Friday, December 12, 2014

Go! Go! Tomica First Edition

I have always been wanting to make my own Tomica. I mean official Tomica, not secondary privately made Tomica. You might ask why am I still making these BRZ which are not considered official. Here is my story.

When I started collection Tomica back in late 90s, I bought my Tomica mainly from eBay when I joined as a member in 1998. Before joining ebay, I started buying them from SOGO back in '96. I couldn't really afford all the range because I was just a student. The start of eBay expand my collection vastly. I was buying mainly foreign series because I preferred European or American cars then. I also started buying from some Japanese website which doesn't exist now. That is also the time I started open up my collection to limited edition Tomica which were produced by model car shops or Japanese organizations such as Toyota Automobile Museum (TAM). All these Tomica were made in limited quantity of 3000 pcs of each variant. Most of these limited edition Tomica were still made in Japan then till around early millennium. Of all the limited editions made, what actually caught my eyes are the 2 Nissan Cedric Hong Kong taxis. Most Tomica taxi I have seen are Japanese taxi and I find that the 2 Hong Kong taxis are unique comparing to the Japanese ones. I know that these are produced by Danny Ngan, a Tomica collector in Hong Kong. I was following his website regularly during the 90s. I thought to myself that if an individual collector can produce a Tomica, anyone can do the same. Little did I know that it was actually a collaboration with Gulliver then. I couldn't afford to produce 3000 pcs so I gave up the idea totally.

When Takara and Tomy had a merger in 2006. I realized that the limited edition Tomica were stopped. I heard from fellow collectors that Takara Tomy only accept order of minimum 6000 pcs instead of the original 3000 pcs. They could link me up if I am interested to produce 6000 pcs. 3000 pcs is a lot as it will take time to sell all of them. 6000 pcs is way too many for any market. I started checking with various taxi companies in Singapore starting from the largest one in Singapore, ComfortDelgro. As expected, nobody respond. Well, ComfortDelgro did but it was negative as the spokeswoman informed that they have already produced the models and was selling in Toys "R'' Us. I even wrote to MacDonald as well but it wasn't positive either. I almost gave up until I saw some Tomica made by Kahla Enterprise in 2009. I was surprised that they could print design onto the car just like it was produced in the factory. Since then, I started looking for vendors or friends who could help me in producing my own design but no luck at all. Most vendor quoted me stickers or decals which is not at all my intention.

The only thing I could do is to custom made my own Tomica as a hobby. One of my favorite model to custom is the Toyota Crown Comfort Taxi because we have this model as a taxi in Singapore. Sad to say that all Crown Comfort taxi should be scrap by 2015. If Takara Tomy can produce Hong Kong taxi, when can't they do the same for a Singapore taxi?

Prime Leasing might be the smallest and latest taxi company in Singapore but if there is a chance to produce a limited edition Tomica, I might pick them over others. They are using mainly Japanese cars which are available in the Tomica range. I like to see a PL Axio taxi made into a Tomica. The PL colour is quite unique that it looks in between cooper or pink to me.

This might be the smallest taxi in Singapore. It will be very unique if to make it into a Tomica Honda Fit taxi as well. I think it will sell well as a Tomica (gut feel).  

So in 2nd half of 2014, I finally found a vendor who is capable of doing tampo printing. I was skeptical due to previous experience thinking he might be referring to stickers so I requested to meet up with him in his office on the same week after our conversation on phone. Before the meeting, I need to choose a car out of the 120 models. Eventually, I chosen the Subaru BRZ that was yet to release at that time point because I can use a Toyota 86 to do a sample print before I place order on the BRZ. I brought a Kahla Toyota 86 and a regular Toyota 86 and told him that I wanted similar quality. He assured me that it shouldn't be any problem so I had to come back with a design for him to do a trial.

