Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Evolution of Tomica

Tomica collectors has seen a major revamp on its line of toy cars recently. Most companies change for the better in their products and services. I do admire how Tomica can go against the odds by cutting corners and still able to make collectors like us waiting anxiously every month to buy their latest releases. Everyone has been complaining about the down sizing of Tomica cars. Did you know Tomica actually grow their cars as early as the late 1980s? The growth was still acceptable although it was visually noticeable to those which are made in the 70s and early 80s. After the manufacturing plant had shifted to China, the size of cars grew larger. It was so large that they are closing in to Majorette scale. The Fairlady 370 of today is scaled at 1/57 and is a giant when park beside the 1/61 Fairlady 280Z-T. Let's see what has changed on Tomica over the years.


From the late 80s to the early 90s when Tomica were still made in Japan, Tomica grew some cars in their range. Models such as Cedric, Crown, Skyline are larger than those predecessors. I guessed nobody made much noise because Internet wasn't available then and who will complain for getting more metal for the same money? The growth was marginal and still within the acceptance range for a collector. The size remain until the millennium, all passenger cars seems overfed by their designers. The current Lancer has grown to a mid size sedan but Tomica still made it at 1/61 which many mid size sedan of the 70s are build around 1/65. I think Tomica might have realised that so they corrected it by making the Lancer and 370Z smaller in the CN series. The scale might be correct for a traditional Tomica but the casting details and quality follows the Chinese tradition instead. The new Lancer is nice but it is just too large to be a Tomica. Fast forward to year 2010 starting from Nissan Juke, there is an outbreak of shrinking Tomica models. The virus is so infectious that a mid size wagon such as Toyoya Avensis wagon was shrunk to 1/75. I do not know what is the company thinking when they have the courage to release such model to the public. I don't know how Toyota can approve of Tomica to make such a ugly model to represent their car. A toy car is a toy representative in the toy car world and it should be respected although it is meant to be a child's toy. I bet a child will not even want to buy it when it is so much smaller than the other cars in the entire Tomica range. Most children will buy a sports car if given a choice and most mothers will buy buses or trucks for their children because mother tends to go for the value (more metal and mass). Who will buy a undersize wagon which does not appeal to either the child or the mother? Most beginner Tomica collectors thought that the correct size for a Tomica should be similar to the Lancer above as they complain hell lot of noise during these 2 years when the shrinking exercise started. I hate the over shrunk cars too because they are way smaller than the 70s models. What surprises me that the new collectors even complain the Lexus IS F to be small when it isn't really true. I would say the Lexus got the right ingredients in a Tomica so I have rank it best in 2012. Try placing the Lancer beside any Japan made Tomica. I just hope that they don't think that the Japanese Tomica are the odd ones out.


Tomica of the past uses more chrome on its grill. We don't see much of this in the current Tomica. This is a change due to the change of car designs over the years so I wouldn't say that it is a bad change. I still feel that the chrome grill could still be done in some ways but I don't think Tomica will fabricate an extra part for the grill. Having a plastic head lights is so hard to come by today not to mention about chrome grill. The bumpers could be excused as all new cars have colour coded bumpers today. Not really a big issue on this change but just hope Tomica can stop painting the head lights. They could detailed the head lights by crafting the lines into the mould if they do not want to use a pair of plastic pieces to represent the lights.


The rear hatch of new Tomica do not have a through hole like the old ones. I fully understand that the rear styling of new cars change over the years. The rear window of most modern wagon or hatchback are "frameless" unlike older cars. I thought that I could find a reason to excuse Tomica to cut corners painting the rear upper half as the rear screen of the car. When I saw current Siku could do what Tomica did on the rear hatch 40 years ago, I started to ponder what kind of margin Tomica is looking at? (See my Mercedes A Class compare between Siku and Tomica). German and Japanese products are known to be good by international level so if Germans can have a way to do it good, why can't the Japanese? Both Siku and Tomica are priced similarly in retail, both companies made and design their mould in their home country, both companies had their production line mainly in China. What's wrong with Tomica?
This was started ever since Tomica production shifted to China. All new models made in China has rear screen painted over if the hatch opens. If they have a corner to cut on the hatch, why not made the Tomica with opening doors instead? I do not need rear hatch to open, I just want a plastic to represent the rear window. It just looks more proper somehow for a Japanese product or any toy car.


