Volume VII, Number 2

Small-scale Diecast at Nuremberg Toyfair 2004
by Christian Falkeinsteiner

Let me start this report of the small-scale diecast models I saw at Nuremberg Toyfair with my own favorite brand - Matchbox. As usual with Mattel, most of the items shown were those which are already available in the stores, in this case basic range waves 1 & 2 of 2004 and the most recent five packs, plus Stars of Germany series 2 as released in October 2003, and the inevitable plethora of playsets in various shapes and sizes.

I was told that as a follow-up to Stars of Germany, there might be a kind of "Stars of Europe" range possibly to be released in the fall of 2004, but no details could be given yet.

They also showed quite a few of the current and recent Matchbox Collectibles and TV series tie-in models as available in the USA, but I was not surprised to hear that none of those are going to appear over here in Europe.

Among the Matchbox Collectibles items, there were a few mock-up examples of the forthcoming "Retro-Superfast" range, all prototype packaging containing old models from other series. The packaging included reproductions of 1970 style picture boxes, and on the backs of the blister cards it was mentioned that no fewer than 76 (!) models are supposed to be part of that range. It is not certain how different this is from what will actually be released, particularly as much of it contradicts what has been reported elsewhere before. Distribution of this range may be restricted to the USA as well, but no final decision has been made yet.

Thanks to Mattel for making this year's toyfair model (VW Microbus) available to everybody who wanted one - a first for Mattel at Nuremberg!

Moving on to Mattel's other brand, the Hot Wheels display for the first time in many years put an emphasis on the actual models themselves (as opposed to racetracks and other playsets). A large portion of this year's 100 new castings was shown, plus all of them in the shape of drawings hanging on the walls.

A nice surprise was the display of a new series of small-scale diecast rally cars, including all-new castings of a Ford Focus, Mitsubishi Lancer, Peugeot 206 and Subaru Impreza, which are obviously going to be released over here in Europe. While it has to be said that such models have now been done by many others as well, Mattel's models look very attractive indeed - much better than the generic Formula 1 racer casting which also continues.

While a lot of 1:18 scale 100% Hot Wheels were shown, the only small-scale "collectibles" items on display were a few different Batmobiles.

Majorette presented a large quantity of new items. New castings for the basic 200 series include a Citroën C3 Pluriel, Peugeot 307, Renault Megane II, Renault Scenic II, Volvo XC 90 and a so-called "City Bus" which may be generic.

In addition, there is a new separate range called "Champions" devoted to rally and racing cars. Beside a few existing castings such as Mitsubishi Pajero, Porsche 911, Peugeot 206 WRC, Mercedes CLK GTR and BMW Z3 Coupé, this includes another three new castings: Ford Focus WRC, Peugeot 307 WRC and Subaru Impreza WRC.

Further new recolors of 200 series models are found in the continuing spin-off ranges such as Fire Zone, Extractor, Pinder, Monsters, Jungle Mission and Squad Forces.

The "Fiction" range of fantasy vehicles continues as well with recolors of the twelve existing as well as six new castings.

The "Motor Car" range with pullback engines, to which the Peugeot 206 CC is added, is joined by a new range of small-scale radio-controlled cars which look fairly realistic. Most are similar to counterparts in the regular 200 series, but two different castings are also included - a Chrysler Crossfire and a Hummer H2. Radio-controlled versions of "Fiction" vehicles are also going to be released.

Siku continues its existing themes with a few more new passenger car models than last year. New castings are the Smart Roadster with open as well as closed top, Smart Fortwo Coupé, Audi A4 Avant, Porsche Cayenne, BMW 545i, VW Multivan and Transporter, Snowmobile plus several construction vehicles. Variations of existing castings include a VW Golf "Key Service" with a big key mounted to its roof, a Mini with Union Jack design on the roof, a Police Mini and a VW Sharan with a bicycle mounted at the rear.

Siku's 1:87 scale diecast range, introduced last year, now includes two passenger car models for the first time: Mini Cooper and Porsche 911 GT2.

Guisval did not show any new small-scale castings this year, but continues its rally themes and introduces a "Tuning Extreme" series with variations of the Toyota Celica and Peugeot 206 WRC in wild color schemes.

Maisto showed its new small-scale castings only in pictures on the wall - Audi A8, Citroën C3 Pluriel, Smart Roadster with open and closed top, Chevrolet SS Convertible Concept, Pontiac G6 Concept and GM Hy-Wire Concept. I also noticed a fantasy vehicle called "WLV 246" among Maisto's Marvel Comics range. I do not know if it is new, but I had not noticed it before.

