Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mandarin Toys - Singapore

I would say this is an oddity maker of diecast to your usual Tomica or Matchbox. Introducing Mandarin Toys of Singapore. Not many people will know much about Mandarin Toys, neither do I. The reason why I started searching for our nation's "pride & joy" because I wanted a piece of our nation's history in the toy industry too. It is believed that Mandarin Toys started in late 60s or early 70s in the toy scene. Many people believed that Mandarin are based (or inspired by) on Tomica but I think not. I have yet to see a Mandarin that is using a Tomica casting. According to Ken (from Ken's Garage in Hong Kong), the green bus which you see below shares the same casting as a Matchbox Superfast. I have given the below London Bus to Ken for his custom project as he has a "thing" for Londoner Bus. Mandarin toys are usually packed in blister which some blister as suspiciously shared the same packing as Playart for the plane series. In fact, some trucks are actually Playart and Mandarin might have bought some die-cast from Playart. Other than bus, truck & planes, Mandarin Toys do make a series of tanks under the brand name called Mandico which are packed in box or blister. The cars I have seen from Mandarin are Corvette Stingray, Nissan Skyline, Ferrari (which I could not recognized the model), Fairlady etc. The quality is very rough or should I say poor but who cares if you wanted a piece of Singapore history.

Mandarin Toys London Bus before restoration

Mandarin Toys London Bus after restoration into a Hong Kong bus by Ken's Garage

Mandarin Toys fleet of planes that they own

Douglas DC-10, Eastern

Boeing 707, Malaysian Airline System

Mandarin Toys - Air France

Vickers VC-10, BOAC

Boeing 727, Unknown Airline (anyone knows?)

Boeing 747, TWA

Boeing 737, Singapore Airlines

Made in Singapore by Mandarin

Another London Bus by Mandarin Toys

Garbage Truck by Mandarin Toys
Notice that this is actually a Playart

Chara MX-30 Tank by Mandarin Toys

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Tomica vs Majorette vs Matchbox - Citroen SM

Citroen SM (1970 to 1975)

If I were to choose a car to drive for live, this will be the car as it has been my favourite car of all times. I am always a big fan of Citroens (old Citroens), the only new Citroen that really convince me is the C6 but I will still prefer the shape of the DS if you ask me. I always thought that SM stands for Sports Maserati because Maserati was bought over by Citroen in the 60s and Citroen SM was using Maserati engine. According to Citroen, SM stands for Systeme Maserati. It's a shame that SM was never built for RHD countries, around 200 units are exported to Asia which Japan alone received around three quarter of this lot. The SM comes in 2 engine guise, 2.7 and 3.0 which produces 170hp and 180hp respectively. Citroens are special and this one is no exception too. It comes with oleopneumatic suspension which will self-level the body of the car and directional headlights (6 headlights). Why I love old Citroen is because of their unique design. The design is so distinctive that you wouldn't mistake the car for another make. The best "feature" which I like about Citroen cars is that the rear wheels are half covered. I thought that it was for aesthetic purpose but I read somewhere that it is to improve wind flow against the car body when the car is on the move (Not a bad idea!). The design of the SM is timeless and futuristic, it still looks good today, too bad that none was imported to Singapore due to the drive train system. After Citroen bankrupt in 1974, and Peugeot taking over them, SM production ceased almost immediately in 1975.

Tomica produced 3 variations for the Citroen SM. There is a light green version too but was a part of the Tomica British 4 car set. The metallic green SM (left in picture) was the most common variation and should worth around US$30.00 today (MIB). The rare one will be the silver one shown in the front which I got it for approx. at US$40.00 which is a steal as I believe it is worth more than that. Some Tomica collectors (which they claimed to be) will not even pay for this amount even if you were to sell them half of this price. I spoke to these Tomica buyers / new Tomica collectors and they are only willing to pay at the selling price of new Tomica today for vintage Tomicas, which is only about US$4.00. If I am dumb enough to sell to these fools, I will be a bigger one.

The rear of the SM is the nicest. Sexy!

1977 Tomica Citroen SM, Scale: 1:66, Made in Japan

Majorette Citroen Maserati SM, Scale: 1:65, Made in France

Matchbox Superfast Citroen SM, Scale: Unknown, Made in England

This edition is trio comparo which Tomica will battle out with an early Majorette and the Superfast Matchbox. I left out the Siku SM mainly because I ain't got one yet and Siku scale are usually bigger at 1:55. It will be great if Schuco made the SM as the scale will be identical to the Tomica as all Schuco Modell scales at 1:66. A pity that Germany miss out on this SM competition.

