Retro is big for little cars
by Doug Breithaupt

For the past ten years, the retro school of automotive design has been a strong influence on new cars. The idea is simply to look back in order to look ahead. Many automotive manufacturers have seen the values of their most famous models increase dramatically. If the original is desirable, why not offer a new model with styling cues from the older model? Most recently, Ford created a new GT40 that at first glance could be mistaken for the original. This is the most obvious demonstration of retro styling so far and one of the most beautiful. I'm sure the toy car companies are lined-up to produce the new GT40.

The 1957 BMW 507 was one of the most stylish cars of the 1950's and it offered BMW's V8 engine in a striking sports car. Why this model has been so long neglected in 1:64 scale is beyond comprehension. The image shown is New Ray's 1:43 scale model. The modern version of the 507 is the BMW Z8. The split grill, side grills and even the steering wheel include clear retro cues and this V8 powered sports car is as appealing as the original. Motor Max did this nice red example.

Considering all the beautiful Ferrari designs of the past, it is surprising that only one modern Ferrari includes retro designs. The Original 365GTB/4 Daytona is considered one of the most appealing in a long line of desirable cars. Ferrari's first 'supercar' is the essence of style and power and Hot Wheels recently offered their version. The 456GT model done in the mid-1990's marked a return to the front-engine V12 configuration and was clearly inspired by the Daytona. Matchbox offered this red example in their Premier Collection.

Jaguar is known for beautiful cars and two retro models are currently available. In the 1960's, the Jaguar Mk II was Jag's small saloon model and proved a great success. Matchbox did the 3.4 litre version of this model. In returning to the small saloon market, Jaguar decided to go retro with the 'S' type. The grill, lights and greenhouse are clearly designed to identify with earlier Mk II.

The most famous Jaguar and one of the most beautiful sports cars ever penned is easily the 'E' type. This is the embodiment of 'grace, space and pace'. Johnny Lightning has done the 'E' type roadster, including engine detail. The modern version of the ultimate 'crumpet catcher' is the XK8. There is no mistaking the nose of this car as anything but a Jaguar. Matchbox offered on of the best versions of this car. While it is a beautiful car, it still does not have the sex appeal of the original.

The Mini appeared in 1959 and was a success for the next 40 years. It pioneered the compact, transverse-engined, front-wheel-drive configuration that became the standard for small cars. The Mini Cooper added John Cooper's competition-level power to the package and created a classic. Tomica offers one of the best Mini models. BMW now owns the Mini trademark and the new Mini Cooper hit the streets this year. It's success is guaranteed. Majorette offers their own casting of the new Mini (shown here) and a motorized version that uses the Welly casting.

Ford's Thunderbird was an instant classic when it appeared in 1955. The 2-seat T-Birds of '55-'57 have always been much loved. Maisto recently did the 1956 model shown here. Ford made many changes to the T-Bird over the years, offering 4-door sedans and baroque luxo-barges. Coming full-circle, the new T-Bird is again a 2-seat roadster. The new Bird is full of styling cues from the originals, right down to the portholes in the removable top. Only Matchbox has offered this model in small-scale and only as a $8 collector model. Unless Mattel has scored another exclusive license, more new T-Birds should be expected.

The original VW Beetle is an automotive icon. Now in production for over 50 years, it is certainly the most recognized automotive shape of all time. Matchbox recently did a fine new casting of the 1962 Beetle. In the mid-1990's, VW produced a new version of the Beetle identified as Concept 1. After great success in the auto shows, VW decided to move ahead with production. Matchbox had the foresight to offer this model, long before production was confirmed. The success of the new Beetle has been one of the prime motivations in pushing other automakers to consider retro designs. VW is now doing a retro version of the classic VW Bus.

Nissan put Japanese sports cars on the map with their original 240/Fairlady Z car and made a lot of money in the bargain. For 2002, the 'Z' car is back and while retro cues are subtile, the heritage is clear. The front grill and rear window are common to both cars. Who better than Tomica to present these two models. The original 'Z' is #6 and the new 'Z' is #55.

What cars would you pick for modern retro styling? My list would include several personal favorites like the Citroen SM and 1967-68 Cadillac Eldorado. The Ferrari 250GTO, Maserati Ghibli and '66 Oldsmobile Toronado would be good candidates. My personal favorite retro car never made it into production. Chrysler's Atlantic concept car was based on Bugatti's Atlantic coupe and Chrysler made a big mistake in not putting it into production. Fortunately, Matchbox, Maisto and Johnny Lightning were happy to do so. The Matchbox version is the best and is shown here.

1957 BMW 507 - New Ray
(1:43 scale)

1970 Ferrari 365GTB/4 Daytona - Hot Wheels

1960 Jaguar 3.4 Litre - Matchbox

1964 Jaguar 'E' type - Johnny Lightning

1965 Mini Cooper - Tomica

1956 Ford Thunderbird - Maisto

1962 VW Beetle - Matchbox

1970 Nissan Fairlady Z - Tomica

2001 BMW Z8 - Motor Max

1995 Ferrari 456GT - Matchbox

2000 Jaguar 'S' type - Real Toy

1992 Jaguar XK8 - Matchbox

2002 Mini Cooper - Majorette

2002 Ford Thunderbird - Matchbox

1995 VW Concept 1 - Matchbox

2002 Nissan Fairlady Z - Tomica