Saturday, September 14, 2013

#325 NOVACAR – FERRARI 348 and RENAULT ESPACE (Nr. 101 and 110) (1994)


FACTS ABOUT NOVACAR / HISTORY OF NOVACAR

Novacar is a commercial name used by a Portuguese company for car miniatures made of plastic with a die-cast chassis. Very little is known about it, so I have tried to collect as much information as possible from different sites and images in the internet.

The company name is “Minia Porto: Jogos e Brinquedos Lda.”, and it was surely rather small by the late 80s. This company was settled in the village of Baltar, near the city of Paredes. The name of the company is of course taken from the words “Miniaturas” and “Porto”, the Portuguese city (only 36 kilometres away from Paredes) or more probably the District Porto, in which both cities are in. “Jogos e Brinquedos” can be translated as "Games and Toys".

(NOTE: In the rest of the article, Novacar and Minia Porto are used as synonyms, although Minia Porto is the -wholly owned- subsidiary company of Majorette, and Novacar the trademark used in its models)


The logo of the company can be seen in backcard of some packages, and include the address:
Ramos Balta
4580 Paredes
Portugal


Minia Porto was purchased by Majorette in 1989 and was initially intended to produce low-cost models for Majorette. These would have plastic bodies over a metal die-cast chassis, although this metal had a much lower quality than the one used in the French models. Note for example the Renault Espace in this article: after (almost) twenty years, the metal base plate has some rust, it is not as smooth, polished and shiny as it originally was.

Plastic bodies, however, look like the first day, no paint chips, and fortunately no sun damage (in this case, white plastic would have turned yellow-ish). At this point, I'd like to mention that in the early 90s, new Asian companies arrive in Europe. MCToy, for example, was quite a revolution, because its great 1:64 models were quite cheap. After MCToy, there would come a few more, although quality of these cheap models would decay exponentially in the next years.


The wheels used are exactly the same used by Majorette during those years. Novacar uses at least 3 types of wheels, being the one in the Renault Espace, the most common. The other two are the classic “slick” type with a thick ring (see for example the Formula 1s), and the “4x4” with two narrow rings and a broken line ring in between (see the Nissan Terrano).

Novacar cars were usually marked “Novacar” plus a reference number on the chassis. The only series released under the name “Novacar” brand was the “Series 100”, and comprised 19 different models.

The following 16 cars made its first appearance in Majorette’s 1994 catalogue.

Novacar’s Series 100:
From Majorette's 1995 Catalogue
  • 101 – Ferrari 348 (GTB)
  • 102 – Nissan 300 ZX
  • 103 – Chevrolet Corvette (’83)
  • 104 – Ferrari Testarossa
  • 105 – Mercedes 500 SL (Cabrio)
  • 106 – Peugeot 605
  • 107 – Nissan Terrano
  • 108 – Kenworth (T600)
  • 109 – (Chevrolet) Impala Police
  • 110 – Renault Espace
  • 110/10 – (Renault) Espace Ambulance
  • 111 – Sport Proto (Porsche 962 Group C Racer)
  • 112 – F1 Noire (Brabham F1)
  • 112/10 – F1 Jaune (Brabham F1)
  • 113 – Combi VW Caravelle
  • 114 – Ford Escort GT (Mk IV)
  • 115 – Not assigned
  • 116 – Pick Up Chevrolet
  • 117 – Honda NSX
  • 118 – Not assigned

The following year three more cars appeared in the list of the series 100. These are very rare, or at least, I have only seen the Ferrari F40 (Ref. 120) in pictures. I guess the other two exist, although I cannot assure it.

New References in 1995:
  • 119 – Jeep
  • 120 – Ferrari F40
  • 121 – Van

In 1996, Novacar’s Serie 100 made its last appearance in a Majorette catalogue. In two pages, almost every car was presented in a “new decoration”, except the Renault Espace Ambulance (110/10), the two F1s (112 and 112/10), the Combi VW Caravelle (113), the Ford Escort (114), the Honda NSX (117) and the three models from 1995. Additionally, some models got a second reference number, because the “new decoration” was sold together with the first one, so in the catalogue of 1996, we have new reference numbers:

From Majorette's 1996 Catalogue
  • 101 – Ferrari 348 (GTB) – ND (ND: New Decoration)
  • 102 – Nissan 300 ZX - ND
  • 103 – Chevrolet Corvette Grand Prix (’83) – ND
  • 103/10 – Chevrolet Corvette (’83) - ND
  • 104 – Ferrari Testarossa - ND
  • 105 – Mercedes 500 SL (Cabrio) - ND
  • 106 – Peugeot 605 - ND
  • 107 – Nissan Terrano – Same as in 1994
  • 107/10 – Nissan Terrano – ND “Sheriff”
  • 107/20 – Nissan Terrano – ND “Fire Dept.”
  • 108 – Kenworth (T600) – ND
  • 109 – (Chevrolet) Impala Police – ND
  • 110 – Renault Espace Rallye – ND
  • 110/10 – (Renault) Espace Ambulance – Same as in 1994
  • 111 – Sport Proto (Porsche 962 Group C Racer) – Same as in 1994
  • 111/10 – Sport Proto (Porsche 962 Group C Racer) – ND
  • 112 – F1 Noire (Brabham F1) – Same as in 1994
  • 112/10 – F1 Jaune (Brabham F1) – Same as in 1994
  • 113 – Combi VW Caravelle – Same as in 1994
  • 114 – Ford Escort GT (Mk IV) – Same as in 1994
  • 115 – Not assigned
  • 116 – Pick Up Chevrolet Police – ND
  • 116/10 – Pick Up Chevrolet – ND
  • 117 – Honda NSX – Same as in 1994
  • 118 – Not assigned
  • 119 – Jeep – Same as in 1994
  • 120 – Ferrari F40 – Same as in 1994
  • 121 – Van – Same as in 1994
Novacar models within this assortment were sold in Majorette packages, probably as a try to improve the sales. From 1996 on, the package was changed, and the Novacar logo and colours were replaced for Majorette's. Novacar still appeared in small letters in the front of the card.

