Die Casts-Celebrating the Machines

100_4177 - CopyBy David G. Firestone

How I have gone as long as I have without delving into the subject of die casts? I really don’t know, but for this week’s column, we are going to discuss it. Racing as a sport is half man, half machine. When it comes to collectibles, they both get virtually equal billing. One of the biggest collectibles in racing is the legendary die cast car.

Die cast cars began as an industry in the early 20th Century, but the early cars were very basic, with a simple body design and rolling wheels. They were of very poor quality, lacked detail, and often broke for no apparent reason. An zinc-based alloy named Zamak solved this problem. In 1953 Jack Odell, co-owner of Lesney Products in England had a moment that revolutionized the industry forever. His daughter went to a school that allowed the students to bring toys, provided they were small enough to fit in a matchbox. He created a small die cast steam roller that could easily fit in a matchbox. For the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, he created a similarly sized model of her Coronation coach. After selling 1 million of these small coaches, he realized he was on to something, and thus the Matchbox line of die cast cars was born. In 1968 Mattel launched the Hot Wheels brand, which, like Matchbox created cars in 1:64 scale, or S-Scale for railroading. In 1997 after being sold numerous times, Mattel bought Matchbox and has been fostering the brand ever since.

Race cars are a popular version of die casts, as most boys who love racing will buy the die cast of their favorite driver, and play with it as if they are driving the car. I’m guilty of this, as I’m willing to bet the majority of racing fans are, if you don’t believe, check this out. In the beginning, die casts were marketed and sold to kids, but as time went on, it became clear that grown up fans liked these as well. So die cast manufacturers began to create larger “adult collectibles,” typically in either 1:18 scale, or 1:24 scale, or one of the accepted G scales. The adult die casts will feature alcohol and tobacco sponsors, and are much more accurate in design, with cloth window nets, and working hoods, decklids, and roof spoilers. As time progressed, these cars gained a very dedicated following, and have become very profitable for NASCAR, IndyCar and F1. Interesting to note that the standard size for NHRA and NASCAR die casts is 1:24 and 1:64 whereas IndyCar uses 1:18 and 1:64 and F1 use 1:18 and 1:43. NASCAR die casts can also be purchased in 1:43, 1:32, and 1:18, here is how they compare to each other:100_4177

An adult collectible die cast as mentioned above, is very accurate, such as this Jamie McMurray example from 2010. The amount of accuracy in this design is stunning! 1-mcmurray-1 1-mcmurray-2 1-mcmurray-3The window net is made of cloth,1-mcmurray-1 - doorthe contingency decals are all accurate1-mcmurray-1 - number

the roof features a place for the in car cameras, as well was a pair of functioning roof spoilers.1-mcmurray-1 - roofThe hood opens to display a very accurately recreated engine.1-mcmurray-1 - hoodWhereas this Dale Earnhardt Jr. die cast, this one a children’s toy has a plastic window net,88-earnhart-1 88-earnhart-2 88-earnhart-3the contingency decals aren’t as accurate,88-earnhart-1-doorthe roof does not feature working roof spoilers, or an in-car camera pod,88-earnhart-3 -roofand the hood doesn’t open.88-earnhart-3 - CopyIf we look at an IndyCar die cast, we see some different things. This example is an Alex Barron example from 1998, purchased because I have the matching driver suit. This particular die cast is a 1:18 scale, and features a working suspension that when you move the wheels move the steering wheel. Everything else about the car, including the helmet and driver suit are perfect as compared to the real car.36i-barron-1 36i-barron-2 36i-barron-3Everything that I just said about the Jamie McMurray die cast can also apply to this Dale Earnhardt IROC model. Again the accuracy in this design is amazing!1-earnhardt1 1-earnhardt2 1-earnhardt3 1-mcmurray-1 - de hoofOne of my personal favorie die casts is this Cruz Pedregon 1:32 die cast from 1998. The body can be removed from the rest of the car to reveal details of the car.pedregon-8 pedregon-9 pedregon-10 pedregon-1 pedregon-2 pedregon-3 pedregon-4 pedregon-5 pedregon-6 pedregon-7pedregon-11Haulers, which are used to transport cars to and from races, but they aren’t made as much today as they used to, sadly. This example is a Ricky Rudd example from the early 1990’s.rudd2 rudd1 rudd3Now we move from replica cars to the real ones as we get to…


