Die-cast: Autoworld 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Speedster

Auto World steps back in time to create a real Duesy …

Growing up in Indianapolis, the early auto world’s hub and home to the Indy 500, I was aware that the Duesenberg name was a big deal.

Even though the company that brothers Augie and Fred Duesenberg had built to fame had already been gone for 20 years or so, the make remained famous in Indiana. As a youngster I saw Duesenbergs at local car shows and I was well aware Duesenberg racers had won the 1922, ’24, ’25 and ’27 Indy 500s.

But long-term it was the luxury and performance of the Duesy road cars that stuck with folks. These were the legitimate supercars of their day, and none more so than the SSJ Speedster that Auto World has turned its considerable skills to reproducing in a high-value 1/18-scale offering. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoworld 1935 Duesenberg SSJ Speedster

2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible

M8 drop-top an elegant refined rocket, near supercar … 

Two questions: How much did you pay for your house? How much would you pay for a supercar, or near supercar?

The first may vary wildly depending on how long ago you bought your home, but if you’re thinking Ferrari, Lamborghini, Bugatti, or McLaren for the supercar, you’re likely imagining a price tag north of $1 million.

Relax, this new 2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible is much cheaper. But at $180,245 it’s nearly double what we paid for the 1950s Savage ranch (home) about 30 years ago, and the darned M8 doesn’t even have a bathroom. Continue reading 2020 BMW M8 Competition Convertible

Die-Cast: Autoart Aston Martin Vantage GTE Le Mans

Sexy Aston Martin Vantage a brilliant Le Mans racer … 

My appreciation of Aston Martin cars started as a 5-year-old with a little metal Matchbox DB2-4, was enhanced as a teen by watching James Bond mess up the bad guys in his DB5, and finally came full circle when I got to “briefly” test drive Aston’s new V12 Vantage at Road America in 2012. It’ll scoot!

But you know that and so does most of the automotive world that understands Aston Martin has racing at its heart. Vantage is simply its most recent racer that also is a road car. Its looks are divine, its interior sporty yet luxurious and its power mighty.

No wonder Autoart has reproduced one of the recent Vantage racers in 1/18 scale to reward Aston lovers around the globe. This is another fine composite die-cast sealed body model that will stun onlookers who see it on your display shelf. Continue reading Die-Cast: Autoart Aston Martin Vantage GTE Le Mans

Die-cast: Autoart’s Audi Sport quattro S1, 1986 Rally Monte Carlo

Twin Audi rally cars are full-featured beasts …

Autoart delivers two versions of the Audi S1 that ran in the 1986 Rally Monte Carlo.

Rally racers are uniquely designed and equipped to crush the outback, the dirt, the rocks and the dust of off-road racing in the world’s hinterlands.

Not a big deal in the United States, but with a huge following in Europe in particular, the European car makers have generally been the leaders and champs, especially in the early years of rally racing. Audi is one in particular with a strong rally heritage and now Autoart creates several stirring renditions of the Audi Sport quattro S1 that raced in 1986.

These are composite body models in 1/18 scale, but unlike many such models, these white, yellow and black racers feature opening hood and doors so you can see engine and interior detail. Awesome!

The History

The quattro (always a small Q by the way) was Audi’s big leap forward into rally racing and took advantage of new rules that allowed four-wheel-drive on the rally circuit. Audi jumped on the opportunity to add it to the two-door midsize coupe, the Audi 80, that served as the base for its rally car.

Power in all the units from 1980 through 1991 was an inline 5-cylinder engine with 5-speed manual transmissions. The cars weighed roughly 2,900 lbs. and rode on short 99.4-inch wheelbases. The first racing quattro A1 appeared in World Rally Championship (WRC) for the 1983 season driven by Finland’s Hannu Mikkola and won the Swedish Rally and Rally Portugal. The A2 version went on to win eight world rallies in 1983 and ’84.

Autoart’s model represents the Audi Sport quattro S1 E2 introduced at the end of 1985 as an update to the earlier S1. Under the hood was an I5 cranking an amazing 473 horsepower thanks to a turbo that recirculated air to keep the turbo spinning at high rpm even when the throttle was closed. Result? Instant power once the driver was back on the gas. Ultimately that meant power closer to 495 horses, with minimal lag.