Similarly, Welly did not have its new castings ready to show "in the flesh". The ones planned for release this year are: '02 Chevrolet Camaro SS, Austin FX4 Taxi, '70 Buick GSX, Audi A4 Convertible, VW Beetle Convertible, '01 VW Passat Variant, VW Touareg, BMW Z4, Alfa Romeo GT Coupé, Citroën C2, Mitsubishi Pajero, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII and Nissan Fairlady Z.

Motormax, on the other hand, did show a few new items at their stall. I noted (yet another) BMW Z4, Chrysler Crossfire, Mercedes C Class and VW W12.

Norev delighted me by for the first time actually admitting at Toyfair that they do produce 3 inch diecast models and even showing some of them. On display were the Peugeot H2O (alongside the real vehicle!), the Peugeot 4002 and "Mini Jet" branded assortments of window boxed singles as well as six packs.

Close examination of the assortments displayed revealed most of the known existing Citroën, Peugeot, Renault and Audi castings plus a Porsche Boxster, 911 Turbo and Cayenne (which I had not seen before), but no Mercedes and Lancia models.

It was mentioned that Fiat Panda and Idea models are going to be released soon, and it is also planned to release BMW models in the future, but beyond that no other details about future new castings were revealed.

Norev is looking for ways to distribute the "Mini Jet" assortments (which are already available at some stores in France) in Germany and Austria (and other European countries), but so far nothing has been finalized yet.

In addition, Norev will continue to supply different versions of their models to the car companies, and the distribution of those is entirely up to the car companies themselves. Apparently nothing can be done to improve the availability of those to collectors.

Also present at the fair was Universal Hobbies from France, known for their Renault Scenic RX4 models available at Renault dealerships. However, they only showed 1:43 scale and larger models and categorically denied the existence of any smaller scaled products of theirs. This obviously means that they make these models exclusively for Renault and may have even stopped doing so, perhaps losing that business to Norev entirely.

After having been absent last year, Corgi was back with a stall of its own, and beside many larger scale models I saw two ranges of models which are a bit difficult to categorize, as they are definitely smaller than 1:43 scale but still a little larger than the usual three inches.

A military range includes a Willys Jeep MB and a VW Kübelwagen beside some tanks and airplanes, and there is a James Bond range consisting of the following castings: Aston Martin DB 5, Aston Martin Vanquish, BMW Z3, Jaguar XKR, Lotus Esprit, Rolls-Royce Phantom III, the "Moonraker" Space Shuttle and the "Little Nellie" Helicopter as seen in "You Only Live Twice".

Beside those, the Ford Transit and Fork Lift Truck castings were still shown as well as the Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

I was pleased to see a considerable increase in the presence of American-based brands at Nuremberg. Beside Revell, who as in previous years had a small portion of their stall devoted to their current small-scale ranges (such as Hot Hatch, Hot Truckin', Lowriders and Rat Rods), Boley and even Jada Toys were present with stalls of their own, showing much of their current product lines and looking for European distributors. Code 3 products could be seen at the stall of their parent company, Funrise. On the other hand, I did not see any Racing Champions or Ertl models anymore, which had been distributed by the German "Toy Company" before. That distributor is now called "Cars & Co" but concentrates on larger scales only.

Another range of small-scale "tuner" vehicles based on Japanese cars was presented under the Lexani brand, which was new to me.

Even Johnny Lightning products were present at Nuremberg for the very first time, although not with a stall of their own. The German distributor Speidel, known for supplying various international brands of 1:43 scale diecast to hobby shops, has now added Johnny Lightning to its lineup, and showed a large selection from various ranges at the fair.

So from now on every hobby shop in Germany and Austria will be able to order assortments of Johnny Lightning products! Here is hoping that this will be the final breakthrough of Johnny Lightning in Europe.

No new small-scale models were to be seen at the stall of Polistil, but unlike last year the Alfa Romeo 156 police cars could be viewed "in the flesh". This casting features the Polistil name on its base, whereas all others on display still had the Realtoy name cast on their bases.

In contradiction to previous rumors, Polistil's current parent company BBurago does not seem to move into the small-scale field. All they had on display were their usual larger scale models.

Edocar continues to offer a mix of castings sourced from various other firms including Maisto, Golden Wheel and Realtoy. The new ones all seem to be based on Realtoy products, including an Audi TT, Jaguar S Type and Peugeot 206 WRC.

Golden Wheel themselves had no new small-scale castings to show, and the same applies to Kintoy and also to Realtoy as far as their traditional "toy" line is concerned.

However, Realtoy also presented their new "collector" line of 1:72 scale models called Real-X with a rather large initial selection, and these look just as good as their competition. Models on display included: Audi TT, BMW M3, BMW X5, Mercedes A Class, Mercedes CLK, Mercedes G Wagon, Mercedes SL, Mitsubishi Pajero, Nissan Fairlady Z, Subaru Impreza WRC, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Celica, Toyota Crown, Toyota RAV-4, Toyota Soarer and VW Beetle.

