Model & Toy Cars - Part I (2004-11)
Newer toy car photos and stories are posted here.
Read more about the model car business here.
Delivering The Goods: I have a 1:43 scale 'Dugan's Bakery' Divco - an old DeHanes resin model made in the mid-1990s - placed on my O-gauge train layout.
When I was growing up in Philadelphia, Dugan's delivered bread and baked goods to our home in one of their black and cream Divco Model U's. The company's slogan was 'Bakers for the home since 1878'. (posted 2/7/11, permalink)
Looks Like A Big Ol' Ford: For Christmas, I was given a 1:43 scale diecast Ixo model of a 1939 Renault Suprastella convertible.
Introduced in 1938, the Suprastella luxury model was the pinnacle of Renault's offerings. It rode on a 127-inch wheelbase and was powered by a 332 cubic-inch, 110 horsepower straight eight.
The Suprastella looks very American and is right at home on the prewar portion of my model train layout. The two-tone green is a very striking color combination and really makes the convertible stand out amongst all the other 1930s cars on the layout.
After the war, Renault never returned to the upper end of the car business, sticking with smaller and more basic models like the 4CV and later, the Dauphine. (posted 2/3/11, permalink)
Thirties Thunder: One of my Christmas presents was a 1:43 scale diecast model of the 1932 Bucciali TAV. The scale miniature was made by Ixo Models in China.
This French, front-wheel drive V-12 automobile was a one-of-a-kind and made its debut at the 1932 Paris Auto Show.
Cloaked in one-off coachwork by Saoutchik, the car received acclaim as the most advanced and modern French automobile. The Bucciali features a specially-designed Voisin V12 sleeve-valve engine with four carburetors. Drive to the front axle is through a four-speed transaxle. The car was sold originally to a Paris banker.
Finished in black with deep red accents, it is almost as imposing as a Bugatti Royale but its low-profile and proportions give it a unique, racy look. (posted 2/1/11, permalink)
Forties Beauty: The Chrysler Newport futuristic showcar made its debut at the New York Auto Show in October, 1940.
Five Newports were built with bodies by LeBaron. They toured the U.S. and were often used as parade cars in local celebrations.
I've always loved the lines of the Newport and finally saw one in person - a stunning red one once owned by Lana Turner - during a visit to Harrah's (Reno) in 1984.
I have a 1:43 scale metallic green example, a hand-cast white metal model made by Brooklin Models long ago. (posted 1/27/11, permalink)
Workin' On The Railroad: For Christmas, I received several diecast vehicles as gifts, two of which have already found spots on my model train layout - a pair of 1:43 scale work trucks.
One is a 1948 Ford F1 pickup marked "Pennsylvania Railroad Yard Superintendent" and the other is a 1950 GMC pickup with "Pennsylvania Railroad - Philadelphia Region" emblazoned on the doors. Each came with a 'load' of railroad ties in the pickup bed.. (posted 1/4/11, permalink)
Motor Memories: I have a soft spot for 1956 Fords because I learned to drive in one. There are numerous toy and model versions of the 1956 Ford.
In the late 1950s, Lesney Products of England produced a small Matchbox model of a 1956 Ford Customline station wagon.
One of my favorites is a a three-inch long ERTL toy. (I think I paid 49¢ for it.) It was originally a fancy black Crown Victoria model but - in the summer of 1982, I ground off the roof and side trim, converting it to resemble a Mainline Tudor. Then I repainted it blue and repainted the interior in the stark charcoal and gray Mainline interior color combo.
Another favorite is an original issue 1:43 scale Fairlane Victoria two-door hardtop, centrifugally cast in 1987 at the Brooklin Models factory in Bath, England.
These miniatures bring back pleasant memories every time I look at them. (posted 10/29/10, permalink)
Rainbow Connection: Even though the 1950-51 Ford outsold the '50-51 Studebaker by more than fourfold, people of a certain age remember the Studie much better. After all, a rainbow-painted 1951 bullet-nosed Studie was one of the stars of 'The Muppet Movie'.
