2010 Australian Diecast of the Year
Posted 18 December 2010 - 03:44 AM
Itís common knowledge that democracy is a double-edged sword. Power being in the hands of the majority. Well thatís a good thing, isnít it? The thing is, how do we know the majority donít have any ulterior motives, or if theyíre biased?
Ignoring a majority can have dire consequences. This is what we learn from basic politics. But in some cases, using literal democracy is not ideal. Take a look at this yearís MTV Music Awards. Despite a seemingly united international hatred, Justin Bieber (an 11 year old from Canada used to sell sexual themes to the most vulnerable members of society) won the award for 2010ís best new artist. So why did this happen? Have the Canadians finally made the inevitable step towards ruling the planet?
Nope. At least not yet. Bieberís success can be put down to MTVís bizarre choice of using a voting system over any form of sanity. The result was a musical award ceremony with no credibility, essentially a popularity contest. And of course Ďpopularityí doesnít (come never) mean Ďthe bestí in the world of today. Certainly most of todayís youths havenít got a clue musically. Lady Gaga. Enough said.
Back in May, I approached Matthew White, Editor of The Diecast Magazine, pitching him an idea that, I hoped, would be the idea to trump all ideas. He was very enthusiastic about it, and off we went. For several months, we bounced ideas, paragraphs and photos off one another, and all was well. That was until White questioned the judging system I had employed, highlighting that he wanted it to be a reader-based judging system. I tried to compromise by suggesting a fusion of both, but White wouldnít budge. White chose to cut all contact with me, without telling me that it was over (sounds like a line from The Notebook). In my ignorance, I plundered on for the next 2 and a half months, waiting for that email which would ultimately never come. I eventually found out when one of my fellow judges bought the magazine in question in mid-September, to find our article absent, instead finding Whiteís take on the idea, and a vague mention of the guy who got the ball rolling (name spelt wrongly no less). A man sob, a stern email, and a few rants later, here we are. Iíd like to introduce you to the inaugural Australian Diecast of the Year awards for 2010, an article by the collector, for the collector.
Itís clear what the problem is with Whiteís interpretation of the idea, and itís something that I want to make plain. If youíre lost regarding the magazine, White had gone with a simple Ďreaders voteí system, where each reader gets to vote for one model, from each major scale, as well as a bunch of other types of model, strangely including aeroplanes. Thereís many things Iíd like to mention, but the main point is that thereís a high chance of a lot of Australian collectors voting for the car they like, over the car they think is the best. All you need to do is visit V8central, or go to a V8 Supercar race meeting to know this. Blue and Red are deeply engrained in this hobby, as they are with all other related products of the ATCC series and V8 Supercar series. To give readers the vote, is essentially to ask who the model car world in Australia and New Zealand likes more; Holden or Ford. Sure there will be a large group of people who will submit honest answers (the members of these forums for example are pretty damn switched on), but their efforts are likely to be negated by the votes of the slanted that donít see it any other way.
Enough of this public procrastination though. Back to proceedings. So, ADOTY. Whatís that?
The point of ADOTY is a simple one; to find which of 2010ís many Australian diecast releases is the definitive best. Itís a subjective and sometimes touchy subject online, but hopefully this wonít be a worry. Not at least until the hate mail and death threats start coming in.
Of course, there were many things to consider when thinking up this project, primarily where the line was going to be drawn in the sand. We obviously canít analyse everything out there.
It was decided that the 1:18 scale was the way to do. Tempted we were to delve into 1:43, but considering the limitations, and how 1:18 is the scale with the fiercest and most intriguing level of competition, we decided not to (though there are more brands fighting it out in 1:43, including Trax and the ever improving Models56). But thatís as specific as weíll be going. No other limits or groupings. From here on in, itís going to be an all on all bar brawl, bloody noses and severed limbs bound to ensue.
As hinted at previously, it wonít just be me either. Those who think Iím a know-nothing prick of a person, rejoice! For there will actually be 4 judges. Just like X Factor. Yikes. Good start.
Judge number one is Matthew Harwood. Heís married, but donít be fooled. Heís also a model car collector. Harwoodís collection spans several decades of Holden history, including a number of Bathurst Winners. He also frequents a trio of Australian diecast forums.
The second of our judges is Codie Findlater. Codieís been collecting for donkeys years, and has many themes covered including a near-complete Peter Brock collection, still being after one of those illusive 1972 Bathurst Winners. Heís our youngest judge, so cut him some slack. And as I write this, heís also about to nudge the 5k post mark on the Biante forum.
Andrew Wood is our third and easily most credible judge. Andrew is in the enviable position of working at Frontline Hobbies, and thus heís able to finger some of the nicest diecast available on a daily basis. His collection ainít bad either, being hugely diverse, cars ranging from Exotics to F1 racers to motorbikes. We all truly hate Andrew, who also has the cheek to barrage us all with hundreds of photos of himself wrapped around every V8 Supercar grid-girl imaginable.
And finally thereís me. I have abnormally large earlobes, am straddling the edge of morbid obesity, and own a couple of model cars. Yeah. Awesome.
Between the 4 of us, weíve bought every major release of the year.
The review process was broken up into 3 parts. Firstly, each judge will nominate eight cars, from which a top eight will be calculated on aggregate. This aggregate list will then be forwarded back to the judges, for them to order from 8th to 1st. From this, a top eight will be ordered. Then finally, the top three models will be ordered once again by the judges. They will go through a comprehensive analysis, a review of every aspect; from engines to interiors, hinges to wheels. There will be no token Brock cars, Moffat cars or V8 Supercars. And there certainly wonít be any Justin Bieber cars. Each model will deserve its spot, and if all goes well, our verdict will be a goody.
As they say in the classics, Ďitís on like Donkey Kongí.
