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Friday, March 20, 2020

#946 PILEN – MONZA G.T. (Ref. M-301) (1973)


This is a great model by Pilen that resembles quite a lot the Joal version of the same car. I presented the Joal version a long time ago in this blog (see #247)

Remember that Joal and Pilen were both based in Ibi, which is a small town, where also Guisval, Mira and other famous die-cast brands were based. The companies had family relations among them and it was not rare that casts went from one factory to the other.

The differences are clear. This model was simplified in order to produce it cheaper and does not have an opening bonnet. Just the cockpit can be opened. I would say, otherwise Pilen and Joal models are identical.


The cast debuted as Pilen in 1971 is a red and white version. The Joal version was two years older. In the 1973 catalogue it is the first time that this model is pictured, although there were another one with chrome finish. This last one does not appear in the catalogues, but the chromed versions are common for many Pilen models, so this one is no exception.

I like the decoration, which is rather simple. It carries race number 69, the words Escudería Pilen and two crossed flags.

This model is boxed, so we can observe that it came in a jewel box with yellow base, in which a sticker is placed with the reference number and the name of the car. I think I have shown these kind of boxes by Pilen before.



FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: MONZA G.T. (Ref. M-301) 
  • Scale: 1:43
  • Year: 1973
  • Company: Pilen (Spain)
  • Size: approx. 9 cm

Friday, March 13, 2020

#945 SIKU – OPEL SENATOR and MERCEDES-BENZ 500 SE (Ref. 1040 and 1042) (1981 and 1982)




These two cars are in a rather good condition, but present some scratches and paint losses. Still they are excellent miniatures quite rare to find today, as the approach their 40th anniversary.




Both are made in 1:55 scale as it is usual in Siku’s Super Series. Made in massive metal are bigger and heavier than most Matchbox models or equivalent in the 3 inches size category. The represent large cars, among the largest available back in the day.




Opel Senator was launched in 1981 and discontinued in 1988. My model is metallic red. Other colours include orange, and much rarer light blue, yellow and tourquoise.




Mercedes-Benz 500 SE was release one year later, in 1982 and discontinued in 1990. My car is metallic blue, but it seems to be available also in black and metallic red, but these are much rarer than the blue one here.

Great models!


FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: OPEL SENATOR and MERCEDES-BENZ 500 SE (Ref. 1040 and 1042)
  • Scale: 1:55
  • Year: 1981 and 1982
  • Company: Siku (West Germany)
  • Size: approx. 8 cm

Friday, February 21, 2020

#944 GOBOTS – VAMP amd SCORP (MRD-101, MRD-103) (1984)


The Go-Bot line with vehicles, called Machine-Robo, had more than 50 references, including every type of vehicle. This one is the most famous line that everybody remembers, but the Go-Bots also had an alternative line of “monsters”, called Devil Invader Series, that had references with the letters MRD (RMD in Europe), instead of just MR (or RM), I guess, the “D” comes from Devil.

I have just two robots belonging to this series, one Batmobile-alike vehicle that trasnforms into a vampire robot, and a Robot-Scorpion. Both are very cool and imaginative, they do surprise much more than the vehicles line.



All MRD references seem to be evil characters, unlike the MR references, who belong to one of two factions: “Friendly Robots” or “Enemy Robots”, although this was not always like this… at the beginning, there was no reference to the filiation of the robots, if any at all, but in later catalogues, there are some that show the robots in two separate groups. Maybe this was a consequence of the animated series (1984-85) in which there were good a bad go-bots that fought against each other.

I just discovered a great website with all Go-Bot toys and I think it deserves being promoted so it stays the reference site on the Internet about this Popy/Bandai/Tonka toyline. Pelase visit: http://www.the-liberator.net/




It has been a long time since the last entry dedicated to these nice transforming robots, but I guess we won’t have to wait so much for the next one… I have some more robots awaiting in the line to be presented.

FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: VAMP amd SCORP (MRD-101, MRD-103)
  • Alternate Names: CASMODON, ZARIOS (Machine Robo names/ Japan)
  • Toy Line: Go-Bots (Series 2)
  • Year: 1984
  • Company: Popy/ Bandai (Japan) / Tonka (U.S.A.)
  • Size of the figures: Around 8 cm

Friday, February 7, 2020

#943 LONE STAR - IMPY SERIES – TIMBER TRUCK (Ref.No.60), PETROL TANKER (Ref.No.61) and LONG PETROL TANKER (Ref.No.182) (1976)



Lone Star had a series of rather simply casted trucks sold under the Impy series. I show three in this entry, a long tanker, a short tanker and a short truck with a flat bed platform (that originally carried short sticks of wood).

The models came in boxes with windows that specified a copyright from 1976. The exact text on the boxes were: “Made by Lone Star Products Ltd. Welham Green Herts AL97NT England”, plus “© Lone Star 1976”.

There are two lists on the back of the smaller boxes, the first one is for Trucks and have references 50 to 61. The second one is for cars, with references between 71 and 82.



The long trucks came in long boxes labelled as IMPY MAJORS and are also marked on the base. They seem to have references in the 18x range, but also 128x or 129x.




The line of trucks (both long and short) was also known as COMMERCIALS.

The models are simplified representations of generic trucks: there is a truck with “flat” front and another one with long front (“american style”), each of them combining several kind of loads: tipper, tanker, mixer… The paintwork also seem to be applied randomly, but using always basic bright colours, and all in all, looks like a budget alternative to the “other” Lone Star trucks from the 60s and the 50s. Probably they were intended to compete against the cheap die-cast models from Hong-Kong, which during the mid-70s were already very common in the United Kingdom.







These models are quite rare (at least outside the UK, where they might be more common), but still affordable and easy to find (even boxed or mint), I guess it is just they are not good enough for many collectors: they are objectively not nicely done and they do not represent actual truck models. In comparison with the cars mentioned above, the price difference of used models and their scarcity is remarkable.



FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: TIMBER TRUCK (Ref.No.60), PETROL TANKER (Ref.No.61) and LONG PETROL TANKER (Ref.No.182)
  • Scale: Around 1:100
  • Year: 1976
  • Company: Lone Star (Great Britain)
  • Size: approx. 7 cm

Sunday, January 19, 2020

#942 MATCHBOX - JEEP CJ6 "MADE IN HUNGARY" (1987)


MATCHBOX "MADE IN HUNGARY" MODELS

Some Matchbox Superfast variants are gaining now some popularity and collectors started looking for them. among them are the Bulgarian and Hungarian models, which were made later than the British equivalents, mostly during the late 80s. The models from Bulgaria were manufactured between 1983 and 2005 and the Hungarian models were manufactured only in 1987 and 1988.

Unfortunately there is not much information about this topic out there. Just the WIkipedia has a couple of lines telling that dies and tooling were licensed to groups in Hungary and Bulgaria to try to gain a foothold in the Communist bloc countries...

This time I´ll focus only in the Hungarian models, although many things written here are also suitable for the Bulgarian models.


The first thing that attracts your attention is the uncommon color of the car. The British models usually had 2 versions of each reference (maybe more if it was manufactured during a long period of time, part of a bigger set with trailer…), but in Hungary, the colors were applied randomly. Each model was available in many colors mostly "basic" (mostly mixtures of two primary colors, black or white at 50% each) ones: blue, light blue, green, red, maroon, green, dark green, gold, yellow and light yellow…

The wheels could also vary, so the color of the hubcaps, as well as additional or removable parts (in this case, the canopy, could be black or brown), interiors… all the usual staff. Some come with tampographies which are not the “official” ones, but they are typically simple and mostly based in one or two colours.

