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.

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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.


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Toy Cars I Bought in Germany

I bought a big lot of Tomica this trip but you are not seeing them here because I have already put them up for sale in a friend's shop. These are some of the smaller scale cars I am keeping. Just to share with you guys some interesting cars I found.

Penny - Fiat 124
Penny is something I am trying to collect but selectively. I wanted a Alfa Romeo Giulia but the asking price is 2 to 3 times the price of this Fiat so I have to pass. I have a few Penny at the moment but will not hesitate to buy them if the price is reasonable.

Schuco - Mercedes-Benz 200D
Schuco is a brand I have been collecting for some years. To complete it is rather impossible since they are getting scarce now especially mint in box ones. This W123 Mercedes Benz is hard to find among the 1/66 series. I do not buy a Mercedes if its emblem is missing but not for this one. It is too hard for one to come by and for me to pass it. I do encountered member in my group who wanted to buy this car when I post it in my FB group but commented that it is not mint and demanded me to sell him a mint one. I am feeling very annoyed because it is very rude to request the owner of the toy to price the toy for sale when the owner does not even have the intention to do so. I appreciate members to respect the owner of any post when we are sharing the stuff we found or collect. I wonder how much he is willing to offer for a mint in box piece.

Majorette - Toyota Landcruiser
I used to hate Majorette with big fat wheels. Since it is a Japanese car and a Landcruiser, my heart softened and bought 2 units of these examples. Majorette has been a friend during my childhood so I bought quite a number of them this trip. The early Majorette from 70s and 80s are still the best in my opinion. I like to have the 60s Majorette but it is too much for my wallet to bear. I have a few pieces of the 60s model already and I am good at the moment.

Faller Hit Car - BMW 2000CS 
Faller are supposed to be slot cars and the "toy" car version are based on the slot cars without the motor. I am collecting Faller as well at a small scale. The body is plastic but it has a metal base. I have not seen a BMW version but I still proceed to buy it although it is a junk piece. Most models I came across are either a Mercedes, Porsche or a VW.

Rasant - Ford Taunus 17M
This is the first time I heard of a Rasant so I have to buy it. Like the Faller, Rasant origins started as a slot car too and was made into a lesser model without the model at a later stage. It has a metal body and base which slightly differs from the Faller.



Friday, June 6, 2014

Germany 2014

We would fly to Hamburg directly usually but this is the first time we fly direct to Bremen instead. On the second day in Bremen, we went to Hertz to collect our rental vehicle as our transport for the next few days. This should be the largest car I had driven in Germany to date. It's a Ford Mondeo Wagon in its latest incarnation. According to the Hertz guy who served us, it's brand new.

There is a park in Bremen where we need to cross before going to our usual restaurant we patronize frequently. I have seen a nest of rabbits some years back and have been looking for them whenever I walk past this park. They will come out of their hideout at night to hunt for food and years after, I found them again. Although just a few spotted but I am glad that they are still around. I can't get close as I don't want to startle them.

Walking past the park towards our hotel, 3 ducks are walking on the pavement. They walk towards me and stop in front of me. They are so adorable and they are not afraid of people.

We went to Leer from Bremen. Leer is a small town located in North-western Germany and it is at the border of The Netherlands. It is a beautiful town with architectures almost fairy-tale-like looking, although not as fairy tale like houses in Prague but I am delighted to be in Leer.

See what I meant, we don't see these kind of houses in Singapore.

Our final destination was Hamburg, but before we travel to Hamburg, we drove to Buxtehude from Bremen. After visiting the one and only customer in Buxtehude, we stopped by a restaurant for our lunch.

This is the restaurant where we parked our vehicle. I had pork cutlet as usual because in Germany, pork is consumed widely. It is safe for you to know Schnitzer or pommes frites with mayo if you speak no German. Most restaurants in Germany do not have a English menu or speak English unless you are in a populous city like Hamburg.

Weekend arrived and I went to just one floh-markt because I don't want to go through the hassle of travelling far and found that there is nothing for me (but junks) and went back empty handed. I went to the usual one in St. Pauli since I know there is a regular seller with many toy cars. Not this stall above, happens to be another stall manned by father and son.

Went to meet up with a friend, he showed me something "rare" which I agree is rare for the display case. He gave me a ladder to climb as it is hidden somewhere high up. Eidai Grip, I need one car in that display!

Greeted me with trays of cars as usual, this time no Matchboxes, no Siku, mainly Majorettes. Got quite a number of Majorette this time.

Sunday arrived and I skipped all the flea markets because they are simply too far from my hotel. I went to Miniatur Wunderland for the 3rd or 4th time, can't remember though.

Impressive as usual whenever I am there. Bought many HO scale cars there too from their resident shop because it's cheaper by a few fold compared to retail.