This new rally racer also launched with a distinctive aero kit featuring a giant rear wing with side winglets and a chin spoiler that wound up into winged fender flares to boost downforce. Audi reports the S1 could do 0-60 mph in about 3.1 seconds. Later updated versions were said to have created 592 horsepower and were quicker. Wow!

Audi’s S1 E2 was the final Group B car Audi produced and it pulled out of the WRC after 1986. But Mikkola and Sweden’s Arne Hertz took third at the Rally Monte Carlo in this car in 1986, finishing just 7 minutes, 22 seconds behind a Lancia Delta S4. Meanwhile Audi teammates Walter Röhrl and Christian Geistdörfer, both noted German rally drivers, took fourth in a nearly identical car, 2 minutes and 13 seconds behind the No. 6 car. Autoart also makes a model of their No. 2 racer.

How famous are Röhrl and Geistdörfer? They were world rally champs in 1980 and ’81 and won the Rally Monte Carlo four times, in 1980, ’82, ’83, and ’84.

This car also was used to win the 1987 Pikes Peak International Hill Climb with Röhrl at the wheel.

Cool that both doors and the hood open on this Autoart composite die-cast Audi S1.

The Model

There’s so much to like on this Audi rally car, no matter the version. Start with the body shape and details like the rear window’s hinges with the rolled metal centers and two individual rivets each, or the six giant driving lights in their triangular configuration on the nose. Gnarly!

There are hood pins up front and white mesh grille work in the hood, which operates on functional white hinges. And then there the four Audi chrome rings on the black gloss grille too.

Side mirrors are open cone shaped numbers to allow air to flow directly through, cutting wind resistance, plus each has mirrored faces.

Under the hood is a stout looking I5 with five exhaust ports, a side-mounted turbo with Audi rings and massive wrapped-look air intake. Plus the plugs are wired and engine plumbing is in place. Some of the detailing looks a bit too plastic, but with the hood open and the model on a shelf it’s impressive.

That giant white rear wing with black HB Audi Team name emblazoned on it looks sharp too with tiny side winglets with rivets and clear plastic side downforce reinforcements.

Under the wing the racer’s body panel can be removed to expose a giant radiator with twin fans to help cool this high-horse beast while it’s crushing a rally course. The trunk panel easily snaps into place with magnets to hold it. Detailing of top and rear black screens and grilles look great too, and there’s a Rallye Monte Carlo logo with No. 6 on it.

Below all that a white photo-etched trim strip covers the rear bumper and a fogged chrome exhaust exits under the bumper. There’s also a white tow ring in back and up top a separate radio antenna comes with the car and can be snapped into place.

Inside you’ll find a fully detailed interior with twin black race seats equipped with red cloth seatbelts and shoulder harnesses that extend back to under the rear window for strong support of the co-drivers. And unique to rally cars are two spare tires tethered in what would be the rear seat area so the crew can quickly fix a flat while on course.

A white roll cage surrounds the cockpit and a giant heavy-duty matte silver shifter with black knob thrusts upward from the transmission console. Audi’s race wheel is black with three silver center spokes and the black dash is loaded with buttons and gauges. Down below are three pedals, the accelerator being flat silver, plus tubing from under the hood extending into the passenger’s floor compartment and under its seat.

Wheels are plain white with big disc brakes and calipers visible behind them. Those discs and calipers look a bit too much like plastic to me though. Tires are treaded, but unbranded.

One might ask why buy one version of the Audi Sport quattro racer over the other. Well, certainly if you have a driver preference that may be the primary decider.

Other visual differences are minor. First, is the number, 6 for Mikkola/Hertz, and 2 for Röhrl/Geistdörfer. The No. 2 car has white to clear downforce trim on the front fenders while the No. 6 has black, which is more distinctive, at least to my eyeballs. Also the No. 6 has a blue Team Finlandia decal on the side of its rear wing. Predictably the driver names on the front quarter panels also reflect each car’s correct pilot combo, oh, and a round sticker with a No. 90 is stuck in the upper right corner of the No. 6 car’s rear window.

