Friday, December 7, 2012

Collector's Corner - ERTL & Yat Ming Shelby Cobra 427 S/C

There are certain cars which are so important in the history of the automobile that it's virtually required for true enthusiasts to own a model of one. One such vehicle is the car Motor Trend magazine once called the most important vehicle of the last 50 years. Mind you, that was in 1999 and they were talking about the very first 260 V8 powered Shelby Cobra, known as CSX2000. The Shelby Cobra 427 S/C was a much different kettle of fish. A handful to drive, a blast in a straight line, and uncomfortable and unsafe for most everyone. The concept of a lightweight sports car with a powerful engine resonated with enthusiasts and continues to this day. The Cobra has been replicated in scale by a number of companies, and today we look at the two from my collection.

The red Cobra is made by ERTL, and is one of my earliest known 1:18 diecasts. I don't know when I got it, but it led a hard life. The worst mishap was an incident whose details I don't remember but which resulted in busting the windshield off the car. Being an amateur model builder, I figured I could fix it. The windshield still has fingerprinty blobs of dried glue on it, and the passenger side wiper is missing.
The blue Cobra is a Yat Ming release from their Road Legends series. It's definitely the more subtle of the two cars, and hasn't been in my collection nearly as long. I obtained this model from a friend in high school who figured I had more use for it than he did. I got it pretty much in the condition you see in the pictures. The body had some wear, one of the hood handles was missing, and one of the "427 Powered by Ford" fender stickers was coming off.

Owning two different models of the same car gives one an interesting opportunity to see the thinking behind the models' development. It lets you compare details, proportions, paint quality and the various cost-cutting measures associated with keeping it all under a certain price point. At a glance, the cars look pretty similar. They have close proportions and roll on the same style of Halibrand racing wheels with spinner center caps. Pick them up, however, and it becomes immediately clear that the ERTL is much heavier, but if you turn them over, the Road Legends car has better detail on the chassis. The deep metallic blue is more subtle than the plain red and white striping, and both cars look good. But how many people buying Cobras want subtle?

Both cars have decently detailed interiors with their own share of surprises. The ERTL car features a better-looking woodgrain steering wheel and instrument panel, and what look like a pair of batteries behind the passenger seat. The blue Yat Ming car has a fire extinguisher. Both cars have massive door hinges that intrude far into the passenger compartment when closed. Speaking of opening parts, the ERTL people probably assumed that their collectors don't care what the trunk of a Cobra looks like. The Yat Ming car, however, does have an opening trunk. Once you open it, though, you might ask why they bothered. Detail inside the trunk is limited to a silver-painted box and a chrome support tube for the roll bar that doesn't actually connect to the roll bar. I appreciate that both cars feature different approaches to bumpers. The Yat Ming has simple highway bars, while the ERTL has full chrome bumpers which proved as delicate and useless against damage on my model as they did in real life. Both cars have embossed tire lettering (Goodyear Blue Streaks, Speedway Specials on the ERTL and Sports Car Specials on the Yat Ming. Interestingly, only the ERTL car has the Goodyear name on the tires, and its tread pattern is far better). I like lettering on my cars' tires. They don't look quite right without it.
Neither car's hood will stay up if opened on a flat surface. The engine in the ERTL is better detailed with spark plug wires and various cooling hoses. The two cars have different carburetor setups, and interestingly the ERTL lacks a cooling fan. I also found it curious that the blue car has actual chromed plastic fender badges while the red car just has stickers applied to a raised rectangle in the body. What looks like an attempt at added value and detail ends up trying too hard and comes off as bulky. In this case I prefer the ERTL's simpler approach - and its stickers haven't ever tried to peel off.

So which model is better? It's hard to say. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. If it were a hybrid of the two, with the ERTL's wheels, tires, general heft, interior and engine with the Yat Ming's chassis detail and opening trunk, that would make one really good model. But it's two different models, and it probably comes down to how much money you have to spend and which color you like better. I think the ERTL has a little better perceived value due to its greater weight and superior engine and interior. If you really want a knockout Cobra model, Exoto has a beautiful narrow-body small block (260 or 289) version to sell you. But if you want the later 427 car, ERTL's offering may be the way to go.

1 comment:

  1. I have both those cars and I like the Ertl best.It maybe a later model than yours,It looks slightly different.