This Is How You Collect Eco-Friendly Cars

I blame my sister and nephew for this addiction. Many years ago they gifted me a silver 1961 Porsche 356B, of the kind the late James Dean drove. For a few years, the car stood in solitary splendour on my bookcase, but the die had been cast. I walked into a toyshop one morning and emerged with my all-time favourite sports car: the E-type Jaguar convertible. The garage doors burst open after that.

 E-Type miniature diecast scale model cars
An E-Type with mentor

So why do grown men drool over scale model cars (and bikes)? For one, they have a much smaller eco-footprint than the full-grown ones; they do not take up as much space, have virtually zero maintenance costs, do not smoke and do not give you 1 km per 5 litres. Moreover they give you the visual and tactile pleasure of actually owning a full-scale one. Also, you can collect many, many more.

Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental miniature diecast scale model cars
A striking scale model of the Mumbai-based Rolls-Royce Phantom II Continental 

But yes, I have certain criteria they must meet: the model has to be an all-time classic like the 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I or 19641/2 Ford Mustang or VW ‘Kafer’ Beetle. It must have aesthetic lines like the 1972 Lamborghini Miura or virtually every Ferrari. I must have had some association with it, like the whale-like Cadillacs, Chryslers, Buicks and Oldsmobiles of the ’40s and ’50s that I used to see rumbling down the roads of Bombay back in the 1960s and 70s. Or of course, the tiny runabouts like the Austin 7, the Fiat 500, the Mini and the Citroen 2CV!

  a shelf of miniature diecast scale model cars
This is how we would like the top of our bookshelf to look as well 

Any graceful Rolls is welcome up until the Silver Shadows. The Corniche convertible was truly the last lovely Rolls-Royce: they’ve built designer, ‘bespoke’ bricks after that! Also some of the baritone-voiced American ‘classics’ of the 1960s and 1970s you could again, often spot on the roads in Bombay—the all-time favourite Chevrolet Impala, the Bel Air, and Corvette. Any scale will do from 1:18 to 1:43. The larger ones have greater detail, the smaller ones are easier to park and often come in their own acrylic cases, which makes maintenance simple.

RR Corniche miniature diecast scale model cars
The RR Corniche: forever graceful

Now, the pitfalls: cynics who sneer at cars (and then ask you for a lift), and those who call them ‘toys’ (small children actually need to be kept well away). I get most of my models online and there is always great suspense as I unbox one, especially if it is a vintage classic with gigantic headlamps mounted on wire thin stalks. My Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith emerged looking like it had been in a headlong crash with a lorry, to say nothing of the Phantom I Sedenca which had bits and pieces strewn all over the box.

AC Cobra miniature diecast scale model cars
Pocket Rocket! The AC Cobra

Patching these up is an exercise in patience and sausage fingers do not help—the damn glue squirts all over the place except where it’s meant to be! The most potent danger is of course to your bank account. This is an addictive, acquisitive pastime and can torpedo budgets! Sometimes you don’t know whether you’re paying for a scale-model or the real thing. Whatever, you must have it!

Duesenberg SJ miniature diecast scale model cars
A magnificent Duesenberg SJ in a more manageable size

But there are plusses. Most Sunday mornings I settle down to clean a selection of the models: if you don’t the cars soon look like they’ve just finished the Dakar rally. First, blow the dust off with a blower, then gently use a make-up brush or soft paint-brush to get the dust off, and then lightly wipe down with damp muslin being very careful not to snag it with emblems, door handles, door or wing mirrors and even ludicrously flimsy bumpers.

1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I miniature diecast scale model cars
First of the phantoms: The 1925 Rolls-Royce Phantom I

A dampened ear bud can probe all the hard to get nooks and crannies. If necessary, about once in three months, ‘wax’ and polish them. The whole exercise involves a kind of focused yogic meditation that has a ‘feel-good’ factor to it and leaves you calm. You have to handle the models gently; most are really quite flimsily put together. Case in point, the ‘flying lady’ of my Silver-Shadow snapped off and has flown away forever…

1953 Buick Skylark miniature diecast scale model cars
The big splendid 1953 Buick Skylark

While ordering it’s good to check out as many online sites and options as you can: there are sometimes surprising price variations for exactly the same model. And usually, the more expensive a model the better and more detailed its finish.

Beware, this is a virus you can easily catch and spread to like-minded folks and for them (like for yourself) there’s no immunity!


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