The elimination process wasnít the death race previously mapped out. In reality, the issue wasnít about whom to put in the top 8, but more so what order to have the top 8 in.
The big clashing opinions related, in the most part, to the 1972 Peter Brock LJ Torana XU-1 GTR and the 1974 Brock and Brian Sampson LH Torana, both produced by Classic Carlectables. The argument was that both models, according to some of the panel, were similar in form, to the point of essentially being interchangeable. The opposing opinion though was that this was far from the case; that both models have their own strengths and weaknesses, while also not acting as reciprocals of the other. Sadly, we never came to any real conclusion on this one. The L34 wasnít released in time for this review as hoped, which forced a late shake-up in the order, and a subsequent ring-in making a surprise appearance.
What was also quite interesting from the outset, were certain members actually specifying cars that they definitely didnít want to see make the cut. Strangely vindicating it was to see various members of the panel shoot down particular models in unison and agreement. Sort of like when you say something bad about a member of the family to your spouse, with a slight tingle of hesitation, hoping that they would turn around and echo your remarks about alcoholic step-uncle George and how he always takes the congo-line antics too far.
Not that I have a spouse, or an Uncle George, but thatís beside the point.
One such car, or tier of cars if you like, was the entire squadron of Classics Holden Commodoreís from the early 1980ís. This included the 1985 Brock/David Oxton Mobil VK and the 1982 Brock/Larry Perkins VH. These cars have few fans, and seeing them up close in the flesh, you can see why (though I will concede than the 1982 VH Commodore looks drop-dead gorgeous in full war-paint). Put briefly, charging $240 a piece, retail, is daylight robbery. The sole areas which may constitute such a price may include the engine detail, and perhaps the paint and decal quality. But thatís it. Theyíre plasticy, vaguely detailed, inaccurately shaped, and as such are anything but good value for money.
A car which was also reasonably disliked, securing only the one top 8 vote (which happened to be an 8th place vote anyway) was Bianteís 1993 John Bowe ĎAmaroo Parkí Ford Falcon EB. This car has also been marred with issues from day 1 of its release, many buyers (and in some cases prospective buyers, who ended up taking their money elsewhere) cited the poor materials, poor plastics and poor mold shape as irritating issues. I myself was lined up to buy an EB of my own this year, only to find that the three which held my interest (the 1994 Bathurst Winner, the 1993 Championship Winner and one of Allan Moffatís awesome ĎBanana Boatsí) would all be delayed into 2011. The former most car had been in the pipeline for a Bathurst release, and so to go back on a word like that tells me that Biante are working on the mould of the EB. Or maybe Iím just letting my hopes get in the way of the inner-realist.
On a related note, it was a surprise when we realised how lacklustre and small the yearís Ford 1:18 scale contingent was. It only really became apparent when we started conducting votes, where only a few Falcons featured. Thereís people out there who believe that there has always been a bias towards Holden diecast over Ford diecast from the Australian 1:18 scale producers, and with stats like these, itís not hard to imagine that being the case.
Apart from the aforementioned cars, there were a handful of others which were pondered about. A lot of them being Biante re-hashings of old molds, such as the Geoghegan/Muir ĎArmy Reserveí Falcon XD, and the trio of VR/VS Commodores, all of which missed the due date, but in reality were probably going to miss out on enough votes anyway. Likewise, cars from CC which missed 2010 by a few weeks, such as their superb ĎHemi Orangeí Valiant Charger, were bypassed in regards to fairness. I guess thereís always next year.
But anyway, itís all been said and done. Weíve gone through all the processes, dotted the Ďiís, crossed the Ďtís, and weíve come to 8 separate verdicts.
So grab some munchies, a cold one, settle down, and enjoy as we reveal 8 best diecasts of 2010.
Until recently, anyone could walk into the local book store, locate the nearest dictionary, flick through the ĎAí section, find Ďaverageí, and see in the definition a picture of Bianteís 1:18 Ford Falcon XB Coupe.
Bad it was, with the ride-height straight from a Range Rover, and a face only a mother could love.
But Biante decided in 2010 to include their cobweb-ridden XB mold in their chain of aging mold revivals (including the VS/R Commodores and the Army Reserve Falcon, all of which missed the release marker). What elevates this model beyond the also ranís however is a retooled mould that weíve all been calling out for.
Itís always pleasant when companies admit some fault in their own work, and itís even more pleasant when they release fixed versions. Biante have been on the ball in this regard, and as youíll see later on in the review, this wasnít their only 2010 fixer-upper. But patience is a virtue, and youíll have to exercise that.
Apart from a revised mold and lowered height, the new-gen XB Falcon is a case of Ďwhat you see is what you getí. No smoke, mirrors and gimmicky tinsel, itís just a pure plain Jane diecast. Smack $215 on the table, and Iím yours. The detail as a whole is good enough, but not much more. The interior is fully carpeted, features some well-scaled wooden accents on the rim of the steering wheel, and looks pretty nice with white upholstery on the black of the carpet and dashboard. Refreshing to see something two-tone in the midst of todayís models which, especially if you look at most modern 1:18 German luxo-barges and sports cars, tend to go with the single, dark colour, be it black or some sort of garish brown or tan.
Peek into the engine and youíll realise the true age of this model. The refurbished hinges and myriad of warning stickers, though theyíre nice, canít mask a plasticy and aged effort. Some of the wiring looks like it would be better suited for a 1:12 or 1:10 scale model itís that heavy. And, letís face it, a 1:18 scale engine is always going to be on the back foot when itís only really picked out in two colours, blue and black in the XBís case. A bit of variety in wire colouring mightíve helped the cause.
If you then use that fine-tooth comb on the interior, youíll find that itís not quite that impressive either. The seats look a bit like dismantled fridges, with their square angled edges and slab sided-ness (the white doesnít help in this regard either), while the centre console compartment looks like a safe. And while the wheels look more than adequate, the brakes behind them look at least 6 years out of date. The visible attachment stubs on the reflectors under the front bumper and on the rear fenders are also a minor no-no.