Brad Keselowski #2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion Very solid design, the yellow works very well, and the black numbers and stripes work very well, and I can’t give it anything less than an A+

Brad Keselowski #2 Wurth Ford Fusion Another very solid design with a great color scheme that earns an A+

Dave Blaney #77 Plinker Arms Ford Fusion I would love for the side design to be more simplified. It is a decent scheme, but the door design is too busy, and it is very distracting. I give this scheme a C-, bad design, good color scheme.

Ryan Truex #83 Borla Exhaust Toyota Camry This is actually a great scheme, with the oversized exhaust design that starts on the area where the real exhaust starts, and extends to just under the numbers. The number has been redesigned since last year and they work very well. I give this scheme an A.

In Memorandum 2013 Continued.

Andy Granatelli-Former CEO of STP, partially responsible for STP’s sponsorship of Richard Petty.

Bruce Pepper-Brother of ThorSport Racing GM David Pepper.

Dennis Wood-Former owner of Phoenix International Speedway

Now comes the best news of the new year so far…THE ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA STARTS LATER TODAY!  The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship starts off the racing season later today.  Fox will carry the first part of the race starting at 2PM/1PM CST, and Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 will carry the race as well.  You had better believe I will be watching and enjoying it.


Two Birthdays in January…

100_4380By David G. Firestone
On the first anniversary of the founding of The Driver Suit Blog I felt it appropriate to analyze the first two NASCAR driver suits I ever bought. I started in the driver suit hobby in March of 2010, with a Bill Sedgwick Die Hard driver suit from the Craftsman Truck Series in 1996. 17-sedgwickI purchased this specific item for a number of reasons, first, it was well within my price range, and second, I wanted a low-end example that I can look at and get a general feel for aspects that I will see in other driver suits.
Some of the stuff I learned from this particular suit helped me understand the very basics of design aspects on race-worn driver suits. Some of the aspects I discovered from that were completely different and it was through subsequent research that I began to understand driver suits more. I have kept it for as long as I have is because I love the suit, and I even though I have had it for almost 4 years, I still find aspects about it that interest me.
The suit is custom designed for Darrell Waltrip’s Craftsman Truck Series team. Sedgwick drove the #17 Chevy C-1500 for the entire 1996 season, whereas Waltrip drove the #5 truck for a very limited schedule. Sedgwick had 3 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s in the 23 of the 24 races that year, and led a total of 8 laps. Sedgwick was released at the end of the season.17-sedgwick
The triple-layer suit is custom designed for Sedgwick, with the Sears Die Hard logos on the collar and shoulder epaulets,17-sedgwick-collar 17-sedgwick-rshoulder 17-sedgwick-lshoulderSears Die Hard logos across the front and Sedgwick’s name on the right chest,17-sedgwick-rchest17-sedgwick-lchestno arm gussets,17-sedgwick-rsleeve1 17-sedgwick-lsleeve1no adornment on the belt,17-sedgwick-beltTV logos and safety stripes on the legs,17-sedgwick-legsTV logos on the sleeves,17-sedgwick-rsleeve2 17-sedgwick-lsleeve2and a huge logo across the back.17-sedgwickb 17-sedgwickb-logoI purchased a press kit for this suit, which I covered in December, concerning this suit, and I realized that the suit Sedgwick is wearing in the promotional photo is the same suit that is in my collection. I keep the press kit in my authentication binder with the rest of my COA’s and LOA’s17-sedgwick-presskit1 17-sedgwick-presskit3 17-sedgwick-presskit2 17-sedgwick 17-sedgwick-presskit2The other suit I bought, my first Winston Cup suit was a Lake Speed suit from 1997, this one is a bit different. In 1997, Speed was racing for Melling Racing, which in 1997 was a shell of its former self. Melling had 34 victories and the 1988 Winston Cup Championship, but by 1997, they had no real sponsorship, and had not won a race since 1991. During that season Lake Speed didn’t score a top 5, top 10, or victory, and only led 3 laps in the 25 races he raced in that year.9-speedDue to the lack of sponsorship, Speed didn’t have the luxury of having a custom-made suit that season so he wore what appears to be a store bought suit. It looks like the suit was purchased either from a store or a catalog, and customized for Lake’s use. There are no large sponsor logos on the collar,9-speed-collarshoulder epaulets,9-speed-rshoulder 9-speed-lshouldertorso,9-speed-bsleeves,9-speed-rsleeve1 9-speed-rsleeve2 9-speed-lsleeve1 9-speed-lsleeve2or legs.9-speed-legsThe legs have a cuff cut, as opposed to a boot cut like the Bill Sedgwick suit has.
Everyone who has a hobby or an interest started somewhere. With me, it was with these two driver suits. No matter what you do in your hobby, or how high you fly in your hobby, you were a rookie, and you started from somewhere. Never forget where you came from. These two suits are a reminder of what I was, and I love these two.
Before we get to paint schemes, I need to say something to my readers. When I started this project one year ago, I never thought it would take off as much as it did. I have a group of really awesome readers and followers. I also owe a special thanks to Paul Lukas of Uni-Watch, because if I had never written my two articles for Uni-Watch in 2013, I would never have done the research I did for them, and I would never have had the frustration of not finding research from the collector’s perspective, and The Driver Suit would never have been born. To all my readers, from the bottom of my heart, I say thank you! Stay Tuned because 2014 will be even better than 2013!

