by Pete Hagenbuch
Maisto is a giant of the diecast model industry. It is based in Thailand, where its models are made. Its product line is at least as long as Ertl's, another giant. Its widespread line is much more varied, though. And, again like Ertl, you need to see it before you buy it. Quality and accuracy range from excellent to disastrous. Among their better models are their Mercedes 300SLR trio, the Audi R8R Le Mans dominator, a very pretty 500K Mercedes Special Roadster, a monstrous (in size) 1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible and one of my favorite Ferraris, the 550 Maranello Berlinetta. The Cadillac is the exact car my younger son and his bride rode in from their wedding to their reception. It was 36 years old and very pink..!
I almost forgot perhaps the best model Maisto has ever made, the 1958 Porsche 550A spyder. For you youngsters who don't know it, this was Porsche's first all-out sports racer, a 1500cc giant killer.* I saw one finish third overall behind one of Briggs Cunningham's Lister Jaguars and a Ferrari 4.1 in the 1959 Road America 500. Maisto also has a 1953 Studebaker coupe newly out. I've seen it in the box but haven't had a chance to study it yet.
Their 300B has been around since late 2000 and generally sells for $20 to $30. I just purchased a second white one for $20 to use in a conversion to NASCAR racing trim. Not a huge job once you've made the decals. Remove the headlights and back seat and replace the wheels and tires is about it. If anyone has photos of the 1956 Mercury Outboard Racing Team cars, particularly of hood, roof and deck lid, I'd really appreciate a copy. Please send it to . Thanks..!
The Maisto 300B is another one of those which look a whole lot better than they deserve to when studied closely. The paint work is excellent which makes up for a lot. Judging door, hood and deck lid fits is much easier on a white model. And these aren't too good, particularly the doors. Bright trim is well done. Alignment of the single side trim strip from fender to door to fender is good on both sides. Chromium plated hardware, including the grill, is nicely done. Those monster wire wheels which cost $200 a set back then are really pretty as are those big old Goodyears. I doubt you could buy one wheel for $200 today! Probably the worst exterior feature is the curved glass distortion. Both windshield and backlight are thick and, apparently, uneven. There is no headliner or sun visors, just a couple of pretty massive bosses on each end for attaching the glass.
The interior looks good too, until the details are studied. The instrument panel and steering wheel are nice, as are the seats and door panels. The front seat cushion has some bright trim at each end but the sills are devoid of any decoration. And the whole thing is kind of shut down by the stark, low gloss black paint where the carpet should be. The windshield wipers are cast integral with the windshields lower trim molding, a cost saving with no penalty in the appearance department. As with most models in the lowest price bracket, opening the trunk need only be done once. Ertl doesn't even bother to give us opening deck lids in its lower lines. If you open this one you'll find a one-piece molding which incorporates a spare tire cover and nothing more. The entire trunk interior is the same beige tone as the interior.
So now you're all expecting the hatchet job for the underhood, right? Wrong! There may be a better one in this price range but if so, I haven't seen it! That big old 354 cid hemi (aka Double Rocker) is sitting right there, resplendent in “never-dry” silver with gold head covers and bat-wing air cleaners. There's a big old 12 volt battery with, count 'em, six red caps. There's a radiator yoke with radiator attached plus a fan guard and top hose to the well-detailed intake manifold. There's a power brake reservoir and some stuff on the dash panel that could be interpreted as a heater housing. There is a long skinny cylindrical black thing that a whole lot of you won't recognize as a generator. There is even an embossed and legible Chrysler Firepower on each head cover. With this much good there seems like something bad has to raise its ugly head. This one's not too serious. The head covers, instead of being properly wide as only hemi heads are wide, are sort of truncated just below the spark plug wire covers. Don't look at it too hard and you'll never notice. All said, the underhood guys at Maisto have done themselves proud…!
Unfortunately, there's another negative. The model is closer to 1/19 than 1/18 scale. The wheelbase measures 6 11/16”, equivalent to 120.4 inches in 1/18 scale. But all 1956 Chryslers had a 126” wheelbase, making this model 1/18.8. If you want to display it alone, it makes little difference. But if it is to stand near a 1957 Plymouth Fury, for instance, you may ask yourself, was the Fury really bigger? No, it wasn't. So give it away, or sell it, or stomp it. Are you willing to wait till somebody else makes a 300B? Me neither. By the time you have as many cars in your collection as I do you'll have “special cases" scattered all over.
*The Porsche 550A was also the car which movie star James Dean was driving when he died.
Pete Hagenbuch, not content with designing the engines and fuel systems used in the actual cars, or in being a well-known slot car performance pioneer, has written reviews of numerous models:
Pete Hagenbuch, Mopar engineer Pete Hagenbuch Interview Models and promos Model forum
Chrysler toys and models