by Pete Hagenbuch
This is the first of what I hope will be many more articles on models of our favorite cars. I'll share with you the best, and worst, of the model manufacturers, the best and worst mail order outfits, and where to go on the Internet to learn more about expected new models. In fact, I am going to start out with some news I've been hoping to hear regarding two new models from an outfit named Merchandise Incentive Corp., henceforth to be known here as MIC.
In a recent ad in Old Cars Weekly, ThorTek's (more about ThorTek later) usual full-page ad showed a 1970 Superbird in full NASCAR regalia for $75.. I've done some detective work and learned that the #43 in Petty blue will sell for $75 and will be followed by none other than Bobby Isaacs' orange K & K Insurance #71 Dodge Charger Daytona! I don't know about you, but these are two I've dreamed of owning since I first caught the collecting disease! My informant tells me they're a good quality source and expects the models will be excellent.
Now, about ThorTek. These folks are located in Friendswood, Texas and are sort of a bellweather for what's coming. They have it in their ads before anyone else, even if it's only a dream in a modelmaker's eye! Sometimes their website, thortek.com, doesn't even know about the model. ThorTek is a good source with low prices and I use them frequently.
There is another website I find valuable and I probably visit it at least once a week. It is Scale18.com, run in conjunction with Kevin's Hobbies of Anmore, British Columbia. Don't be scared off by their location, they are closer to the US than to Alaska. Yes, I know, that's the US too. Kevin claims to have, on his "Huge List", every 1/18 scale model ever made. Anywhere. And I believe him. If the huge list has a weakness, it's that he's a little slow (read slower than ThorTek) in getting the latest titles on his list. Kevin's is another good source and often has the lowest prices.
This isn't my favorite Chrysler model, but it is one of the favorite cars I drove to and from work. In fact my 1969 Dodge Charger R/T was the first of several cars in which I looked forward to my 27 mile trek to work in the morning. And what matter that it sucked up a gallon of gas every 10 or 11 miles? Gas was cheap, particularly when you were having fun! The model is Mattel's, and I paid $30 for it in 1999 and you can still get it for that price. The model is that bright metallic blue with black vinyl top and white bumblebee stripes. So was mine. The model has a black interior; mine was darl blue. The model is a hemi with casr wheels. Mine was a 440 with covers.
Mattel, the folks who make those Hot Wheels toys our kids grew up with, also make diecast models in 1/18 scale. They seem dedicated to making $30 models of pretty uniform mediocrity. They have a contract with Ferrari which gives them the exclusive right to all Ferrari models. This has been the case for the last several years. Only recently, we've seen Kyosho, the only Japanese player in the diecast game, and a source of high quality medium priced models, offering new Ferrari models. My assumption is that they are paying Mattel for the rights to those particular cars. By the way, in my 300 car collection, I have more Ferraris than Chrysler products and a lot of them are Mattels. They've been the only game in town.
But back to the '69 Charger. For a $30 model, the exterior is well done. In judging a diecast model, in fairness to the manufacturer the price must be kept in mind. Bright moldings, wipers, grill and lights are excellent. Finish isn't perfect but acceptable, as are the door and hood fits. The deck lid doesn't open. The vinyl top lacks any grain, though there are two fore-and-aft seams. The five-spoke wheels are nice, as are the red stripe tires. The interior is merely adequate; with minimal detail. No sill trim, only window regulators on the door panels, and no attempt to simulate carpeting. Under the hood is an obvious Hemi but shouldn't the head covers be black crackle finish? The radiator and top hose are present but no wires connect the chrome plated distributor (and cap) to the spark plugs. The all-black battery is present but would certainly look better with colored caps. The dash panel is devoid of detail (no brake booster or heater housing) and the bright yellow windshield washer fluid bag is not present.
So here is a model with a very nice exterior. In fact I neglected to mention that the characteristic full length crease is most definitely present. The competition (Ertl American Muscle) doesn't have it. I'm happy to proclaim that I like the model, it captures the feel and look of the real car and does it for thirty bucks. You can display it somewhere where the hood doesn't get opened and pocket the savings.
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