Category Archives: Editorial

Editorial November 2018

Congratulate us! MAR Online has reached its fifth birthday. In November 2013, MAR 278 was the last issue of the print version of Model Auto Review. Our initial online issues overlapped with the print magazines, sharing the same content. After that, for the first couple of years we published a fresh issue every couple of months, just like the printed magazine had done. When we redeveloped the site late in 2015, however, after experiencing some hosting problems, we changed to the continuous rolling publishing format we have today.

Our website details tell us that we have an average of over ten thousand page-loads per month, plus many Facebook followers and email subscribers. It is very pleasing for us that our readers come from all over the world, not just from English-speaking countries. We hope that you all continue to enjoy MAR Online and enjoy the fruits of the hard work of our contributors.

Our writers are the reason that MAR Online continues to delight and surprise; They cover a wide range of subjects, many of them neglected by those printed magazines which still survive. Our contributors deserve our gratitude. They share their knowledge and passions with you, without any payment for the time and effort they put in.  Model and toy manufacturers, big and small, also help us by making sure that there is plenty for us to write about. In addition, a number of new manufacturers have appeared during the lifetime of MAR Online.

Our thanks are due to those individuals who have contributed payments to our running costs, and whose names can be found on the Charter Subscribers wall. They have helped to ensure that MAR Online remains free to use, and independent when expressing opinions.

Having achieved five years of MAR Online, I am sure you will join me in looking forward to the future, and all the news and comment we will have on the interesting models still to come…

Editorial Announcement

I managed to walk into a low branch yesterday and it caught my eye. After some hours in hospital last night and this morning I am sitting here with a patch over my right eye as I have a scratched cornea. This means that using a computer screen is difficult. In the circumstances I hope that you will all understand that I will not be posting new articles for a few days.

Maz

MAR Online Editor

Editorial October 2018

October marks the beginning of the final quarter of 2018. Announcements from Oxford Diecast and other manufacturers of their next set of releases, reaching into 2019 are imminent. As ever, it will be interesting to see what the model makers propose, and whether neglected eras and companies come to the fore at last. In the USA Goldvarg has already announced models of US sedans from the early 1960s, which have been hard to find in the past.

My impression is that during 2018 prices of models have generally continued to rise, in all scales, at a faster rate than general inflation, with a particularly rapid escalation in prices for some smaller scale resin makers and the largest remaining white metal producer. Many 1:43 scale resin ranges have crossed the psychological barrier of 100 Euros, which at current consumer exchange rates equates to around 100 GB Pounds. In the US the hundred-dollar barrier has been well and truly passed by many ranges, indeed Brooklin are now breaking the two hundred dollar mark for some products. As ever, we wonder whether this will lead to collectors buying fewer models? Maybe at these new higher prices the product is more difficult to sell, which reduces the income level, and thus makes it necessary to raise the price of the next model?

We congratulate those makers who have tried to keep price rises to a minimum, such as many of the industrial diecast producers like Oxford Diecast, Welly, Burago, Greenlight, and a few others. But even there prices have risen somewhat, due to increased production and shipping costs in China.

We hear of some companies looking for other countries in which to produce models in future, as costs for Chinese production continue to rise, and as other potential political difficulties loom on the horizon. One country which has been suggested to us as a potential manufacturing partner in future is Vietnam.

One wonders what the future impact will be of impending tariff wars between the USA and other countries (China in particular of course), and also the possible impact of ‘Brexit’ here in the UK.

Many thanks to the two generous readers who have made contributions towards next year’s hosting. Their names have been added to the charter subscribers page. If you would like to add a donation as well, then please email maronlineeditor@gmail.com for details of how to participate.

Another sad loss to modelling

We have recently heard that Frank Waller of Road Transport Images has passed on after a battle with cancer. Frank ran RTI as a retirement pastime and was a much loved producer of transport related transkits and components in resin and white metal to 1:76 scale. In more recent years RTI began to make all the components to allow modellers to put together the cab, chassis, wheels and trailers to make up whole vehicles without needing any diecast donor. The models made were mainly from UK manufacturers and largely from the post-war period through to the 1970s.  Frank was always keen to discuss your project with you when you called for advice and would quickly give you a shopping list for the parts you would need to create your modified model.

Frank’s range included many neglected subjects such as the BMC EA vans and cabs from the wide range of UK manufacturers which are totally unobtainable in a diecast form.

I understand that Frank’s family will be seeking someone to take on RTI as a going concern and that until that has happened there will be no more sales of RTI products.

The many postings on bulletin boards when the news was published by his family show how well regarded Frank was and shows the gap he will leave behind him.

Editorial September 2018

As autumn approaches, here in the Northern Hemisphere, toy fairs and auctions become more frequent and manufacturers will be trying hard to get the last of the models announced for 2018 on sale. Some will be letting us know their plans for 2019 in the next few months and, as ever, it will be interesting to see what they have in store for us and whether the trend towards more models in larger scales continues. Meanwhile 1:43 scale resin producers mostly seem to have gone over to announcing only a few models at a time close to their release,  so it will be some time before we know what 2019 will bring from them. The partwork world was neither shaken nor stirred when Eaglemoss launched their Bond in Motion series using the castings previously used in the Fabbri James Bond Collection. It will be interesting to see who is left to subscribe to this series, after the previous partwork ran to over 130 parts.

