|Volume VIII, Number 2|
2005 Nuremberg Toyfair
Here is my summary of small-scale diecast models which I saw at the 2005 Nuremberg Toyfair:
Mattel's display of the 2005 Matchbox range consisted mainly of items which are already in the stores. The basic 1-75 range was shown up to batch 2 of 2005, and there was the Stars of Cars range as introduced last year. I was told that Stars of Cars will not continue but will be replaced entirely by the Superfast range which will be introduced to Europe following its success in the USA. To illustrate this, a selection of Superfast models from the existing 2004 US issue range was shown.
The only items shown which are not in the stores yet were mock-ups of the re-introduced Convoy (semi-trailer truck) and Hitch'n'Haul (twinpack) ranges. Four Convoy pre-pros were shown, all box trucks and all based on old castings from the late 1990s.
At the Hot Wheels stall the emphasis was once again on track sets and playing environments rather than the individual models. In particular the new "Acceleracers" series was featured prominently. Besides they also showed the new Hot Wheels Classics range, which seems to be a somewhat similar concept to the Matchbox Superfast range, i.e. a series of traditionally styled models in retro-style packaging, featuring redline wheels and pseudo-Spectraflame body colors. The good news about this is that it will be available in Europe too.
Another new item worth noting is a new Hot Wheels carry case which is made on Mattel's behalf by the German Klein company, well known for its generic toy car carry cases which resemble 1970s Matchbox cases. The new cases are again similar to those and come in 24 car and 48 car varieties. These cases were shown at both the Mattel and Klein stalls. Personally I think it is a shame (but not a surprise) that they are issued under the Hot Wheels rather than Matchbox brand.
Majorette showed the following seven new castings, all in the shape of resin prototypes (mostly unpainted):
At the Norev stall there was a large showcase full of lots of different three inch models, many of which I had not seen before. I spotted the following castings which were new to me:
Beside the basic retail range which is called Mini-Jet and the models made exclusively for car dealerships, Norev introduced another new series of three inch models called "GTI Tuners". As the name suggests, this series consists of variations of the basic range castings in wild unrealistic color schemes, following a trend set by some American companies.
The main problem with the Norev range is its availability. When I described the problems encountered in trying to acquire their models, the Norev people just shrugged and pointed me to their German representative, the Cars & Co company, which represents various producers of diecast models on the German market and runs its own stall at Nuremberg Toyfair.
Inquiring about three inch diecast models at the Cars & Co stall, however, revealed that this company is not interested in distributing those at all because they reckon that "there is no market for those". Cars & Co distributes larger scale models only. This does not apply to Norev alone but to all diecast manufacturers represented by them, also including - for example - RC2.
At first I was excited to find that for the first time in recent history the RC2 company had a stall of its own at Nuremberg Toyfair. As this is the parent company of four well-known diecast brands - Racing Champions, Ertl, Britains and Johnny Lightning - , I had hopes to see some of their small-scale products at their stall. But alas, a small corner only was devoted to Ertl and Britains 1:18 scale models, and the rest was all toddler toys made of plastic and licensed items such as Bob the Builder. Apparently this company has no interest in selling its diecast products here in Europe, much like Tomy of Japan.
The Speidel company, which had started to offer some Johnny Lightning products to the German market last year, has now discontinued this venture following the sellout of Playing Mantis to RC2. So it seems that once again the chances of seeing any JL models on store shelves here in Europe are very slim. There were none to be seen at any Toyfair stalls either.
There are no such problems with Siku though, who presented their new models in the usual manner. While the bulk of the new items consists of trucks and farm vehicles, there are some new cars as well:Porsche Carrera GT
Smart fortwo in police and fire brigade versions
Mercedes McLaren SLR
Mini Cooper Convertible
All of these are in the traditional (approx. 1:55 scale) Super series. No new car models are added to the 1:87 scale range.
This year Siku had a very impressive display of vintage models starting from the early 1950s at their stall as well, which I thought might by slightly detrimental to them, as many of their models from the 1960s and 1970s put their present offerings to shame, at least in my view.
Among Maisto's display of basic range models I did not spot anything which seemed new to me, but there were several spin-off ranges which are at least new to the European market and include new castings:
Golden Wheel continues to offer its range of three inch models many of which bear some resemblance to older Matchbox products. In addition, I noticed a range of models branded American Classics consisting of US cars from the 1950s and 1960s. This is actually a re-issue of a series which was available in a Valvoline promotion many years ago.
The Dutch company Edocar still offers a mixture of castings originating from different manufacturers with Golden Wheel having assumed a dominating role in recent years. All those models which are advertised as "new" are by Golden Wheel and have already been seen before elsewhere.
