Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Collector's Corner - Maisto Lamborghini Diablo SV

One of my all-time favorite 1:18 scale diecasts from my collection is the Lamborghini Diablo SV by Maisto. I was a sucker for the Diablo as a kid and this was one of the first 1:18s I made a conscious effort not to destroy. It's a budget model to be sure, but a good value for the money compared to some of the other Maisto offerings I've seen. I got mine back in the 1990s when the tooling was fairly new, but this casting is still in the Maisto catalog and can be found in a variety of colors.

For such a cheap model, I'm impressed by the detailing. The model has the basics collectors expect: steerable wheels and a spring suspension. The doors, hood and engine cover all open, and instead of a black hole you get a proper spare wheel complete with embossed tire lettering. The seats and dashboard have red piping to jazz up what would otherwise be drab blackness, and the gauge cluster is detailed, albeit only a sticker. Stickers (or decals) can also be found masquerading as backup lights and reflectors on the rear bumper, but that can be forgiven. The important signal lights have proper plastic lenses and aren't painted on. Some model snobs will complain that the mounting stubs for the lights are visible through the lens; this is common in cheaper models and on this particular model it doesn't bother me except on the front turn signals. The car's name badges are neatly picked out in red on the rear end. The single windshield wiper moves in a sweep across the windshield, but be careful - it can scratch. Some details such as the four exhaust pipes make the model appear a bit toylike, as those are the only chromed bits on the car and they're super shiny. Some collectors might want to paint the inside of the exhaust tips black for realism. Some collectors may also be disappointed that the headlight covers are sealed shut. Perhaps on a higher-end model you'd get functioning fliplights, but for $20-25 this isn't bad. Paint quality is adequate and the model displays well. I wish that the edges of the metal around the air intakes were smoother and that there weren't so many visible casting seams. Perhaps on an AutoArt model that kind of quality would be present; then again, AutoArt charges five times the price and the end result is a car your kid will smash to pieces in as many minutes. This model survived my youth with very little damage.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Collector's Corner - All Posts Here

All Collector's Corner diecast features can be found here.

Click the image to view the feature for that model. More to come.
1:18 Scale

1959 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz by Maisto

1996 Chevrolet Impala SS by UT Models

2001 Chevrolet Suburban by Welly

1992 Dodge Viper RT/10 by Bburago

1995 Ferrari F50 Barchetta by Maisto

1995 Ferrari F50 Berlinetta by Maisto

2001 Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor by Motormax

1963 Ford Galaxie 500XL by Sun Star

1999 Ford Mustang GT Convertible by Maisto

1964 Glas Goggomobil T 250 by Revell

Hummer H1 Soft Top by Maisto

1999 Jaguar S-Type 4.0 by Welly

1971 Lada 1200 (VAZ-2101 Zhiguli) by IST Models

Lamborghini Diablo SV by Maisto

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300S Cabriolet A by Maisto

Morgan Plus 8 by Polistil

1959 Pontiac Bonneville Convertible by Sun Star

1973 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am by ERTL

1989 Porsche 911 Speedster by Maisto

Saturn SC 3-Door Coupe by Auto Art

1964 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C by Yat Ming Road Legends

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C by ERTL

1989 Trabant 601 Universal by Cars & Co. (Sun Star)

1955 Volkswagen Type 1 Beetle by Maisto

Other Scales

1995 Chrysler Cirrus by Brookfield Collectors Guild

Upcoming Feature - Collector's Corner

A few years ago, my colleague and good friend Colin Stacy over at The Automotive Way began supplementing his blog with features on his favorite diecast models and toy cars. His focus has always been broader than mine, including new car reviews and such, while mine has mainly been centered around cool old parked cars on public streets.
However, one of my lifelong passions has been collecting diecast cars, and I've been itching to show off some of my collection the way Colin has. Since I graduated from university a year ago, my trips to San Francisco have become few and far between, leading to a surprisingly large decrease in the number of new street sightings I've been able to photograph. Living in suburbia where everyone has garages and people are paranoid, I simply don't get the chance to see the real cars as much.
So, every so often I'm planning to feature a model or two from my collection just to keep things fresh and interesting here on California Streets. Think of it as an opportunity to hone my photography skills on some smaller vehicular subjects. As always, your feedback is appreciated and encouraged!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1959 Peugeot 403

Ask an American about the Peugeot 403 and they will come up with exactly one example: the beat-up grey convertible Peter Falk drove in the TV show "Columbo". And for that matter, the average person who recognizes the Columbo car probably has no clue what it is and would associate any blocky, grey-colored 1960s European convertible with his car.
The interesting thing about the convertible is its rarity; very few were ever made because they cost almost as much as two of the more pedestrian four-door sedans, as seen here. The 403 sedan (and Familiale wagon) was Peugeot's family car offering for the late 1950s, and with the introduction of the 404 was sold as the slightly smaller, cheaper family car in Peugeot's lineup. Kind of like a Chevy Malibu to the 404's Impala in a way. The 403 could also be had as a pickup in some markets, not unlike the El Camino!

