Model cars have been around as long as the full-size vehicles they are based on. These tiny replicas can vary wildly in price and detail, with the two being broadly proportionate. Hundreds of pounds for a model with incredible amounts of detail are not uncommon, down to Hot Wheels or Matchbox cars costing pocket change.
A distinction must be made between toys and models: toys are intended for play and models are for collecting and displaying. But that doesn’t mean the toys can’t be collected. Hot Wheels are some of the most collectible automotive memorabilia.
The Autojumble at the 2022 NEC Classic Motor Show last weekend had an incredible lineup of both model types. Let’s take a quick look…
With insurance, maintenance and fuel requirements, cars can quickly become an expensive business. And that’s if you can even buy one in the first place; with most competition or historic cars, that’s out of the question. Although you can’t drive these models (RC cars are another story), a big part of what attracts an individual to a car is its exterior appearance. This is where scale models come in. You have something to admire and, being so small, you can fit several on a shelf.
I was surprised not only by the age of the model cars on display at the Classic Motor Show, with some Dinky and Corgi models decades old, but also by the variety.
Older model cars generally lacked detail, which can be attributed to the manufacturing processes of their day. All these models were modeled by hand for a mold before being cast in zinc zamac alloy, then painted by hand.
As technology advanced and allowed automation and mass production, so did models. Most modern versions have incredible details, such as wire wheels with vintage tire treads. Some even show wear, as if they had just finished a race or rally stage.
New manufacturing processes also made it possible to produce very detailed models on a smaller scale, down to 1:64 and even less in some cases.
I could almost guarantee that if you like a weird and obscure car, at some point a company has made a model out of it.
Citroën DS car carrier with an Austin Healy Bugeye Sprite on board? Check.
Alpina E30 B3 2.7? Here. What about a British ice cream truck from the late 90s? I can almost hear the music playing now…
An increase in tuner car culture has meant that scale models have also evolved to keep up with the latest trends.
More and more cars are not just modified, they are well made. Arch gap, tire and wheel sizes, all accurate.
If you prefer the DIY approach, some vendors at the Classic Motor Show had a huge selection of kits, again ranging from totally obscure to all popular models.
Unless your tastes lean more towards larger, more detailed models, you don’t necessarily need deep pockets to start collecting. That’s the great thing about the hobby; it’s incredibly inclusive and there’s something for everyone at every price point.
Be warned though, the scale model collection is a very slippery slope and another automotive rabbit hole that’s too easy to get down. So I’ll end with this: I don’t know anyone who has only one model in their collection…
Feel free to share your most treasured model – or perhaps the size of your entire collection – in the comments below.