Three red cars - what do they have in common? Yes, all three are red but
what else? All three are sport GT cars. All three were built in the early
1970's. You may recognize two out of three, most collectors or car enthusiasts
would. The car top left or in the middle of the profile shots is a bit more
difficult. Citroen SM, Ligier JS2, Maserati Merak, what do these three cars
share? Two French and one Italian. Two mid-engine, rear-wheel drive cars
and one front-engine, front-wheel drive car. All three will do 150 MPH or
One toy car was made by Matchbox, one by Tomica and one
by Norev. All three are about 1:60 scale. The SM and Ligier have opening
doors. The Merak has an opening hood, with engine detail. That's the connection.
All three are powered by the same Maserati quad-cam V6, designed for the
In small-scale diecast there are hundreds of stock cars, Formula 1 and
Indy cars and sport GT race cars. Professional rally cars are far fewer
in number even though rallying is one of the most popular motor sports in
many countries. One country where rallying is not as popular happens to
be the United States and that explains why rally cars are scarce. Toy car
makers are forced by economic realities to serve the US markets first. Perhaps
this explains why every NASCAR team variation is reproduced in diecast of
Another factor contributing to the lack of pro rally cars in miniature
is that no US auto manufacturers have ever tried to produce a competitive
car for the pro-rally series. Ford's UK arm has built some great rally cars
but you won't see a street version in a US showroom. Rally cars are left
to the European, British and Asian manufacturers.
Few would argue that the 1936-37 Cord is
one of the most beautiful cars ever designed. The lines are timeless and
at the same time, so evocative of the late 1930's and the Art Deco period.
With the pontoon fenders, covered headlights and coffin-nose, the Cord 810-812,
was a true automotive masterpiece.
Why has the 1936-37 Cord been so neglected in small-scale diecast? Up
until 1999, only two models had been done. One was a cartoon version for
Ertl's Batman series, a stylized Cord offered as 'Bruce Wayne's Car.' The
other is pictured on the left and was offered in the early 1970's be Hot
Wheels as a mild custom. The example in my collection is far from mint but
even so, I am pleased to have it. The Custom Cord by Hot Wheels is one of
the most collectible of the early red-line cars. The one pictured is missing
the convertible top and the wind-shield has been chopped, no doubt to remedy
what was already broken. The blower poking through the hood and the side-pipes
are the 'custom' part although, some Cord models were supercharged.
The Norev story is primarily one of 1:43 scale plastic and diecast vehicles.
The Norev Mini-Jets represent a small part of Norev production offered in
1:64-1:66 scale. It is the story of these small-scale Norev miniatures that
is told here.
Norev began in 1953 and was founded by M. Veron, who simply spelled his
name backwards to choose a name. Located in Villeurbane, France, near Lyon,
Norev always focused on French vehicles. It was not until the late 1970's
that the first small-scale cars
appeared. According to Dr. Edward Force in his Classic Miniature Vehicles
Made in France, 1991, "In the late seventies a number of 1:66 scale
Schuco diecast models appeared in France under the Norev name, still bearing
their 800 series Schuco numbers. By 1982, the survivors among them had been
re-numbered as pare of a 400 series of "Matchbox-size" models."
The box art for the Mini-Jets is represented in the four examples shown
here (top-left, clockwise: Porsche 911S, Porsche 917, Alfa 6 and 1979 Ford
Mustang). The early Norev boxes state that Norev "c'est le champion
des voitures miniature."
There were 24 of the Schuco-based Norev models according to Dr. Force.
Many were issued as 'fast-wheel' with a 301 prefix before the 800 number.
It has been a long time since we saw three modern GT race cars produced
by 1:64 scale manufacturers in the same year. 1998 offers us three of the
best. Matchbox, Hot Wheels and Maisto have all stepped up with fine examples
of the winged warriors that battled the 1998 the 24 Hours of Daytona, 12
Hours of Sebring and 24 Heures de Le Mans. All three are presented in white
(just to make for a fine comparison I'm sure). The Panos is a welcome surprise
from Hot Wheels, other than the unfortunate wire like wheels. Come on guys,
GT cars have not run wire wheels in 30 years. Beyond the wheels, this is
a fine representation of the car some call the 'Batmobile'. Don Panos has
done what few dare attempt today. He offers both race and road cars in an
age when the experts say it can no longer be done successfully.
Maisto produces both the street version of the Viper GT and the racing
GTR. Presented in American racing colors of white with blue skunk stripes,
this is an excellent addition to 1:64 scale racers. Like the Hot Wheel,
Maisto's wheels leave something to be desired but are at least correctly
scaled. The Porsche 911 GT1 won the Le Mans race and is an excellent addition
to the many fine Porsche race cars in 1:64. As usual, Matchbox has done
an excellent job presenting this car. The wheels are the best of the three
cars. I am sure we will be seeing this model in many future colors.
After publishing the initial Hot Wheels Race Team article, several collectors began asking why I left out some of the variations on this theme? Just for them, here are the variations in my collection. I am sure that some are still missing.
The three '92 Camaro models pictured here represent color variations on the same car. The first is the Jack Baldwin GT Camaro in correct racing colors. This was offered as a regular issue Hot Wheel. The second is the same car with a chromed blue finish. It was also regular issue but does not have Jack Baldwin's name on the roof. The third is the McDonalds version with basic wheels and graphics. The fourth Camaro is also a Jack Baldwin GT Camaro that came in special packaging. it represents the earlier generation Camaro.