by Doug Breithaupt
|As the baby boom generation ages and gathers more discretionary
income, the product names they grew up with are returning. It is the Boomers
that are largely responsible for the dramatic growth of the diecast collecting
hobby and savvy marketing types are bringing back the names and images of
The retro movement in automotive design is tied to this trend and toy cars are also seeing retro influences. In this case it's not in the designs of the toy cars as much as in the packaging and branding of the products.
Johnny Lightning was one of the first to follow this trend as that name was revived in the early 1990's. Both Hot Wheels and Matchbox responded with replicas of their early models. The Corgi name is again an active player in the diecast market with many of their cherished 1:43 and 1:36 scale models in re-release. The Tootsietoy and Tonka names have re-appeared on a variety of diecast models. The latest addition to this list is Schuco of Germany. (see earlier story on Schuco)
The rights to the Schuco name were acquired after years of in-activity. A variety of scale models have been offered with the Schuco name attached. Most recently, 1:72 scale diecast cars have appeared in Schuco labeled packaging, with Schuco bases. These models are all produced by Hongwell of China and are also sold under the Hongwell, Simba and Caramania brands. Most of the many Hongwell models are offered as Schuco models too.
These Hongwell models are some of the best diecast on the market today and while they are a bit smaller in scale, they make up for this with amazing quality and detail. The original 1:66 scale Schuco models were also known for their attention to detail and the matching of Hongwell castings with the Schuco name is perfectly appropriate.
Shown here are two models. One is an original Schuco casting of the beautiful BMW 2800CS. The other is a new Schuco model of the Porsche 356 Coupe. The two scales are close enough that the two models do not look odd side-by-side. The original Schuco models came in miniature display boxes and the new Schuco models do as well. This makes them distinct from the Hongwell models offered under other names. The new display boxes feature a wonderful system for fixing the car to the display base. A spring-loaded twist screw can be inserted in a hole in the base of the car. When secure, the spring hold the car to the base. A second peg in the base fits in another hole to keep the car from turning. it is one of the best display designs I have ever seen. It does not appear to add much to the cost of the model. I paid $2.25 for the Porsche as a Schuco while as a Hongwell it would sell for $2.00. Either way, these models represent excellent value for the level of quality.
Will these Hongwell/Schuco models generate new interest in 1:66 to 1:72 scale models? Few manufacturers have offered this scale for over 30 years. It will be interesting to see. Will we see other neglected diecast brands return? What about Impy Lone Star or Playart? Perhaps Budgie or Polistil have a future. Norev is again producing 1:43 scale models and perhaps Mini Jets will return too. The success of these new Schuco models may point the way.
BMW 2800CS (original Schuco #815)
Porsche 356 Coupe (new Schuco)
New Schuco is 1:72 while original is 1:66.