This is something new for me, Automuseum Prototyp where you see old prototype cars you never seen before.

This car looks way ahead of its time, a 1939 Porsche Typ 64 "Berlin-Rom-Wagen".

1964 Porsche 904 Carrera GTS. Most of the cars in the museum are either a Porsche or a VW. Great for enthusiast who are into classic cars. That's all folks, a very simple and short summary of my German trip.


Sunday, June 1, 2014

9tro Tomica

A friend came to my place few months ago wanted to feature my collection on an online magazine. I agreed and bring out a few carton of cars for him to pick and choose. I almost forgotten about this special feature on my collection until it was posted on my facebook group. Here is the link:

http://www.9tro.com/features/people-places/tomica-diecast-cars

 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

My Tomica Memories - Knight Rider

I didn't really watch the Knight Rider series in the 80s but I do know of the car. I didn't know it was named KITT then. I got to know Knight Rider through my cousin when we visited him one afternoon. As per our standard operating procedure, we (including my brother) will check out if he bought any new toy cars as he usually did. His lot of toys usually includes mostly Matchbox, a number of Tomica, some Yatming and a little of other brands.

To our surprise,  we found the basket of toy cars are all full-fledged black. Black cars, trucks and buses. He painted all of them black. I even saw a Matchbox London bus painted black too. I got curious and asked him why? He told me about Knight Rider and he wanted his toy cars to look like KITT. I didn't really know what is Knight Rider then but I thought it was cool that cars are black. Toy cars are usually not painted black then, well, most of it.

The black painted cars got both me and my brother interested and we watched a little of Knight Rider (not full series) as we do not know the exact aired time. Anyway, even if we watch it, we didn't really care about the storyline as we just want to take a look of the car. What we understood about Knight Rider car then, it's black, fast, super, awesome and it talks. We thought that it must be the fastest car on earth.

One day, my grandma brought us to a nearby provision shop and we bought a Chevrolet Camaro each. I don't know if it is a coincidence. Whenever we buy our Tomica in a provision shop, we didn't really pick them ourselves as there wasn't many choices comparing to a toy shop. The provision shop was closed for years and was demolished, new apartments are standing tall where the shop locate then.

We were very glad to buy the 2 Camaros although we didn't pick it ourselves. I was very excited because it look like a Knight Rider car in blue. I need to make it look like a Knight Rider so we brought our Camaros to our cousin and request him to paint it black for us. Seriously, I think that it was a dumb thing to do that to this blue Camaro now but that's what kids do during childhood.

We collected the black Camaros from him some time later. Although it was not professionally painted, we were very happy that we had a Knight Rider car. The car was actually painted with black marker.



Sunday, March 30, 2014

A Song of Sonata

My father has driven cars which have close relations with the Sonata which somehow inspired me to collect Korean toy cars. He never really owned any Sonata. He had a 1987 Hyundai Stellar and now a 2005/6 Kia Magentis (MS).

The first Korean car my father bought is the Hyundai Stellar. He bought this car in 1987 and it was a black one. I was amazed by the sheer size of this car comparing to the car my father replaced, the Sunny California. The Hyundai Stellar once roamed the roads of Singapore due to its low cost to own. The car was Corona size (or larger than) but you pay lesser than a Corolla. The Stellar was available in 2 engine sizes, 1.6 and 2.0 as the Stellar Prima. It was based on chassis of a Ford Cortina, donor engine from Mitsubishi and styled by Giorgetto Giugaro. The Stellar was sold in Singapore from around 1984 to 1990. The car was given a facelift in 1987 and Komoco (Hyundai's agent) was doing a more intense promotion then on the refreshed model. It was a success. You might be asking what does the Stellar got to do with a Sonata? Well, the Stellar was actually a Sonata predecessor before Hyundai decide to rebadge it to a Sonata on its second generation. The Hyundai Stellar must be the most forgotten car in Hyundai history.
 
The slogan for Hyundai in the 80s was "Cars that make sense" and from the early 90s, they change it to "Prices that make sense" which I think is a horrid. We all know its cheap to own but it's painful to remind customers that it is a fact. One interesting fact about Hyundai is how they do the facelift of their cars which requires mid life update. Most of the Hyundai models look totally different from the original after the facelift. Sometimes you might think that they launch an entire new model. The facelift is usually done on the front and the rear. Headlights is usually a "victim" in this facelift exercise as it is a norm for Hyundai to change the design totally. Just to name a few Hyundai models that has dramatic facelift. The original Stellar in 1983 looked totally different to the 1987 facelift model that they called it Stellar II. The 2nd generation Sonata (Y2) looks much better than the original with slimmer and sleeker headlights. The first Elantra (J1) looks completely a different car that I thought it was the best looking compact family sedan then. The original design was sleek enough and the designer made it sleek plus a dose of sportiness at the same time. The EF Sonata (1999 to 2005) should be the best selling Sonata in Singapore of all time. 2005 is the year when COE started to fall below the 20,000 mark and the facelift EF Sonata was sold at the price of a 1.6 Japanese car. The facelift was actually not tastefully done in my opinion as it looked too much like a Jaguar X-Type when viewed from the rear. The headlights looked almost (or inspired by) a Mercedes C Class W203.  This must be the worst facelift exercise ever done by Hyundai.