I've acquired a few budget-priced 1:43 models of the bullet-nosed Studebaker - in various colors - made by Yatming. More on the 1950 Studie is posted here. (posted 7/30/10, permalink)
First Fins: The 1948 model was the first true postwar design at Cadillac. It was the first Caddy with fins - often referred to at the time as 'fishtails'. The fastback design and twin-fin combo were inspired by the tail of the Lockheed P-38 Lightning fighter plane, a favorite of GM styling honcho Harley Earl.
My cheap-n-cheerful $5 Yatming model of a '49 convertible shows that old Caddys were handsome cars. The 1:43 scale geezer couple posed next to the red beauty seemed to think so.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and not long after the 1948 Cadillacs made their debut, mail order houses began business selling Caddy-like tailfins that could be mounted on the rear fenders of lesser cars. I recall that most ended up on '49-52 Chevrolets and Pontiacs. The little 1951 Henry J sported miniaturized '48 Caddy fins on its flanks.
More on the 1948-49 Cadillac can be found here. (posted 4/30/10, permalink)
A Different Kind Of Woody: The 1924 Hispano-Suiza H6C 'Tulipwood' Torpedo was commissioned by André Dubonnet, an accomplished aviator, racing driver and heir to the Dubonnet liquor fortune. André had Nieuport Aviation Company construct a lightweight body suitable for both racing and touring. The firm's craftsmen formed a frame of wooden ribs measuring up to 3/4-inch thick which were covered with 1/8-inch wooden veneer.
For Valentine's Day, I received an Ixo 1:43 scale diecast model of the car, which I photographed in front of the McNicholas Tavern on my model train layout. I've posted more information about this unusual automobile here. (posted 2/26/10, permalink)
Model Of The Year: My favorite acquisition of 2009 was a black and silver 1:43 scale Ixo model of a handsome 1933 Hispano Suiza Coupe De Ville.
Nice, classic lines. (posted 12/31/09, permalink)
A Miniature Of My Daily Driver: When I bought a new Scirocco in 1976, I purchased a few 1:43 scale models of my new car - in the same silver color as my 1:1 scale Volkswagen. These little diecast models were made by the German firm Schuco and were pretty accurate.
I got mine from the VW dealer where I bought my car. (posted 10/13/09, permalink)
Holiday Wheels: I received a nice selection of 1:43 scale diecast cars for Christmas '08, including a gorgeous 1938 Delahaye 165 with a swoopy, full-skirted body by Figoni et Falaschi in a deep red color (described as 'Bordeaux').
I saw the full-size car when it was displayed at Balboa Park's San Diego Auto Museum in 1995. (posted 1/2/09, permalink)
Scale Reality: If you examine the world of model cars, you'll find a plethora of duplicate offerings from different model manufacturers. It seems like everyone makes little Porsche 911s, Ferraris and Dodge Vipers. There are probably 20,000 model Vipers sold for every full-size vehicle. Most toymakers offer a 'classic' line and, if you look at their catalogs, you'd think that every real car in the 1950s must have been a two-seater Thunderbird or a turquoise and white 1957 Chevy Bel Air.
Many model train layouts have scale autos traveling black-painted 'roads' but too many are filled with the aforementioned cars as well as yellow Coca Cola trucks - another mega-popular scale vehicular offering.
The middle level of my O-gauge layout is '50s-themed but offers a variety of 1:43 and 1:50 scale vehicles from the period.
Some are even ordinary, lowly sedans with blackwall tires - the kinds of cars usually found in period photographs. (posted 11/21/08, permalink)
Edsel Land: On my O-gauge train layout, there is Edsel-Town Motors, with a 1:43 scale blue '58 Edsel Pacer two-door hardtop coupe parked in front. This resin-bodied model was made by Zaug in 1984 or so.
The dealership is loosely based on Roth Edsel, once located on Pratt Street in Northeast Philadelphia, PA. Roth had been an automobile dealer for ages. In a 1922 directory, I found a listing for Roth Buick on Paul Street in NE Philly. "Phone Frankford 1148," said a period ad.
