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.

Japanese cars are hot in small-scale

After many years when Japanese cars were neglected by all but Tomica on the toy car market, the toy shelves are suddenly full of Honda, Toyota, Mitsubishi and Nissan models. As noted in another story in this issue, Racing Champions/Ertl is even bringing Tomica models back to the American market after a 20 year absence. The main reason that toy Japanese cars are easy to find is due to the explosion of 'tuner' models from almost every diecast company.

Hot Wheels, Revell, Racing Champions, XConcepts, Muscle Machines, Johnny Lightning, AUTOart, Maisto, Motor Max and others are all offering tuner favorites of Japanese cars. Suddenly there are plenty of Honda Civics, Toyota Supras and Mitsubishi Eclipse models to go around. 2003 will certainly be remembered in diecast circles as the 'Year of the Tuner'.

Not all tuners are Japanese cars. Racing Champions offers a 1995 VW Jetta and the Ford Escort and Focus models are showing up in tuner form. The tuner culture however, originated with Japanese cars and these are the primary subjects for the toy car market. Honda has benefited the most with new models of the S2000, Integra, Civic and Accord all currently available in a variety of styles. Toyota's Supra, Celica and MR2 can also be found. The Mitsubishi Eclipse and Lancer Evo are now easy additions to one's collection. The Subaru WRX, Nissan Skyline and Mazda RX-7 are other popular choices.

For years, my Subaru collection could be counted on one hand. Now I am well on the way to half a Plano box (24 cars) of Subie models. It's great to see this variety, even if it took tuners to do it. I'm not really clear on how international the tuner marker might be. Are tuners as popular in Europe or Asia? I know that Europeans have had a strong 'tuned-car' culture for years with young drivers modifying their VW, Peugeot and Fiat cars to taste. High-end tuning of Mercedes-Benz, BMW or Alfa Romeo models has a long history as well. We have seen very few European 'tuned cars' in small-scale diecast.

Now we just need a hit Hollywood movie about cars from Australia, Sweden or some of the other neglected corners of the diecast world.

Share your thoughts on this topic with me and you may see them in the next issue. Send to: doug@breithaupts.com.