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First Peek with Joe Kelly Edition Date
2-19-04
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New York International Toy Fair (1 of 3):
Highway 61, Minichamps, Kyosho, Revell Germany, SunStar, Motor City Classics, Guiloy and Welly

 

Highway 61 Minichamps, Kyosho & Revell Germany
 
     
 
Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly
 

I’M NOT SURE if it was the British babe with the clove cigarette or the sweet lacquer wafting its way from the body shops across Eleventh Avenue, but the mélange of smells joined with the sights I’d just left behind. As I left the Javits Center to hail a cab, I was waxing philosophical. Another Toy Fair had come and gone. Another year of American hobby shows had started. And, as never before, I was wondering where it would all lead.

As witnessed during the show’s February 15th through 18th duration, foot traffic has slowed, as has the flow of new 1:18 product on display at the tables both at the Javits Center and the showrooms downtown. Where was Exoto? Lane? Gateway Global/AutoArt? GMP? Where would we be by Chicago? Will Vegas take a place as an important launching pad for new models? Will mainline shows like SEMA displace the long-in-the-tooth Radio Control and Toy Fair walkabouts as places to wow the buyers?

Time will tell. In the meantime…
 

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  Highway 61

To be sure, a few first shots and follow-ups to announced images were here – some of them very, very good – but the overall sense was one of an industry growing tired of the grind and a hobby shifting away from the mass market and toward the collector.

For model makers who have taken that tack from the start, it was business as usual. Highway 61 had a first shot of their 1970 Mustang in Boss 302 livery, and even in the rough, the model got Ford fans drooling for its release next quarter. Closer to our shelves are the production-ready V8-powered '69 Chevy pickups. All three versions are funky must haves, with gorgeous finishes and details a-plenty.

On the water as we speak are the big, buxom Chevy custom vans. Even though the Hendrix-inspired "Voodoo Child" was cancelled over licensing, the lineup will be a big hit with those of us who remember (or are trying to remember) the ‘seventies.

Revisiting of existing molds will yield some cool historic drag and development cars, like the silver Pontiac Tempest 421 test mule, and Bill Shrewsbury’s ride, as well as a barrel full of Super Stock Dodge images like the "Color Me Gone", Bill Golden’s "Maverick", and factory-sired "Ramchargers" racers. The Metropolitans and Dodge Darts will also see their lines expand, as molds and year-to-year styling and options changes allow. Still in the wings are the 1967 Coronet R/Ts, 1968 Plymouth Barracudas, 1940 Ford truck series in 1:16, and those 1957 Chevrolet 150 sedans we’ve been losing sleep over.

Expect Haverland and company to officially announce a really neat ‘fifties image soon. Bring your folding hat. It’s a "natch" that you’ll camp out for this one.
 

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  Minichamps, Kyosho & Revell Germany

Minichamps had a lot to talk about, and their recent recognition as the leading distributor of Kyosho products meant the shelves at their display were brimming with cool foreign stuff. To that end, Ferrari was well represented – thank god – by models of the Daytona that were remarkable not only for their impeccable detailing and assembly, but for licensing mumbo-jumbo on their boxes deep enough to make a Boston lawyer’s head spin. Hey - at least the models exist.

The VW Kubelwagen (found at http://www.militarymodels.com/) – the military version of the "Thing" they tried to foist on us in the ‘seventies – was cool enough, but the biggest thing at the PMA booth – literally – was the eye-popping 1:18 scale Mercedes flatbed truck. Despite rough handling in transport, the canvas-topped model’s detail and sheer presence are a thing to behold. I’ll be holding one soon, I hope.

On an automotive front, many were genuflecting before the ’55 Mercedes 300 SL. No, this isn’t Kyosho’s old mold. As good as that was at the time, this is a whole new gullwing. It’s beautiful, and it’s joined by BMW racers in Jagermeister and 1975 DRM livery, and a cool-to-the-extreme Volvo P1800 ES.

Europhiles rejoice. As usual, according to the catalog, there are a lot more where these came from, and we’re hoping to open a solid line of communication with this excellent model maker – these cars are just too damned good to miss.

…

Another Teuton waiting in the wings is Revell Germany. I’m pretty excited over their lineup – always have been – but I’m really tweaked over their announcement of a 1953 Ford convertible and a ’65 Mustang fastback. No images yet, but those will be joined by a 1971 Dodge Charger and a ’69 Corvette coupe.

The biggest announcement was the company’s pledge to make their 1:18 Messerschmitts, Isettas, Borgwards, Lloyd Alexanders and the like more available to the American market – always a sticking point on these very offbeat, very desirable models. Bet the Wartburg we’ll see a lot from these guys in the immediate future.
 

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  SunStar, Motor City Classics, Guiloy & Welly

They weren’t the most talkative group in the show, but the aisle-dominating sideshow comprised of SunStar, Motor City Classics, and Guiloy had a few neat things to show for a long Winters’ work.

First up was a cool, lived-in variant of MCC’s Airstream trailer. Complete to the pinups on the refrigerator door – and a few dirty dishes – the model was one of the wittiest, most whimsical things on any of the tables. These guys have become masters of the vignette.

MCC also had a first shot of their beautiful ‘thirties-era Lincoln phaeton, and it’s a doozy. Which leads us to the dropping of an image we’d hoped to see; the hoped-for Duesenberg, according to the fellows at the booth, is a dead issue.

Still living was SunStar’s 1957 Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, looking good in black with a brushed steel roof. Great paint and chrome, and very good assembly – even as a hand sample – mean that this much-ballyhooed image, clamshell motor and all, will make a big dent in your shelf space, if not your wallet, soon. Another hulking model was the red and gold-toned custom Cadillac once owned by China’s Last Emperor. But the real land baron among the bunch was the beautifully turned-out 1:18 scale double-decker bus – better lay in a foundation if you’re looking to display this one at home.

…

A lot of evil stares were most certainly traded over the blue curtain separating SunStar and Welly; these neighbors at the show have a long rivalry, as several of the old SunStar guard have been wearing Welly badges for a while now.

The good news is that the Welly catalog, thought still unmistakably a low-buck lineup, has added a couple of images worth poring over. The tough, tubbed Pro Street versions of their neat ’70 Chevelle and all-new ’69 Mustangs are nice pieces for the muscle head on a budget, and the Trans-Am racers have been well-received by the hobby for nigh on a year, now. And a hardtop version of their ’63 Impala looks danged decent, for the price. So do a few new colors on their ’55 Olds.

The first shot of the Mercury Cougar we saw at Chicago a couple of years ago was still on the shelf, virtually unchanged. They told me that it’s close to production. I hope so.
 

 
     

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