Model cars are for big kids too - and some sell for serious money


Model car collecting saw an upsurge during the coronavirus pandemic as people stopped going out and focused on home activities. – Photo: THE STAR/filepic

The Mercedes 600 Pullman Landaulet is a magnificent car loved by emperors and dictators and one which few mortals will ever own - at least not in full-sized form.

Thankfully there is a miniaturised version, which is not exactly cheap, but exquisite and amazingly detailed, right down to the leather or suede upholstery. There's also a fabric rear folding roof which can be raised and lowered just like the real thing.

The dark blue replica is produced by a company called CMC and is 18 times smaller than the real seven-seater car, of which only 59 were ever made from 1965 to 1981.

Yes, the wheels do go round too but this no toy to push across the kitchen floor. After all, it carries a price tag of €997 (RM4,470).

The level of detail has to be seen to be believed. The model consists of 1,200 metal, plastic and wooden parts and all the doors, bonnet and boot open to reveal a luxury interior and a beautifully miniaturized 6.3-litre engine.

The CMC Mercedes Pullman represents the high-end of model car collecting, a hobby which is easily dismissed by non-enthusiasts as something for boys and girls who never grew up.

The hobby saw an upsurge during the coronavirus pandemic as people stopped going out and focussed on home activities but interest has always been lively. Hundreds of new models appear monthly and a range of specialist magazines like UK-based Diecast Collector cater for collectors.

The focus these days is on diecast and finely-made models cast in resin, a kind of plastic which lends itself well to reproducing detailed features. Tiny photo-etched parts are added.

"Collecting diecast model cars is a great way for car enthusiasts to own the models they love," according to auction house Warwick & Warwick based in the British city of the same name. It publishes a handy valuation guide on its website.

"Whilst buying the full-size vehicle is often financially out of reach, owning a detailed replica represents the best way to acquire a piece of automotive history," say the experts.

One of the most popular scales is 1:43 which was roughly the size used for the metal Dinky and Corgi toys which many will remember from their childhood.

Smaller contemporary model cars from Matchbox, Hot Wheels and Germany's Siku continue to be bought by children and enthusiasts and they still cost just pocket-money sums starting from just a few euros each. They represent a good starting point for those new to the hobby.

In the US and now beyond the scale of 1:64 is growing popular and for those with ample shelf space, models like the CNC in 1:18 display very well. Most cost between €50 (RM224) and €200 (RM896).

Older model cars tend to be made of diecast metal using zinc alloy. This makes them robust although only a few have survived the ravages of the playroom unscathed.

Those in good condition can fetch considerable sums of money, bearing in mind that when new they cost next to nothing to buy.

Experienced collectors warn against collecting model cars for profit alone since prices can go down as well as up. Despite that, a good diecast car picked up cheaply at a flea market can turn out to be valuable.

High prices are only achieved though if the model is in good condition. If the original box comes with it so much the better.

A Matchbox No 20c Chevrolet Impala Tax in yellow with grey wheels recently sold at auction for £1,043 (RM5,350) after attracting 61 bids. A boxed, late Corgi James Bond Aston Martin changed hands for £560 (RM2,873)

These models are more likely to turn up than genuine diecast rarities which can fetch 10 times as much. Pre-war Dinky cars, which are nigh on 90 years old, suffer from metal fatigue and fall apart which make intact survivors much rarer.

Witness the May auction sale of a pre-war Dinky delivery van for £7,500 (RM38,478) or a similar pale green version for £5,200 (RM26,678).

Young Philippines-based blogger Jason Ong, who has written an extensive online guide to collecting model cars, admits that "for someone who doesn't understand, it can be hard to figure out why people collect car models."

He believes the attraction of the hobby is the ready availability of scale models and the fact that they represent the mechanical and historic innovations of the real vehicles.

"With the diecast model in front of you there is a sense of pride and respect for the vehicle," says Jason on his website. – By Martin Bensley/dpa

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model cars , toys , hobby


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