Paint Scheme Reveiws

Jamie McMurray #1 Cessna Chevy SS Black with silver numbers and white trim looks simple and really good. I can’t say anything bad about this scheme, and bonus points for improving the door number design. A+

Jamie McMurray #1 McDonald’s Chevy SS Same great design as last year, same A grade.

Austin Dillon #3 Dow Chevy SS Take the white stripe down the side off, and it will be a solid A scheme. The white does not look good at all. The red/white/black color scheme works very well, and it is decently designed, so I will give it a B+

Danica Patrick #10 Go Daddy Chevy SS Not only does Go Daddy continue to use the worst shade of yellow in NASCAR, they also have given the worst shade of orange a more prominent role in the car. Givng this car an F is a very fair grade.

Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Ground Toyota Camry Same scheme as last year, same C+ grade

Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Freight Toyota Camry Same scheme as last year, same C+ grade

Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Office Toyota Camry Same scheme as last year, same C+ grade

Denny Hamlin #11 FedEx Express Toyota Camry Same scheme as last year, same C+ grade

Casey Mears #13 Geico Ford Fusion The yellow they use is awful, and the side design is just too loud,  I’ll give it a D

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 NOS Ford Fusion I love this color scheme, however, I don’t love the side design. It has too many different different designs, all of which would work on their own but combined they look like a jumbled mess. I really want to like this scheme, but I just can’t, so I’ll give it a C-

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. #17 Fifth-Third Bank Ford Fusion Everything I just said about NOS applies here. C-

Clint Bowyer #15 5 Hour Energy Toyota Camry Same scheme as last year, same B+ grade.

Kyle Busch #18 M&M’s Toyota Camry Same scheme as last year, same A+ grade.

Ryan Newman #31 Cat Chevy SS New season, new driver, new scheme that looks great and earns an A

Kurt Busch #41 Haas CNC Chevy SS Great color scheme and a very simple desgin look very good here. I also like the matte black used, and the door numbers look really solid. Can’t give this scheme anything less than an A

Kyle Larson #42 Target Chevy SS The scheme looks decent, I like the white on the back, though I do not like the Target logos at the bottom. That takes a scheme that was an A grade to a B-

Brian Vickers #55 Aaron’s Toyota Camry A good scheme, and the 55 lettering looks really good here, and the gold is a nice touch. A

Martin Truex Jr. #78 Furniture Row Chevy SS Simple, and perfect. A+

Dale Earnhardt Jr. #88 Diet Mountain Dew Chevy SS Same scheme as last year, but I never gave it a grade. So here is my analysis Not a great scheme, too much needless design on the side of the car, and the silver background is just brutal. The red lettering on a green background is unattractive at best, and all in all, this is a D- grade.

