Miniature news 2

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Sir,

The article on Miniature News in your May issue prompts Me to air some considerations. The only virtue that white metal models (kit or ready assembled) have, is that they attempt to fill the space on your shelf with a model you wish you had—and these are numerous. Their disadvantages however are plenty and considerable, and I wish to point them out, even though I have been fool enough to collect white metal moulds up to now. First, are the prices. They are exorbitant. If you opt for the finished model instead of the kit, which some makers offer, the Price becomes astronomic. And if this is considered in relation to the quality, you’ll realise you have been taken for a ride. If you consider what makers such as Rio offer for less than is quarter of the price, you’ll break into anger or a fit of crying. Secondly, lack of detail will smack you in the eye when compared to models by the great zamac manufacturers (Rio, Solido, Schuco, Lesney’s Yesteryear and even Corgi come to mind). Some are finicky enough to reproduce period tyre patterns on faithfully reproduced wheels that even turn. The reproduction of detail on the bodywork of the white metal models is often non-existent or very faint, often very rough, mould lines are difficult to get rid of., wheels are often static and may not be strong enough to bear the weight of the hunk of metal the model is made of. Tyres are often not round and ill-fitting on wheel rims, themselves badly reproduced. Some wheels and tyres are just one piece of metal, the tyre being made out only by the different colour of paint finish. Glass window reproduction is horrible, ill-fitting and gives the model a “bubbly” look. Bases and interiors are crude in the extreme. Items such as lights, bumpers, aerosereens, exhausts, etc., can hardly be touched for fear of falling off. Should the model accidentally fall, the resultant mess is nothing short of tragic. Thirdly, kit assembly to obtain a decent model requires patience out of this world and an unusual degree of skill. By the time one becomes an expert at assembly, several models would either have been ruined or start looking very lame indeed. Assembly of most of these white metal kits (except the very simplest) is a craftsman’s job and requires such tools too. The prices asked by people who have settled for doing just assembly are real fancy prices, and they cannot do otherwise The advantages attributed to white metal models of having correct decals, aerofoils, aeroscreens, outside mirrors, all in the correct places on racing and sports cars, and other such fiddly details, are far outweighed by the price you would have paid for a mediocre model which just manages to look right more by a correct paint job, hut has all the above disadvantages.

When one considers all this, the value for money which the big die-cast model makers give, suggests that at twice today’s prices we would get a better and fairer deal from them than from the white metal model makers. From this point f view, / am surprised how Lesney can manage with their prices. Their spoked wheels alone are worth half the money they charge for the whole superb models. (I realise that parents buying “toys” may think differently, hut mine is a collector’s point of view, and the big manufacturers have repeatedly hinted that we do not form a worthwhile slice of their market). All manufacturers’ zamac models can be improved upon, but such work as would he entailed is trivial compared with finishing and elaborating a white metal model. A zamac model can usually be made more realistic just by the use of a paintbrush.

In my opinion the giant manufacturers have got something wrong somewhere. This must be either in their Market research (how is it that the consumption of so many foreign die-casts is so high in England?), or child/toy psychology research, or adult/toy/ collectors research fields. How is a run of six million James Bond Astons explained? Why do Lesney’s Yesteryears sell so well? Can production costs be cut down through use of different materials and manufacturing methods, different presentation and more high pressure marketing, semi-kit presentations, more use of consumer requirement data?

I imagine my criticisms will set people in the business on the warpath. I can only see the white metal model makers defending themselves by lowering their prices, and I suppose none of the big giants will bother to take the matter up.

Viva Motor Sport.

Mosta, Malta JOSEPH XUEREB