Model & Toy Cars - Part III (2012-13)
"The All New '57 Big M Is On The Way." So proclaimed a Mercury automobile ad from the period. It spoke of Dream Car design, referring to the sleek 1956 XM Turnpike Cruiser concept car which made its public debut at the Cleveland Auto Show in January 1956 and inspired the look of the radically-restyled 1957 Mercury line.
I've always liked the looks of the '57 Merc but never owned a real one. I do have a few examples in my model car collection, including a very nice 1:43 scale handbuilt white metal four-door Turnpike Cruiser made by the British firm, Mini Marque.
This peach and persimmon example is one of very few produced; I purchased it new in 1988.
I also have a couple of low-cost 1:43 scale Mercury Turnpike Cruiser convertibles made by Yat Ming - a diecasting firm in Dong Guan, China. (posted 5/3/13, permalink)
Easter Egg: On Easter morning, while others were checking out chocolate bunnies, marshmallow peeps and colorful eggs in their baskets, I was looking at a different egg-shaped item in mine - a 1:43 scale Ixo diecast model of a 1950 Nash Ambassador.
In 1949, Nash rolled out its Airflyte body style, referred to as the Bathtub Nash because, to many, it looked like an upside-down bathtub. This more-or-less egg-shaped vehicle may look retro-odd today, but sold surprisingly well during the 1949-51 era. Los Angeles bought a bunch to use as police cars - old crime movies from the period are full of 'em.
Eight Nash Ambassadors were entered in the 1950 Carrera Panamerica, a 2,172-mile endurance race run over five days across Mexico. Three of the Nash Eggs completed the race.
The Ambassador rode on a 121-inch wheelbase, nine inches longer than the entry-level Statesman model. The Ambassador had a better engine, too - a 235 cubic-inch, 112 horsepower OHV straight six. The Ambassador Custom four-door sedan was priced at $2,223. In 1950, Nash sold 49,100 Ambassadors and 111,300 Statesman models. (posted 4/3/13, permalink)
A Model Christmas: There were two little cars under the Christmas tree this year. One was a 1933 Pierce Silver Arrow produced in 1:43 scale by Ixo.
Introduced at the '33 New York Auto Show, the full-sized Silver Arrow caused quite the sensation. This daring automobile of its day was priced at $10,000 and had a top speed of 115 mph. Only five were built.
The other car I received was a diecast 1958 Studebaker Golden Hawk made in 1:43 scale by Yat Ming. This model costs less than one fourth of the Ixo model yet offers lots of scale detail.
The full-size Hawk was a carryover of the 1957 model and was based on the Studebaker Starliner coupe, introduced in 1953. The coupe had been facelifted and given the Hawk name in 1956; in 1957, tailfins were added. (posted 1/2/13, permalink)
A Tale of Two Corvettes: The 1963-72 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Rays are some of the best-looking cars on the planet.
Derived from the one-off 1959 Sting Ray racer (conceived by General Motors Design V.P. Bill Mitchell, styled by Pete Brock and Larry Shinoda), the 1963 Corvette was a stunner from every angle.
Car & Driver noted that: "Waiting lists of great length and duration for the Corvette Sting Ray at all Chevrolet dealers' are the best proof of the public's acceptance of the new model. ... The new all-independent suspension has completely transformed the Corvette in terms of traction and cornering power."
Corvette Godfather Zora Arkus-Duntov summed it up this way: "For the first time I now have a Corvette I can be proud to drive in Europe." I once owned a '63 Corvette.
In 1968, a new body was fitted to the Corvette's platform. It, too, was a stunner. The looks were derived from the Mitchell-Shinoda Mako Shark II concept car, which was unveiled in 1965. My first encounter with the Mako concept was at the New York Auto Show. While the Corvette carried on with this new body until 1982, the '68-72 models exemplify the original design purity without the additions of unstylish front and rear ends mandated by the 1973 bumper regulations.
These two 1:43 scale models illustrate the differences between the two bodystyles:
Striking Model: In the most recent issue of Model Auto Review, a British scale model car magazine, there was a brief description and a small black & white photo of an interesting-looking, pricey and rare 1:43 scale model by Ukrainian modelmaker EMC Models.
The model was of a 1935 Mercedes 540K Sports Cabriolet with custom coachwork by the German firm Erdmann & Rossi. The car was originally owned by King Ghazi of Iraq. The full-sized car is quite striking with pontoon fenders somewhat reminiscent of the work done by Figoni & Fallaci during the same period.
Ghazi was quite the car enthusiast and was killed in 1939 at age twenty-seven when his sports car crashed into a telephone pole. News reports of the era do not identify the vehicle but some analysts have suggested that the ruler was killed on the orders of Nuri al-Said, Iraq's Prime Minister. (posted 8/17/12, permalink)
Diecast Delights: For my birthday, I received two 1:43 scale Ixo diecast models: a blue 1934 Packard V12 LeBaron speedster and a black and silver 1933 Auburn boattail roadster.
The Packard was styled by Packard design chief Ed Macauley with some help from consultant Alexis de Sakhnoffsky. The long front end conceals a 445 cubic-inch twelve-cylinder engine that produced 160 hp.
