Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Collector's Corner - Welly Jaguar S-Type

I've had surprisingly good luck buying diecast models from my local BigLots! bargain store. Granted, I've only bought two, but when they do get something good in, it's a heck of a deal. I've seen Hot Wheels, Revell, Bburago, Yat Ming Road Signature and Sun Star 1:18 models there over the years, all at deeply discounted prices. This 1999 Jaguar S-Type 4.0 Sport by Welly wasn't too shabby for $12.99. At the time, I knew absolutely nothing about the Welly brand, only that I had to choose between the British Racing Green Jag and a black Volkswagen Passat. I have no regrets as to which one I picked.

From what I've seen, Welly is a decent budget model brand based in China. I have a few of their models and haven't been disappointed by their quality, especially since I haven't paid more than $20 for any of them. The Jaguar is at least on par with Maisto, which might have something to do with the fact Maisto also makes an S-Type. Perhaps the two companies use the same tooling? It's not unheard of in the industry for one company to sell or license their tooling to another. Welly and Motor Max have been doing it for years. Case in point: the Motor Max Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is an old Auto Art casting, so you get near-Auto Art quality and detail for under $30. Not bad at all.

Anyway, back on topic. The S-Type is a decent casting, with an accurate shape and opening [front] doors, hood and trunk. All opening parts utilize big chunky hinges that hurt the realism, though at least they work. You get steerable wheels but no working suspension. The sunroof isn't supposed to be removable but can be popped out carefully without damaging the car if you want to display it with the sunroof "open". Unfortunately the plastic door mirrors are quite fragile and the driver side mirror broke off one day while the model was being transported. I re-glued it and it's been fine ever since. The wheels feature caliper-less brake discs inside them, likely because they spin freely with the wheels and calipers would have presented a problem there if cast as one piece with the brake disc. Body gaps are pretty tight when everything is closed. The side markers and turn signals are all painted on, so the only actual lenses are the headlights, taillights and fog lights. Those are mounted with pegs that are visible through the lens, bothering the model snobs who scoff at such things.
Once you pop the hood, you may be disappointed. The 4.0 liter V8 is rendered with about as little detail as Welly could get away with. Most of it looks like one shaped piece that incorporates the engine cover, air intake, shock towers, battery, radiator shroud and even the cowl and windshield wipers. Below that is a thin wafer of grey plastic shaped into all the spark plug wires and other hoses, and below those is a vague black square of plastic that serves as the engine block. Clever cost-cutting or just lazy?

The interior is a little better. Instead of being painted, the seats are molded in off-white and interior parts are only detailed with paint where necessary. In this case it means the wood trim on the door panels and the center console, and the brown dashboard and steering wheel, complete with their own wood trim. The "wood" looks about as convincing as the wood in a mid-1990s Buick, which is probably not far off from the real S-Type. The factory painted the steering wheel audio control buttons nicely, and hinted at lettering on all of the radio and HVAC controls on the center stack. There's also a navigation screen with a cute little map on it. They even replicated the dreaded J-gate shifter so loathed by road testers. The instrument cluster exists as a multi-dial sticker which was applied crooked on mine. I appreciate that the factory was diligent in painting the black weatherstripping and chrome trim around the windows, and included the tiny post in the rear passenger doors as an applied bit of paint or decal rather than as a bulky plastic piece molded into the window glass. I do wish that the center high-mount brake light in the rear window had been detailed instead of being left as an empty space, but one can't ask for everything. The bottom of the car is low on detail, with a basic (probably imagined) suspension setup and a fully chromed exhaust system. Everything else is just parallel grooves in the bottom of the floor pan and a couple boxes containing the name of the car, the manufacturer and the all-important "Made in China".
I don't regret adding this car to my collection. It was my first four-door car model (aside from the Hummer H1) and it got me interested in collecting sedans and other mundane, everyday cars. It's clearly not a high-end model, and it doesn't pretend to be. What I like about it is that somewhere, some youngster is pushing a car just like mine across his living room carpet, making vroom-vroom noises and pretending he's just like his daddy who drives a real version of that same car. Exotics are wonderful, but some of us like the down-to-Earth cars, too.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1963 Chrysler 300

In the summer of 2010 I was returning from Santa Cruz's silly tourist trap, the Mystery Spot, and happened upon a white 1966 Dodge Monaco 440 station wagon parked on the street. It would have been an awesome subject for a street sighting feature, but I passed. One photo from the driver's seat of my car and away I went, promising myself that I would go back someday and shoot it properly.
Two years passed. I went back. The car was gone. In its place was this, a 1963 Chrysler 300 coupe. The owner walked outside while I was photographing it and I asked what happened to the Monaco. He told me he had sold it, but one day while Googling for 1966 Monaco wagons he had found a picture of his wagon, posted on a car blog called California Streets. Small world, indeed!

The 300 coupe was part of Chrysler's full size line in 1963 and shared its body styling with the New Yorker sedan. This one is powered by a 413 Wedge V8 shifted through a push-button automatic. The body may look rough in these photos, but it will get better. The owner, a collector of budget Mopar vehicles, is in the process of restoring the car as a "phantom" New Yorker coupe. When finished, it will be complete with all New Yorker exterior trim and (I assume) interior parts. Speaking of the interior, it's one of the high points of this car. It looks beautiful. Also note the "Disc Brake" lettering on the hubcaps. That was pretty high-tech stuff on an American land yacht in 1963. Given the 300's sporty personal luxury reputation, those were an important feature.
I look forward to hopefully seeing this 300/New Yorker finished someday. There aren't nearly enough Chrysler products from the early 1960s on the road anymore and this one will be sweet.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Santa Cruz Street Sighting - 1965 Ford Galaxie 500

I thought it was appropriate for my first post of 2013 to be about a white 1965 Ford Galaxie 500. My father was the one who first got me interested in cars at a very young age. The first car he owned was a white 1965 Ford Galaxie 500 coupe with a 289 V8 and an automatic transmission. The Galaxie wasn't kept very long, but it was a nice car for a high-schooler in the '70s. I've loved them for many years, and seeing one at car shows always makes me happy. Not many of them show up on the street, though.

That's why it filled me with glee to run across this big white coupe in Santa Cruz. It's well past its prime, sure, but it's still cool. It has the 352 cubic inch V8 which looks to be hooked to a column-shifted automatic. The stock maroon interior makes the red roof almost work with the white body, though the red paint on the hubcaps is pushing it. It hurts to see the rust holes in the body, particularly in the common trouble spots of the hood and around the rear window where moisture can get trapped. Fords of the 1960s aren't known for their factory rustproofing. Note that the "Galaxie 500" badge isn't installed on the left front fender. It's not missing, just sitting on the dash. I expect the scrape on the fender has something to do with it, or the owner plans to put the badge on when the fender's fixed. If anything on this car needs to go, it's the silly skeletal hand that serves as a hood ornament. Regardless, this big boxy Ford is a special find for me.