Last month we noted the dearth of recent car miniatures from the well-established, big-output sources. This is endorsed by the fact that the only model of remotely motoring associations to come from Meccano Dinky Toy is a zinc-alloy die-cast 1/50-scale Leopard Anti-Aircraft tank, the “flak tank”, as used in real life (or death) by the German Army. It is 152 mm. long, has a rotating gunturret with a pair of guns that can be “fired”, and radar scanner and radio aerials, etc. No. 696 in the Dinky range, the UK price is £2.85.
The following explanation of why this dearth of car miniatures has come about has reached us from one of the smaller producers of car miniatures :—
The growth of the cottage industry which produces collector’s model cars in white metal kit form has been phenomenal and needs some small explanation.
The major producers of die-cast model cars which car enthusiasts collect—Dinky, Corgi, Lesney in the UK and overseas many companies including Solid° in France and Rio in Italy—are faced with ever escalating costs. The tooling alone for a new diecast model car can these days cost in the region of £30,000. This means that to use their resources carefully die-casters have to look towards models which are going to sell the maximum. In recent years model cars have not fulfilled this requirement and other models have been released in their place— tanks, buses, fire engines, etc.
A gap therefore was left in the market for few model cars were being produced that satisfied the ever hungry model car enthusiast.
In stepped several groups of, at that time,, amateurs fed up with waiting for models of the cars they wanted to be manufactured. They developed new processes to cover the gaps left by the major manufacturers and in their wake a whole new mini-model industry has grown up.
Few of the manufacturers can boast sales on any one model of more than 12,000 but their total sales over a period of a year may now run into near the million mark. Most manufacture kits only but one or two have ventured into the fully finished model market despite the high price of hand building kits—several sell in the region of £25 each.
The 1976 programmes of the major diecasters show that few model cars will be made, leaving the field almost clear for the specialist producers of metal kit-cars in small scale. It is to them that car enthusiasts will have to look if they want a Brabham Alfa Fl or even the Ligier Gitanes, for these new and striking Grand Prix cars do not appear in the plans of the giants of the toy trade to whom car enthusiasts would have looked in the past.
One advantage for the newcomers is that they can set time records for speed of production from inception to finished kit. The latest record was set by Grand Prix Models “Classic Car Series” MG TC, which for model-industry political reasons was manufactured and on sale in seven days.
If any of the bigger producers wish to comment, these columns are open to them. Meanwhile, we hear that Lesney may be going over to plastic historic-car miniatures and from Grand Prix Models of Radlett has come a Lotus XI kit and now the Le Mans Project 215 Aston Martin kit, the first time the latter has been modelled. It is a die-cast miniature, to 1/43-scale, of a tar that sits in the Aston Martin factory waiting for a suitable engine.
The model, unlike earlier Grand Prix Models’ miniatures, has road wheels that turn (rather a basic matter for a motor car!), and each kit contains a paint-sample, from which builders can try to mix, or obtain, a racing green of the exact shade used by Aston Martin. No price has yet been quoted to us but we wish this latest kit in Grand Prix Models’ “Classic Cars” series success, while also wishing they would resume the intended Brooklands series, of which only their Chitty-Bang-Bang I has so far appeared.
Aston Martin are certainly in the news at present, and On the model-front we can report that the current AMOC journal contains an article by Stephen Archer, in which he brings up to date the model Aston Martin situation, and in which he states that the most popular car-model in the World is of this make of car, Corgi having turned out 6,000,000 of their James Bond DB5 AM miniatures! The author lists nearly 90 miniature Aston Martins for his readers to collect, from Pyro’s replica of an International to Politoys’ Lola-Aston Martin, but remarks that this is nothing to what Ferrari and Porsche miniatures’ collectors have to contend with, for in this field apparently 500 and 1,000 different models exist respectively.—W.B.