I simply love finding obscure French cars on California's streets, and the best part is that I have a Canadian to thank for finding this one. My friend from Alberta discovered a hidden treasure trove of cool old cars while on vacation here in 2010. Much to my delight, most of them were still there when I happened upon the spot two years later. The owner appears to collect old luxury cars with a preference for Lincolns and, oddly, Peugeot 403s.
This 403 is in good condition for its age, and is indeed a curious find on American roads. My first guess at its age was 1963, judging by the very weathered black license plates with an early letter prefix. (edit: A subsequent talk with the owner in fall 2013 confirmed the car's model year as 1959.) I don't know how many of these little cars were sold in North America, but I doubt it was very many and even fewer are likely to have survived. As a luxury offering it may not have been taken seriously in its day here; Americans were - and are - accustomed to the luxury version of a car being the best of everything: the biggest, most powerful engine, an automatic transmission and a sumptuously trimmed interior. The 403 offered a gas or diesel four cylinder and a four-speed manual. You could get leather if you absolutely had to have it, and an automated clutch, but both would cost you. You did, however, get a sliding metal sunroof, a feature not offered on American cars until the Mercury Cougar in 1968. Sunroofs seem to have been more common on European cars; even the more plebian models like the VW Beetle and Fiat 500 had them as standard or at least optional.
The battleship grey paintwork on this 403 is starting to go downhill, but it still holds a shine and puts on a brave face against the coastal elements. Speaking of which, the salt air has done the 50 year old French steel no favors. The bottom of both the hood and the trunk lid are starting to bubble with rust. Both front and rear bumpers have fended off other cars over the years and could stand to be straightened. On the inside, the headliner is pretty much gone and needs to be replaced. Aside from those complaints, though, the body is remarkably straight and looks very solid. These cars had a reputation for reliability, and that's a very good thing, because good luck finding parts in the event something does go wrong. I wish the owner luck with his or her collection and I look forward to featuring more of their cars in the future.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

San Ramon Street Sighting - 1985 Mercury Grand Marquis LS coupe

On a normal day I don't even look twice at Ford Panther platform cars. They're a dime a dozen, they're reliable, unremarkable and nobody really cares much about them as they age. A friend of mine in Canada has owned four of the older square-bodied Crown Victorias, never paying more than a few hundred dollars for any of them. Then again, he's owned about 25 cars and rarely paid more than $500 for any of them. And that's just it: Ford sold hundreds of thousands of LTDs, Crown Victorias, Country Squires, Mercury Marquis, Grand Marquis and Colony Parks and Lincoln Town Cars between 1979 and 1991. And then they slapped a new body on the old chassis and kept selling the cars at a handsome profit until the last Crown Vic finally rolled off the line this year. They're so ubiquitous as the police car, taxi cab, fire chief's car and livery cab (not to mention the car of choice for thousands of senior citizens) that it's easy to find one as either cheap reliable transportation, a budget "fun car" (read: decommissioned P71 Police Interceptor), or a budget luxury car.
That is, unless you're in the market for a coupe that fits all of those criteria. The Crown Victoria coupes are pretty rare, but the ultimate first-generation Panther coupe to find is the Grand Marquis coupe. Only about 11,000 of these coupes were made in 1985, which is still a lot, but how many have you seen lately? I've long been a fan of the early Panther Grand Marquis, which began as a luxury version of the regular Marquis and subsequently replaced it in 1983. In 1986 the cars got a facelift which made them look just modern enough to be bland. They still had the cheesy padded landau top, but now the rub strips were bigger and the chrome rocker trim was gone. Turn signals were changed to a more aerodynamic wraparound style, the grille no longer looked like it was designed with a yardstick and the taillights lost their horizontal chrome ribbing. After 1987 the coupes were dropped for good.
The beauty of the Grand Marquis is that, as a rebadged Crown Victoria, it can easily be turned into a screamer with police car engine and suspension parts, and it can be built up with a lot of goodies normally reserved for Mustangs thanks to their shared engines. Some people even autocross these things, which is a wonderful sight when they do it with a Colony Park wagon. If this car were mine I'd pop off the faux wire-wheel hubcaps and put them away somewhere, then perhaps swap them for the turbine wheels often seen on post-'86 Grand Marquis. Mine would have thin whitewall tires. Being a purist, I probably wouldn't go crazy under the hood, and would just use it as a cruiser.