Despite all this, the Falcon XB just makes its way into the top 8, beating out a bunch of racers. And it can thank the revised mould and supreme fit and finish for its successes. An extremely solid effort from Biante and their buddies at AUTOart. No frills motoring, but on a diecast level.
As many of you will know, Iím not a massive fan of diecast remakes. Why go off and cash in on a particular name or race when instead you could get to work on a new mold or model not yet released?
But, I will admit, that thereís indeed a time and a place for remakes, primarily when the original doesnít cut the 2010 mustard. Enter the Bathurst Winning Classic Carlectables 1972 Holden LJ Torana XU-1 GTR.
Of course, the condoning of a remake has a catch. That being that it should be equal or better than the original in all major areas, and majorly fail in none. And therein lays the problem and relegation to 7th equal for the terrier Torana.
Before we have a big old sook though, time to focus on the positives.
For the best part, Classics have ab-so-lute-ly nailed the model. Open the doors and youíre greeted with a very nicely polished interior, finished with the typical sheet of lush carpet. Itís great to finally see Classics adopt fabric seatbelts (cough...welcome to AUTOart circa 2006), hopefully this is something which will leak to their other releases in the future. Question marks have arisen over the scaling of both the glove-box handle and the rocket-launcher-esqe steering column, claims which Google tells me I should agree with. Otherwise though, itís a solid and clean effort inside.
The real star of the show however is the stunning engine. Thereís so much to like about it. The differentiation between the black braided lines and similarly sized hoses is awesome. As are the stunning, complicated and accurate bonnet hinges. The best feature of the engine though are the fantastic little carburettors, with their detailed photo-etched filters (the perforation is out of scale, but whoís counting) and shiny chrome outer casing. One little gripe to note of in the engine-bay is the heaviness of the blue wiring. Whether the black braided lines are periodically correct has also been asked. But thatís something only the elite could tell you. In the grand scheme of it all, this is clutching at straws.
The application of the decals and paint is also one of the Toranaís strong points, and is one of the main areas where it trounces the humble 10 year old Biante effort. Though the finish is probably superior, the real gloating point is the accuracy of the decals. Trainspotters will notice that the Classics 28C Torrie has some different decals featuring on it, which are all accurate according to several grainy black and white shots. The placing of said decals is top shelf as well.
But now (and you canít say I didnít warn you), itís time for the sook explaining the downfall of what coulda shoulda woulda been.
When a set of stills of this model were revealed on the Classics homepage, a number of us found massive fault in one major area of huge importance. That area, of course, is the mold.
There are simply too many errors in accuracy to brush off. Flared arches instead of subtle lips, a roofline which lacks squareness towards the rear window, a base windowline that doesnít taper upwards, arguably oversized lights, and a nose which decidedly lacks accurate angle are only a handful of issues that exist with the XU-1 mold.
Whatís more, basic principles come into it. After the online reveal, forum members cited all the issues they found with the mould, Classics essentially laughed off the criticism, as if to imply that they knew more than we did. They should, but in this case, they certainly did not. And that is all reflected in the forum thread if you can hunt it down.
I suppose at the end of the day, if youíre after a 1972 Bathurst Winner, this is way better value for money than the wobbly old Biante. But it is a satisfying remake? Well thatís up to you. A 7th equal is all this high-price Torana could muster.
Over the years, there have been several dozen diecast models on the Aussie collectorís Ďwhinge listí. Cars which simply have to be made. Threads online about these models tend to breed like bunnies, and more often than not the companies we plead to cave in. Chris Roche recently made slip that they will make some Dick Johnson Mustangs (to what capacity, with what mold, and when, is unknown), while in the other side of the fence, Classic Carlectables are releasing the first long awaited Channel 9 Kevin Bartlett Camaro next year.
This year finally saw one of these models released. And that model (or thread of models) was Bianteís rock solid chain of Holden Sandman HX and HZ utes and vans. Despite the fanfare, they werenít the commercial success one would have bet on, but donít take that as an indicator of them being an average model. They are, in fact, quite good. And while all of them were great models, it was the Mandarin Red HX Panelvan which impressed us most.
What the Sandman represents is one of the poles of Bianteís collective manufacturer pie. It is an AUTOart casting, and thus has a lot of consistencies with the older set of Biante diecasts, such as their Monaroís and Toranaís, both very well known for being reliable and tough as nails, while also being admittedly light on serious detailing. The Sandman, though a 2010 release, is no different.
Details, while cleanly executed, wonít excite the senses. All the standard fare features, including carpeted flooring, detail painted engine, and an accurate dashboard. Some elements could have been improved, such as the chunky over-scaled steering wheel or the casting of the engine block (which appears to be a loose copy/paste version of the engine in the L34 Toranaís. You wouldíve hoped there would be a little bit of improvement in the detail), but these are only problems that are found when youíre looking for such things.
But by the same token, tiny little new-age improvements (on what may otherwise look like a 5 year old model) can be found too. Check out the spring-loaded bonnet hinges, accurate to the 1:1 and functional (a problem in the older AUTOart Holdenís was that the bonnets would never stay open). The safety stickers in the engine bay. The two-piece rear door is well produced too, with an opening hatch and separate opening tailgate, the hatch opening on doglegs and struts, while the tailgate opens on fantastic small hinges with tethers holding it up. These are great little details which could have easily been bypassed. They couldíve just wacked doglegs all over it and called it a day, but instead they made the effort to make this solid diecast a reasonably detailed one as well. A difficult task considering how inherently spartan the stock standard Aussie ute is.
Ultimately though, the Sandman doesnít push the envelope hard enough to really challenge the diecasts higher up the order. However, it is still a model that does the job, and does it well.