The story is similar with Yat Ming, where I did not notice anything new in the "toys" section, which still continues nevertheless, but quite a few new items in their 1:72 scale "collector" line known by the name of Road Signature. New castings include: BMW 5 Series, BMW Z4, Mercedes E 55 AMG, Mercedes SL 55 AMG, Opel GTC Concept, Opel Vectra GTS, Porsche 911 Turbo, Porsche Cayenne Turbo and Saab 9-3 Convertible.

Speaking of 1:72 scale "collector" diecasts, another representative of this category, Joy City, was not present with a stall of its own this time, but its products were still to be seen at the stalls of various distributors, for example the Klein company (brand name "Happy People"). I did not notice any new castings though.

Finally I must not forget the creator of this category, Hongwell. Their Cararama range is still going strong with a considerable amount of new models added to the lineup. There is now a distinction between "modern cars" and "classic cars".

New "modern cars" include BMW 745i, BMW Z4, Chevrolet Silverado Pickup, Ford F-150 Pickup, Ford F-350 Pickup, Ford Focus WRC, Ford Transit, GMC Sierra Pickup, Mercedes Unimog, Peugeot 206 (5 door), Range Rover 2003, Renault Trafic, Subaru Impreza WRC, VW Microbus Concept and VW Passat Variant. New "classic cars" include BMW Isetta, Chevrolet 3100 Pickup, Ford Capri, Ford F-1 Pickup, Land Rover 109 Series III, Lotus Europa, Morgan Plus 8, Porsche 356 No. 1 and Porsche 904 GTS.

As usual, most Hongwell models are also available from the Dickie-Simba company under the Schuco brand, and in addition Schuco's smaller-scale ranges are continued as well. A BMW 328, Ford Transit FK 1000, Wartburg 311, Eicher ED 16 Farm Tractor and a Setra S8 Coach are added to the Piccolo range. Additions to the 1:87 scale range are as follows: Audi A4 Convertible, BMW Z4, BMW 5 Series, BMW X5, Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing, Mercedes 300 SL Roadster, Mercedes CLK Convertible, Mercedes E Class Wagon, Porsche Cayenne Turbo, Porsche Carrera GT, VW Beetle Convertible and VW Touareg.

Beside Schuco and Siku (as mentioned above), and Classic Metal Works which have been distributed over here by Busch for several years, some more companies are now following the trend towards 1:87 scale models made of diecast metal (as opposed to the more usual plastic). One of these has resurrected the old German brand name Bub. This range, which is produced in China and distributed by the construction model producer NZG of Nuremberg, consists of models of German vehicles from the 1950s and 1960s: DKW AU 1000 S, Ford Taunus 17m, Kaelble Prime Mover, Mercedes L 319, Opel Olympia Rekord P1, Porsche 356 Coupé, VW Beetle, VW Bus and Transporter and Wartburg 311. The Bub company had produced similar models for a short while back in the 1950s.

Another new brand of 1:87 scale diecast models is called Widea and has been created by the Hong Kong company Oriental Toys. On their first appearance at Nuremberg Toyfair they showed two ranges, one consisting of four different Ford Escort and Focus rally cars, the other consisting of four different compact cars from the 1950s: Morris Minor, Austin Mini, Metropolitan and 1952 Nash Rambler.

Moving on to larger 1:64 scale "collector" brands, I saw quite a few new items at the AutoArt stall, among them a Lamborghini Gallardo, Mazda RX-8, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VIII, Nissan Fairlady Z, Subaru Impreza WRC and VW Beetle Convertible.

A Mazda RX-8 is also available from Kyosho, continuing their range of Japanese sports car models, which is still included in their catalog but was not shown at the fair this time.

This completes my overview; I hope I did not leave out anything important. All in all it was good to see much variety and high quality of the products throughout the fair. The main problem for many producers still seems to be to find distributors who will bring their models to the end customers, who I believe would gladly purchase most of those models in sufficient quantities if they only knew about them.

VW Microbus 2004 Toyfair vehicle

Citroën C3 Pluriel - Majorette

Porsche Cayenne - Siku

'70 Buick GSX - Welly

Peugeot 4002 concept - Norev

VW Beetle - Kintoys

Vauxhall - Yat Ming

Porsche 356 No. 1 - Hongwell

BMW 328 - Schuco Piccolo

Porsche Carrera GT - Schuco

DKW AU 1000 S - Bub

1952 Nash Rambler - Widea

Mazda RX-8 - Kyosho