The Matchbox variant page from Christian Falkensteiner registers more than 200 variants on this particular Hungarian model, while the Bristish superfast Nr. 53 only has 31 registered variants (plus boxes). Hell on Earth. I won’t be collecting these, nor the Bulgarian models, it’s OK if I get one of each. This is my Hungarian model, now I need one Bulgarian one.

At the time it was a cheap product, but considering the years in which they were made, they are much better than the Chinese Super G.T.s Why the production in Hungary was cancelled after only two years is something I’d like to know. Does it really have to do with the Communist bloc, as stated in the Wikipedia? The Communist regime fell exactly during that same year (1988) and led to the Third Republic one year later (1989), so this could be an explanation... Seeing the revolts coming, and the end of the Communist era made Matchbox reconsider the production in this country.

The production in Bulgaria lasted much longer… I would say producing in Bulgaria was even cheaper than producing in Hungary, considering only GDP numbers. Anyone knows what happened with these "Made in Hungary" models and the markets were they were being distributed? Were they replaced by Bulgarian or Macao models? I mention this because the production in these two countries continued over 1989 for many years more.


FACTS and FIGURES:

  • Name: JEEP CJ6
  • Scale: Around 1:64
  • Year: 1987
  • Company: Matchbox (United Kingdom/ Hungary)
  • Size: approx. 7 cm

Friday, January 3, 2020

#941 STARCOM – H.A.R.V.-7, M-6 RAILGUNNER and LASER R.A.T. (1987)




I made one entry about Starcom a long time ago, with very generic facts about the toyline.

This time I would like to talk a bit about the production design of this toyline, which is for me one of the master works by any toy company anytime.

The starting point is maybe not very original, as it is based in a conflict between the American space military and an evil empire. The design is not suitable for very small children, but for children age 8, maybe 9 and up.

The space marines have futuristic space suits and weapons. Since they are a real military force, each member has a particular affiliation and a grade. The Star-Wing is the aviation, The Astro Marines are the infantry, and since there is no navy in space, the third group is the Starbase Command crew. Each subgroup´s figures are similar to each other, but they differ in the colour of the uniform or the helmet, again with minor variations.

Among the bad guys, the Shadow Force, there are no subgroups, although they also operate "planes" and ground vehicles. Some of their members are robots (good for cartoon action, since they could be "killed" in the show), other are humans. They are lead by an Emperor named Dark, or Dark Emperor. The Emperor came with a staff and together with the robots are the only figures that came without visor.

Each group has its distinctive logo, represented in vehicles and people's suits or helmets. The weapons are also futuristic, with rather big backpacks and few dozens of small guns that connect to the backpack by a plastic hose. Some are smaller, other are bigger, they look quite good, matching the style of the rest of the elements in the toyline. I won´t go into the magna-lock feature in detail, but it is an amazing feature for little astronauts. So they stand the absence of gravity by magnetically attaching to vehicles, base or somewhere else. The only negative remark I can make to the figures is that all figures within a group are quite similar to each other (this brings additional "realism" to the toyline) and they are not very charismatic (except a few characters), being difficult to learn the names to all figures.

The vehicles also have a futuristic design, with massive vehicles for the Shadow Forces, and more stilized vehicles for the Starcom Forces. The toyline does not priorize weapons or weaponry, but also logistics, communications or mechanics/engineering.

Many vehicles and many accesories have a common shape so they can be inserted, combined, transported by other vehicles. This is one of the fundamentals on what I mentioned before about logistics. Bigger vehicles can carry smaller vehicles, people, fuel, small bases... For me, this is the greatest feature, and seems even plausible to me for future space travel, colonization of other planets and so on. An standarized size would reduce the costs for transport, storage and deployment of space bases, vehicles and goods.

 






The vehicle shown in this entry is maybe the quintessential example of what I am saying. The small battelcrane, is a  light-armoured flying pod intended for transporting those crates, containers and maybe even vehicles (if we consider that vehicles are light enough to be carried, something counterintuitive, since they look so bulky and heavy). When bent, the vehicle is exactly the same size than the crate. Once "activated", it is slightly bigger, and those legs made it double as high as bent.