Certain model car brands in todayís market have their own individual tendencies and trends. They follow their own believed path to what makes a good model car, likewise they disregard pieces of technology and detail they feel doesnít belong, or isnít viable, on their product. But, occasionally, we do see a brand make a big change in its line-up. In its processes, in its product priorities. One may want to cite the Peter Brock Paddock Basher, but I think Iíll cite the Group C Mazda RX7 as Bianteís turning point.
While mold, stance, paint and lights all seem to be near perfect, the real sticking point is the sheer detail of the thing.
This model features some of the most painstaking minute details that have ever been included in any Australian diecast. The interior looks very true to scale, with its very obviously Japanese styling, mixed in with the racing elements, such as the box of gauges on the dashboard, slanted to face the driver. Crack open the rear window and youíre welcomed by an array of mechanisms, wires and tubes. What has become really apparent though in this Ďnewí Biante is the variety of different textures and materialís used to detail areas such as these. A more careful eye reveals some shadow-chrome painting, some actual chrome, some transparent piping, and impressively, two bolted pieces of plastic, modelled to look like brushed aluminium. Considering how low-key the boot is in comparison with other similar Ďnewerí models, Biante have put in a lot of time and effort.
And the praise continues when we get to the engine, without a doubt the best aspect of this model. Once again, there is a huge wealth of materials. The famous rotor is picked out in a colour between a flat silver and a shadow-chrome, and looks great with its complex shape and outer mouldings. We can also see a massive orange pipe used to get air to cool the engine, leading out to the frontal air intake. The plumbing is impressive too, all wires leading to various sources, some flowing through and underneath the firewall. The single issue I have with the engine are the hinges. Theyíre very small, to the point of not being noticeable. But when closed, they do show quite a bonnet gap on the leading edge of the bonnet. This is made particularly obvious when one applies the Peter Stuyvesant decals, and has to cut the decals around the massive gap.
As we close the bonnet and cast our eyes downwards, we notice the brilliant looking wheels. The blanking on the front wheels is a work of art. As well as the clean paint/decal work, and the fantastic chrome nuts and bolts in the middle, Biante have modelled the veins behind the blanking. Iím tempted to just have at them with a small chisel! Looking behind the wheel reveals that the original rim is underneath, so they might just be glued on. It would be brilliant if they were detachable. The rear wheels also hold their own; being very cleanly cast chrome and gold pieces. Part of me doubts whether the real wheels had purely chrome rims, but then again, part of me doesnít care, when the 1:18 scale result looks so sweet.
All this praise, and yet this model doesnít make the podium? Well, as with a lot of Aussie diecasts, thereís one niggly little flaw on the RX7, and Iím not gonna dress it up. This car is built badly.
It looked oh so good in the box! Then as soon as I lay my first finger on it, a convergence of squeaks, rattles and screams secreted from the diecast, whistled past my ears, blowing my hair awry. It was a bit like when Shia LaBeouf goes to grab the key thing in Transformers 2, only for it to turn to dust. Maybe not quite to the same extent, but itís somewhat comparable. Picking up the model and moving it around the cabinet is done with the same level of intensity as moving a highly rare Chinese Ming vase filled to the brim with molten lava. And when you put it down, you also realise that the axles arenít the most rigid either. But kudos to Biante though in citing this issue on their forum, and rectifying it for future 1:18 scale releases outside of the wankel realm, a claim which has so far proven to be credible.
There are also other issues with this diecast in terms of its quality. The great interior I mentioned before is somewhat marred by an odd set of plastic moulding lines on the dash. The decals could also do with a bit of work, as the outlines used to ensure straight edges, particularly on the blue skirt that goes around the base of the car, are quite bulky and obvious.
Which all sort of refers back to the initial point about this model representing a Ďturning pointí for Biante. While the detail is magnificent, the finish of the model isnít up to the high standards of models past. Sit this model next to the Sandman featured earlier, and literally feel the difference. Itís like holding a stone in one hand, versus a pint of porridge in the other. This RX7 isnít an isolated case either. Arguably, fragility has been a very present theme in any of Bianteís Ďnewí moulds. Progress in detail is nice, but it canít simply be a substitute for strength. It is for this reason that the Mazda RX7 is a mere 5th on the ladder.
Before we dive into the nitty gritty of Bianteís Ford Falcon FG V8 Supercar, a quick explanation is necessary.
It was decided between the judges (and by that, I mean I said it, and the rest of them sort of smiled and nodded) that we would have a preliminary vote for which Biante V8 Supercar the majority thought was the best, and vote for that one alone when we got to the top 8 choices. It wasnít a very clean process I admit, one judge in particular who shall not be named (jokes, it was Harwood) actually stood up for the BF Falcon, that was until he was met with the ultimate ďI told you soĒ; an entire forumís hatred. The majority ruled in the end though that the FG was the best of Bianteís V8 Supercars. The reason we did this was to break apart a dynamic trio of models which are all as good as each other for essentially the same reasons, porting similar types of details and processes, made at the same time, priced at the same price (not for long though as some people will know), similar levels of R&D, similar paint, and so on. To have the three of them packing out the top 8 was not an option, so two were chopped. The FG was chosen simply on the grounds being the best medium. Passable decals and build quality, not to mention a superior mould compared with the plain awful BF, and superior interior compared with the VE Commodore. Consider it like picking the most suitable Porsche 911 out of the swathes of different varieties produced. Consider then that none of us will ever be in a position to actually know what that feels like. But back on topic.