Inside the Edsel showroom are two 1:43 scale Yat-Ming '58 diecast convertibles - one turquoise (with white side panels) and one black (with red side panels). The pink Edsel Citation (partly visible at the side of the building) is a Brooklin model in the original-issue color from 1986.
The pink and white Edsel convertible is a 1:43 Franklin Mint model. The Villager station wagons are diecast Minichamps. (posted 11/12/08, permalink)
Car Shark: I've added a pretty a cool car to my collection - a 1:43 model of a one-off red Graham-Paige Sharknose convertible bodied by the Belgian coachbuilder, Vesters & Neirinck.
Like many automotive businesses, Graham-Paige struggled during the depression. In 1938, the firm offered a radically restyled automobile, the Model 97 which the company dubbed 'Spirit of Motion'. The new car looked like it was going 60 mph when standing still. The fenders, wheel openings and grille all appeared to be moving forward. The design was praised in the American press and by designers. It also won the prestigious Concours D'Elegance in Paris, France.
The public dubbed it the Sharknose and stayed away in droves. The recession of 1938 didn't help either, nor did Graham-Paige's shaky finances. But the styling has been cited as the major reason for the Sharknose's flop in the marketplace.
But that convertible sure looks good to me. I always liked the look of these vehicles, have admired examples at car shows and am delighted to have this little model in my collection.
More information on the Sharknose has been posted here. (posted 9/19/08, permalink)
French Beauty: Making its debut at the Paris Auto Show, the Facel Vega began production in 1955. The handsome F-V was built in France by Facel S.A., a specialist bodybuilder who supplied automobile bodies for Simca, Ford France and Panhard. It was powered by a 255 horsepower, 330 cubic inch Chrysler Hemi V-8. The engine was mated to a Chrysler Torqueflite automatic transmission or a 4 speed Pont-a-Mousson manual transmission.
Facels are relatively rare - in nine years of production, less than 1,200 V8 examples were built.
I have a relatively rare diecast - a limited production F-V finished in gunmetal gray and made in China for Ixo, a French firm. It's a nicely-made, well-detailed model and even has the correct Parisian amber 'city' headlamps of the period.
This model was hard to find. It was announced and catalogued by Ixo in 2005 but was apparently discontinued after only a small number were made. I got one of the few brought in to the U.S. Chanceux.
Additional information on the Facel Vega has been posted here. (posted 7/3/08, permalink)
Dime Store Diecast: When I was a kid, my Mom used to take me to S.S. Kresge 5-10-25¢ store on Frankford Avenue, just south of Cottman Ave. I got a lot of my toys from that Kresge location, including molded plastic cowboys and Indians and 10¢ diecast cars. I still have some of the cars.
The ones shown were made by Tootsietoys, except for the '53 Studebaker yellow coupe and 1950 GMC orange pickup - those were manufactured by Goodee. (I have repaired and repainted all of them.)
Over the years, I've picked up other old Tootsietoys at swapmeets, including a coupe of old '50s Fords.
More about Kresge and other neighborhood stores here. (posted 1/9/08, permalink)
Holiday Surprises: For Christmas '07, my daughter and I got matching presents from Santa.
Each of us received a 1:43 scale diecast model of a 1938 Talbot Lago with body by Figoni & Falaschi, finished in a two-tone blue. (posted 12/26/07, permalink)
The Real Batmobile: Introduced at the Detroit Auto Show in January, 1955, the Lincoln Futura concept car stole the show.
Eventually, this futuristic one-off was acquired by George Barris, the famous California car customizer, who turned it into the (POW! BIFF!) Batmobile for the '60s Batman TV series.
Barris reshaped the hood, elongated the tailfins and fluted the ends of the fins to resemble bat wings. The car was repainted Bat Black with red trim.
The original Futura was modeled by Great American Dream Machine in the early 1990s. The full story of this Lincoln show car can be found here. (posted 10/12/07, permalink)
A Night At The Museum: The National Motoring Museum at Beaulieu (in southern England on the Montagu Estate) is an enthralling place and definitely worth a visit if you're in the area. I met Lord Montagu once; he seemed like a nice guy.
