Extreme Deco - Hot Wheels' Phantastique

1937 Talbot Lago by Hot Wheels

1937 Cord 810 Sportsman by Racing Champions

1931 Cadillac V16 Convertible by Racing Champions

Diecast Returns to Art Deco
by Doug Breithaupt

The classic cars of the 1930's have long been favorites of collectors. Unfortunately, collectors of 1:64 scale diecast have had few examples of these classics from which to choose. Hot Wheels deserves credit for making a solid effort to include cars of the 1930's in their line-up (see earlier story). Matchbox has offered a Jaguar SS100 and a Citroen CV15. Zee Toys did a modest Mercedes-Benz 540K. Tomica did a Bugatti Royale and Packard Coupe but that's been about it.

In the mid 1990's, 1:18 scale manufacturers were led by Ertl in making the American muscle car the darling of diecast. Small-scale muscle cars were quick to follow their bigger brothers to the point where few if any muscle cars are left un-done. In the last several years, Ertl has began to offer the great classic cars of the 1930's. The 1936 Auburn and Dusenberg SSJ have proved very popular. Anson has just introduced a wonderful 1932 Cadillac V16 in 1:18 scale. A 1937 Cord is also on the way in 1:18. The success of the big boys is again having an influence on small-scale producers.

Paris in 1937 was a city blissfully unaware of the storm clouds that would envelope the City of Light in just a few, short years. Art deco was the dominant fashion theme and the mix of new and old money that survived the world-wide depression were buying again.

Automobiles reflected this new confidence with dramatic new styling and color. The carrosiers of Europe were finding that the aero look was the ticket for sales. In Paris, the house of Figoni and Fallashi was known for the most dramatic automotive designs. As a body builder, F&F did everything from Delahaye to Duesenberg. The 1937 tear-drop shaped Talbot Lago was one of their best. While British auto wags called them Phony and Flashy, F&F made the high-fashion automotive statement of the age.

The two cars pictured here are wonderful 1:64 scale diecast from Hot Wheels. While the Talbot Lago represents a great classic car, the Phantastique is straight from the imagination of someone who loves the work of Figoni and Falashi. This car is a stereotype of all the most stylish features in automotive design, circa late 1930's. The pontoon fenders, the chrome accents and hidden headlights, the long nose with wheels at the corners and short rear-deck, all these elements are included in this delightful car. The Talbot Lago of 1937 is an example of how the ideal grand routier cars of this period should look. Even after 60 years, it still inspires car-lovers everywhere. With the European-style black-walls and seven-spoke wheels, this is one of the best ever done by Hot Wheels.

Racing Champions has provided two wonderful models from the 1930's as part of their Mint Edition series. The '37 Cord is provided a full review in a previous issue of TofTC. The '31 Cadillac V16 Coupe is equally well-done and features the spectacular V16 motor under the removable hood. It is a credit to Racing Champions that these cars have been produced and at a price of less than $5 each, these are one of the best diecast bargains to be found.

Expect to see more classic cars in the near future from small-scale diecast producers. I for one, can't wait.