Collectors havenít been too friendly to Biante regarding their V8 Supercars in the most recent past, the most recent load of which have been marred with inexcusable decal faults and paint issues. The confusing thing is that you only need to go back a few months before you find other Biante V8 Supercars which don tampo decals. As someone who shakes their fist at the industry without knowing half the problems, maybe Iím not the best person to make a call, but I canít see why the change has been made. Especially considering that Biante CEO Chris Roche stated, in the face of consumer complaints, that tampo printing is actually cheaper than waterslide printing, and that the issue as a whole was/is more centred around getting these models done for particular monuments in the V8 Supercar calendar. Iím grazing on this issue because it is the most apparent flaw with the Biante Ford Falcon FG, and part of the rationale behind knocking its votes downwards. In Harwoodís words, the Biante FG has ďincredible levels of detail and accuracy previously not seen on a 1:18 V8 supercar...[but itís] let down by poor decal qualityĒ.
Pretty true really. Some will have caught my FG comparison earlier in the year between Classicsí and Bianteís offerings. And the list of factors favouring the Biante ended up being enormous, even if the car was a bit scratchy in the outer decals. What hurls the FG over the line is itís very accurately crafted mould (the plastic bumpers are annoying, but itís apparent that theyíre here to stay), the low production runs, and the incredible interior and chassis detail. Some of the intricacies such as the Navman GPS in the James Courtney FGís are fantastic, and are bordering on being an unprecedented level of interior accuracy in an Aussie racer. Other details such as the heat-resistant foil on the chassis put international big-boys in this price bracket to shame, and are what youíd only expect to see on a CMC or an Exoto diecast.
Which really makes it a shame that these models were executed so dismally. As important as detail is, you simply cannot neglect any of the exterior factors. They are what we see when admiring our models in the cabinet, and, especially in the case of racers, they are the main way we recall them. I remember the Green Eyed Monster because of the livery, and how it somehow turned the AU Falcon into a Cinderella, what I donít remember is which 6 logos were on the passenger side of the dashboard.
Biante should be very proud of their V8 Supercars from this year, but they should remember what the customerís priorities are. What the main fundamental needs are. The Biante FG gets 90% of the external stuff near spot-on, but itís just those decals which hold it short of being one of the truly great models of the last 5 years. And this is what also punches the Biante FG Falcon off the podium.
This is a review produced for some Australian forums, but I thought I'd share it here too.
Part 2, the Grand Finale, will be posted tomorrow at the same time.
Posted 19 December 2010 - 12:49 AM
Posted 19 December 2010 - 03:54 AM
After weeks of umming and ahhing, dozens upon dozens of emails, sifting through hundreds of photos, and a handful of online slap-fights, our top 3 Grand Finalists can be revealed.
The instant it hit the floor of the 2008 Melbourne Motor Show floor, the Holden Coupe 60 concept car was going to be made in diecast form. It was a certainty. The forums were buzzing and members were frothing at the bung at the notion of this shimmering Goddess being released, fuelled by a lot of hype created by the inexplicable comparisons between it and the Holden Efigy. And when Classics did release it, their Coupe 60 became the Ďití car, where seemingly everyone was buying one.
Some people try and make money off Australian models. Sometimes itís quite predictable as to what model will fall like a rock in collectability, but occasionally, a total smokey ends up increasing in value. In 2010 the smokey was the Classics 1963 Holden EH, which was being sold by some at prices well over its recommended retail after its release.
And the last finalist, the Biante 1986 Holden VK ETCC Commodore. After Biante lost the ĎOfficialí Peter Brock license, they were resilient in releasing their immediately planned Brock models. Some believe they knew Classics were going to be doing the 1986 Bathurst entry, which is why this car was released instead, but few doubt that the lesser known ETCC Commodore will be a healthier seller than the upcoming Bathurst version.
Now that we have our three specimens waiting in the wings, itís time for a rundown of how the process will work, and how we will find the 2010 ADOTY.
Those who are familiar with my reviews may find themselves at home, but for those unfamiliar, hereís an explanation. The review will be divided into segments, each describing in detail the pros and cons of each model in those respective areas. The judges on the panel will rate each model out of 5 for each area, and put simply, the car with the most points at the end of the day will be crowned the 2010 ADOTY.
Weíve ended up with 3 completely different cars; an old favourite, an extreme concept, and a Group A classic. But itís not only by class that these models are differentiated from one another, but the context in which they were made also can be compared and contrasted. No more is this apparent than in our opening segment; Mold and Stance, where the context of each mold differs across the board.
Letís start with the 1986 Biante VK Commodore. To truly appreciate this mold, we have to go back to late 2007, and when the 1986 Biante Bathurst Winner was released.
Many had been waiting for this model for aeons, and rightly so considering itís one of Bathurstís most popular winning driver comboís (at least true for the lead, Allan Grice). But when the model was released, people were stunned not by the great detail it had, or the stunning wheels, or the superb quality control, but by the pug-nosed ugliness of the mold. The car looked like it had driven headlong into a bus. What emphasised the problem was that it was a Group A diecast, so there was no massive wide-body kit to distract you, or to shift the perspective shape of the mould. Likewise the Classics model of the same winner suffers the same fate. Unsurprisingly, Bianteís 1986 Bathurst winner slumped in sales, and many are still available at cheap prices.
Back to the middle of this year though, and when this model was announced. Biante, upon announcing both this model, and its ETCC chum, the Allan Grice/Graeme Baily Chickadee version, told us that they admit that there was fault in the molds of their initial VK Commodoreís, and that subsequently the noses of these new Commodoreís would be retooled.
And there in the title image is the result of said retool. The photo shows how much pointier the new Commodore is compared with the old one, and in my view, the mold of the new model now looks near perfect. And as well as the retool, Biante also lowered the VK mold so that it sits on its tyres (much like last yearís 1987 Bathurst Winner release), which was also an issue on the original Biante VK Commodore. If you have to cite a negative, some models have the odd problem with door gaps, and misc hinge issues (the driverís door on my example has a little bit of sag, but all you need to do is push it in that tiny bit more). Nothing major at all though.