Michael McDowell #95 Levine Family Racing Ford Fusion This scheme is so much better than last year’s scheme, and just for that I’ll give it a B

Carl Edwards #99 Aflac Ford Fusion This has a terrible color scheme, with lime green, neon blue, black and white. The wing design is not only ugly but would work better starting at the door and working behind.

Daytona Preseason Thunder 2014 News and Notes

100_4479By David G. Firestone

Chicago hit -15 on Monday, and due to the fact I work outside, I was in the middle of it. The temperature was much more hospitable in Daytona Beach where Preseason Thunder took place at Daytona Motor Speedway. Thursday’s testing session was rained out, but Friday’s session took place.

The two major things that happened at Preseason Thunder were that #1 NASCAR was testing a new spoiler for restrictor plate racing. This new spoiler is a half-inch higher, which in theory will make the cars much more stable in the back end. NASCAR is hopeful, but not fully sold yet, so the new spoilers have the word TEST stamped into it.100_4482

The second thing that took place was that Rusty Wallace, who was elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2014 took a number of laps in the #2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion. Rusty brought Miller with him as a sponsor when he joined Penske Racing 1991, and Miller has been on the car ever since. Rusty even dressed to impress by wearing a throwback inspired Miller Lite driver suit…100_4463 100_4464 100_4472 100_4473 100_4474

it is hard to put into words how much I love that suit.  Seriously, I hope Brad Keselowski wears a suit like that for the whole season.

Other notes

*Joey Logano was wearing a Puma driver suit for this session. He was wearing an FMF suit in 2013, so it looks as though he’s got a new deal.100_4460

*Puma is involved with Logano’s teammate Brad Keselowski, as Keselowski is wearing a new Puma suit100_4479

*Jimmie Johnson, who is running a very nice 2014 scheme, ran a very impressive testing scheme, which I honestly hope gets used on track sometime in 2014.100_4486

*Dale Jr. was using a neat looking font on his numbers, again it would look really good on the regular car.100_4483

*Aric Almirola had the best thing I have ever seen on the back of a race car, no questions asked!100_4481

*Last year, the Ford Fusion had a grill design that led to grills popping off during races. The design was changed so that the whole nose, grill included is now one piece.

*There was a major announcement concerning qualifying.  After the Daytona 500 there will be a new qualifying format.  That format has yet to be announced.  The Camping World Truck Series and the Nationwide Series will have a brand new qualifying format starting at Daytona.  Again, these formats have yet to be announced.

*For the Daytona 500, Trevor Bayne will wear a special helmet with a wood grain design based on an old Ford design.100_4492

Michael Waltrip will be wearing a special helmet to commemorate the passing of Andy Granatelli last year, and I think the best thing about that is that Richard Petty signed the helmet.  I think this might be the first time a driver has worn an autographed helmet in a NASCAR event…100_4494 photoHere are the suit brands that drivers were wearing at Daytona…

Marcos Ambrose-Simpson

Clint Boywer-Oakley

Austin Dillon-Sparco

Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Alpine Stars

Carl Edwards-Simpson

Jeff Gord0n-Alpine Stars

Kevin Harvick-Sparco

Kasey Kahne-Alpine Stars

Brad Keselowski-Puma

Matt Kenseth-Sparco

Bobby Labonte-Sparco

Kyle Larson-Impact

Joey Logano-Puma

Jamie McMurray-Impact

Martin Truex Jr.-Oakley

Brian Vickers-Oakley

Michael Waltrip-Oakley

And there are some recent deaths I have to cover,

Tetsuo Fuchigami aka George Tet-first Japanese Sprint Cup driver.

Andy Granatelli-Former CEO of STP, partially responsible for STP’s sponsorship of Richard Petty.

Bruce Pepper-Brother of ThorSport Racing GM David Pepper.

Dennis Wood-Former owner of Phoenix International Speedway

Caleb Moore-Snowmobile Racer

Brian Hart-Former F1 driver and Engineer

Ernie Derr-Winningest Driver in IMCA history.

There was also a tragic incident at the Dakar Rally where a writer and fan were killed.