There were only 14 Auburn Boattail Speedsters built in 1933. Most Auburns were powered by a 269 cu.in. straight-eight-engine rated at 100 horsepower coupled to a three-speed manual transmission with two-speed rear axle. A few were produced with a 160 horsepower V12 engine. The sleek boattail bodies were styled by Glenn Pray and rode on a 127-inch wheelbase chassis. (posted 8/13/12, permalink)
Tasty Celebration: Every year on Bastille Day (July 14) at Philadelphia's Eastern State Penitentiary, costumed French revolutionaries throw 2,000 Tastykakes from a tower to a the assembled masses below. "If the people have no bread," yells a latter-day dissident, "I say, let them eat Tastykake!"
|Established in 1829, the Eastern State Penitentiary, located in Philadelphia's Fairmount section, has become a tourist attraction because mobster Al Capone and bank robber Willie Sutton were once guests there. It's considered to be the world's first true penitentiary.
This 1:25 scale 1913 Ford Model T delivery van, a diecast bank made by ERTL, was offered in the early 1990s by Tasty Baking Company, Philadelphia-based makers of a legendary line of snack foods, including Tastykake cupcakes, pies, Juniors, Krimpets, Kandy Kakes and more.
Tastykakes have been a Philadelphia staple since 1914. (posted 8/7/12, permalink)
Mint Condition: There are many businesses with 'mint' in their names but, in the world of diecast collectible vehicles, Franklin Mint and Danbury Mint are probably the most well-known.
Franklin Mint is a private Pennsylvania mint founded in 1964. Initially, the firm marketed privately-minted gold and silver commemorative rounds and medallions, but soon branched out into jewelry, dolls, sculpture and other collectibles. In 1983, after Warner Communications purchased Franklin, the company entered the diecast vehicle market, offering commissioned 1:24 scale models made in Asia.
In 1987, the company offered a series of 1:43 scale models, 'Classic Cars of the Fifties', including a 1953 Studebaker Starlight coupe.
In 1990, they offered 'Classic Cars of the '60s' - 12 vehicles sold via a subscription payment plan. The 1961 Lincoln convertible is an example.
Franklin Mint models were always considered overpriced by most scale vehicle collectors. As more companies entered the diecast vehicle market in the 1990s, other firms soon offered comparable - or even improved - quality at lower prices.
In 2000 or so, Franklin Mint curtailed its diecast catalog. Almost no new commissioned vehicles were developed. Instead, the company began to sell scale models produced by other makers such as GMP and Exoto. Model Auto Review, a British publication, recently reported a lawsuit between the former Franklin Mint owner and new owner tied up funds. "In the process, the Chinese factory which made the models hadn't been paid, so they seized the 'assets', which basically meant the diecast tooling."
Danbury Mint was founded in 1969 in Connecticut, offering commemorative medallions. Like Franklin Mint, Danbury soon branched out into plates, bells, sculptures and the like. Danbury later became well-known for their 1:24 scale die-cast vehicles. To the best of my knowledge, the only 1:43 scale Danbury Mint offerings were a series of pewter cars offered in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
In 1993, Danbury offered a gorgeous 1:24 scale model of the 1940 Ford Deluxe coupe. I had to have one for my office, so I ordered an example of this red beauty. I keep it in a custom-made Plexiglas case with a mirrored acrylic bottom. I fabricated the acrylic display myself.
I've always liked the '40 Ford. Ford's chief designer E.T. 'Bob' Gregorie oversaw the styling of this machine. It remains one of the handsomest of mass-produced low-priced prewar American cars and is one of the ten best-looking American production cars ever made.
On the '40 Deluxe line, the grille spread out to reach the fenders and the new sealed-beam headlights were pushed wider still. The car was prow-nosed but gave the appearance of greater width and a bit of upscale Lincoln Zephyr influence around its headlights.
Unlike Franklin, Danbury Mint continues to offer fine diecast vehicles, apparently because they are better-managed and have been better able to withstand the rough roads of shifting markets and difficult economic conditions. (posted 7/17/12, permalink)
Thirties Beauty: The 1935 Auburn 851 Boattail Speedster was styled in desperation by Gordon Buehrig in an attempt to save the brand. Modified leftover '33-'34 bodies were used to produce the 1935 models. While the Boattail was a design home run, it wasn't enough to save Auburn or its parent company.
While production and sales were relatively low, the car has been given posthumous homage by numerous kit car builders as well as model and toy makers.
Introduced in 1979, Matchbox's Yesteryear diecast version remained in production for over 10 years. Scale of Matchbox Yesteryears varied; this Auburn has been reported to be 1:43 by some, 1:47 scale by others. At least eight production paint and trim variations were offered over the years; four of them are shown here. The tan and creme example with chrome wheels at right was the final release in the series.
Yesteryears were relatively low-cost models; the ones shown here were purchased new in proper boxes between 1983 and 1990 at prices ranging from $5 to $17.
The Auburn Speedster is one of the 10 best-looking American production automobiles. (posted 7/3/12, permalink)
More toy car photos and stories are posted here. Read more about the model car business here.
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