Now to the Classics EH Holden.
In the recent past, Classics have been slammed for some of their Ďolderí molds, specifically their Holden ones. But their EH is absolutely stunning to look at. Sure, it may not be the prettiest car, but itís supremely replicated by Classics. In the EHís case, it has probably been a mold that has been toiled over by desk jockeys for months, much like the awful looking Torana LJ of theirs. Unlike the Torana though, it actually looks highly accurate.
Whatís more, itís all very well put together. To this day, I havenít heard of anyone complaining about ill-fitting doors, or broken wheels, and thereís certainly no problem with mine. All the doors shut cleanly. The door gaps are all both consistent and miniscule. All the external fittings are fitted very tightly and accurately. It is extraordinarily hard to fault.
And finally, the Classics Holden Coupe 60.
The Coupe 60 would have been 10 times easier for Classics to make than either of our other finalists, as it is made from a CAD drawing (Computer Aided Design Drawing), from Holden themselves. Occasionally though, a CAD drawing can be wrong (as Classics learnt the hard way at the end of last year), and also, since these drawings are often the dimensions and angles of the concept car, there can be proportion issues when itís scaled downwards to 1:18th. Perfect dimensions of the real deal, shrunken down, arenít always going to deliver the right result. Iím not smart enough to put the reasoning into words, so you may have to (gasp) take my word for it.
This said, the Classics 1:18 Coupe 60 looks just like the 1:1. Itís a stunning looking mold. All the lines are extremely well replicated, as is the carbon fibre skirting. Some may not like the plasticness of the skirting, but then again, whatís the alternative? Using genuine carbon fibre perhaps? I think Iíd pass.
And so after the four of us looked at the molds of all these models, the score at the end of it was no surprise. Each model, despite each choosing a different route, scored a perfect 5 from all of us. But even though we all gave full marks, we each also had a favourite. Matty Harwood would ďrate the Coupe 60 a 6 if he couldĒ, while Andrew classed the EH mold as ďDefinitely the best of the top 3Ē. Both me and Codie leaned towards the Biante Commodore. Theyíre all stunning though. Few would deny that these are three of the most accurate, best looking molds in recent Aussie history.
And now we shall look at what often is meant to compliment the mold of the diecast model, and that is the paint and decals.
The Classics Coupe 60ís paint-job is one which requires a reasonably open mind, and a bit of consideration when you try to rate it out of 5. Itís a hard thing to do. Public opinion on the matter seems to reflect this, some worshipping Classicsí effort, others calling it unacceptable.
What we must all remember is that itís not simple chrome. Despite it looking a little bit similar to the ĎVodafoneí chrome weíve become accustom to on the Triple8 V8 Supercars, itís quite a lot different. The paint-scheme is actually a layered process, consisting of many layers of black and chrome paints. Classics could have very easily just slapped the ĎVodafoneí chrome on the model, and only half of the market would give a toss. But no, they went whole hog, and for that alone they deserve a pat on the back.
The result is obviously mixed. The colour match appears to be spot on (and Iíd love to hear how it was accomplished too. I canít even begin to fathom how on earth one would replicated a multi-layer paint-job in 1:18 scale, let alone one as complicated as this one). Inexplicably, a lot of the Coupe 60ís released had their own paint issues, ranging from your standard paint chips, to dirt in the paint. Hereís where the Coupe 60ís point sadly falters. Standard chips could be considered acceptable in this special case (Peter Hughes has said that even the 1:1 concept car has blemishes in the paint), but dirt in the paint? I suppose perhaps this could have occurred in the layering process? We may never know. But regardless, the Coupe 60 looses points because of it, but still gets the respectable score of 16.5 out of a possible 20 for its troubles.
And what of the opposition. Well the 1986 Moffat/Brock VK Commodore scores an impressive 18.5 for its paint and decals. Two of our judges gave it a perfect score, while myself and one other cited some minor quality control issues, often relating to our specific examples. Mine has a few iffy areas, including the red base on the front bumper, and the little tips of blue on the bonnet being a bit rough. Itís still hardly anything to cry about. This is a quality paint-job. The decals are tampo, and are stunning. Accurately applied, and brilliant to look at. One problem, also found with the RX7 featured earlier, are the lines of decal used to straighten the edges of the painted areas (once again, like the red on the front bumper), which are quite bulky and thick. But, little things.
But the car which scored highest, with a haul of 19 points (Codes marked it down a whole point because the engineís the wrong colour, whereas the rest of us argued that thatís an engine matter, sigh for subjectivity), was the Classic Carlectables Holden EH. Externally (sorry Codie, ya sod), the EH is impossible to fault. The Saltbrush Green, though not a colour I particularly fancy, looks beautiful on the EH. Itís very well applied, with no uneven patches, and no Ďorange peelí. No faults, scratches, dirt, or any other weirdo things make an appearance either. Itís simply excellent, clean work from the folk at Classics.
Time now to take a look at the external features of each model, and rate them accordingly. The Ďexternal featuresí title includes wheels, brakes, lights, and any other little bits and pieces Biante and Classics chose to replicate. Letís get into it.
Opinions were a bit mixed with both the Coupe 60 and the VK Commodore. We all cited a number of valid problems with the exterior bits and bobs on both models. The plasticy feel of the Coupe 60 hurt it in the points quite badly, though as mentioned before, I doubt Classics had a lot of choice. And while the Biante VK is a heavy brute of a thing, some of the individual pieces arenít as well-executed as they could be. The door handles on some examples are crooked, and the attachment stubs on the headlights are quite visible on the flanks. Both models also display some very average brake packages. The discs in particular on both are simply cheap looking plastic discs. Itís a bit of a mixed-message in the Bianteís case, since other recent releases such as their V8 Supercars, have been fitted with fantastic looking photo-etched discs.
