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First Peek with Joe Kelly Edition Date

AutoArt Maybach 57
AutoArt Manta Ray concept car
Yat Ming 1914 Ford Model T fire truck


AutoArt Maybach 57 AutoArt Manta Ray
Joe Kelly
Joe Kelly

As IMHE – the convention formerly known as RCHTA (“RICK-tah”) draws near, I can’t blame the manufacturers for being a little hesitant to part with one-off prototypes. Within a month’s time, there will be tables to fill and new product to sell. Every car counts.

So, until those first shots and deco samples find their way here, we’ll be dedicating space these next couple of weeks to production 1:18 models that may have simply flown below your collecting radar. When possible, we’ll feature cars that have been specifically asked for or otherwise mentioned on the message boards of the D4C. This week, it’s AutoArt’s fabulous Maybach 57 and Manta Ray Corvette, supplemented by a look at Yat Ming’s charming, production 1914 Ford Model T fire truck.

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  AutoArt Maybach 57

AutoArt’s model of the Maybach 57 is a luxo-collectors dream come true – a huge hulk of diecast with every possible detail of the real car emulated in scrupulous scale. This is not a model for the faint of heart, or those running short on shelf space; at around twelve and three-eighths-inches long, it eclipses even Ertl’s elephantine 1960 Ford Starliner for sheer size.

That size belies the model’s light weight and fineness of build. The body casting, which houses an opening hood, trunk, and four “real” hinged doors, is actually quite thin in section. That allows for surgically-precise seams all around, and whip-close installation of the many lenses and handles, the roof panel, and distortion-free windows that round out this behemoth. Fronting it all is a photo-etch double M that rides atop the see-through grille and drives home AA’s desire to go far to please the eye.

Only one thing marred this first look: my sample’s paint was possessed of a hard, deep gloss in the black sections, but lacked that dazzle on the metallic silver side panels. It took a little judicious polishing to get the area to shine; and though the dark metallic silver sets the car off nicely, I’ll be repeating the process later until the gloss is even throughout. The delicacy of the chrome trim and door handles warrants caution here. Earlier samples I’ve seen of this model didn’t have this problem.

Other than that, the car, simply put, is a knockout. The eight headlights set into the nose give the model the same arachnidan feel of the real car, and the gorgeous red plastic tail lenses look real. The model rolls – and rolls well – on metallized miniatures of the 57’s 19” rims shod with soft, no-name rubber.

Look past the wheels, and you’ll see photo-etched brake disk faces and all six brake calipers. Under the hood is a faithful replication of the twin-turbocharged 12-cylinder engine, a hulk that propels the six-thousand-odd pounds of the real car from standing start to sixty miles per hour faster than a 350Z. If this is a “clamshell” motor, they’ve sure fooled me – it looks like a full casting, especially from the bottom, where peering past the braces and suspension bits offers a peek at those twin turbos where they join the stovepipe exhaust. The two-into-one-into-two piping winds its way along a plastic chassis that’s well cast and detailed with silver paint and a multi-piece, fixed-in-place suspension.

All of this pales in comparison to the car’s interior. But be warned. Those less fleet of finger might want to use a pick tool to open the doors – especially the rears, which lack the leverage advantage of the front side-view mirrors. However you get there, on arrival one thing becomes immediately apparent: never has such a plethora of plastic been painted, poked and pushed to the extremes demonstrated here. Against tan seats and door panels painted to resemble leather, AA’s engineers and craftspeople have slathered on scale cubic feet of faux burl woodgrain that not only replicates the pattern of the material, but wears a deep clearcoat wherever it appears. TV screens ride the dash and the front seat backs, chrome trim splits the doors and dash, and tampos of migraine-inducing size decorate the multifarious buttons, switches, and gizmos that live within the 350-thousand dollar machine’s high-tech sanctum sanctorum. From the flocked floor to the over-the-top detailing that lives on the toy-encrusted headliner above, the overall effect is stunning.

This is an amazing model of amazing proportions, whose only fault is not having equally posh company to share shelf space with. I hope that AA sees fit to give us a contemporary Rolls Phantom or Bentley Continental of equal proportion and detail to park alongside this beauty. Or, if dreams can be made real, ‘thirties-vintage models of those glorious marques of old to ponder. In the meantime, at around $80, this incredible modern Maybach comes highly recommended.

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  AutoArt Manta Ray

When GM styling chief Bill Mitchell was God, according to some, and used his divinity to sculpt some of the most enduring shapes in automotive history. Among those were the concept cars, often street driven by Mitchell himself, that defined the Corvette in the 1960’s and beyond.

Following its pointed, predatory fish shape, the Manta Ray was the mid ‘sixties successor to the stunning 1961 Mako Shark, and took that first car’s swoopy styling, organic paint job, and mechanical vision to the next level. The 1:18 AutoArt model of the Manta Ray does the same thing when compared to their defunct UT division’s Mako Shark of a couple years ago. Riding razor-sharp turbine-finned knockoff wheels and soft rubber, the Manta’s deep, flawless fade-down paint job and optically clear lensing and glazing look like a million bucks.