The Stellar did have good memories during my growing up. The first time I sat in it was in Jurong Bowl (if you know where it is), my father picked up the car from the distributor and drove to fetch us. We were shopping in Yaohan with my mum, aunt and cousins. I can't remember how many of us squeeze into the car but it shouldn't pose much problem as it was considered a huge car in the 80s. The air conditioning in the car is so effective that I always freeze in it. We would wait by the road side after visiting my aunt's home. She would always comment that opening the door of the Stellar is no different to opening a fridge. We had driven to Malaysia in the Stellar and it was comfortable enough for my brother and I in the rear for long journey. The car was sold after 4 years of ownership before it was replaced by a 1991 Elantra. I kind of miss the Stellar because it was a larger car than the Elantra. My father said that the Stellar lacks power and he usually changes car every 4 to 5 years then to avoid high repair cost. Finding a Stellar toy car is one of the toughest task in my collecting life as it is so rare that eBay is impossible too. When I found this Stellar in Tokyo last year, I was so excited and finding this car totally made my day. Although it's a taxi version and not black like my dad's Stellar, this should be my best find of the year way above any Tomica I bought in 2013. Korean made toy cars are not of top quality but they do have certain charm in a way.

This is the Sonata Y2, successor to the Stellar. I always thought this Sonata looked like a blown up Proton Saga but much nicer and elegant than the Saga from any angle. I remember this car was in the showroom when my father brought us to Komoco to view the new Elantra in 1991. I didn't really took notice of it as I was hoping that my father to buy the Scoupe instead of the Elantra. Komoco showroom was not air conditioned then and the Elantra was not in the showroom too. It was hidden in the workshop so I believe my father was one of the first few customers who bought the first Elantra. I did preserve this Sonata brochure till today, both pre-facelift and the facelift ones.

I couldn't find a Kia Magentis (MS) model car so I had to use a EF Sonata since the MS Magentis is a rebadged EF Sonata. Since Kia was under the Hyundai family, all cars in the Kia range shares the same chassis and engine. Before the launch of the Kia Magentis, there was a Kia Clarus but understand that Magentis might not be a direct successor to the Clarus. It could be because the Clarus was a Mazda 626 clone and all Kia cars were previous Mazda source (engine and chassis). The same goes with the Kia Sephia which is a Mazda Familia and the name was discontinued after the merger with Hyundai. Cerato was introduced and it's a Elantra variant. The EF Sonata was cheap to own in 2005 and sales soared. Kia at the same time introduced the Sonata variant which is the Magentis. The Magentis did not sell as well as the Hyundai although the price of the Magentis in 2006 is lower than most Japanese 1.6. Imagine getting a basic Magentis for $51,000 and a Lancer or a Sunny cost almost the same. I don't have any driving experience with the EF Sonata but driving the Magentis should spell the same. The Magentis drive like a tank on first impression. It feels heavy but reasonably comfortable for this price. I thought it looked better than the facelift EF Sonata although the Magentis headlights looked suspiciously like a W210 E Class.

Before buying the MS Magentis, we did view this car as well. Not exactly the NF Sonata but the MG Magentis. I wanted to avoid this car since NF Sonata and MG Magentis are used widely in Singapore as a taxi. If the price is cheap, I think we can convince ourselves to buy one for short term use. We are not really seeking for a Korean car in the first place but the price is much lower than Japanese car and my father doesn't want to spend too much on a used car. This is also his first time buying a used car in his entire life. I was helping him look out for Nissan Sylphy instead, we were on the way hoping to buy a white Sylphy 2.0 but upon reaching the showroom, the sales person informed that it was sold. We left with disappointment and ended up with a Magentis. In between, we also considered Toyota Corolla Altis, Honda Civic, Mitsubishi Lancer 1.6 and also a 1.8 turbo charged one over a few months of hunting a used car. I was kind of surprised that my father to decide on the Magentis immediately since we never had the thoughts of a Korean car during our shopping.

I didn't have the chance to buy the Korean made latest Sonata (aka i45 in Singapore) toy car yet but I have the Tomica Hyundai Sonata. It's the first Hyundai Tomica made. Initially I preferred the Optima K5 over the latest Sonata but the i45 has a more lasting look than the K5. It's elegant as compared to the K5 sporty feel. Who knows as my father might buy a used i45 to replace his Magentis in 2016 when the car is due for scrap.