Vintage Car Score – November 2021

One of the unfortunate casualties of the pandemic has been model shows. I’m sure it’s no surprise that that I do a lot of buying at shows, since you can find my favourite kind of kit there: old ones! However, there’s more than one source of old kits, and thankfully I had a few opportunities in 2021 to really stock up on older airplane kits, like my Matchbox Score and Japanese Plane Score.

That’s all well and good, believe me, but that doesn’t help my variety much. Sure, I pick up the odd Matchbox tank here and there, and my local shop’s got me covered for Gundams, but what about cars? I love Cars, and have a great time with them. I’m well-stocked, of course, but every modeller always wants something different, right?

Well, thankfully, in late November 2021, another source of shopping joy came back into operation; the “toy show”. In Woodstock, Ontario, a mere 45 mins down the road from me, they used to have fairly regular toy and nostalgia shows. Basically, it’s a flea market full of old and awesome stuff, one slanted more to toys the other to non-toy collectibles. Thankfully, because models straddle that line between toy and collectible, there’s usually at least one person there selling kits. I’ve gotten some good stuff at these shows, like my Marui G4 “Hitler Car” and the Movin’ Out Street Van, not to mention Bear Bait!

So, it was with great excitement that I headed down the road with my brother and our friend Mark to check out the first toy show we’d been to in almost two years! Here’s a spoiler: since I’m writing this, and you’re reading it, I must have had some success!

And boy, did I ever. Not only did I get 69 Anime soundtrack records (yes, RECORDS!) but I also found a dude selling old car kits. And I don’t just mean they’re old kits of cars, I mean they’re kits of OLD cars! Ever since my good friend Alan sent me a box of all kids of stuff, including a 1909 Hupmobile, I’ve really been increasingly interested in building Brass Era (BE) cars. I’ve always been fascinated by them, but never really thought of kits for them. My uncle had one or two, but that was ages ago. Whereas I used to only consider kits of cars from the mid-‘70s forward, I’ve started to really be Jonesing for a 1900-1930-odd fix. Well, like Charlie Sheen in a swimming pool of crack, I was winning the heck out of it at this show!

The person I ran into had a 6-foot shelf full of various models, but one or two shelves were special; these were all classics! Subjects were everything from a 1903 Rambler to mid-‘30s machines, and from a variety of makers, some of which I’d never even heard of! With my head reeling and my wallet getting ready for the hit, I dove in and chose some pretty sweet rides to add to my collection. Check them out below, and of course, vote for your favourite!

Matchbox: Yes, they made Car Kits too!

It seems that there are a lot of modellers who are aware of Matchbox tanks and planes, but unaware that Matchbox also did car kits. I mean, since Matchbox started as a purveyor of toy cars, it only makes sense they would, but of all the lines the car kits were the least well-known and well-advertised. Like with their other lines, though, the good folks at Lesney make sure they brought out some weird stuff that hadn’t been kitted in any other form.

Of course, I see “Matchbox” and I see “vintage car” and I fall, hopelessly, head-over-heels in love. It’s not something I can control; it’s just a hopeless automatic reaction. This time, I managed to secure an interesting cross-section of the Matchbox automotive kit catalogue, coming away with four kits that represent the range rather well.

Like their armour, which is all 1/76, Matchbox cars are all in one scale, and that is 1/32. This is a rather odd choice, it seems, since it isn’t very popular in North America. It is big, though, in Europe, as that’s the scale of many slot car racing sets. Also, a lot of older North American vintage cars came in 1/32, like Pyros and Life-Like kits. So, keeping the models at that size was a wise idea on Matchbox’s part, as it gave consistency over many decades and subjects, to those few interested in cars of this era.

The first one that caught my eye was, of course, the biggest. This was the 1928 Rolls Royce Phantom I called the “Black Diamond”. This is in a truly huge box (compare it to the others!) for a Matchbox kit, especially a car in 1/32! I mean, I know Rolls Royces  are big, but really? The box is very impressive, being a later type with the “sunset stripe” motif. The giant red and black rolls speeding down the (apparently dirt) road makes for imposing box art. Adding a touch of class was the “1:32 Classique” label affixed to kits of this era. You know it’s classic if it’s in French, right?

Vintage car kits, and they’re MATCHBOXES??? That’s a sure-fire ticket to a free ride to my basement!

I also picked up a Bugatti Type 59 and a Mercedes SSKL, and rounding out the classic racer selection was an Aston Martin Ulster. These three are all of the older type of box, with white backgrounds and full-sized artwork. There was definitely a theme to most of the Matchbox cars, as they tended to be racing cars throughout history. There are a couple of exceptions (like the Rolls), but by and large, this was a Matchbox thing, and it made their kits rather unique.

Two of the Matchboxes are in international packages, so you don’t get to see the kit build up in its “two colour” form. This normally is seen on the box side, like on the SSKL and the Rolls. Of course, the Rolls is so pimp that it is apparently moulded in FOUR colours!!! Oddly, the “4” is only in three colours… weird. Sadly, you only get cross-sells for other models on the international packs. Interestingly enough, though the three smaller kits all have artwork on the other side, showing dashboards, different views of the cars and/or frame detail.

At least you can see the number of colours in two of the kits. Note: The Rolls is a liar. There are only three colours in that kit.

Of course, the back of the box shows a full colour painting plan for each car. Unlike the planes and tanks, there are no colour or marking variations; you get one car and that’s it. Interestingly, though, the Bugatti on the front of the box is open-wheeled and lightless (like the similar Model of Yesteryear) , but the one on the back of the box has fenders and is lit! That’s a neat option you don’t have on most cars!

