O F F - T H E - S H E L F

The following editorial reflects the personal thoughts of Doug Breithaupt relating to our common hobby of miniature cars. It is intended to generate discussion relating to 'Tales of Toy Cars'. Your letters are welcome and may be submitted via the 'Guest Book'.

Mixed Blessings

1967 Mercury Cougar #62 by Matchbox

Maisto and Matchbox, too close to ignore

Volkwagon Camper by Maisto, 1999 and #34C-1 Volkswagen Camper by Matchbox, 1967

Ferrari F50 #124-2 by Golden Wheel
I want one!

The pictures I had seen did not do it justice. When a fellow collector brought by his recent addition of a 1967 Mercury Cougar with Superfast wheels by Matchbox, I was charmed by this model. The regular wheels usually seen on the Matchbox Cougar just don't fit with the sporty image of the car. I have the regular wheel version and the later hot rod version with exposed engine but I really want the stock car with Superfast wheels. Anyone interested in doing some trading?

Flattery or Forgery

When I first saw the new Volkswagen Camper by Maisto it had a familiar look. When a friend brought his Volkswagen Camper #34C-1 by Matchbox, I realised why the Maisto casting had given me a case of deja-vu. To be blunt, Maisto simply copied the 33 year-old Matchbox model. The biggest difference between the two is that while the Matchbox VW side doors open, the Maisto doors do not, and for good reason. The Maisto model does not have an interior. Dark tinted windows hide the lack of an interior. This is a recent Maisto trend that is certainly unfortunate. It appears that Maisto is not only cutting costs by cutting interiors, but also reverting to an old practice, copying the products of other manufacturers.

Why would Maisto do this? Maisto's 1:18 scale line is a great success and offers some of the best value in the industry. The 1:24 and 1:36 scale cars also provide amazing bang for the buck. In the 1980's, Maisto copied several Matchbox castings including the Pontiac Firebird and Porsche 911 Turbo. These were copies of current cars and Maisto was far less known at the time. With all Maisto's current success, are margins so tight that it is necessary to appropriate 30 year-old designs? Let's hope this example is the result of a poor choice by the design staff rather than a management decision.

New Wheels are Golden

Some issues back, we featured a set of four models by Golden Wheel, offered in taxi, police or fire colors. These excellent models offered style and unique castings at reasonable prices. Golden Wheel has now offered a new selection of small-scale cars. The scale is in the 1:55 range and a variety of models are offered. While it is clear that the models have not been licensed, they are none-the-less, excellent representations of real vehicles. The quality of the new offerings is not as high as the earlier four-car set. Bases are in plastic and wheels are plastic. As the Ferrari F50 (left) shows, many of the bases wrap around to form the nose of the car. This is not ideal but is a simple way of securing the base to the casting. The prices of the new models are running between $.60 to $1.00 depending on where you find them. The have been stocked at both Pik n' Save and Toy Liquidators.

The new models include: (view more models here tcnw1000.htm)
Dodge Viper GTS #124-1, Ferrari F-50 #124-2, Commercial Van #124-3, Ford Aerovan #124-4,
New VW Beetle #124-6, Mercedes-Benz S-Class #124-7, Ford Crown Victoria Police #124-8
(the following are un-numbered) Ford F250 Ambulance, Fire Truck, Police Van and Mercedes Benz SUV.

Each model comes in a variety of colors and decals. I have the Mercedes-Benz S-Class in silver, blue, gold and green. On the base of each car, a Website is noted at goldenwheeldiecast.com.

It appears that a new wave of diecast manufacturers is upon us. In addition to Golden Wheel, we have seen Hongwell, Simba, Kinsmart and others producing new small-scale cars in the last several years. It is encouraging to see these new players and should indicate a positive trend for the future.