This same year, Novacar manufactured for Majorette a complete new series. The only difference with their series 100, was that the bodies of the cars were made of coloured transparent glittering plastic. This series was sold exclusively under the Majorette Brand (it even had its own series number: 280), and on the back card, rather small, can be read: "Made in Portugal".

From Majorette's 1996 Catalogue

Serie 280 “Super Crystal”
  • 102 – Nissan 300 ZX
  • 103 – Chevrolet Corvette (’83)
  • 104 – Ferrari Testarossa
  • 105 – Mercedes 500 SL (Cabrio)
  • 107 – Nissan Terrano
  • 108 – Kenworth (T600)
  • 109 – (Chevrolet) Impala Police
  • 110 – Renault Espace
  • 111 – Sport Proto (Porsche 962 Group C Racer)
  • 113 – Combi VW Caravelle
  • 116 – Pick Up Chevrolet
  • 117 – Honda NSX

Apart from these references, Novacar might also have manufactured other plastic parts and accesories for Majorette. The "Sprinter" (a spring loaded platform to "launch" cars) was made in a similar plastic to the one used in the series 280, but I had to confirm if they were also completely or partly made in Portugal. At some point, the casting in the chassis would change Novacar for Majorette, although the model cars were exactly the same.

Back to the start in 1989, the 90s decade was quite hard for Majorette. Because of the growing number of new competitors in Asia, and classic brands been relocated (mainly) to China and Thailand.

Majorette ran at a loss in 1989, and during the following years the situation didn't improve. By the end of 1992, Emile Véron and his son Alexandre had to call for meeting of creditors, and a few months after that (April 1993), the company was sold to Ideal Loisirs. After some years, in 1996, the company had to be rescued again by Triumph-Adler, that had a big plan to make Majorette competitive again. The production was centralized in Lyon, but many factories (including these in Portugal) were moved to Thailand, between the years 1999 and 2000. Was this the end of Minia Porto? It seems so. The company was wound up shorty afterwards.

Taken from Diário de República - Suplemento Sumário II Serie Parte B (24th June 2002)
Novacar models are currently quite rare to find, although this rarity doesn't mean high prices. They are quite affordable for all those who are interested in acquiring a Portuguese "curiosity" or for Majorette "completists".

I have somewhere the yellow Ferrari 348, so I will update the article, as soon as I can photograph it. Here it is:




Hope you liked this article, it took a lot of effort to write it, since a lot of information available in other websites has been proved to be wrong.

FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: FERRARI 348 GTB (Ref 101) and RENAULT ESPACE AMBULANCE (Ref 110/10)
  • Scale: 1:64 (approx.)
  • Year: 1994
  • Company: Nacoral (Portugal) / Majorette (France)
  • Size: approx. 7.5 cm

9 comments:

  1. Found the 300ZX with the Novacar 120 stamped on the bottom with red interior. Awesome shape. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, thanks for the comment! It is indeed a nice cast, although the original 300ZX from majorette is even nicer. I was amazed when it came out because of its movable headlights.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Excellent Your Site! Congratulations!
    Few people know that there is a chapter in the history of Novacar models is related to Brazil. The Novacar models were manufactured in Brazil in 1994 ...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Dbrminis USA, Many thanks for your comment!

      Never heard about that, but I´d love to hear more about it... 1994 was the year of the first series, and to my knowledge, the package clearly indicates "Made by MiniaPorto, Portugal"

      By the way, I have another comment from you were you publish your email adress, do you really want me to publish that? I think it would be better if you contacted Rich Geroux directly through his google+ profile.

      Delete
    2. BTW, thanks for joining as a follower of this blog!

      Delete
  4. Gog, I have pictures of Novacar brazilian... And I know a little about the history of the Novacars brazilian...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi thanks for contacting me again!

      You can find my email clicking on my picture at the top of the page, and then scrolling down until you see it. Alternatively, you can send me your email in a reply to this message, and I'll contact you. Your reply won't be published since I don't like publishing emails. I'm really willing to hear that story of the Brazilian Novacars.

      Delete
  5. Hi, I have Not come across the Ferrari F40 or the Ford Econoline van in my many years of collecting (over 40 year!)
    The jeep is available (I have in my collection)
    ATB Steven Masson

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Steven,
      Many thanks for the comment, it is a valuable input for other collectors. I haven´t seen them either.
      Best Regards.

      Delete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...