Fins were fun and gave the 1950s cars both personality and a hint of aerodynamics that merged the streamlined models of the 1930s with the aerospace world of the 1960s to come.
Buick may not be the first brand you think of when it comes to ‘fin’ish styling, but in 1957 it was tastefully incorporating fins into its sleek designs. Witness the 1957 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop Coupe with is four ventiports and straight tailfins with round projected taillights hinting at being afterburners in those beautifully sculpted chrome rear light surrounds.
NEO does another fine job of re-creating the look of a 1950s chrome-laden model in 1/43 scale resin with the Roadmaster, and for a still modest $74.95. Some 1/43 models are now creeping over the $100 mark.
All Buick hardtops were considered Riviera models in 1957 and 4-door sedans were eliminated. The clean, sexier look of the hardtop with no B-pillar was setting the styling and sales trends. Two-tone paint was being enhanced by chrome sweeps on the hardtop’s sides and around the windows. Continue reading Die-cast: NEO’s 1957 Buick Roadmaster Hardtop Coupe→
Few cars are as radically styled as Norman E. Timbs’ Streamliner.
The Streamliner is a teardrop-shaped car that looks like an amoeba that should be wriggling on a slide under a microscope, except it’s a car. You’ve probably seen it and didn’t know what it was.
Now Automodello creates the swoopy 1948 Streamliner in 1:43 scale resin, and bathed in one of two colors. The original, in maroon metallic, has shown up at fancy car shows and in national car magazines. In fact, the original first appeared in the second issue of Motor Trend. How so?
Unless you’re of the age where the name Marcos reminds you of a former Philippine strong man/president, you may be a bit puzzled by the Marcos automobile name.
But in the 1960s Marcos was a racer, one that looked somewhat Italian, but with a long nose more shaped like that of the famous Jaguar E-Type.
Certainly Automodello knows Marcos, and loves its cars’ looks. So the Illinois-based model maker has added a 1:43 lineup of 1964 Marcos sports coupes to its offerings of some of the most unusual classic cars available to us collectors. Like its other cars, these are cast in resin with photo-etched bright work.
Just out are red and royal blue models of the 1964 Marcos 1800 two-seater, both in limited quantities. In fact, Automodello is making only 499 of the red Marcos and just 64 of the Tribute Edition royal blue model. Its Tribute Editions are always exceedingly rare in quantity and these are hand-signed by Jem Marsh, who recently died.
Jem Marsh and Frank Costin (MarCos, get it?) teamed up in 1959 to build lightweight sports cars with wooden monocoque frames. Cost was low and performance high as they dropped Volvo P1800 4-cylinder engines into their 1964 Marcos 1800 that featured a fiberglass-reinforced plastic body.
Early models weren’t as sleek and exciting looking as the 1800, but by 1964 the duo had ironed out the bugs, including styling that made the 1800 stand out among sports coupes of the era. These had 4-speed gearboxes with MGB-sourced overdrive units and Triumph-sourced hood latches to allow the car’s front section to flip forward providing access to the engine compartment.
With 114 horsepower, an aerodynamic body and overall light weight, the Marcos would do 0-60 mph in about 9 seconds with a top speed of 115 mph. The cars also handled extremely well with tightly sprung suspensions, making it a favorite among racers, especially in England where they were built. The car company was successful through the early 1970s but after building a modern factory hit on a tough times, went out of business and then reformed. Ultimately Marcos ceased car production in 2007.
Automodello’s review models were both crisply executed with glossy paint jobs and fine detail that make these stand out from many 1:43 brands. For instance, the red model is left-hand drive with the photo-etched chrome windshield wipers posed to sweep right to left. The blue Tribute model is right-hand drive with the wipers posed the opposite way.
In addition the Tribute model features classy wire-spoke wheels as opposed to solid wheels on the red model.
In any case, detailing is strong with photo-etch chrome trim around all windows, the big lens-covered dual headlights, front and rear bumpers, a gas cap atop the trunk and latch below the Marcos nameplate on the trunk’s rear lip. Door handles are scoops in the doors’ edges and there’s a highlighted key hole on each door and Marcos logo on the hood.
The small running lights below the split front bumper (again, very much like the Jag E-Type) almost look to glow and the trio of taillights are well executed too.