Both models though do have some fantastic little features. The lights all round on the Coupe 60 are works of art, especially the headlights, featuring a stunning tinge of blue. The Coupe 60 wheels too look absolutely brilliant, not to mention the unique 1-off tyres and their very cool tred-pattern. The VK also has some tricks of its own, including an opening fuel cap, boot springs, and a range of minor parts in front of the windscreen including air-nozzle for the air-jack.
But once again, itís the Classics EH which snatches the minor victory, getting 18.5 out of 20. And while the lights and the wheels are pretty good, itís the chrome-work that had us all stunned. The bumpers, the grill, and all the fins and louvers are next to perfect. Andrew called it ďEasily the best Chrome finishing on an external body I have seen so farĒ, and Iíd agree. Itís all done so crisply and cleanly. What I love most, if I had to pinpoint, is the Holden badge on the front above the grill. It looks incredibly well done.
That said, thereís a couple of little points which spoil a perfect score. The ĎHoldení decal on the bootlid of my example is a little bit crooked, and some of the external plastic parts couldíve been done better, such as the heavy-handed Ď179í badge, and the wing mirror, which has a very thick mold-line on its backing.
The boot and chassis area tends to be overlooked quite often by both Aussie brands, though occasionally you will see them really pack a lot of effort into them. Ultimately though, none of these cars really do this area to the best of their abilities.
Firstly, forget about the Coupe 60 in this area. The low-key chassis is essentially a bit slab of black plastic. Itís accurate I know, but you canít really reward it. The boot area too is sterile. The nice black carpet and roll-cage are negated by some hideous dogleg hinges. It looks like Classics realised that the doglegs were a bit ugly, and tried to mask them with a couple of flash looking hydraulic arms. Sorry Classics, but thatís not how it works.
Both the VK and EH offer a bit more value in the boot and chassis area, both scoring a high 18 points each.
The uniquely contoured chassis of the EH is very well replicated with all parts present, including the leaf springs, diff-housing, camshaft and so on. The components under the engine are the standout. The boot of the EH though is very baron. Not much to really mention. The fuel pipes peeking through the hole in the side of the boot are the only real thing to speak of.
The VK on the other hand is the complete opposite. The chassis is very plasticy. The exhaust pipes, exhaust tip, camshaft, and diff are all picked out in the dreariest looking type of plastic. The air-vents and hosing at the front (for cooling the brakes) represent a lone highlight. The boot detail though is top-notch. The ĎPulsar Power Packí and all the relevant warning notices look fantastic underneath the left fuel filler. The complicated componentry behind the back seat look fantastic too. Braided lines absolutely everywhere. Accurate looking dogleg hinges. Itís a great boot.
So with one area to go, the points are very tight. The Classic Carlectables EH Holden currently leads at 75.5 points, a mere 2 points ahead of the Biante Holden VK Commodore, while the Holden Coupe 60 is trailing at 69.5 points out of the possible 80.
Now to the final showdown.
The Classics Coupe 60 wins the engine and interior battle, with an impressive 19 points. Two of the four judges though marked the Coupe 60 down a half point each because of materials-related gripes. I personally knocked a half off because of the use of dogleg hinges in the engine, and the very poor seatbeltís, which are made out of very grey looking plastic strips, similar to the ones youíd find in any modern Classics V8 Supercar. Some of the plastics used in general also donít quite seem to be 100%, such as a lot of the engine. Itís an issue I see a lot of in a lot of Classicís engine-bays (except for their V8 Supercar ones). Thereís a tendency to use low-key, one-tone plastics all over. Biante on the other hand have a tendency to use multiple types of materials at every opportunity (except for in this yearís woeful EB Falcon) such as chrome and metal, even using a distinct type of metallic silver paint which looks a lot like metal.
But, gripes aside, the interior and engine package in the Coupe 60 is the pick of the bunch. The interior is superb, with the 4 deep bucket seats flocked on the inner from head to toe. The orange heads up display is complimented by the flocked steering wheel, which also has its own cute little photo-etched Holden badge in the centre. Look into the engine, and despite the plastic engine cover obstructing a lot of the detail (such is the case with most modern cars), thereís still plenty on show. All sorts of ducts, pipes and components. The engine cover itself is very detailed, featuring photo-etched V8 logoís, as well as some safety decals and the Biofuel decal for all the greenies out there.
The engine and interior win for the Coupe 60 rounds out what was predictably going to be a solid campaign. Third was always going to be the result though. The Coupe 60 was dragged down by several key shortcomings, the use of doglegs, and the choice of plastics being only two of these. Itís too bad that the Coupe 60 was set to only be a concept car, as it means that this mold is never going to see the light of day again. Which is a real shame as it makes for a great model. The Classic Carlectables Holden Coupe 60 ends up finishing 3rd with a very impressive 88.5 out of 100.
And so now itís down to the interiorís to find our inaugural ADOTY. And you couldnít ask for two more contrasting bits of detailing to compare and contrast; a rustic old EH versus a Group A Taxi-cab.
The EHís interior is basic, but stunning. The scaling of it all is impossible to fault, and is one of the main points of awesomeness. The window latches, window winders, air-conditioning vents and the radio are all crisply executed, while also being correctly scaled. I find the window latches particularly impressive. The commodious bench seats are produced in a great soft plastic, and are well painted in the clashing shades of green.
Where some points are lost for the EH is in the engine. Itís no detail issue, on the contrary the engine is extremely detailed (In Harwoodís opinion the most detailed heís ever seen). The myriad of wires and parts is a great sight, only bettered by the stunning hinges and the extremely small safety stickers.
The problem in fact is to do with the accuracy of the engine. The 179 used in the EH Special is well known, and is even named after its red colour. As you can see, the colour of the block in the EH Holden is bordering on brown, and considering how infamous the red engine is, youíd think that a mistake like this wouldnít happen. Itís a weird and inexcusable error.
