Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Tomica vs Siku - Mercedes A-Class

I have been looking for a similar Siku model which Tomica made. A model which both are produced not in their home country and some improvements I like to point out to Tomica which Siku has maintained. In fact, Tomica and Siku has many similarities. Listing out some of them as follows. Tomica made Japanese cars and occasionally German cars while Siku concentrate on German cars and at times made a few Toyotas. Both brands still survive today although Siku started almost 20 years earlier in making plastic toy cars. Tomica and Siku have cars with opening doors or hatch. Tomica and Siku have shifted the production on the line of regular cars out of their home countries since the 90s. Tomica and Siku are similarly priced in Singapore and other countries depending on exchange rates. They are not in the same price range with Hot Wheels which are at least $2.00 cheaper. When I got hold of a Siku Mercedes A Class, I thought that this should be the best model for me to point out the strength and weakness of each brand. I respect both Tomica and Siku and hope that they will improve for the benefit of collectors who loves them.  

One distinctive feature of both brands, opening feature, in this case, rear hatches. Most beginner collectors of Tomica would have thought that one piece hatch without a through hole is a norm for Tomica but it isn't true. The Siku (in green) is what Tomica used to have if the hatch opens. Tomica started to paint the rear windows on the opening hatch when the production was shifted to China in the mid 90s. Some models which are Japanese made but transit to China factory are spared due to existing mould. New models such as Toyota Ipsum or Honda Odyssey which are produced in China suffered with this new treatment. This is a move I felt totally disgusted. This is a move to cut production cost. Isn't shifting to China a cost cutting movement already? Siku is made in China too but how can a German company able to maintain the same production quality  and why not a Japanese company? What Tomica has done well in the rear are the detailing on the rear light which the lines are crafted in the mould. Most current Siku uses red plastic to represent rear lights which looks better than painting. Siku of the 90s till early 2000 are mostly paintings without extra rear plastic lights. Siku are actually improving progrssively with time, cost cutting measures seems not considered as a priority but quality is. The rear bumper on the Tomica looks neat too because it look like a separate piece if viewed from the side.

For the front treatment, Siku go a step further to paint the grill and the Mercedes logo on the detailing. I am not saying that Tomica didn't do a good job. In fact, I am quite approve of what Tomica has done. Detailing to be done on the casting rather than paint work to differentiate various parts of the car. Very basic painting is fine with me. Toy cars at this scale do not need extra detailing by paint or decals or you should be looking at Autoart instead. Toy cars which uses decals heavily on head light, grill etc are a result of cost cutting mould. Just look at current Matchbox or Hot Wheels. Tomica also omitted licence plate after production shifted out of Japan which Siku still maintain this tradition.

Both hatch open and shuts well. Siku A Class has a deeper boot, thanks to the larger scale of 1:55 vs Tomica 1:57.

Siku has a fix scale of 1:55 across the board for its regular cars with exception of some trucks which likely to be 1:87 for 0800~1400 series. Tomica is scaled to fit into the box but not so true today as they come in various scales with lots of free play within the box. Tomica beats Siku in the wheels segment as 80% of Tomica comes with suspension. Rim design is subjective because I like the button wheels trademark on the Tomica although Siku A Class rims are closer to the real thing. The tyres on the Siku are fatter too, a little too fat in my opinion. Notice that Siku of this era uses plastic wheels while current day Siku upgraded to rubber, something you can find only on a Tomica Limited. Again, this is quite subjective because I refused to play with rubber wheeled cars when I was a kid as these cars are reluctant to skid or accelerate across the room when pushed.

Tomica failed on the rear three quarters. Instead of using extra plastic material, they decide to save this process and paint it over instead. A huge disappointment for anyone who played with or collect Tomica since young. If Siku can do it at the same cost, I don't see why Tomica can't. Saving the earth by using less plastic? The Tomica A Class is more of an isolated case because not many Tomica were given this treatment then. After production is shifted southwards to Vietnam, we see more Tomica are given this treatment. It has already become a standard "package" on 2012 and 2013 Tomica. Just look at the Corolla Fielder and Corvette.
Wing mirrors are not really important for me but Siku go the extra mile to cast them. I felt that Tomica should make Tomica the way how Siku has employed in their procedures. I have to say that Tomica excels in the paint department as most paint finishes with metallic or glossy look. If the Siku is shrink to 1:60, complete with button wheels and finished with Tomica paint, it will be perfect as a Tomica. Go! Go! Tomica, move forward. We know you can do it if you want.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Toyota 86 RC

My Tomica Toyota 86 RC has finally arrived. This edition is produced in limited numbers. There are only 3000 pieces available and you can't buy them off the shelve. These 3000 cars are given to collectors in the form of lucky draw. If you want one (or two), you will need to buy from those who won it in the draw. Many of these collectors who won it will likely not sell their prize since they are collectors and this is a hard to get Tomica.

After the draw is conducted towards the end of February, there were around 20 units available in Yahoo auction as these sellers who won it decide to exchange for cash through auction instead. I was lucky to get mine early as the price is crazy now. There are almost none in the auction site now. Within a span of 2 weeks, the price doubled and I believe that there is still room for the price to appreciate.

