Miniatures news, April 1989

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Heavy metal

In recent months we have been concentrating on the budget end of the model market, with mass-produced 1/24-scale plastic kits and 1/43-scale ready-built die-casts. There is, however, another sector of the market which is less prosaic and generally based on products manufactured by small (often one man and a kitchen table) specialist companies: 1/43-scale white-metal or resin kits.

Mass-producers will churn out hundreds of thousands of examples of models which are guaranteed to sell in appropriately large numbers (just see how many Williams, Lotus and Porsche kits are currently available in your local toyshop). The small concerns, meanwhile, try to fill, in production runs of 500 units or less, the gaps which are left in the grid — in other words, most of it!

Naturally, the labour-intensive nature of the manufacture and the specialist demand (how many people want a model of the 1939 Monte Carlo-winning Hotchkiss 20CV?) is reflected in the prices of these kits, which are generally £15-20. But for that you are getting something that is eminently collectable and, with care and patience, will build into a little gem, and you can usually be sure that the detail will be absolutely correct.

One of the most respected of the “white-metal men” is 26-year-old Italian Luca Tameo, who from his Borgio Verezzi base has long been producing some of the finest kits on the market. Under his own Tameo label he has modelled a steady flow of sports-racing and Grand Prix machinery. Always up-to-date, Tameo has already produced (or is planning to release soon) the bulk of the 1988 Formula One grid.

At least two of the omissions appear strange: the McLaren MP4/4 and Benetton B188 DFR. Also not represented are Ligier, Tyrrell, EuroBrun and Dallara. However, the simple explanation is that these have also been modelled in Tameo’s studio, but marketed under the label of his friendly rival Meri Kits, with the catalogue numbers of MK109 and MK114.

Even so, there are lots of nice rarities in the collection. Note the launch version of the interim 31/2-litre Ferrari, the “tobacco-free” Silverstone Lotus in Courtaulds livery, and the AGS JH23, as it appeared in Brazil in white Bouygues-sponsored coachwork.

Interestingly Meri Kits McLaren MP4/4 is also soon to make a re-appearance under the Tameo banner (with a catalogue number of WCT88) as the first issue in a planned new series representing every past Grand Prix World Championship-winning car. Also in the pipeline is a series of Indycars, starting with Rick Mears’ Pennzoil Penske Chevrolet PC17 and Danny Sullivan’s 1988 Championship-winning sister-car in Miller Lite colours. Following soon are the bulk of the 1988 CART entries, with a selection of Judd, Chevrolet or Porsche-engined Marches and Lolas.

All the kits sell for around £16 and come with crisp detailed mouldings, though some work will be needed to clean up the smaller parts, and all have full sets of high-quality decals and some good photo-etched components to complete the package. The tricky bit is to get your hands on one of them, for Tameo has no official importer in the UK. All is not lost though, because Brian Harvey, the proprietor of Grand Prix Models of Radlett, Hertfordshire, regularly receives supplies. He can be contacted on 09276-2828. IB

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