When we visited the museum, I picked up a souvenir - a Lledo diecast model. 'Lledo' is 'Odell' spelled backwards. Jack Odell was a self-trained engineer whose daughter's mischievous habit of taking spiders to school in a matchbox prompted him to make her a tiny steamroller as a substitute. This invention that led to Matchbox Toys, maker of 3 billion Lilliputian vehicles in 12,000 models.
Matchbox offered miniature vehicles sized just right for a child's hand but hard to swallow. No batteries required either. By 1962, Matchbox was pumping out a million toy automobiles a week, more than the number of real ones made by all the world's major automakers combined. But the firm later saw its sales drop 75% after the introduction of Mattel's slick and fast Hot Wheels in 1968.
Matchbox declared bankruptcy in 1982 and has several owners since. In the '80s, Odell founded a new company to make diecast cars and trucks. He christened it Lledo. (posted 7/25/07, permalink)
A Red & Sexy Gift For Valentine's Day: My lovely wife gave me a 1:43 scale model of the 1952 Alfa Romeo Disco Volante. It was made by Bizarre Models.
In 1952, when this car was introduced, I was nine years old and I fell in love with it. In those days, there were car trading cards, just like baseball cards. The Disco card was my favorite. (posted 2/16/07, permalink)
Italian Wheels: I now have a silver 1955 Alfa Romeo B.A.T. in my collection. A 1:43 scale model, that is. It looks spectacular. This hand-crafted resin model was made by Bizarre Models.
Earlier this year, I acquired a model of the Alfa Romeo B.A.T. 7, made by the same company. I already have a model of the B.A.T. 5 - a hand-cast white metal model from Design Studio.
I saw all three full size-versions of these one-of-a-kind cars together at California's Concours Italiano in 1996. And, in 2010, at The Blackhawk Museum in Danville, CA.
Alfa Romeo BAT cars were three design exercises to study extreme aerodynamics as applied to sports coupes. The cars were built on Alfa 1900 Sprint chassis. B.A.T. stands for Berlina Aerodynamica Technica. The dark gray BAT 5 debuted in 1953; the silver blue BAT 7 was introduced a year later and the silver BAT 9 appeared in 1955 at the Turin Auto Show. (posted 8/23/06, permalink)
Italian Souvenir: On our last trip to Italy, we visited Sorrento and took a boat to Capri. It's a very small island with narrow, winding and steep roads. Many of the tour taxis are tiny white Fiats which have been converted to stretch-limo convertibles. They were hilarious-looking to these American eyes.
I did manage to purchase a diecast memento of our visit to Italy. (posted 8/14/06, permalink)
Scale Surgeon: I like to put people in the model cars on my O-gauge train layout. I have a box of unpainted 1:48 scale people (men, women and children) that I draw from.
I've been spending the last few days painting and assembling my "peeps" to install in my newly-acquired vehicles. I learned something the other night - do not try to paint neckties on little suited men after imbibing four glasses of Cabernet-Merlot. I had to redo them in the sober light of another day.
After painting and assembly, I installed them in my 1:43 scale cars. I had to amputate the legs from several drivers, since the fit between the steering wheel and seat on some model cars was too tight even to accommodate little legs.
The driver of the '57 Studebaker Golden Hawk (a $5 Yatming diecast made in China and finished in gold with white fin inserts) had a craniotomy and/or hatectomy. I had to severely file down his fedora - not enough headroom.
Oh no - I've created another brainless Studie driver!
I've posted more on the Studebaker Hawk here. (posted 12/10/04, permalink)
Hail and Farewell: Bewley's Cafe on Grafton Street in Dublin - once frequented by James Joyce and Brendan Behan - closed in 2004. I have fond memories of Bewley's. Whenever we traveled to Dublin, my wife and I would stay at the Conrad and hike over to Grafton Street (across St. Steven's Green) for breakfast at Bewley's. The mugs of coffee with steamed milk were to die for.
I still have a Lledo diecast model of a Bewley's 1928 Chevrolet delivery truck (scale: about 1:55) which I picked up as a souvenir during our last visit. (posted 11/19/04, permalink)
Newer toy car photos and stories are posted here. Read more about the model car business here.