July/Aug 2019 edition
Issue #6 AutoMobilia Resource Magazine
With all types of collecting, there are always exceptions to the rule. I’ve found that no matter how stringent one may set their guidelines, there will inevitably be at least one (usually more than one) exception.
This time I have a few examples of these “exceptions.” A few mass-produced gems, some limited-edition junk, and one… that may appear to defy all logic.
Although I have often pontificated, (big word for me) about the virtues of high end very limited-edition hand built, and custom built models, there are also a reasonable number of mass-produced “gems.” You just have to look a little, but they are out there. Some are current and some are out of production, but can still be found. Conversely, there are quite a number of limited edition doorstops masquerading as collectible models that you should run away from.
There is no guarantee that just because a model is a limited-edition piece it will be good, and no guarantee that a mass-produced piece will be bad, or not good enough to collect. You just have to know the subject and or carefully look to see if the model in question is a really good…or a really bad miniature replica. There are numerous examples on both sides. Just to make this more confusing… there is also no guarantee that a model manufacturer will be consistent in either the good or bad departments.
Although CMC is a perfect example of being inconsistent and have produced some real clunkers, they have also struck gold with several of their models, one of which is the 1:18 scale 1938 Bugatti Type 57 SC Corsica Roadster. They produced a few variations, but the one to have is of the restored car. Produced in a run of 3,000 models which CMC laughingly refers to as a “limited edition” (above 250 is NOT limited). This model is close to perfect. It does have a few faults, but over-all they are minimal. I love this model and the real car, still in John Mozart’s collection. Dealers still have them, and many can be found on eBay.
The Danbury Mint who are still in business, but sadly stopped manufacturing their own models in 2013, have produced some of the finest mass-produced models ever. Yes…ever. Their early models were not very good, but in later years (and until the end) they employed a few car guys who were also model car guys. These fellows knew what they were doing and took great pains to do proper research and make great, extremely accurate models. DM’s later pieces were really hard to fault, and the phrase of getting “a lot of bang for the buck” applied perfectly. They made many excellent models.
The two I am showing are their 1:12 Cadillac V-16 Roadster (issued in 2008), and 1:24 scale “Kookies Kar” T-bucket Hot Rod (issued in 2009) as featured in the 1960s TV show “77 Sunset Strip.” Both models are superb, highly detailed, and extremely accurate. The Cadillac is so good, it rivals many scratch built models, and was a real bargain when first offered, priced at only 1/3 of where it should have been.
Two of the current crop of prolific model manufacturers are Top Marques Collectibles (TMC) and Tecnomodel. Both crank out models like sausages, produce their models in China, offer three to six versions of each car, make claims that neither lives up to, and both have an almost perfect score of failing miserably with regard to accuracy and detail. Though once in a great while, each will produce a great and fairly accurate model…possibly by accident. You don’t have to be an expert to find and see the flaws on their models. Top Marques produce their sausages…um I mean ‘models’ in 1:18 and 1:12 scale. Tecnomodel used to make great 1:43 and 1:24 hand built models in their home country of Italy, but that has changed. Now it’s mostly 1:18, all from the Orient. The only plus, or slight win for Tecnomodel is that each version of model is very limited; usually to under 100 of each.
Sometimes you find a piece that is oh-so crude, but you are attracted to it, and as a bonus, it carries some significance. Such is the case with the very rare (only 7 models made) 1:24 Nardi Blue Ray I acquired. Each was personally made by Jim Simpson, who had owned and restored the real one-of-a-kind Nardi Blue Ray, which now resides in the Blackhawk Museum. Jim is a very interesting fellow and a model collector too!
Top Marques - 1:12 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa. Any 250 TR is difficult to model well, but it can be done. Unfortunately, there is a lot wrong all over with this one. Looks good from maybe 15 feet away. It works as a toy, but not as a serious collectible. Three versions offered for combined production of 1,000 models. Priced in the $400 range.
I happened to find the piece shown when previewing automobilia lots at Bonhams Greenwich auction several years ago. It was in a box of assorted models… long story, but the auction house and other bidders had overlooked this and other pieces in the lot. Next to it was an enameled “Simpson Design & Development” emblem. I knew I was onto something… I won the lot, love the model, received confirmation of its provenance… and no, it is not for sale.
To read more great columns like this one from model car expert Marshall Buck...
Collecting Model Cars
Editor of AutoMobilia Resource Magazine, and owner of CMA Models, Marshall Buck caters to serious collectors of boutique and high-end model cars.