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…

PAINT SCHEME REVIEWS

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.

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