting is alive, well and still being passed from generation to generation.

Check out the full highlight of Colin: ‘Meet Slot Colin’

 


 

Auto-Archives Car of the Month — 1975 Porsche 911 RSR

Throughout the late 1960s and early 70s, the factory Porsche race team was extremely successful with their 908, 917, 917/10 and 917/30 models. However, these larger capacity prototypes were extremely expensive for the small Porsche factory team to build and develop, and, as a result, Porsche did not have a competitive car ready for the new, 1973 endurance championship class being run for 3.0-litre cars.

Up against the prototypes such the Ferrari 312, the Matra-Simca MS670, and the Alfa Romeo Tipo 33, the old Porsche 908 and the aerodynamically handicapped 911 had no real chance, so Porsche Racing concentrated it’s efforts on the next generation 911, and it’s development for the upcoming world endurance championship for Group 5 cars. Amazingly, 1973 would however, see two outright victories for a 2.8-litre Porsche RSR in the World Championship for Makes. Peter Gregg and Hurley Haywood took victory at the Daytona 24-hours, and later in the year, the pairing of Herbert Müller and Gijs van Lennep scored an historic win at the Targa Florio race, held on the tortuous, 45-mile circuit that wound its way round the mountains of Sicily.

For 1974 Porsche developed a 3.0-litre version of the RSR, and in 1974 and 1975 they built 59 examples of the Carrera RSR race car that would be sold to privateer race teams while the works were developing the new Group 4 and 5 race cars, the 934 and 935. The car on display here is RSR chassis no. 005 0005 (1975, fifth car), amongst the most successful of the RSRs built and raced in that two year period. The bright-orange, Jägermeister sponsored car, designated an RSK (K for Kremer) by the team, may look like any one of those 59 RSRs, but it is actually a very special chassis, one of two cars developed for the 1975 racing season by the famous Kremer brothers, Manfred and Erwin of Porsche Kremer in Cologne, Germany. Built to race in the German Rennsport DRM Championship the three main drivers of the instantly recognisable, bright-orange car were Helmut Kelleners, Hans Heyer, and Bob Wollek. Kelleners drove in all but three of the 19 races the car competed in during 1975, taking one race victory, two second place finishes and three third places. All three drivers were in the car for a hugely significant class win at the Nürburgring 1000km in June, and Heyer also took second at the Nürburgring Super-Sprint race in September. Josef Brambring, who drove the car just the once during 1975, finished third at the final race of the season at Hockenheim.

For the 1976 season, 0005 was sold to Edgar Doren, repainted white with red and blue striping, and driven by him throughout the year. He finished the 1976 DRM season in 15th place with 55 points. The car then passed through the hands of several other European teams before being sold and shipped to a US-based owner Charles Slater in 1994. After having owned and raced the car for 18 years, in 2011 Slater decided to end a long and successful relationship and the car moved to a new owner and underwent a full, bare-shell restoration. In 2014 this significantly historic, and now highly-valuable car passed into the ownership of Colorado based collector Andrew Larson. He has raced the car at several Vintage events throughout the country and in September of 2015 the car was seen at Rennsport V with none other than works Porsche driver and winner of the 1977 Le Mans 24-hours, Jürgen Barth behind the wheel.

Auto-Archives Car of the Month — 1958 Packard Hawk

The Packard Hawk was the sportiest of the four Packard-badged Studebakers produced in 1958, the final year of Packard production. In 1956, the Studebaker-Packard company was in financial trouble and the Curtiss Wright Corporation was put in charge of management. Everything was consolidated to the Studebaker plants in South Bend, Indiana. The 1957-1958 Packard models were essentially rebadged and retrimmed Studebakers. With a top speed of 125mph, the fastest Packard ever built, the 1958 Hawk was constructed around the 1957 Studebaker Golden Hawk 400, with a re-styled fiberglass front hood and nose, bonded to the stock steel fenders.

Instead of the Studebaker Hawk’s upright Mercedes-style grille, the Packard Hawk had a wide, low opening just above the front bumper covering the whole width of the car. Above this, a smoothly sloping nose, and hood—reminiscent of the 1953 Studebakers, but with a bulge as on the Golden Hawk—accommodated the engine’s McCulloch supercharger that gave the Studebaker 289in (4,700cc) V8 a total of 275bhp. At the rear, the sides of the fins were coated in metallized PET (Mylar) film, giving them a shiny metallic gold appearance and a fake spare-tire cover adorned the 1953-style, Studebaker deck lid.Widely spaced PACKARD lettering appeared across the lower section of the nose, and a gold Packard emblem in script—along with a Hawk badge—on the trunk lid and enormous tailfins. The interior was fully equipped with a striking leather design, and a full compliment of instruments was installed in an turned-aluminum dash. A swept-spoke Packard-branded wheel was also fitted. As on early aircraft and custom boats, padded armrests were mounted outside the windows, a rare touch.

The styling which was definitely controversial, and often described as ‘vacuum-cleaner’ or ‘catfish’ by detractors has come to be appreciated much more today, than on its debut. Only 588 examples of the 1958 Hawk were built, with Packard’s impending demise a likely contributing factor, rather than a lack of interest from the buying public. Most examples were equipped with the Borg-Warner three-speed automatic transmission, but something approaching 28 cars were produced with the B-WT85 3-speed w/overdrive manual transmission.

Studebaker-Packard was the first manufacturer to popularize the limited slip differential, which they termed Twin-Traction, and most Packard Hawks came with TT. It was certainly the fastest Packard ever sold, since it shared the majority of its components with Studebaker’s Golden Hawk. The list price with taxes and delivery was $3995, about $700 higher than the Studebaker model, but certainly value for money considering the more luxurious interior. Electric window-lifts and power seats (fitted on the car you see here) were optional extras.

Its rarity and status as the best-regarded of the ‘Packardbaker’ final-year cars have in recent years certainly made the Packard Hawk a highly sought after collectible classic. Values are roughly double those of the equivalent Studebaker, and because a Studebaker drivetrain was used, the mechanical parts needed to keep a Hawk on the road are more readily available. The Hawk is now a realistic car to put serious money into a restoration, and without doubt, is a unique car, worthy of a place in any significant collection of 50s vehicles.

 

Presenting...Portrait of Craftsmanship in Action

 

The stunning 1958 Packard Hawk on display here is owned by Carey and Peggy Dietz of Arvada, Colorado. They have been caretakers of the car since 2007 when Carey’s father, who had owned the car since late 2000 decided it was too much of a responsibility for him to drive his “Baby” any more. Carey tells us the story of how his father came to own such an unusual car. “Back in 1982 my roommate showed me a magazine called Car Collector and Car Classics that featured a beautiful Packard Caribbean Classic on the cover. An eternal optimist, he went on to tell me “That’s what my car is going to look like when it is done.” Considering his car had rust holes everywhere I was somewhat skeptical to say the least. Well he did do it, eventually, and it really is beautiful!

Moving forward to 2000, my father called me and told me he was looking for a classic car to keep at his Florida residence for 6-months a year, and, since Packard had always been his favorite car, that is what he wanted. I pictured him driving a stylish 1930s open car, but before you knew it he had bought the one-owner Hawk from a widow in Las Vegas! The partly restored car needed to be painted and have the chrome re-fitted, but needed little else to bring it up to the sleek, stylish, show standard car you see here. On a visit to Denver my dad happened to stop in an antique store and find a copy of that very same magazine. It features a Packard Hawk on page 19!