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First Peek with Rusty Hurley Edition Date
6-23-05
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PMA/Minichamps 1/18 Mercedes 300SL
PMA/Minichamps 1/18 Aston Martin DB9

 

PMA/Minichamps 1/18 Mercedes 300SL PMA/Minichamps 1/18 Aston Martin DB9
 
     
 
Rusty Hurley
Rusty Hurley
 

Over the past few years it’s become fairly fashionable in the diecast biz to manufacture several lines, each with a unique level of quality and detail.

Auto art is probably the best example of this, having everything from dirt cheap (and I don’t mean inexpensive, I mean cheap) GATE models to Millennium Models. Ten separate lines in all.

Other companies have taken the same approach, from Exoto (XCU 1:10 Scale Le Mans Legends to sub $50 Thunder Trac) to GMP (Road Racing Legends to the mind boggling Racing Art Replicas).

It’s no wonder that industry titans PMA/Minichamps have wandered into this same strategy with a new budget-minded line that bookends their detailed regular line. How does the new line stack up? Well, let’s look at two sedans, one budget and one not, and give them a good ol’ First Peek shakedown.

 

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  PMA/Minichamps 1/18 Mercedes 300SL

Ok, I know you were hoping this was the budget piece but it’s not, it’s the regular line or about $70-80 depending on who you know and what kind of incriminating photographs you may have of them.

On an international basis, the 300SL arguably has one of the best known shapes of the latter half of the 20th century. A post-modern style icon – that goes with your Bauhaus chair and your Mondrian painting. [Guess you could say the same thing about Sophia Loren but unfortunately there is no 1/18 version of her. Yet.] In terms of its modeling history, the 300SL has never been done very well. Kyosho has one that is a bit off kilter – especially in shape and stance and the Burago is…a Burago. So, there’s a lot of anticipation about this model, because it is a modeling classic waiting to happen. And it finally has happened.

This newest version by PMA is as heavy as a brick and probably more solid. The 300SL was a tubular framed car, and the model seems built on the same principle, which means instead of attaching the coach to a plastic chassis, the whole works is wrapped in smooth steel, including the chassis and finished with a pristine coat of mercury smooth silver.

The basic stance is good and the boot of the car, which seemed a little fat and long to me in the initial photographs, looks much better in person. The engine migth eb able to power a small rocket and is well articulated. Shut lines of the trademark gull wing doors are as tight as the Grinch’s shoes.

The interior looks good though not spectacular. It must be really difficult to make a red upholstered model interior and not have it look plasticky because I own several precision models where this seems to be the case. The dash, on the other hand, looks amazing, with every instrument delicately portrayed. The carpet is deeply piled. The gull wing doors operate smoothly and are brilliant. The trunk is carefully finished and has a full size soft spare.

But if you buy this model, it probably isn’t for the interior. It’s probably for the space-age shape; the meticulously executed side vents and the legendary star grill, done with rich chrome. The entire exterior is flawless.

The headlights are a treat, perfectly placed and of sufficient depth to hide any mounting posts. Are there shortfalls? There are the unmarked, though deeply treaded tires. In addition, the black rubber window trim package is also disorienting – I expected chrome, but editions of the 300SL did have this rubber trim package.

Overall, this model is very satisfying.

Every time I’ve bought a 300SL model in the past, there’s always been some letdown when I open it. This time when I took the model from the box, I noticed what I thought were sloppily mounted clear insignia decals mounted on the front fender and trunk insignia. I could feel that “Here we go again” feeling rising in the pit of my stomach. But as it turns out, these were thoughtfully placed little covers for the jewel-like photo-etched insignia –turns out these easily peeled back. How incredibly well thought out – as is the whole thing. Bravo!

 

Click thumbnails to see larger images
 

 

 

 

 

  PMA/Minichamps 1/18 Aston Martin DB9

When David Brown, the flamboyant owner of Aston Martin applied his initials to the DB1 back in the 40’s, you wonder if he thought nine iterations later Aston Martins would still carry his name. Actually, he probably did.

The DB series was and is a stalwart of British motoring. The latest version, the DB9, continues that tradition, reinvigorated this year by a DBR9 win at Sebring and a strong showing at Le Mans.

The PMA/Minichamps sedan those racers are based on has a build quality reminiscent of the Beanstalk line. What does that mean? It means from 2 feet away, this is a really good model.

The shape and stance are dead on. Those features that must be done right are done very well, particularly the unique grille, and the ten-spoke wheels. On the shelf, aside from the paint, there’s not much separating it from its more expensive sibling the Benz,

Get a little closer and things are less serene. Shut lines are noticeable though not to the point of distraction. The interior is a hard, toy-grade plastic, the seats don’t fold down. The dash is done reasonably well but you wouldn’t confuse it with the same level of craftsmanship as the Benz. The trunk has the same toy plastic as the interior. The paint is markedly better than the Beanstalk Vanquish, though not nearly as well applied as the Benz.

Am I bummed? For about $30 less than the Benz, not at all.

The scintillating profile will speed your heartbeat. The lights are accurate; I thought the black spot in the front headlamps was some sort of mounting scheme, but it turns out this is how the DB9 actually looks. The undercarriage is well done and has more detail then the Benz. The engine is reasonably represented as far as it’s main components. If you are looking for wires (or brake detail) you should have brought a bigger checkbook. The tailpipes are open, not molded closed and everything that should open does – the doors are even latched, not dog legs.

This is a very good model for the money. It will be interesting to see how this line evolves – given that the mode of diecast companies seems to be to raise prices, it’s nice to see new competition in the mid range model category. These will be going quickly.




How To Get your Models Featured in First Peek If you are a representative of a diecast manufacturer and wish to get your products featured in First Peek, please contact me directly at rhurley@mn.rr.com.
 

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