Not many new collectors notice this change. Japanese made Tomica comes with a registration number plate even up to the trucks. The registration plate were usually crafted either a registration number (3 or 4 digits usually), Tomica number it represented or the car's nomenclature.
You don't find any registration plates with numbers in today's Tomica. I hope Tomica could revive that one day.

Recently, I saw that the cost cutting exercise extended further. Most cars has no opening doors, they have their rear window and rear 3rd quarter window painted. Above shows example of Japanese made Tomica from the 80s. The Civic has even corporate demister on its rear window.
The early Chinese made Tomica still has plastic to represent rear windows.
Recent Tomica painted the rear side windows and rear windows to cut some corners once again.
Foreign cars which they spend money to purchase the licensee to produce are not spared too. The RX-7 has similar rear styling to the Corvette, see what they have done to the Corvette on the rear. All recent foreign cars except Peugeot RCZ painted their rear windows. RMZ City which cost half the price of Tomica but it seems like they made better cars than Tomica now. 


All the steering wheels of Tomica today do not have spokes. In the days when Tomica are still made in Japan, steering wheel without spokes are found in certain cars which doors do not open. If the car has opening doors, the steering wheel will be a proper one with spokes.
Not too long ago, all Tomica had only 1 interior colour, black. All Tomica steering wheel has only 1 style. Sad.


Not too long ago, the standard trademark 5 spoke button wheels has changed the size of the spokes. The suspension are also much harder now comparing to Japanese ones making it harder to bounce now.


Does anyone ever think of how Tomica will look like in the near future? Base on the changes Tomy made over the years, this is what I think how they might look like or working towards to.

 1970s Tomica Nissan Cedric Wagon
1980s Tomica Nissan Bluebird Wagon, still looking excellent.
2003 Tomica Subaru Legacy Wagon, this is a nice recent Tomica.
2013 Tomica Toyota Corolla Axio Wagon, notice that the side and rear windows are painted.
2012 Tomica Toyota Avensis Wagon, shrunk to nothingness and most windows painted.
In the year 20xx, this might be the future Tomica. Shrunk further, painted windows all around, no interior. What it might lack will be the mass of the Schuco because this little car is very heavy and plastic little button wheels instead of rubber tyres. I don't hate Tomica, in fact, I love Tomica so much that I hated the designer and the direction of business which change everything from good to bad. 


  1. Hi Go! Go! Tomica,

    Unfortunately, I must agree with you. Back in the late 1970s, what set Tomica apart from other 3-inch scale manufacturers was their truly Japanese build quality and attention to detail, and even though I bought them as toys, most could be seen as well-proportioned, rather competent scale models.

    When I recently decided to check up the evolution of the Tomica range with the objective of buying a few contemporary models, I was shocked to find out that those defining characteristics were gone. Something must have gone terribly wrong, as the once proud Japanese made models now look like cheap mass produced oddities.

    Naturally, if this evolution/approach is commercially efficient, I must respect it – companies are there for profit. Ultimately, the consumer reaction is the key. As a note of interest, all the children I know go for Siku models these days – the Tomica option stands no chance. Personally, I’m glad I enjoyed the golden era of Tomica in the late 1970s, when Japan proudly manufactured some of the best 3-inch scale models in the world.

    To conclude, thanks for the Go! Go! Tomica BlogSpot, a reference work for the Tomica collector, also useful for the average 3-inch diecast enthusiast – you even include an entry related to the little-known Poliguri...

    Best regards,


  2. About the Wheel thing. I guess having a molded dashboard could be a semi fair trade off to having a Molded steering wheel.

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