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 e-mail.

Muscle Cars, Low Riders and Tuners, What's next?

The diecast industry has 'tuned' in. Last year, Muscle Machines, XConcepts and Hot Wheels jumped onto the 'tuner' trend with both feet. Revell and Johnny Lightning are fighting back with new releases. Now comes the flood.

Ten years ago I predicted that toy car makes would follow the explosion in American Muscle car values with their own little bang of 1:64 scale muscle cars. I think only Tomica and Siku resisted the trend. We now have exhausted the muscle car trend to the point where even Dodge Darts are being done.

A little later I wrote that the SUV-pickup craze on the streets would lead to the same for toy makers and here, even Tomica and Siku joined in. Name a major SUV or truck that has not been done.

About five years back I recommended that toy car makers consider vintage race cars as the growth in popularity of vintage racing was dramatic. Hot Wheels has certainly addressed this category with some excellent models and RC/Ertl and Johnny Lightning have added some good cars. Still, many great race cars are left to do and most other manufacturers have not followed this trend.

The lowrider trend was a surprise to me. I thought it was too regionally specific to really be a success. Jada, Revell, Racing Champions, Hot Wheels and others thought otherwise and lowrider fans have a nice selection of cars to collect.

The re-birth of the hot rod has also led to a wonderful selection of toy hot rods. Hot Wheels and Johnny Lightning are leading the way. If they are welcome at Pebble Beach, they will continue to be welcome in the toy aisle. The only problem is that most hot rod owners are over 50 so it's hard to say if these models will make the impression on future generations the way they do for baby boomers.

Toy cars come and go in waves that usually reflect what is happening in the real world. Is it possible to anticipate what might be coming next? A bit of common sense is all that has allowed me to do so in the past. With gas prices climbing world-wide, the SUV/pickup truck market is set for sharp drop. If you like these behemoths, better buy the little ones while you can. There will be plenty of the full-size models gathering rust in used-car lots soon too.

With stock markets low, collector car values should remain strong and that will continue to generate interest in special interest cars. I think muscle cars will began to slow down as inspiration for toy cars although they will always be popular. It's simply a matter of saturation. I would bet the lowrider trend is going to lose ground as the tuners gain.

Johnny Lightning may be on the right track with their American cars from the 1970's. A new generation is looking back through rose colored glasses at this era and there is some room for cars like the 1975 Cadillac Seville or Chrysler Cordoba to produced. However, there is much less to work with from this era of U.S. autos. JL and others should look beyond American cars and consider more European and Japanese cars from the 1970's. This was the decade when Europe and Japan beat Detroit in making the most desirable cars. Many of these have seldom if ever been done in 1:64 scale.

Many grand classics of the 1930's have never been done in small-scale. We have started to see more interest from toy car makers with excellent results. Think of the Racing Champions' Duesenberg, JL Hispano-Suiza or Hot Wheels' Cord Beverly Sedan. I doubt that we will see this become a major trend but even a trickle is welcome.
Here are my picks for new trends through 2010.

1. Wagons, Estate Cars and Shooting Breaks - look for a nice mix of new and vintage models here. Audi, Chrysler, VW and Cadillac are just a few who have re-discovered that wagons sell and the public will follow. These new wagons will replace the SUV and mini-van as stylish and more economical people movers. Classic wagons have already jumped in value. Toy car makers will follow with more classic and contemporary wagons. Hot Wheels already has a 'custom' Audi Avant Wagon called the 'Audacious' in it's 2003 line (above).

2. Micro-Cars - Again, the value of classic micro-cars has increased and new models are certain as the price of gas goes up. Look at the success of the new Mini and Beetle in big and small-scale. A stock Isetta or Fiat Topolino would be great choices for 1:64 scale. Cute always sell well in the toy car market.

3. Super-Luxury/Exotic Cars - With new models from Maybach, Rolls Royce, Bugatti, Bentley, Cadillac, Aston Martin and others, the new toys of the super-rich will be popular subjects for toy cars. HW just did the Bugatti Veyron for 2003. These models are always a safe bet in 1:64 scale as we like to own in a small way what we can not have in full-size. We may see more of the missing vintage super-luxury models like the Bentley R-type Continental or Lincoln Continental Mk. II as well. Cadillac's 1957 Eldorado Brougham was one of the most popular HW models of 2002. Let's see if other toy car makers were paying attention.

Share your thoughts on this topic with me and I'll put it in the next issue. Send to: doug@breithaupts.com.