I decide to do a Redbull BRZ because I had seen Kahla did similar on a 370Z. I just wanted that car but it was sold as a set of 8. Therefore, I taken a pass on that, one car was about SGD$60.00 and imagine if I had to buy all. It took me about 2 weeks to finalize the design as the original one might impose problems for printing. The original one was more expensive too because there was one additional colour and one extra point. I am lucky that my brother does designs and he used to do packaging for Cadbury chocolate and advertisement for some departmental stores or organizations. He did all the designs and amendments for free. Otherwise I will be charged another few hundred bucks for the designing portion. Once the design is ready, we did a trial print on a red 86. That actually took another 2 weeks because the vendor has lots of project on his own. He need to fabricate moulds and jigs for the trial. The end results was alarming, everything was fine with exception on the 2 side prints. He assured me that he will resolve the problem by using another method. I passed him all the BRZ I needed to print plus a few red, silver Toyota 86, 1 black one and 1 Tomica Limited Toyota 86. Since they are the same car, it might be interesting to have in other colours.

After a full 3 weeks wait, the BRZ (and some 86) were ready for collection. I was happy with the results because the printing was perfect, no flaw or any defects at all. I was really happy to pay him the cash almost immediately. The printing cost is the killer in this project as it's a few times more than the cost of the cars. That set me off a few thousand dollars poorer now and I have a trip to Japan the same month. Whole project took almost 3 months but I was satisfied. I appreciate the car more because it wasn't easy at all on coordination. This project is not about money making but a dream to fulfill. I don't mind to keep all the BRZ I printed but I do also sell to collectors who are really interested at cost. I am not doing hard selling on my cars, I just want someone who really appreciate my work to pay for the cars willingly as it is a dream for me to do such project. I might and might not do this project again unless I have the money and an idea on the model to custom. I still like to have an official Go! Go! Tomica someday. I hope Takara Tomy can loosen a little on their end, private collectors or blog from overseas market especially to make maybe 1000 pcs instead. It will not be allowed to sell in Japan market officially. It will be easier to sell the 1000 pcs in my market rather than 6000 pcs. All models and designs to be approve by Takara Tomy eventually. I believe there are collectors out there will like to produce an official Tomica under their name too. Make it a truthfully dream project for someone who enjoys and love Tomica. Anyway, I would like to thank all the Go! Go! Tomica supporter all these years.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Hong Kong - Visiting Friends and Toy Car Shopping

Just when I thought I will give Hong Kong a miss in 2014, here I am again. Agenda is a little different this time, to visit friends and in the mean time to check out the toy car scene in Hong Kong. 9th Nov, woke up early morning, took the first flight to Hong Kong.

Upon reaching the hotel, Ken of Ken's Garage was already welcoming me at my regular hotel I put up at. We went lunch and then to 2 toy car shops. First stop, Eastern Toy Shop that sells Tomica and mixed brands of toy cars.

They have Disney Tomica, Japan exclusive, vintage, regular. Pretty similar to the famous Hung Hing in terms of variety and pricing.

They do have brands like Choro Q, Green Light, Kyosho, Hot Wheels, Majorette and many others.

Various mixed of Tomica. What did I buy? I bought a Kyosho Toyota Century and number of Majorette in this shop and their subsidiary shop next door (Eastern Kids if I remember correct). Surprised that I buy no Tomica here.

I have not taken a double decker bus for 14 years at least so it's kind of interesting for me when Ken took me to take a bus to his shop.

After a full 40 minutes bus ride, here we are at Ken's Garage where I can dig some treasures.

He had sold most of his stuff but I still managed to get some items here and there.

Total bought around 20 cars only this time. Not many compared to my previous visit because I got to save up for my Japan trip next month. Although Ken's Garage is out of the way, it's still worth a visit because Ken will give a reasonable pricing for his Tomica. Ok lah, try using my blog name for last resort. Hope everyone who is following my blog can give Ken some support. Thanks all on Ken's behalf.

Hung Hing expanded!!! Left shop selling mixture of toy cars and toys of all genre. Heard that they might have a third shop soon which sells Lego!