Even the cars have full-colour paint plans. However, there’s only ever one variant, unlike the 2 or three you get with a Matchbox plane.

Sadly, the boxes are end-openers, so taking a quick peek inside isn’t really viable. However, all the kits come with chrome parts and rubber/vinyl tires, so that’s pretty cool. The three small kits are all moulded in two colours and chrome, but the Rolls is only in three colours and chrome; by that time, apparenly “chrome” counted as a colour! Seems like a cop-out, to be honest. These kits look to be closer kin to Matchbox planes than tanks, meaning they’re not super-fine on the detail, but they look solid and fairly simple, which is nice.

There’s a bit of difference between the sides of the smaller boxes, but they all have some nice art on them.

The Other Guys:

It’s odd to me to think that there was such a market for Brass Era and Vintage cars back in the day that so many were made. I was always under the impression that this was a niche that wasn’t well-supported. However, that appears to have been wrong, as a great variety of companies were represented on the vendor’s shelves. One of the more famous, of course, was Aurora. And man, was the Aurora kit esoteric.

That model was a 1903 Rambler, one of the more successful early cars in the US. Yes, this is the company that eventually went on to become AMC, and the 1903s were built in the same Kenosha, Wisconsin plant as so many later “Ramblers” and other fine AMC products. This kit isn’t as flashily boxed as the Matchboxes, but it has a very nice piece of art on the front showing the early Rambler looking as sporting as it can, even with the (normal for the day) white tires! The amazing thing is that this kit is in the gigantic scale of 1/16, which is the same as Movin’ Out and the Round 2 reissue of the ’79 T/A from a few years back. Yet, despite this, it’s barely a bigger box than a Japanese 1/24 car! It’s box opens like a pizza box, like one of my FROG Pfeils, and it’s a really interesting-looking kit, with a very old-timey instruction booklet to boot!

Okay, now we go WAAAAAAY back. I am glad to have a few more “centenarian” cars, and 1903 is the oldest subject I have a kit of, of any type!

Another big maker of BE car kits in the US was Pyro. Their moulds were also used by Life Like Hobby Kits, and they were responsible for bringing the 1910 Buick to the masses in their 1/32 kit of the touring version of the car. From giant to tiny, this kit comes in a box roughly the same size as an American 1/25 car, but the pieces are much smaller. It’s easy to forget how small BE cars were, until you see them in such different scales! The Life Like Buick has a more plain box that really looks its age. This art is repeated on the one side, whereas the Rambler has at least new side-view art. On the other side of the Buick is a cross-sell for more awesome BE goodness, while the same thing appears on the BACK of the Rambler box, and in glorious full-colour to boot!

I’d build all those for a dollar! More cool stuff to keep an eye out for; cross sells are just as important now as they were then!
This is the Life Like Buick. It’s so tiny in 1/32, but it looks like a decent kit, so I’m pretty excited about this one!

Now, it’s one thing to see American companies producing kits of old American cars. I was still shocked to see so many, but more shocking was to find out the Japanese got into the BE and vintage scene too! I managed to pick up two kits by a company I’d never heard of before: Midori! The two kits were quite different, too. One is a 1931 Alfa Romeo Gran Sport (or “Glan Sport if you read the box), while the other is a completely different animal; a 1904 Wolseley.

The two boxes are clearly from the same maker as they both use a very “water colour postcard” approach to illustrating their subject matter. The Alfa is shown from the rear three-quarters, and its flowing lines and surprisingly beefy-looking rubber display that pulchritude that only cars of this era can. Like a saucy model giving you a look over her shoulder, the Alfa has a mysterious “come get me” look, as befits a such a sporty car. The washed out backgrounds only add to a sense of speed, despite any apparent motion.

Similar art styles, but very, very different subjects. It’s cool to see European marques kitted by the Japanese!

On the other hand, the Wolseley looks a lot like a prim and proper Sunday Bonnet on wheels. I expect a very fastidiously-dressed middle-American housewife to put it on and wear it to Church in about 1875. The fact that the Wolseley is such an early car, and is in between a motor buggy and a full-on car in the system Panhard tradition doesn’t help. It’s short, big-wheeled and very upright. It is far more mechanical-looking that the Alfa of only a quarter century later; it’s shocking to see the progress that was made!

While the Alfa is in the standard 1/24, the Wolseley is another a giant, being in 1/16. Both Midori kits have cross-sells for others in this series on the sides of the box, and I will admit I wish the seller had had a few more of these.  Both boxes are top-openers, and the kits are presented like a traditional Japanese car kit, with the tires and other bits in a separate bag affixed to the lower box wall. The parts breakdown on the two kits is fairly simple and although the Wolseley isn’t motorized, there are some metal shafts with plastic gears on them for the steering system.

Vintage subects, classic sprue! These are a very different type of kit when compared to the Life Like Buick, above!

Conclusions:

While I am still a big fan of Automotive Dark Ages cars and losers from the Malaise Era, I will admit to having a steadily increasing interest in BE and Vintage cars. They’re just so different from today’s cars and they offer a chance to not only work on something that’s unusual, but to learn about an era that is rich in history, but about which I currently know relatively little.

That there are this many (and apparently a good deal more) kits of this rather esoteric era and subject matter is both surprising and encouraging. I’m excited to work on more Brass-Era and Vintage cars, and I’m looking forward to getting into one of these in the near future. Of course, whenever I have a score like this, I want to build them all at once. I’m sure every modeller has had that experience, eh? However, I’m lucky, because I have you on my side! Please vote for which one of these I should do an out of box review for first. They’re all somewhat unique, so I can’t do it on my own!

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