The Casting:
Both Majorette and Matchbox look almost identical but closer look differentiate as the MB has a bigger windscreen. Based on proportion, the Majorette is the most proportionate. Tomica follows all lines and curves that a SM should posses. The Matchbox cast looks like it is built for mass production because no sharp lines and details on the cast, just the SM outline. It's actually a hard fight between the Majorette and the Tomica. The Majorette wins by a slight margin because if you were look at them from far, the Majorette looks more like a Citroen SM.
Tomica: 2
Majorette: 3
Matchbox: 1

All cars comes with demister but the Tomica is supposed to be a blind which some SM are equipped with. The Tomica has yellow tinted plastic all over. The common Tomica are using clear plastic for windscreen, headlight cover etc. Both Majorette and Tomica has plastic covers on the headlights just like the real car, the built for the masses Matchbox left that out. What the Matchbox does come with is a rear hook for the trailer which strange enough that the Majorette has left that out since this is more of a signature for Majorette. One possible reason could be this Majorette is a early 70s model so the car doesn't at all looked Majorette. Well, the hook is not really an important detail since it is kind of an after market installation in the real world. The same goes for the Majorette on the "Hella" style lights on the front bumper. The Tomica is the only car that has a number plate and the Chevrons are also the sharpest of the trio. The best feature on the Tomica should be the rear with the rear window blind. The rear of the Tomica is also the closest to the original.

Tomica: 3
Majorette: 2
Matchbox: 1

Button wheels vs Superfast Button Wheels vs 5 spoke Sport Rims of Majorette. The Majorette wheels looks most attractive to me. I will prefer the Tomica button wheels than the Superfast wheels because the rims on the Superfast looks like a 13" rims on the thick tyres.
Tomica: 2
Majorette: 3
Matchbox: 1

Paint Finished:
Matchbox surprising finished in glossy paint and it last past 30 years. The Majorette is finished in metallic paint and it should be the nicest if the car is in total mint condition. The Tomica is finished with a more realistic color like the real car, no gloss but suits well for the car, a little on the down side is that the paint is not even on its roof.
Tomica: 1
Majorette: 2
Matchbox: 3

All cars comes with metal base. The best will be the Tomica where details continues down under as compared to the bare base of the other 2 contenders. The Matchbox is the ugliest in my opinion.
Tomica: 3
Majorette: 2
Matchbox: 1
Based on the whole package, the Tomica is my favourite, followed by the Majorette and Matchbox.
Majorette: 2
Matchbox: 1

Tomica: 14
Majorette: 14
Matchbox: 8
A draw for the first time? If I were to use a later Majorette Citroen SM, Tomica will be the straight winner. Early Majorette cars are much more attractive compared to those made in the 80s and there are seriously worth much more than a Tomica SM if there are totally MIB. Matchbox Superfast faded into a mass production type of toy after the Lesney series in the 60s. There are still some Superfast which are transition period from the predecessor which are much better.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Tomica vs Corgi - Lotus Europa

Lotus Europa Special (1965 to 1975)

This Lotus is a super light weight "super car" that weighs around 700kg. It was fitted with a humble Renault engine (1470cc) in its beginning. Engine was upgrade to Lotus Ford of 1558cc and finally a track ready 1594cc engine that puts out 165hp. There is still one Europa in Singapore and this car roams the days of the 60s Thomson Road Rally in our history.

Tomica Lotus Europa, Scale: 1/59, Made in Japan (1977)

Corgi Juniors Lotus Europa, Scale: Unknown, Made in Great Britain (1973)

Early Blister Pack Corgi Juniors

Just to show you the back of the blister pack as it has interesting illustrations

Bought this Tomica in Hong Kong, car appears mint and including the rear plastic hatch. But when I started opening the hatch. the hatch broken and the rear corner of the plastic started disintegrated into small pieces. I gave up the idea and shut it back but was too late. See above picture. Was a little surprise to see the plastic quality failed after 30 years on a Tomica. The Tomica wins on the casting, it is more refine as compared to the Corgi. The Corgi is a little rough although Corgi and Lotus are made from the same country. The Corgi is still packed in the blister but oh my, the paint on the Corgi already started to "corrode". Have to give points to Tomica for overall casting and finish. Forget about the broken plastic, I treat it as an isolate case. Not bias but I think this is not common for Tomica.
Tomica 1: Corgi Jr 0

The infamous Corgi Whizzwheels vs Tomica Button wheels. To be honest, I have never like the Whizzwheels, they are ugly! Need I say more?
Tomica 2: Corgi Jr 0

If not for the ugly corroded gold base of the Tomica, it will be really nice. Corgi base has lesser information and really kept it basic.
Tomica 3: Corgi Jr 0

Although this Tomica suffers from some quality problem (the hatch) but it is still better package in paint, casting, details. I can only agree that Dandy sized Corgi are much better than their Tomica sized Corgi Juniors. Corgi Jr are just to rough and simple.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Disney BMW Isetta

1958 BMW Iso Isetta

This little car is also known as the "rolling egg" in the 50s. Although this is a little car that looks like a scooter, this micro car actually save BMW then from bankruptcy then.

To be honest, I never fancy a Tomica Disney Motor (and I still don't), the only reason I bought this DM-17 is because it looks suspiciously like the Isetta I mentioned above. The Isetta comes in many variations like the "sedan" above, cabrio, truck, 3 or 4 wheelers etc.

The main difference between the Isetta and the DM is the door. Isetta doors is facing against the driver while the DM uses conventional doors like most cars.

2 "Isetta" per box

Roof able to detach

3 Wheelers just like a 3 Wheelers Isetta