CC In Scale: Part 2 – Turning Japanese

Mustang Cobra II, by Gunze Sangyo.


Last time we finished up in the early seventies. I said “It was hard to imagine a world where cars this size were the norm. But the early-seventies styling really grabbed me. Especially intermediate Mopars.”

’71 Plymouth GTX. Built way too many of these things!


As we all know, the gas crisis disrupted the car industry to no end. I wasn’t driving yet, so I was somewhat insulated from it, except for inflating kit prices. Because they’re made from plastic, which comes from…

By 1973 kits of current American cars were becoming less common here, and the kit manufacturers seemed to fall on hard times as well. It was disappointing to open a box and find fewer plated parts and often only the one building version. But in all fairness, new American cars were becoming less interesting to a teenage modeler in the seventies. I was ready to move on to something else. Mustangs and Corvettes were always so popular they were hard to find on shelves here, while things like big Chevys just seemed to sit on the shelf forever (though I later built a ’76). We just didn’t see those kinds of cars here. Kits of classic sixties muscle cars always seemed to be popular though, both then and now.

’69 Chevelle SS396. Done several of these too.


It wasn’t just new cars. Kits existed of numerous American classics from the twenties onward – if you could find them. And various hot rods, Nascars, drag cars, and customs like the ’49 Mercury. I got hold of a mail-order catalog and bought quite a few models from America that I’d never seen here. In those days it was a nuisance to go to the bank and organize a transfer of funds, but so exciting when the goodies arrived.

Johan 1931 Cadillac V16 Tourer. Amazing detail for this scale.


About this time, I discovered that a local chain store sold Japanese kits, by a variety of brands I’d never heard of, many of which no longer exist. These were usually motorized, with working steering, so more like an unassembled toy. The bodies were sometimes a bit oddly proportioned, but they were cars I saw on the street here every day. And they were about half the price of the American kits I had been buying.

Yamada Subaru 1400 GSR. The shape’s not quite right, but you can tell what they intended.


Besides the cheap kits, there were also more expensive brands like Tamiya. Then, as now, their quality was legendary, but you didn’t find them in discount stores.

Tamiya Renault 5 rally – dead nuts accurate.


A brief digression on the subject of scale. Most US models were (and are) 1/25 scale, other countries used 1/24. No, I don’t know why the difference.  That’s in addition to smaller scales such as 1/32 (most Airfix kits), 1/35 (common for military subjects), 1/43 (popular for diecast models), and the railroad HO scale of 1/87. Airplanes and ships are different again. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ scale; whatever is common tends to be regarded as right.

MPC Trans Am Turbo in 1/16 scale. Room to add more detail.


There are also larger scales like 1/16 or 1/12. Even larger models exist, but finding space to display them can be a big problem. Mostly I build in 1/24 or 1/25, as it strikes a good balance between allowing room for detail and not being too awkward to display. With that said, Yamada had a range of cars that fitted on a common chassis, with bodies ranging from 1/19 to 1/26 scale from memory – but it was nice to have models of the Cedrics, Crowns, and Mark IIs I saw on the streets here.

Kujira! Toyota Crown S60. Just love these cars.


It’s strange to think that some of the cars which were new when I was a teen have since become highly sought-after classics. I guess many of us know that feeling. And I have heard from friends in Japan that many of the models I built back then have since become highly sought after by Japanese modelers.

Lamborghini Silhouette, tool believed lost.


I must also mention some European companies here. Heller of France was quite active in modeling lovely French classics (Delage, Delahaye, Bugatti, Talbot…), but have something of a ‘reputation’ for strange tooling layout with body parts being moulded in odd colours, and sometimes hard to fathom instructions. After disappearing from the scene for a time, they seem to have re-emerged.

Heller Delage D8SS. A headache to assemble.


ESCI of Italy were quite active in the early eighties and came out with some lovely models of interesting subjects, but then seemed to fade away. Some of their tooling appears to have resurfaced.

ESCI Ford Escort rally car. Simple but well detailed.


You may wonder about Australian subjects. There haven’t been plastic kits of Aussie cars until this year, when DDA Collectibles released a range of HQ Holdens (no, I don’t have one). I was told back around 1975 this had been due to the high cost of importing raw styrene and the limited return on investment in a market the size of ours. But Australia’s population is now double what it was fifty years ago. We have a greater appreciation for our automotive heritage nowadays now that local production has ended – that HQ Holden is a classic – and we’re accustomed to offshore production and everything imported.

There have been and are numerous kits of all sorts of subjects by small ‘cottage industry’ operators, cast in resin. These vary in quality from horrendous to amazing. And nowadays there are 3D printed kits as well. But back in the seventies, it was styrene or nothing. While I have built some resin and 3D kits, they don’t figure in this part of the story.

1956 Ford. One of my favourite kits.

Next time: Some favourites from the Fifties.


Further reading:

CC In Scale: Part 1 – Welcome To My Daydream