The irony is, 86 RC (Racing Configuration) is the cheapest model in the entire 86 range. It is a total stripped down model for racers who prefer to custom their 86 as a track car. In the Tomica 86 range, this is the most expensive at the moment. The Gazoo 86 version might surpass the RC as you will need to do a survey online in order to qualify for the draw. Only 50 pieces will be given to the public during the 3 month campaign. One main physical difference of the RC from the regular release is the omission of spoiler. The RC has no spoiler since it is a basic 86. I think that blacken button wheels suits this model better since the actual car has black steel wheels. I am glad to own 2 units and this might be the only 2 units in Singapore. Any others who bought and brought this car out of Japan? Share with me where you come from.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

World of Button Wheels

One distinctive trademark of Tomica is its button wheels. Although there are more than a hundred wheel type used for Tomica, my favourite is the 5 spoke button wheels. I have grow up with button wheel toy cars and I always thought that they resemble the steel wheels which were commonly used on cars during the 70s and 80s. There is a 4 spoke button wheel type but I still prefer the 5 spoke design. I don't know if you are aware that Tomicas wearing the 5 spoke button wheels has better suspension than those which has 4 spokes on them. The 5 spoke wheel is smaller in size than the 4 spoke hence giving it more allowance to bounce. It is sad to see the current Tomica which has suspension that are too stiff unlike the ones which were once made in Japan. There are actually plenty of toy cars which has button wheels on them out there in the market. They always remind me of Tomica and I will show case some of them in my collection.

When I first saw the Polistil RJ series, I almost mistook it for a Tomica. I do know that Tomica did not produce any Alfa Romeo road cars with exception of F1 cars. The button wheels could almost pass off as a Tomica and the cars has similar dimensions of a Tomica. Polistil has a few wheel designs but most common wheel type is the one as shown above. They made only European cars and could well compliment models which Tomica Foreign Series did not produce. The built quality is one notch below Tomica but they are pretty rare today which made them collectible among collectors. I call it Tomica of Italia.

Matchbox did have some button wheels in its line of history too. Most of these button wheels were used during the transition period of Lesney to Superfast series in the late 60s to early 70s. Lesney was using the "regular wheels" which does not roll fast. They were facing strong competition from Hot Wheels so they have to release a new series known as superfast. These button wheels are also known as superfast wheels. They look great on Lesney casting and the suspension work better than most Tomica models. MB still remain a favourite among vintage toy car collectors today.

Some earlier Guisval has button wheels on them. In fact, Guisval has many wheel designs which make it hard to identify if you are not a Guisval collector. Some later casting of Guisval looked like China made generic cars although they were made in Spain. The 70s Guisval are still the cream of the crops as they are really well made and many have metal base like the Seat featured above. Guisval is still made in Spain today.

Zylmex button wheels are smaller in size as compared to Tomica. They are used mainly on earlier Zylmex models. Quality of Zylmex is below average but some models especially the 70s Japanese cars which comes mint in box can worth as much as a vintage Tomica. The blue car above is a Kenmeri Skyline 4 door saloon but I don't know how Zylmex can mixed up Nissan and Toyota.

Hot Wheels in the 80s are softer on its tempo and uses simpler wheels like the one above. Although I do not collect Hot Wheels but I do appreciate the road cars they produced during the 80s especially those which has button-like wheels.

Small scale Conrad are extremely hard to find and they only made Mercedes. I know that these are 4 spoke button wheels and it looks a little out of place for a S-Class. This Conrad has no suspension on its wheels but the hood, boot and doors do open. Not common to have so many features packed into a small toy like this. Another brand that has this feature is Lone Star but they have no button wheelie although they do bounce like crazy.

I do have a number of Yatming when I was young. Yatming has many models which were Tomica copies. Most of their wheels are 6 spoke. Tomica 6 spoke wheels are the older 1D, 1E, 1F wheel type. Yatming are the budget toys then and the quality is average but better than Zylmex. They didn't garner many fans so they are still inexpensive to buy even today.

That's all, folks! I hope you like Tomica because of its button wheels too.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Go! Go! Tomica First Gathering

Go! Go! Tomica had the first official gathering on 9th March 2013 which is 4 years after start of my blog. The main attraction is not me for sure but Ken of Ken's Garage from Hong Kong.

Ken: 开台喽。。。
Josh was too excited that he jumped up from his seat.
Michael and Pooh tried to remain calm by taking one last sip of their drink.

Everyone started attacking on the Tomica in a friendly manner. Tomica collectors are usually cool and calm.

Pooh: 碰! 

Pooh: 我再碰!

Pooh: 碰。。。碰。。。 碰。。。

Yinseng: 我也碰。。。。

Josh: 我糊了。。。十三么。。。

This is the most expensive car in this gathering.

Because it is a Made in Hong Kong Nissan Cedric.

Boss doing his job. 

First gathering group photo. About 80 out of 150 Tomica goes to a good home that night. Looking forward to have another gathering soon.