By Raymond McKee (The Southern Gent)
When I was growing up here in the South, it was always understood that "Racing" meant NASCAR. Oh, we would watch the Indy 500 on TV, but many Sunday afternoons were spent with the radio tuned to King Richard duking it out with Cale Yarborough and Dave Pearson, and the Allison brothers, while my toy cars turned a few hot laps of their own on the oval rug in my room. However, though I have several nice stock car models in my collection, I was always interested in all kinds of cars, not just the three or four models currently banging around Talladega. But for those who's collecting habits follow the evolution of NASCAR from its moonshine-soaked beginnings to the corporate mega-sport it is today, there is a wide industry turning out plastic and diecast collectibles with which the enthusiast can commemorate his favorite drivers and teams. To shed some light on this collecting sub-genre, Bill Coulter has written NASCAR Diecast and Model Cars.
Getting a handle on a motor sport in which some fifty similar looking cars change their paint every year, sometimes two or three times for special events, would appear to be a daunting task, and coulter doesn't try to make this a catalog of all the NASCAR models that are out there. He begins the book talking about how and what to collect. Coulter's scope covers all scales of diecast collectibles and plastic model kits. Most of his advice will sound familiar. "Collect what you like. Focus on your particular interest." But he also touches on issues more specific to NASCAR collecting, such as politically correct sponsor decals and how the added costs of licensing affects the price of the car, as well as level of detail. Coulter illustrates his points with numerous color photographs, often showing the same car in a multitude of scales.
Coulter next provides an overview of current manufacturers who produce NASCAR models. He gives a brief bio of each company and a quick description of its NASCAR products. Here the book's nearly three years age begins to work against it because some of the information given is dated. We see listings for the usual suspects such as Mattel and RC/Ertl, but also the brands that are unique to NASCAR collectibles like GMP/Peachstate and Team Calibur.
Perhaps most interesting to the general collector is Coulter's chapter on how plastic kits and diecast models are made. Coulter follows both processes from stat to finish, listing general production costs, and illustrating with photos. The pictures particularly show how labor-intensive the manufacturing process can be, often involving painstaking hand-work. That's something to think about when contemplating production runs.
Coulter devotes more than half the book to chapters describing the major NASCAR racing teams that are most collected. He has a chapter on the Pettys, a chapter on Roush Racing and another on Hendrick Motorsports. Richard Childress Racing and Dale Ernhardt Enterprises share a chapter, reflecting the links between these two stables. I might have expected more on Ernhardt, who revolutionized how NASCAR collectibles are licensed, marketed and sold. And no doubt, the chapter on Alan Kulwicki, who was killed in an accident just as his racing career was taking off, is a sentimental favorite. While those who don't follow the ins and outs of NASCAR might find these chapters a little involved, the photographs, especially of the different scaled cars side by side, are excellent.
Coulter closes the book with a price guide and an index. The price guide is by no means definitive. It just gives values for the models pictured in this book. It is designed more to give a ballpark range for what a collector can expect to pay for comparative vehicles. Coulter also includes a contact list for sources of NASCAR collectibles. Since the book is three years old, some of the internet links may be out-dated.
To the uninitiated, NASCAR can seem like and incomprehensible circuit featuring automotive dinosaurs and a Byzantine rule book. Even to those who follow NASCAR regularly, the never-ending shuffling of drivers, sponsors, team members and paint schemes can take on the quality of a soap opera on and off the track. This is because NASCAR is driven by its personalities, not its technology, and the cars reflect those personalities. That's what makes NASCAR so interesting to collect, that's why there is always something new to add to the collection, and that's why NASCAR collectibles have become a multi-million dollar subcategory of toy car collecting. NASCAR Diecast and Model Cars is not an exhaustive examination of this world, but it is a good introduction.
NASCAR Diecast and Model Cars, by Bill Coulter is published by MBI Publishing Company, isbn 0760309809, and retails for $19.95.