“Press Kit” Does NOT Mean Ironing a Uniform!

By David G. Firestone17-sedgwick-presskit1

Hope you all had a great holiday season, whatever you celebrate. I turned 32 on Thursday, and am celebrating the first year of the The Driver Suit Blog. Ok, enough sappy stuff, on to this week’s column.We’ve discussed photo-matching before, but here is something regarding photo matching that many people don’t know about, using press kits to photo match a suit. Press Kits are defined on Wikipedia as “a prepackaged set of promotional materials of a person, company, or organization distributed to the media for promotional use.” In sports, these are usually distributed to the media, prior to the start of the season, and usually contain information about players, statistics on players, history of the teams, photos, and the occasional gift.

NASCAR teams distribute these to the media before and during the season, and they often find their way into the hands of collectors. These kits are fun to collect, and I enjoy looking at the various driver suits that the drivers are wearing. These have a serious side in the collectors market, as they can easily be used for photo-matching.17-sedgwick-presskit2This is an example of a NASCAR press kit, this one from 1996. Bill Sedgwick was the driver of the #17 Die Hard Chevy C-1500. The team was owned by Darrell Waltrip, who also raced for the team in a number of events. In 1996, he started 23 of the 24 races in the Craftsman Truck Series, and had a decent season, with 3 top 5’s and 8 top 10’s, including a 2nd place finish at Milwaukee. He finished the season in 14th place. During the season, this press kit was distributed to the media. It comes in a custom folder,17-sedgwick-presskit1 17-sedgwick-presskit16and contains race statistics17-sedgwick-presskit4 17-sedgwick-presskit5 17-sedgwick-presskit6 17-sedgwick-presskit7 a driver profile17-sedgwick-presskit9,an owner profile17-sedgwick-presskit10 17-sedgwick-presskit11,sponsor information,17-sedgwick-presskit8technical information, 17-sedgwick-presskit12 17-sedgwick-presskit13 17-sedgwick-presskit14a bumper sticker,17-sedgwick-presskit15and a photo of both Darrell and Bill.17-sedgwick-presskit2I own Sedgwick’s suit from that season, it was the first driver suit I ever bought.17-sedgwick 17-sedgwickb

17-sedgwick-presskit2  17-sedgwick17-sedgwick-presskit2I tried to find a picture of any kind of him wearing the suit, but had no luck, until I found the press kit, and the black and white photo of him wearing the suit. So I bought it and photo matched the suit. Photo-matching, though time-consuming, it is a part of this hobby that is a necessary evil. If you buy a driver suit, helmet, or anything else worn by a driver, finding pictures or video of the driver wearing the suit is crucial to authenticating the suit. Sometimes traditional manners come up empty, and a press kit is the only way. Kits typically run between $5 and $30, so they can be pricy, but the upside to this is that when it works, you have indisputable proof that this suit was worn by the driver in question.

This last year, I took exception with a display at the Museum of Science and Industry concerning an obviously fake helmet that is being passed off as real.  I recently went back there after sending my argument that the sign should be changed.  Last time I went the display had been emptied:100_3811Recently, I went back and went back to the display, and saw this:gh1 - CopyThe display has been restored, and it looks really good except…gh2 - CopyTHE SIGN HASN’T BEEN CHANGED!  I want to love this display, I really do, but I can’t ignore the fact that there is a fake item being represented as real.  I have seen items from museum collections go up for sale to the public, and I have to make sure a fake item doesn’t get misrepresented as real.


Tony Stewart #14 Mobil 1 Chevy SS  The color scheme is good, but the design is horrid!  The contrast between the black and the white looks awful.  As much as I want to defend this scheme, I can’t.  F

Tony Stewart #14 Bass Pro Shop Chevy SS  Same scheme as last year, same C- grade.  Also, it appears that the last name on the windshield has larger lettering than last year.

Tony Stewart #14 Rush Truck Centers Chevy SS Same Scheme as last year, same A grade

Matt Kenseth #20 Home Depot/Huskey Toyota Camry   I would give this scheme an A grade, but the yellow back bumper ruins it.  The clash between the two just works awkward, and it takes an A scheme down to a C