Marcus Nicholls examines fine Belgian rally car kits
Rally car kits in 1:24 scale were a staple of Tamiya’s catalogue for many years, covering a wide range from 1960s Monte Carlo Mini Coopers to Richard Burns’s 2001 Subaru Impreza. In more recent times, however, Tamiya’s output has slowed to a trickle: enter Belkits, a small Belgian company launched by Lozie Patrick in 2009 (with Kris Meeke’s Peugeot 207 S2000). While Belkits initially intended its first release to be a resin model, its products use the same injection-moulded polystyrene production technique as Tamiya, Hasegawa, Revell and other mainstream manufacturers.
When done well, injection-moulding makes car models far more accessible, affordable and perhaps less intimidating to those who might not possess the specialist skills to complete a resin model, many of whose assembly requirements can be a major fiddle.
But tooling up for injection moulding incurs far higher costs than for short-run resin, so the manufacturer has to have complete confidence that its chosen car will sell well enough to offset the initial investment. Rally cars seemed to be a winning genre and keeping things current – initially at least – was the way to go.
The first car, the aforementioned Meeke 207, is still available and comes in a form that will be recognisable to anyone who has built a Tamiya kit; a compact box full of moulded plastic frames carrying the chassis, suspension and cabin parts (replica engines are not provided), soft, synthetic rubber tyres and crystal-clear windows, plus waterslide decals. The latter require trimming individually, soaking in tap water for a minute or so and sliding into place.
Something extra was also in the box: photo-etched metal components. This production process uses the same basic steps as printed circuit board manufacture but without the backing board, so when etched in acid, the thin metal (usually nickel-steel) forms delicate and in-scale parts, ideal for appropriately thin windscreen wipers, seat-harness buckles and more.
The company’s next car model was the 2010 Monte Carlo Rally-winning Ford Fiesta S2000 of Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen, again in the standard 1:24 scale. As with the Peugeot, a huge amount of research and back-and-forth approvals between Belkits and the manufacturer took place, a long and often tedious process but one that ensures that the profile and overall ‘stance’ of the model is captured.
After the Ford the 2012 Škoda Fabia S2000 Evo was launched, with the now-standard, ultra-realistic photo-etched/fabric seat harnesses and an imposing quad-light assembly for night stages. An accessory pack was made available for separate purchase, comprising new suspension parts, wheels, tyres and even mudflaps for gravel stages – a nice touch for those who want to transform the look of the model. And, as they were made by the same manufacturer, they fitted perfectly, something that cannot always be said of aftermarket add-ons.
Belkits has gone on to produce the 2015 VW Polo R WRC and also a number of rallying classics. To the delight of many modellers, Roger Clark’s 1972 Ford RS1600 Mk1 has been launched and there will very soon be a Group B Opel Manta 400 from the Tour de Corse 1984 – manna for modellers of a certain age.
In the UK, Belkits models are distributed and imported by The Hobby Company and can be purchased through Hiroboy; www.hiroboy.com