I won't elaborate much on them since they are more than famous now. I bought less than 10 cars although I visited them 4 times in 3 days.  
Day 2, meeting more friends. This is Ian from Canada visiting Hong Kong. We share our collecting experiences and it's great meeting people who you been talking to on FB. I think I need to do more jogging upon returning to Singapore. Seriously hate to take photo. Ha ha.

After meeting Ian, went back to hotel to meet another friend, Leon.

We do a short visit to Tai Yuan street. Then he brought me to shops I have not been to. This is a tiny shop that sells basically anything.

Most of the stuff are toy related. The shop owner do have some MIB Tomica as well but he doesn't have the cars that will make me reach for my wallet. Move on.

This is new to me. Bus Warehouse. The uncle is quite friendly and allows me to take photos of his entire shop although I bought only 2 Tomica there. They have a huge range of Tomica of any series.

The shop is tiny but space is maximized. See what I meant.

Rushing to Toy Zone moments before they close for the day.

Found nothing much except buying 2 vintage Tomica Mercedes.

Head to Aeon nearby to see what they have to offer.

Regular Tomica are more expensive than Singapore so got to make a pass on these. Bought the discontinued TL since I don't see them in Singapore anymore.

This shop sells model cars from 1/43 to 1/18 scale. They are closed when I reach so next time maybe. I didn't buy too many Tomica this trip as my main purpose is to meet friends, clear my 2013 annual leave and to take a break. I should be back again next year I guess.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Tomica Fiat 500 Lupin The Third

I don't usually buy the Dream Tomica except Godzilla vehicle, Initial D Trueno and the recent Time Mechabuton. I just can't bring myself to buy those Disney or Hello Kitty theme vehicle. Most collectors are looking forward to the Trueno but I am looking forward to this Fiat 500 instead. In fact, I have yet to open the packaging of my white hooded Initial D Trueno.

This is the best Dream Tomica to date. Current Tomica do not have a registration plate but this Fiat complete with a pair of rear and front plates. The plate is painted unlike the older Tomica which were moulded. Anyway, it's a toy made on current day so the manufacturing process are not the same anymore.

What I like about this Fiat because it is made closely to the anime. It had it's rag roof rolled up, Lupin's baggage on the roof and rear engine hood popped. It would be great if Tomica could leave the roof "open" without the plastic window. I wouldn't mind to pay extra if Lupin III and Daisuke Jigen figures are included.

Lupin The Third Fiat 500 posing with the new Fiat 500. The opening up of Lupin The Third could also mean that Tomica could make other cars in the Lupin series. Most cars are unknown to current collector because most cars are made few decades before I was born unless you know how to appreciate the beauty of classic cars. In the Lupin Series, Clarisse who is Lupin's girlfriend, drive a red Citroen 2CV. Tomica made one years ago but would be great if Tomica can remake one with a new casting. One other Lupin's ride is a Mercedes SSK besides the Fiat. There were so many cars in the anime that Tomica could open up a Lupin The Third series. Ferrari 312 (not possible due to licensing restrictions), Renault A110, VW Beach Buggy and so on. Well, this is actually a dream for me which unlikely will happen.

A real Fiat 500 while I was in Germany on business trip this May. I used to know of a lime green Fiat 500 some 10 or 15 years ago. It had some rust on its body with a "SW" plate always parked in Jurong East. It was gone but hope that someone bought it and restore it to original. I also saw a young guy in his 30s driving a Fiat 600 just 2 or 3 years ago while I was driving home and he is just in front of me. Fiat 600 is slightly larger than a Fiat 500 in terms of size and displacement. I am glad that there are people who still appreciate these cars in Singapore and hope we can do our best to preserve classic cars.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

SCDF Mercedes Ambulance

I have to be honest. Normally I do not attend any exhibitions organized by SCDF or SAF but last Saturday I went to the SCDF event for the first time. To kill 2 birds with a stone, I went to the nearby World Food Fair as well.