Interiors are tan in the red model and black in the blue car, with the tan being more interesting because you can see more detail on the lighter color. The review model has a black 3-spoke wheel, shifter and dash face and you can see the instrumentation on that model. You also can see the silver door releases and assist handles in both models’ interiors.
You’ll notice there are no mirrors on either model. That’s not a mistake, it’s because mirrors were optional on the original cars.
Tires are treaded, but with no branding, and the single exhausts are black and well detailed. Both cars are mounted on black bases with the car’s name printed mid-base and the acrylic tops fit snugly and are cleanly molded. The red model reflects the car displayed in the 1964 Racing Car Show display and the blue model represents a model shown in 1964 sales brochures.
A black model with tan interior is planned too as an Homage Edition, with only 24 to be made. Talk about rare!
By 1971 Al Unser was no longer just Bobby Unser’s younger brother, he was a 2-time Indianapolis 500 winner, while Bobby had won just once.
The decidedly quieter, more humble Al had wisely hooked up with Parnelli Jones’ team and had the dominant PJ Colt chassis and a Ford V8 engine behind him. That helped Al lead 190 of the 200 laps after winning the pole position as fastest qualifier in 1970. He would not only win Indy that and the following year, but the Indy Car National Championship in 1970.
Unser and the team also were lucky to have the colorful sponsorship of Johnny Lightning, a then new die-cast toy car maker that was challenging the likes of Hot Wheels and Matchbox. The result was a colorful bright blue racer with yellow lightning bolts in 1970 and a darker blue version with those same electric bolts for 1971. Every kid in America knew this car and its color scheme.
Automodello creates John Fitch’s souped up Corvair
John Fitch is NOT a household name. But he was an incredible person.
Fitch not only was a leading American sports car racer in the 1950s, racing at LeMans six times and finishing third once, winning big name events such as the 12 Hours of Sebring and 1955 Mille Miglia in Italy, but he was an inventor. Fitch, who lived to be nearly 100, held patents on a variety of safety devices, much of it to do with racing. He was a car guy, through and through.
In the 1960s he fell in love with Chevrolet’s Corvair as a possible sports car to be raced. He had already been the first manager of Chevy’s Corvette racing team. So Fitch put his design and racing experience into a series of customized Corvairs that became known as Fitch Sprints.
Eyeballed my first Studebaker Avanti at my first Indianapolis 500 in 1962. The car was just about to be produced and was the “ceremonial” pace car for that year’s race, won by Roger Ward. A Studebaker Lark convertible was the “official” pace car.
This car looked futuristic, and still looks contemporary. Its fastback styling, edgy nose and tail and sporty dimensions made it a head turner. If only Studebaker hadn’t gone bankrupt just a few years later. But now collectors can get their own 1:43 scale resin version from Automodello, which continues to turn out some of the more rare and unusual classic cars, and in a variety of scales.
Studebaker needed what is now known as a Halo Car, one that exudes creativity and set the tone for the company. Chevy had its Corvette, and Ford its Thunderbird at the time. Avanti was Studebaker’s sports coupe, designed by a crew led by famed designer Raymond Loewy. Supposedly they had 40 days to crank out the concept and thus Avanti was born.
But Studebaker was desperate. After about 110 years in business, first as a wagon maker and after the early 1900s a car and truck maker, its sales were sagging. It had merged with Packard in the mid-1950s, but that didn’t help much and by 1962 the South Bend, Ind.-based company needed a big shot in the arm, or showroom. Continue reading Die-Cast: Automodello 1:43 1963 Studebaker Avanti→
Tiny MGB roadster a throwback to early sports cars
England’s MG was one of the early two-seat sports cars that assumed almost epic popularity among enthusiasts in the United States after World War II.
Returning GIs who had seen the small, sporty, fun to drive MGs while stationed in England during the war desired the roadsters once they reestablished themselves after the war.
Old WWII airports around the country were converted into race tracks and road racing’s popularity grew. So the nimble MGs became regular weekend warriors along with Austin Healeys, Jaguars, Sunbeams and Triumphs.
Autoart delivers a tidy 1:43 model of the 1969 MGB Mk. II roadster, the MGB being made from 1962 until 1980. MG began in Abingdon, England, near Oxford, in the early 1920s as Morris Garages, a Morris dealer, began making its own versions of the Morris cars. Design work came from Cecil Kimber. MG made cars for more than 50 years before falling on hard times and being sold to various auto-making entities. The name now is owned by a Chinese automaker.