It has capacity for one person/pilot and it is equipped with two small cannons in the front and a bomb below the cabin. The crate is a simple one, with one door/lid/opening at one side.

The triplet of vehicles shown in this entry are a good example of what I am saying.

 -------------------

H.A.R.V.-7 




The H.A.R.V.-7 (Heavy Armed Recovery Vehicle) is the biggest of the three, it resembles some kind of tow-away truck, or maybe a mobile crane. Its main feature is that it can carry one “unit” of volume, whatever it is. It came with a load that is supposed to be a fuel crate, but it can also carry a small vehicle or mini-base.



The crane arm can be moved to discharge the load, and by pushing the button, it will return to its original position. The load is attached to it by means of a magnet, and if the load is too heavy the feature doesn’t work very well. The detail level is so high, that when you pull the arm to discharge whatever you are carrying, the “stabilizator” opens to get additional stability in the operation. Nice!



Otherwise, the vehicle can carry two figures: a pilot and a gunman, and is heavily armored with five cannons of three different kinds. They are all practicable. It has magnets also in the carrying plane, so figures can be also placed there.

The pilot is Staff Sgt. Champ O’Ryan, H.A.R.V.-7 Recovery Leader.


According to the catalogue, the features described above are:
  • Motorized POWER DEPLOY MAGNA LOCK Lifter
  • Automatic Cargo Release
  • POWER DEPLOY stabilizer, Swiveling Cannons
  • Includes Fuel Pod
-------------------

M-6 RAILGUNNER
 

The M-6 Railgunner (Ground Attack Vehicles) looks like a heavy-armored tank, only in miniature. It has space for one figure in the cockpit and another one half sitting in a platform over the cannon. This toy is missing a protective shield for the gunner, so it is not so exposed to enemy fire. The cannon is its most impressive weapon, although it has two mini-guns in the front.



The front and rear axles are also extendable, so the vehicle can be made longer than it is (and more stable for harsh terrain, I guess).




The pilot is Capt. Rick Ruffing, M-6 Railgunner Anti-Armor Commander.


According to the catalogue, the features described above are:
  • Motorized Cannon and Cockpit
  • Gunner’s Jump SeatExtendable Axles

-------------------

LASER R.A.T.


The Laser R.A.T. (Rapid Assault Tracker) is a small, compact, 4-wheeled terrain vehicle, intended for assault. It comes with a bigger double-barrelled cannon on top (operated by a gunner) and two smaller guns in the front (operated by the pilot). The cockpit is also rather small and the figure fits only when the vehicle is "open". When bent, it has exactly the standard size.




The axles can be extended to be longer and they can be placed a bit further to the front and to the back so the vehicle is also longer. This feature is often overlooked, even in some catalogues is not depicted!

The pilot is Capt. Vic Hayes “Dakota”, LASER R.A.T. Assault Leader.


According to the catalogue, the features described above are:
  • Motorized Cannons, Console and Armor Shield
  • Extendable Axles

-------------------

All three vehicles belong the Starcom group. They have the Astro-Marines colours. Note also that the secondary colours are also the same through the same sub-group. Further, vehicles look similar independently of its size. The stickers are also sometimes similar to each other. The most curious one is a "no smoking" sign, seen in some of the elements like the people carrier crate.

An interesting element in the vehicles is a small hole to "tank" them. There is a fuel crate in white available with the H.A.R.V. 7, and this crate is intended to be used with all vehicles in the toyline. I think all vehicles have a small "FUEL" sticker to be placed near that fuel cover.


Here are some additional pictures of the Mars diorama.






 






  

 


FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: H.A.R.V.-7, M-6 Railgunner and Laser R.A.T.
  • Toy Line: Starcom
  • Year: 1987
  • Company: Coleco (U.S.A.)
  • Size of the figure: Around 5 cm
  • Size of the vehicle: Around 15 cm long the big one, around 9 cm long the small ones.
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