This is the real agenda behind the trip there. SCDF has made a Rhino vehicle some years back and now a Mercedes Ambulance. The build quality is quite poor but it's one of a kind. You can't find this anywhere and commendable for SCDF to do a souvenir like this. Keep it up SCDF so I can add more of your vehicles to my collection. Perhaps I should propose to SCDF to make a Tomica.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Combat & Super Wing Tomica

These are one of the rare series in the Tomica range. Both Combat Tomica and Super Wing Series were made in the 1970s. I am not really a tank or plane fanatic but I don't mind having them in my collection.

I am glad to add this F15A in my collection. Got this just this week and eager to share with you guys as soon as I have the time to update my blog.
Loose F16A which I got it from Japan last December.

2nd World War German Tank and it is not played with at all. Gonna keep it that way.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I Love Old Japanese Coupe

I started my Tomica collection beginning with Foreign series because I prefer continental cars then. My appreciation for old Japanese cars started from Tomica too. Old Japanese cars which were common on our roads are gone due to the high maintenance cost of our road system. Japanese cars in the 70s and 80s are more interesting compared to current day models. Can you imagine that there are 30 to 50 variants for just a single model? This is due to different body style, engine specifications, trim levels and sometimes limited edition models. Take Toyota Crown for instance, there is a 2 door coupe, 4 door saloon, 5 door station wagon which you do not get for today's successor. Germans are still continuing this tradition today for most of their range of cars. I picked from my box of Tomica in random for 2 door models of individual models. Nissan Cherry E10 series(known as 100A in Singapore) are a common sight in Singapore then. I find that it was a ugly little car and the F10 series were still running on our road in the early 90s. The Cherry has a 2 door and a 4 door variant in Singapore. There was also a coupe and a wagon made for the Cherry.

The Nissan Pulsar eventually took over the 100A in Singapore. The coupe aka EXA was the cooler version of the Pulsar range. There are also 3 & 5 door hatchback, 4 door saloon made. Singapore had only the 5 door hatchback and the EXA Coupe. My cousin's family was still driving the very last unit of the 5 door hatch and had to scrap it in 2008. They replaced it with a Corolla Altis.

Nissan Gloria is an identical car to the Cedric. Gloria is actually a sportier Cedric but was badged differently. The Gloria had a 4 door saloon and 5 door wagon too. The Gloria name was discontinued 10 years ago. If you want to buy a Cedric or Gloria, you will have to look at the Fuga or the Infinity which are the successor now.

Corona used to be hot seller after the Corolla in Singapore until it was discontinue in early millennium. The Camry took its place in the mid size saloon segment. 4 door saloon and 5 door wagon were made for the Corona too in the those days. These were the common body styles then.
Mark II was a mid size sedan and it was positioned to be above Corona and Camry. Coupe, saloon and wagon were made. The above was the 3rd generation Mark II, In Singapore, it was known as the Cressida.

The above is the 2nd generation Mark II. There were a total of 9 generations Mark II made. The 10th generation was renamed to Mark X.

Looks may be deceiving. The Colt Galant was considered a "supercar" of the early 1970s. Saloon and wagon were made and the top of the range is the Colt Galant GTO. The Colt Galant GTO did not have sufficient time to make a name for itself during the Singapore Rally of the early 70s. 1973 was the last year we had our very own Singapore Rally. Beside a Honda F1 which took part in the 60s, the race was dominated by Minis, Cortinas, Lotus, Alfa or Jaguar. In the early 70s, a few Japanese cars took part in the race but they didn't have ample time to prove themselves. A Mitsubishi Colt Galant 1300 4 door saloon was also a first prize lucky draw for spectators who bought entry tickets one of the years. Besides a Galant GTO, there is also a Celica 1600GT and a Bluebird SSS competing for a short period of time. Not many people knew that part of the race. I know it because my colleague told me this valuable information. I was surprise that he knows Colt Galant and he explained that he attended the race without valid ticket and his brother bought a Colt Galant GTO then. He said that the car was cool as the interior was built like a cockpit. The dials were located on top slightly above eye level. Not many GTOs were released in Singapore at that time. By the way, my colleague also bought a AE86 Trueno in the 80s. Japanese cars were so much interesting then, consumers were really spoilt for choices.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Why I Love Majorette?

