How I Spent My Summer Break

DSCN0197By David G. Firestone

I had planned for the continuation of The Vest Project with an ARCA vest, but I’m going to hold off on that, because I’ve decided to go in a different direction this week. As my annual summer sabbatical comes to an end, I look back at the month of fun that I’ve had. Sadly, I didn’t get to do everything I wanted to do, because of weather issues, it was either too hot or full on thunderstorms. But I did get to have some fun.

My good buddy Josh came in, and my old clique from high school got together again for the first time in two years. I’m gonna say that I miss all of the guys getting together and hanging out. One of the things we made a point to do was to go to The Emporium, which is a vintage video game arcade and bar. All the games run on tokens, and each game is one token. If you are in the Chicago area, I suggest you take a visit, it’s worth it.

As I mentioned, I went to the Route 66 Nationals on Saturday July 9, and had a great time. In fact, that’s how a lot of my vacation time was spent, relaxing, and watching racing. The weather was very hot, so hot, that taking the dog for a walk at some points was a risky proposition. Lucy is a very timid creature, and I didn’t want to expose her for too long. So I had a few projects I had to slash, at least for the time being. Other times, thunderstorms dominated the weather, which kept my video feed busy.

I also did a couple box breaks,

and something…well I like it.

I did get a chance to take some pictures with my new camera, but due to a number of issues, such as heat, and restrictions due to events, I didn’t get anywhere near the photos I wanted.DSCN0192 DSCN0197 DSCN0196 DSCN0195 DSCN0194 DSCN0193One thing I did do was pay attention to racing merchandise. I’ve been following sports and collecting sports stuff my whole life. I’ve seen the merchandise booth take many different forms, and have many different aspects. Officially licensed merchandise has gotten bigger over the years, and I’m not even going to talk about unofficial stuff. It’s not that often I see an officially licensed item that just makes my head hurt, but I’ve found something that has.

In the internet age, people are realizing that there are items for sale that they never knew they wanted. Sports fans are a very easy group to sell something to, in that they will buy most anything with their team logo on it. NASCAR fans are no different. Fans want stuff specific to their favorite driver. NASCAR’s online store is marketing this. It’s a race-used piston rod, with no indication as to which driver used it. You don’t know who used it…so why have it? The whole point of the race-used hobby is that fans can buy stuff used by their favorite driver and his team. Having a generic “race-used” item defeats the purpose of race-used memorabilia entirely. You don’t know which driver used it, you don’t know which team it came from, and you begin to question if it is authentic. Let me pay $70 for something I can’t prove is real…yeah, that’s a good deal.

While the piston rod is generic to the point of absurdity, the polar opposite is true for this Kyle Busch train set. For $299 plus shipping, you have an O-scale engine, three cars, and a caboose, all decked out in Kyle’s #18 paint scheme. As a bonus, the train also has two 1:64 die cast cars. That’s were things get interesting, since O-scale in model railroad translates to 1:48 to 1:43.5, depending on location, in the US it’s an even 1:48. To put it simply, you have a 1:48 train pulling a pair of 1:64 die cast cars. Scale be damned, we have sales to make! If Lionel’s creative team had more sense, they would have the train pull two 1:48 scale cars, which not only would be to perfect scale, but would create a rarer, more desirable version of the car, thus creating incentive for more collectors to buy it.

While those two are amazing, the item that gobsmacked me it this:IMG_1024 Yes, that’s an autograph funny car, nothing really unusual about that…but what’s that logo on the front? For reasons I can’t understand, the NHRA decided to license A PLAIN WHITE CAR WITH NO LOGOS! Why? Why would you officially license something that is unpainted, and can’t in any way be connected to your brand? I can’t wrap my arms around this. While I have seen other examples, those do have official logos actually on the car. But looking at the back of the box gets even more entertaining. IMG_1025 IMG_1026Ford has used the Mustang for their run in the NHRA, yet for whatever reason, the trademark on the bottom states it a TARUS, despite the fact it’s clearly modeled after a Mustang. Even so, using model names is a moot point, since nowhere on the car does it say anything about what model the car actually is. Nowhere on the car does it say that this is a Ford, nor does it say what model it is. Never mind the fact that it also lists Motorcraft and Areomax as trademarks, which, again, aren’t present on the car in any way. At least Goodyear’s logos are on the tires, so I can give them a pass.

This was made in 2002, which Ertl and Racing Champions were focusing more on quality than quantity in their racing die casts for the first time in the history of ever. Anyone who bought racing die casts in the 1990’s could go to Toys R Us, or Target, or Venture, and buy these for $1. Granted there were better options which were pricier, and Dale Earnhardt isn’t a part of these sets, but they were the cheap kids toys of the die cast market. But when you are trying to give the impression of quality, releasing an unpainted car that is for some reason officially licensed, and has the wrong model on the box doesn’t exactly scream quality goods.

This wouldn’t really work anyway, as the gloss coating increases the chance of the signature smudging before it dries, which when you are a little kid getting autographs from drivers, is a fate worse than death. A matte finish would be much better, and it would be easier to sign at an event. How over-budget and desperate for sales was Ertl that they decided to save the Chinese workers a half-step, and not apply decals, and package and sell this as an autograph car? I would seriously love to know who came up with that, and how it got to the shelves.

As idiotic as this is, they missed a great chance to make this an awesome product. Here is what you would have to do. Change the packaging from “autograph car” to “paint your own car” and add some paints and stickers. If you gave kids the chance to paint their own unique car, without the hassle of having to build the model first, this would be a gem. Even modern autograph cars make it clear that they are good for customization, and this one has official logos painted on the car. Then again, what more should be expected of a toy company that advertised its die cast tractors more than anything else?

Ok, we got off track(pun intended) and next week, that ARCA vest.

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