My respect for rally racing has only increased through the years and it’s exciting to see what the rally racers do to make their cars competitive. These latest racers from Autoart are exciting, no matter how you pose them, but I’d leave the hood up and a door open if you want folks to admire more than just the bodacious body.

Vital Stats: Audi Sport quattro S1, Rally Monte Carlo 1986, Mikkola/Hertz

Maker: Autoart
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: 88602
MSRP: $230

Link: Autoartmodels.com

 

 

 

2020 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

Hellraisin Challenger cures a lot of ills … 

I’ve discovered the perfect cure for pandemic boredom.

Slip into the camel brown suede and black leather interior of a muscle-bound hot rod, known to the Mopar brethren as a Dodge Challenger. But not the low-end V6-powered SXT, although I’m sure it has its party favors too. But lavish in the luxurious cow-threatening interior of the R/T Scat Pack Widebody.

Yes, the more names and initials Dodge adds to its retro muscle car, the faster it goes and the cooler it looks, just ask any post-pubescent guy. My heartthrob for the week was a Hellraisin (metallic dark purple, get it?) Widebody loaded with all the options one could want, and still not have to sell the house, maybe. Continue reading 2020 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack Widebody

2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

Caddy’s CT4 sedan a value leader …

Seemingly forever Cadillac was THE American luxury car, its image built on being big, luxurious, powerful, pricey, and stylish, often to a gaudy extreme!

All that changed when Japan’s luxury makes invaded and when coupled with growing sales of German luxury makes, Cadillac’s slice of the U.S. luxury pie became much smaller. But Caddy got its act together more quickly than Lincoln, the other big U.S. luxury make since Packard ceased to exist after the late 1950s. So for the past 20 year or so Caddy has been making solid and fairly stylish luxury vehicles. Continue reading 2020 Cadillac CT4 Premium Luxury

Die-cast: DNA’s Subaru Baja

Subie’s small Baja pickup looks great in 1/18 scale …

Leading sometimes is a lonely game. Just ask Subaru.

Its Baja, a 4-door compact pickup based on a car platform was one of the first of its kind and can easily be seen in today’s multitude of such pickups. But it was not a sales success, selling just 30,000 units in three years.

But Baja was a leader, make no mistake about that, and DNA Collectibles loves oddball and original designs so has created a sharp 1/18 scale resin die-cast Baja that certainly is a looker.

The History

Baja sprung from the ST-X concept vehicle with its more radical off-roading look, as if it were to run in the Baja 1000 cross-country race. Tamed down, but still sporty looking, Subaru made the Baja from 2002 to 2006 in its Lafayette, Ind., plant. Bajas were based on the popular Legacy/Outback platform and marketed as 2003 through 2006 models.

Baja followed the 2-door Brat that Subaru sold successfully from 1978 to 1994. Brat too was a compact pickup with some styling flair. But as we all know, Americans prefer more room for all their stuff. So Baja with its four doors, second row seat and handsomely lined pickup bed and functional roof rack seemed to fit that bill.

It featured Subaru’s trusted 2.5-liter Boxer 4-cylinder engine with a turbo version coming in year two. Plus Baja was made more useful for hauling with its Switchback system where the second row seat folded down and a panel behind it opened to the bed, allowing for longer items to be carried. To add more strength to the bed there also were two chrome handles or supports that extended from the roof to the bed’s sides. Knowing we love all things sporty, Subaru marketed those handles as “Sports Bars,” which now has a totally separate meaning.

The pickup also had four tie-downs, two bed lights, roof rails and crossbars, and a snazzy system that allowed the license plate holder to fold perpendicular to the tailgate so it could be seen if the truck was driving with the tailgate lowered. Clever!

The Model

DNA’s model replicates the original bicolor launch version which was bright yellow with silver stone metallic lower body cladding, all beautifully painted.

Other standout features include the black roof rails and small sunroof just in front of the rack’s forward bar. A tiny black antenna sits next to the rails and is in a retracted position. All windows appear slightly tinted and edged in black.