My first encounter with Majorette came much later than Tomica and Playart. When I was old enough to walk myself (actually still accompanied by an aunt) to the nearby Yaohan to buy my own toy cars with my own pocket money, Majorette came into my life. I did not give up on Tomica but they was nowhere to be found when I could buy my own toy cars in the late 80s. The price of Majorette was $2.20 which was priced the same as Matchbox. Majorette and Matchbox display rack were located almost side by side then. Although Yaohan is a mere 10 minutes walk from my home but going to Yaohan is as good as going downtown during those good old days. I would buy myself 1 or 2 cars whenever I visit Yaohan. I am still able to recall how Yaohan toy department looked like although vaguely but if you asked me about the supermarket section, I can't at all because I only visit the toy department. I would wait for my parents or any adult to pick me up from the toy section after they done with their shopping. I wasn't so much in love with Japanese cars (probably with the exception of Tomica) then so Majorette offered a good variety of European road cars and exotic super cars. My favourite car from Majorette then was a yellow Ford Sierra 5 door lift back. Probably it was yellow, a hatchback and it offered a very good bouncy suspension just like Tomica. I still keep this yellow Majorette till today.
This early Majorette was way before my time. It was made before I was born too but the early Majorette are the most charming comparing to those I had during the 80s. The early 70s Majorette offers much more than most toy cars could then. It has more opening parts comparing to a Matchbox or Tomica. You don't find so many features packed into a little toy car today anymore.

What current day Majorette offers isn't much far off to the late 70s to 80s pieces. Beside Siku, Majorette is one brand that keep its tradition. Current day Majorette has opening doors and better shut lines.

They do have cars with opening hood.

The hatches still open and to highlight that the hatch is no paint over job like Tomica. The rear window is a through hole similar to older Majorettes.

Remember the old Porsche 924 with a plastic opening hatch? I found a similar car with the same opening rear concept, a Honda CRZ. The Honda opening hatch feels so flimsy that you could crush it with your fingers easily if handled by a clumsy person.

There are also cars without any opening feature and equipped with just suspension. The modern Majorette suspension doesn't work as well as the older one. The new Majorette suspension has similar designs to the current Norev line up. Not very effective but better than toy cars with none.

What Majorette doesn't make today are the fat super cars with fat dish wheels. I had a Pontiac Fiero which had a super fat body and a set of fat wheels slightly fatter than the Countach above. I always comment how ugly Majorette made their sports cars. Another ugly one is the Triumph TR7 but it seems like I am buying them back one by one.

Modern Majorette casting are quite nicely done. They are still fat (big) similar to those made 30 years ago. They didn't lose their identity too much which is not a bad thing. Majorette was once a horrid during the early 90s when the factory was shifted to Thailand. The paint chip before the blister is opened. The material that made the car was just 2 notches below the French made ones. The improvement in quality came about 20 years later. The recent Majorette (for some models) are a nice touch although paint quality still need some improvement and the selection of models made are much more interesting than 10 years ago. What I didn't really like are the new design of rims which looks either Hot Wheels (complicated but ugly) or the cheap Fast Lanes cars.

The best modern Majorette I have seen by far is a Dacia Duster. Dacia is a Romanian car owned by Renault which uses basically old mechanical of a defunct Renault. It's a surprise to see that a budget car to be treated with a more serious note as compared to a BMW or a R8. The rear hatch is a nice touch with shut lines almost seamless. The car do comes with a traditional Majorette rear hook for the weekend caravan. I don't know if anyone realised that the front side windows are not covered with plastic which is very common among Majorette cars including those which does not have opening doors. Majorette are trying really hard to maintain its identity for some models. Keep up the good work, Majorette. I will be looking out for you more.