Nothing new was to be seen in the small-scale section of the Guisval stall. The "Tuning Extreme" series introduced the year before was once again featured prominently. Europe's last surviving local producer of three inch diecast models is still with us but still struggling to find distributors for Germany and other countries.
Welly showed the penultimate wave of previously announced new castings for the first time, clearly distinguished from earlier models by a new window box design:
While those are all very welcome additions, I am still missing small-scale models of vintage European cars. Welly in particular produces quite a few such models in larger scales, including for example a Peugeot 403 Convertible in 1:18 scale introduced this year. However, there seems to be hardly any chance that a model like this will ever be issued in three inch size, as the manufacturers believe that only contemporary cars, particularly sports cars, are suitable as children's toys nowadays.
A first small step away from this attitude has been taken by High Speed with its all new range of 1:64 scale models, which includes four models of vintage cars:
The availability of this new High Speed range will be ensured by the fact that it will also be distributed under the Schuco brand, just like High Speed's established range of 1:87 scale diecast models. Besides, the Model Power company is now also offering High Speed 1:87 scale models under its own brand.
The situation is similar with Realtoy. Their three inch range is marketed under their own Action City brand, under the Fast Lane brand at Toys R Us stores and under the Polistil brand which belongs to the Bburago group. Their models were therefore shown at the Realtoy as well as Polistil stalls. While I did not spot any new small-scale castings in either of their stall displays, the Polistil catalog reveals a large array of apparently new castings, among them the following:
I did not notice any new castings among Realtoy's 1:72 scale Real-X range. Most efforts in this section seem to have been put into the newly introduced radio-controlled versions of these models. The other news regarding this range is the fact that it is now also marketed under the Bburago brand.
Staying with 1:72 scale models, I found that the JoyCity company was once again not represented by a stall of its own, although its Automaxx brand has become a common sight in European stores in recent times. However, JoyCity models were displayed at the stall of the Spanish company Guiloy, which now offers them under its own brand, thereby returning to the small-scale scene which it left a few years ago. I did not notice any new castings there.
The third company offering 1:72 scale diecast models is Yat Ming, using the brand name Road Signature for its models. I did not spot any new items there, but some which had only been announced the year before were now ready to be shown in the flesh, such as the BMW Z4 and 5 Series and the Opel GTC and Vectra GTS. Yat Ming's "toy" line Road Tough is also still available, and I did not recognize any new items there either.
The market leader in 1:72 scale diecast, Hongwell, the products of which continue to be marketed under Hongwell's own Cararama brand as well as under the Schuco brand, had announced a large number of new castings previously. Although only a fraction of those were actually shown at Toyfair, they still made a very impressive display. Here is a list of some new items which I spotted:
Summing up the 1:72 scale scene, I must say that nowadays a very broad range of models is offered which suits almost every taste. All I am still missing are models of vintage European cars other than sports cars.
The Bub range of 1:87 scale diecasts continues to be distributed by NZG of Nuremberg. This year it has been extended by a separate sub-range of vintage racing sports cars, featuring a Ferrari 250 GTO, Ford GT 40 and Porsche 906.
Returning to the "tuners" trend as referred to in the Norev section above, it should be mentioned that the originators of this trend were present at Nuremberg as well. Beside Jada Toys, which had been here for the first time last year, the Action Toys company also had a stall this time presenting its Muscle Machines range. Both companies are apparently looking for distributors, but it seems that what actually gets to the stores are only 1:18 scale models, no small ones.
Other American-based companies showing small-scale diecast products at least in small sections of their respective stalls were Boley, Code 3 (at the stall of its parent company Funrise) and Revell. The latter are still offering their "Lowriders" series including a few new castings, but obviously this company's main focus is on larger scale models too.
Some other companies which also produce small-scale diecast models beside larger ones took this "main focus" idea even further, so far that they did not even display them at their stalls at all. This year this applied to AutoArt and Universal Hobbies.
It must be said that in spite of some frustrating aspects, a visit to Nuremberg Toyfair is still very recommendable to anyone interested in small-scale diecast models, because it offers a unique opportunity to see models in real life which never show up in European retail stores and can otherwise only be found on the internet. Thanks go to those companies who put efforts into showing their products here although they cannot expect to sell them in any great numbers over here.
On this note, I want to express my gratitude to Kyosho for showing its Ferrari and Lamborghini models, and to computer game producer Konami for showing its models of 1960s Japanese cars in small but beautiful corners of their respective stalls. For me these have been the first sightings of these models in real life, and they have been a joy to look at.