Where the Mako uses clever tampo-printed clear plastic to replicate its grillework, the Manta wears real photo-etched metal that’s been cut and formed to fit. Alongside jewel-bright chrome transfers and cast and chromed mini-Manta Ray badging, these are details that make the show car’s appearance ring all the truer here.

The deeply vee-d windshield is surrounded by hair-thin chrome, and the powder blue “leather” interior is impeccably cast, finished, and assembled. Access is easy – just tilt the hinged roof and swing the doors. The austere dash replicates the concept ’s barren fascia, and as in life, features a barrage of console mounted switchgear to run the show. The coolest detail here is the metal floor panels tooled to simulate the Manta Ray’s utilitarian underfoot area, an effect that’s carried to the extreme on the car’s oversized gas and brake controls.

Tilting the nose on the model uncovers the ZL-1 V8, a chromed and deeply detailed mockup of the show- and go-car’s potent big block. Using a full engine casting ensconced between deeply relieved and detail painted outer panels, AutoArt has simulated the motor and its environs very convincingly. Up top, a nice assemblage of chromed and satin silver pieces replicate the one-off air cleaner and valve covers and aluminum intake. The tampo’d air conditioner labeling and chromed clamps here and there are neat enhancements.

The car’s metal frame is encrusted with neat, sharp suspension bits and dark silver exhaust plumbing, and the lower engine, replete with a blue spin-on oil filter and diecast metal transmission, reads well from between the rails. Those suspension pieces are so well cast that it seems they should be operable, but it’s an illusion.

And a happy one, at that. Concept and show cars will always have a place on my shelf, and I’ll keep the porch light on for anything made by AutoArt in this realm. These guys do amazing things with a surprisingly low number of parts. Unerring in their quality and precision, the resulting models may not be the finger-fun fiestas offered by other makers, but they’re always joyful to behold. Get up and go fishin’.

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  Yat Ming 1914 Ford Model T fire truck

Yat Ming may not be the first name you think of when looking for detailed models. If not, I’ll let you in an a little secret: it’s called their Signature Series, and it just may be one of the better values in the 1:18 hobby for around forty bucks.

Not to be confused with the Signature line of classics in 1:18 – also a good value – the Yat Ming Signature Series lineup offers upscale packaging and features above and beyond the usual YM releases.

One of these models is this 1914 Ford Model T fire truck, positively dripping with brass-plated bits and painted to look like a turnout wagon from the San Jose Fire Department.
The model is made up of a seemingly dozens of parts, each finished, fitted, and attached cleanly to the heavy castings that make up the body and fenders of this intricate old hauler. The diecast pieces that make up the bulk of the body are beautifully proportioned and flawlessly prepped and painted, and the red finish is bedazzled with tampo’d gold leaf and black bordered trim on virtually every surface. In particular, the intricate scrollwork on the seat bucket and lower turtle deck charmed the hell out of me. And there’s a lot to be said for that old-school Ford script on the radiator.

Brass-toned plastic horns, bells, lamps, brackets and trim is everywhere, and those lamps, including the one fitted to the rear, are fitted with neat lenses. Open the double-hinge hood, and you’ll get a whiff of Yat Ming’s creditable four banger, molded of grey plastic and plumbed and wired nicely. The underside of the engine looks equally well done, as are the exhaust system and suspension bracing below decks.

The whole shooting match rides on spindly spoked wheels and rubber tires, and the metal axles front and rear are as lavishly finished as the upper regions. Behind a slick reverse-dished steering wheel, the seat is a soft-touch matte black unit that’s deeply pleated and complements the black floor boards, pedals, handles, and brass piping all around.

Out back are two huge barrels supporting the business end of the truck – the hose and reel. It’s here that the model’s – you should pardon the expression – bells and whistles really begin to show.

The hose itself is a fabric unit that uncoils to a length of over four feet, and the spoked winding wheels at either end of the spool join the cluster of valves, pipes, and pressure gauges out back to engage the beholder in fantasies of grunting those wheels open, watching those needles climb, and lugging that live hose up flights of stairs.

An expandable wooden ladder – a neat little model unto itself – slides into brackets astride the pumper’s flank, and the various brass-toned plastic canisters and hand-held apparati that come with the model are placed into corresponding areas on the truck’s diamond-plate chrome plastic running boards.

It’s a sentimental and very rewarding display, and one that goes well with just about any antique car collection. It’s cleanly assembled, carefully thought out, and proof positive that Yat Ming can make a hell of a model when they try – and do it at a pretty amazing price point, to boot. If this is news to you, look around for the line. In the meantime, as with the other models in their Signature Series, I give this one a very high recommendation.

Next week:


Have a great week. We’ll see you next time with a Minichamps’ BMW M3 racer, Highway 61’s awe-inspiring 1941 fire truck, and more. Happy Collecting.


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