And what about the VK?
Well its interior is also stunning. From the flocked Sparco seat, to the fabric Sabelt seatbelts, to the chrome plate in the driversí footwell, to the extremely detailed dashboard, choc full with various tachos and dials. Just like the EH, the interior is a work of art. A problem identified by 2 of the judges with the interior was a sense of plastic-ness not dissimilar to the feeling of the chassis. I personally donít agree with that sentiment as it makes the assumption that the floor-pan shouldíve been done in diecast, which would be both unprecedented and astonishing.
The engine though is probably is a bit plasticy. Beyond the chrome lid and perforated mesh of the air filter, the materials are decidedly low-rent. The dogleg hinges couldíve also been done to a higher standard. The real ones are far smaller, and mounted closer to the edges. Classic Carlectables did a great job at making these hinges on their 1984 Bathurst Winner, which should be duly noted. Despite that though, the engine-bay of the Biante VK looks fantastic. The wires, braided lines, and the execution of the other parts surrounding the main block in many ways save the VK engine from being ho-hum.
So after all that, the final decision hangs on whatís better. The Classics EH interior and engine package, with its brown engine, or the Biante VK and its dull engine plastics. It was a hard call, but we have a winner.
If you told me, when I first thought of this idea at the beginning of the year, that a road car would win the award, I wouldíve deemed you crazy and walked off.
But the Classics EH Holden has defied my inner logic of race cars always being inherently more detailed. Andrew summed it up perfectly when he said the above. This was a hard fought battle, and never ever looked anything like a walk-over. All three cars are fabulous models, in every way.
But at the end of the day, the EH is just that little bit better than the í86 ETCC Commodore. Congratulations Classic Carlectables. Youíve earned it.
Thanks for reading, and thanks to Codie, Harwood, and Andrew, for your large contributions,
Posted 19 December 2010 - 07:42 AM
Posted 19 December 2010 - 01:47 PM
The quality control issues with the Coupe 60, as mentioned in the review, were centreed around the very complex paint. I don't remember how many layers of black and chrome are used on the real Holden Coupe 60, but there's a lot. So while on one hand we had to mark down on paint for the errors, we also had to mark up the paint simultaneously for being a perfect match, and because of the fact Classics actually chose to replicate it.
Posted 20 December 2010 - 05:00 AM
Posted 20 December 2010 - 08:12 AM
I know zero about Australian cars. When I hear "V8 Supercar", I think 458 Italia or Koenigsegg CCX, not Holden. And I suspect that there are a lot of DXers who are similarly ignorant of your subject matter. That probably accounts for the lack of response so far.
Posted 20 December 2010 - 09:46 PM
So yes, even if I can't appreciate the cars you are reviewing, I can certainly appreciate those gorgeous photos.
Posted 20 December 2010 - 10:11 PM
Posted 20 December 2010 - 11:41 PM
Here's a couple of personal favourites of mine if there's anyone actually keen on killing half an hour of their time Some of the most pivotal moments in the series over the last 20 years or so.
Bathurst 1995 - One of the nicest guys in the series, Glen Seton, leads the infamous Bathurst 1000 event with less than 10 laps remaining, only for the engine to expire, leaving Larry Perkins and Russell Ingall to win in their Castrol Commodore after getting a puncture on lap 1, and coming back from last, and a lap down (something never seen in the Great Race). The sight of Glen Seton in tears talking to the commentators, and his father Bo Seton keeled over in his chair in the pits make even me get a little bit teary. Seton won the championship twice (1993 and 1997), but never ever won Bathurst. He's regarded as the best driver to never win it, and came very close on multiple occasions. 2010 was his last race in the Bathurst 1000).
Bathurst 2003 - John Bowe has set the benchmark in the top ten qualifying session, knocking out a 2.07.956, iirc a lap record at Bathurst. New Zealander Greg Murphy goes out, and does a record-breaking lap that will go down in Aussie (and Kiwi) history as one of the cleanest, and best laps in the races history. Watching it brings chills down my spin.
Bathurst 2007 - Only the ultimate climax of a stunning final set of laps. There's a whole back-story to what set up the final fight. But the bares bones of it is that all the cars are on slick tyres, in wet conditions, Craig Lowndes leads, Steven Johnson runs second, Murphy and James Courtney rounding out the top 4. Keeping in mind this is a 6.5 hour race, and Dick Johnson Racing hadn't won a race since 2001, this was an absolute nail biter.
Sandown 500 2003 - Skip to around 2.30 to see one of the best David v Goliath finishes in series history. The benchmark team HRT with an ailing car, versus a small Kiwi team with two relative nobodies fighting in a time-certain finish of a 500km race.
Bathurst 1987 - Glen Seton fighting with his Nissan Skyline R31, on slicks and in horrible conditions. Plenty of heart-in-mouth moments.
Bathurst 1983 - Dick Johnson's 1983 qualifying lap. The Falcon sounds STUNNING. Not too stunning when it exits Forest Elbow though..
This is why I collect
Posted 21 December 2010 - 06:25 PM
I'm quite a simple collector in that respect as I just the like bright colours and the flashy wheels.
I so want that ETCC Brock/Moffat car!!!!!!! Give it to me.... I might buy the Brock VL for now.
That car was the raced in the ETCC as a buld up for the SPA 24hr race
the start of the race
Edited by peanut_xtra, 22 December 2010 - 07:17 AM.
Posted 22 December 2010 - 06:10 AM
Posted 22 December 2010 - 09:51 PM
That car was the raced in the ETCC as a buld up for the SPA 24hr race
the start of the race
The Brock VL is nearly as good a model So you should buy it if you're that obsessed.
Thanks for the videos too
Posted 24 January 2011 - 04:00 PM
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