In front is a chrome-trimmed grille opening with photo-etched metal and black backing and the Subaru logo at the grille’s center. Headlights are wonderfully rendered showing four different lenses and lights while below the bumper are two giant running lights with slight grille work covering the lenses for protection.

Baja’s tail features a well detailed flat black lined cargo bed, the two chrome Sport Bars and dual overhead cargo lamp. Taillights are sharply detailed too and the license area is nicely shaped indicating it indeed could have been repositioned when the tailgate was down. Would be cool if the model allowed that tailgate to drop, or the doors to open.

Subaru, Baja and AWD labels are here in photo-etched form too.

Underneath you see the Baja labeled rear wheel mud flaps and a chrome muffler and tailpipe that look a little too shiny for my taste. I think a matte silver finish would have looked more realistic.

Tires are black sidewall and treaded, but with no branding and the wheels are matte gray five-spokers with large plain discs behind them with calipers.

Inside, well, that’s not extremely easy to see because all the windows are posed in the up position. Seats and dash are bicolor gray and black, which looks sporty and is best viewed through the windshield and from overhead. There you’ll see the gated shifter on the console, the gray and black steering wheel and gauge faces on the instrument cluster and the dash’s stack.

Hard to see much else, but DNA says there are seat belts and radio buttons there too. I wish the side windows at least could have been clear or the driver’s window removed so the interior could be viewed more easily.

As is though the Baja looks great and would stand out in any model display. And it now comes in a fully windowed box that would make it easy to display as purchased.

DNA puts the Baja in a great windowed box, so you could easily display it just as it comes!

Coming up, DNA has just added the Volvo P1800 in red and a Saab 9-4x. It’s just starting to take pre-orders for its Saab 9-5 NG Aero.

Vital Stats: Subaru Baja

Maker: DNA Collectibles
Scale: 1/18
Stock No.: DNA000050
MSRP: $139.99

Link: DNAcollectibles.com

 

2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD

Seltos Turbo a bright spot among crossovers …

Some cars (or crossovers) just make you feel good. VW’s Beetle was one, the Mini Cooper another. It may be their looks, their ease of driving, their usefulness or simply their price.

Sometimes it’s all of that, which brings me to this week’s drive, the Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD. Again, that’s a lot to take in from a name standpoint, but simply put, this is a fine compact crossover that borders on cute. Mine was a retina-burning Starbright Yellow, which I initially nicknamed Electric Mustard, but Electric Dijon may be more accurate.

This is not a vehicle that would be hard to find in a parking lot. It stands out like a scorching yellow dot in a black and white minimalist’s painting. It’s Shakira at an Amish picnic! Continue reading 2021 Kia Seltos SX Turbo AWD

2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab

New engine improves Nissan’s compact pickup …

I’d been looking forward to testing Nissan’s 2020 Frontier compact pickup since hearing about its upgrades at the Chicago Auto Show in February, just before the Covid lockdown.

A Zoom update this spring further stoked my curiosity. I much prefer compact pickups to the big boys and Frontier has always been a strong competitor in what now is really a mid-size market. Yet due to Covid shutting assembly plants and some timing issues Nissan’s 2020 model just arrived and is going on sale, about when you’d expect a 2021.

No problem. It was worth the wait.

How so? Continue reading 2020 Nissan Frontier Pro-4X Crew Cab

Die-cast: Autoart Honda Civic Type R

Autoart’s Civic Type R looks ready to rip in 1/18 scale … 

All this bad boy needs is a number and a sponsor and the Civic R looks ready to race!

When I was a youngster and Honda Civics were new to the U.S. market, they were cute, nimble econoboxes that got great gas mileage and weren’t very expensive.

Times change.

Now Civic has grown to be as large as an Accord used to be, but remain Honda’s main entry in the compact car market. Plus, now there’s a Type R in the U.S., as of 2017, that takes the sporty Civic to its logical, or maybe illogical performance extreme. The 2020 Honda Civic Type R is one hot hatchback, and Autoart does a fine job of bringing it to the 1/18 scale die-cast market. Continue reading Die-cast: Autoart Honda Civic Type R

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