As kids, model trains are likely something that interested a lot of us, for some that never went away. Growing up in Germany, model trains were (and still are) sort of a way of life with some of the highest quality and detailed items available anywhere. That extends to the ancillaries as well, being a car freak from the beginning I quickly became more interested in the cars, vans, and trucks that were available than the train sets I had.
As a result I built a bit of collection during the early to mid 1980s when I’d go back to visit and spend whatever pocket change I had on them. HO scale was my main focus of interest which is 1:87 and quite a bit smaller than for example a Hot Wheels car. The average HO scale passenger car such as the BMW above measures about 2″ long (the short dimension of a standard business card).
My collection mainly consists of the two biggest brands, those being Herpa and Wiking with a few from Rietze, Praline, Roco and Brekina thrown in as well (but the vast majority are Herpa and Wiking). Any hobby shop and many department stores across Europe carry these, back then they were all made in Germany from plastic with metal axles, and in fact I believe the majority are still made there today. Virtually any European car model was easily obtainable, often developed in lockstep with the manufacturer introductions, and often available in various colors; I have duplicates and even triplicates of a few in various colors.
The detailing and quality was and is superb; and as you’ll see, almost every model should be fairly easily identifiable. Costs at the time varied, one of the Porsches (the one pictured below in fact) still had the price tag on the bottom with an MSRP of DM3.60 which was about $1.20 in the mid-80s or about $3 today. Current prices however are quite a bit higher but more than a few of the cars I have are still in production. A quick google shows the new prices in the US of many of these to currently be around the $20 mark each.
I consider Herpa, established in 1949, to be the manufacturer with slightly higher quality. Not as far as the actual assembly or correctness to scale goes (they are all extremely good and accurate in those aspects), but more to do with the detailing, i.e. lights, correct wheel trims, etc. You’ll note that on a Mercedes for example there will be a representation of the hood ornament in scale.
Others (especially ones produced in more recent decades) will have colored trim, lights, badging, and more. Some are also commissioned and sold by the manufacturers in their own gift shops and brand collections, I’d guess these model makers have worked from factory engineering drawings since at least the 1960’s, the detailing and scale is far more correct than that of many larger diecast cars of the era.
Wiking is the other major player, headquartered in Berlin and founded in 1932 they have been owned by Siku since the 1980s. Siku always made some of the more detailed and interesting diecast cars when I was a kid, so this seems a good fit.
Today I’ll just share the passenger cars, I also have a good sized collection of taxis, emergency vehicles, commercial vans and trucks as well as a few other vehicles. For the last three or so decades I’ve been storing them in a cardboard box and moving it around with me, my wife had never seen the box open before today and accused me of making a very large ebay purchase. Not this time, honey, I’m just a hoarder… First a few pictures of various ones:
While not really a BMW guy in real life, I’m quite fond of the models I have, especially this Herpa 528i, I guess Claus Luthe’s design scales down quite well. The chromed lights and grille on this one give it a lot more sparkle than some of the other, slightly older ones. There are a couple of Alpina models in the collection as well with the famous side stripes.
The VW Transporter by Wiking is for some reason one of my favorites. I have about half a dozen of them in various colors and configurations.
The Mk1 VW Golf Cabrio, also by Wiking, is another of those that any self-respecting German would have in their collection. When I got these the MkII Golf was in full swing and I have multiples of those as well, four doors and two doors in GTI trim and various colors too.
I love this Mitsubishi L300 by Rietze, it’s such a cool piece with the bull bar on the front. The whole point of train scale modeling is realism, which of course translates to the cars, so the scale models are made as the real ones look, without garish stripes or unrealistic colors as perhaps a Hot Wheels and to a lesser extent a Matchbox car might be.
This Praline Porsche 356 Cabriolet demonstrates that metallic colors are of course available too, and that the interiors are depicted as well throughout everyone’s lineups. And yes, the wheels do roll, these aren’t necessarily static (although that’s how they mostly end up).
I set them all up on our counter and made a four-minute video below, as taking pictures of and posting all of them would be a little much…I hope you enjoy and am confident that most of you will be able to identify most of these cars. The majority are German, but there are a few foreigners and couple of Americans in there as well. If you watch, it’ll become obvious which are newer vs. older designs from a manufacturing perspective but many (most?) are still in production today. I also placed a few pennies among them for scale purposes.