by Pete Hagenbuch
Anson is among the older Chinese companies participating in the international diecast model business. While the vast majority of diecast models are made in China (which in nearly every case means Hong Kong), only a few are actually conceived and designed there. The typical diecast model is done by American, British, Italian, German or Japanese companies with the actual manufacturing farmed out to Chinese firms with infinitesimal labor costs.
The major Chinese companies, besides Anson (all Hong Kong or Macau) are:
Of these, only MotorMax, Signature and Yat-Ming make historic Mopar models at this time. AutoArt does elevendy-seven varieties of Viper GTS-Rs and also has a model of the new Viper roadster. All of these are excellent models which I'll cover in a future blurb. Yat-Ming has a bunch of Mopars beginning with a nice little '41 Plymouth coupe, a '69 Barracuda, a 1963 Chrysler Turbine car, and they're just out with a pretty nice '70 Coronet R/T convertible. Signature has one Mopar in its lineup, a very pretty 1955 Imperial that's a bit undersized. And then there's MotorMax. Ugghh!!! They make a '57 or '58 Plymouth and a very ugly Crossfire model. MotorMax is to be avoided like the plague! If you are interested in a '57 or '58 Plymouth, read on. If you desire a Crossfire be patient. Bburago, one of the true pioneers in 1/18 scale diecast, has one in its catalog listed as coming in 2004.
Anson's recent history is one of mixed results. They make several very decent Cadillac models, a beautiful 1932 dual-cowl phaeton, a 1947 convertible, a 1953 convertible and a 1974(?) hardtop. The first three are small, while the hardtop is tiny. I mean TINY! I've heard joking references to "box engineering." That is, making the model to fit an existing box. I have no way of judging the truth of this accusation; I just make the measurements and report my findings. And they are undersized. If you think this is nitpicking, I just set the '32 Caddie next to Anson's '57 Plymouth Fury. The Fury is longer! And correct in size.
In fact, it's a very nice model. Paint finish is excellent. Door, hood and decklid fits are nice and tight. Bright trim is essentially good, perhaps a little heavy-handed in places. The A Pillar is very thick, detracting from the side view of the car. Exterior detail is well done. The trunk contains a spare tire and cover, with jack and tools and reinforcements on the bottom side of the decklid. The engine room is more detailed than I expect in a model this inexpensive (I paid $30 for mine in 2001) and appears to be accurate. The interior is a minimum effort but looks better than it should. There is some texture to the seat cushions; otherwise everything is just painted in flat finish. The door trim panels, the most visible component of the interior, are excellent. Pretty smart. If they'd put a little bright trim on the sills I'd have given it a much higher rating.
The previous criticisms are minor compared to two big blunders. The first is omitting the blacking out of the grill between bars, leaving a very bright golden face in the front view. And the other is the very, very red backup light lenses. But in spite of all the defects, this is a model that has caught the feel and the look of the car, and I keep mine in one of my favorite viewing spots.
Just one other comment and this one pertains to a lot of models from China. The Chinese model makers don't seem aware of the reason people like "hardtops". If you're as old as I am, you'll remember the fifties when "hard top convertibles" first appeared. The whole reason for their existence was to achieve the pillarless look of the convertible with top up but all windows rolled down. Top line models became "hardtops"; both two- and four-door varieties. Leaving the rear side window up defeats the whole purpose.
I can't leave Anson without mentioning one more fact. They have made some later classic models which ARE 1/18 scale. And these are really nice models. They include a 1934 Packard Convertible, a 1931 Peerless sedan and a 1932 Maybach Zeppelin convertible.
The second Plymouth Fury is a 1958 model from Ertl. Their first one came out in 2001 with rear fender skirts. Not exactly OEM! They later came out with a new one without the skirts. I would hope they were deluged with mail branding the first one as a mistake. Whatever the reason, I finally got my Fury in 2002 without skirts. I paid $39 for it at the local Great Lakes Hobby store. That's a little pricey for this sort of model! Like the Anson, this one has a minimal interior with little detail that's not painted on. The front seats do have folding seatbacks, and the sills are trimmed with chrome. And that ever-present screw boss is there on this one too. Exterior paint is smooth and glossy but the door fits are atrocious as is clearly seen in the photos. The alignment of bright trim from fender to door is also pretty poor. Hood and decklid fits are better but the deck lid (obviously a separate part) does not open. Or at least I can't open it. The twin swept-back radio antennas are accurate except in caliber; they look like .50 when they should be .30.
Like the Anson model, the Ertl's interior looks better than it deserves to. And opening the hood brings a pleasant surprise. That good old 350 cid B engine looks good with its Golden Commando cylinder head covers. It is both hosed and wired and has all the peripherals including horns, battery, Windshield washer bag, and the dash panel is full of heater housing and power brake booster. I can hear the howl from those two little oval air cleaners! Also gold.
The grill is neatly blacked out between bars and my photo shows how much difference this makes. The other comparison photo shows how two companies can do a very similar pair of cars and both screw them up. I mentioned earlier Anson's goof on the backup lights. But that's nothing compared to how Ertl screwed it up. They got both wrong. And Ertl's an American company. One who got caught copying a competitor? Looking at the photos you can see both models have near-terminal cases of windshield distortion. This is not quite so evident in a casual look at either. Photos do seem to bring out the worst features of a model. On the other hand a really good model takes a really good photo.
Ertl also offers a 1958 Belvedere 2 door hardtop in several color choices. It is similar to the Fury in most ways. Under the hood is what appears to be a B engine, at least it looks like one. But the spark plug wires come from the rear of the engine, where an A engine distributor should reside. There is a red single snorkel air cleaner and all the same equipment as the Fury. Door fits and trim mismatches are similar to the Fury. The all-black interior yields few secrets good or bad. The sills are neatly done up in bright trim and the ever-present boss is barely visible in black.
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
Mickey Rooney’s PlymouthReplicating a 60 year old photo
1976 Plymouth Volare and Dodge AspenAward-winning cars with major flaws
All Mopar Car and Truck News
FCA at the Eiffels
Chrysler: Port Melbourne