Complaints about quality control seem to be a recurrent theme on many of the bulletin boards and in posts on Facebook groups, as well as in some of the model reviews here in MAR Online. This affects everything from expensive collectors models, often in resin and PE, to mass-market diecast models with poor printing, sloppy assembly and even some parts fixed incorrectly or left off completely. Complaints are common that the larger mail order outlets do not even bother to make a cursory check of the model when packing it, which would pick up some of the worst issues. Perhaps the discounted price comes at a cost in quality control? The returns policy often means that that you get little redress, and will lose even more money posting models back to the supplier at your own expense.

Another autumnal event is the annual hosting charge for this website. Please contact the Editor if you wish to be a charter subscriber by making a donation towards our costs; it will help us remain online and free to use.


We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page or email the Editors at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.

Editorial August 2018

Over the last year I have had the pleasure of visiting four long-established clubs here in the UK: South Hants Model Auto Club, Wessex Model and Toy Collectors Club, Maidenhead Static Model Club, and Coventry Diecast and Model Club where I am a member. Without fail every one of them has given me a very warm welcome, listened to my thoughts on models, and in the case of the first three clubs have listened politely, and I hope with interest, to my talk on British Artisan producers in 1:76-ish scale. I also have the real pleasure of reading the clubs’ newsletters which are always interesting. The visits to the clubs have also highlighted the lovely selection of models that members bring along to show, and the joy brought from sharing with others the models that you love.

Facebook and social media seem to be the way that the younger generation of collectors get together with very active pages for collectors of Atlas, Oxford Diecast and others. but somehow for me it is not the same as holding a model in my hand, and discussing it with fellow collectors. The message I have received from visiting the clubs and from following various Facebook pages is that the hobby is changing rather than dying. Whilst many of the earlier generations of collectors prefer face-to-face meetings, toyfairs and collectors’ shops the new generation are ‘time poor’. They meet through social media and mostly buy and discuss  their models on the Internet. Many long-time collectors have also engaged with the Internet to search for scarce models and they use bulletin boards and Facebook pages to further their enjoyment of their hobby. The challenge now is to get some of the younger generation of collectors who are active on the internet to come along to club meetings and catch the club habit too.

My thanks to our writers who have again provided a crop of interesting articles this month and to my co-Editor Karl for his hard work. If you read MAR Online and think that there is not enough on a topic you are interested in why not write some articles yourself. All we need to put together an interesting article is a few photographs or scans and some words about your interest. If you think your English is not perfect we will even have a go at translating text submitted in your native language!


 

Another passing – John Martin

I have been informed that John Martin, the JM in JM Toys has recently passed away. John was trained as an engineer and after working for large companies like GEC Marconi and Plessey he left to form small companies of his own and one, J Martin Toolmakers was his introduction to model making as it made tools for Airfix, Palitoys and others. From there he developed a bigger involvement with modelling by buying a company making railway controllers and then acquiring Fleetline Model Company that made N Gauge white metal models for railway scenes.

John opened Cowplan models in 1979 and expanded buy buying another business. The emphasis at this time was railway modelling. But after he started trading at toy fairs in the mid-1980s his interest was taken by Brooklins as well as Pathfinder Models, Kenna Models, and Somerville models.  At this time he amassed one of the largest collections of Brooklins in the world. As his model trading expanded his engineering firms were wound down with the final one closing in 1992. By this time JM Toys had become one of the biggest distributors of white metal models.

John suffered from Diabetes and created a number of special models to raise funds for the British Diabetic Association  (now Diabetes UK). In recent years the business has been passed over to his son Russell to run and has become heavily Internet based. Whilst John found more time to ‘go fishing’ which was a hobby that allowed him to leave behind the stresses of the model business.


We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page or email the Editors at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.

Editorial – July 2018

With the US initiating an international trade war, will it have any impact upon model collecting? Will Mattel, Greenlight, Castline and even Goldvarg face raised import tariffs on their models, all made by contractors in China? And if so, will that mean that American collectors will always have to pay more for their models, because Mattel and other companies no longer have the skills or the enthusiasm to bring manufacturing back to the USA? Will Brooklin models face additional tariffs when they are imported into America, and how would that affect their overall sales, which are so dependent on the US market?

The recent announcements from Corgi include no new castings, once again. I hope that the new management has something up their sleeves for next year to revive the brand, as the catalogue gets thinner with each release. Even Oxford Diecast’s second release tranche for 2018 featured only a small number of 1:43 scale models, mostly recolours. With the plethora of large scale models being released, it seems that 1:43 is becoming the preserve of small companies making small numbers of resin models, which are beyond the price range of most collectors.  With the rapid contraction of partwork productions, which tended to be in 1:43 scale, the modestly-priced collectors market will offer much less to buy in the near future. But perhaps the budget-price collector has already decided to collect smaller-scale models. American 1:64 scale and British 1:76 models, as well as 1:87 scale models elsewhere, all seem to have a constant flow of new releases.

In the meantime our regular correspondents keep up the flow of interesting articles on all sorts of topics, so my thanks to them for their time and effort. And my usual reminder that you too can contribute to MAR Online. Just send some photos and notes on a subject that you think will be of interest and we will turn it into an article.


We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page or email the Editors at maronlineeditor at gmail.com.

A tribute to Robin Allen

By Mike Neale

Mike is a member of SHMAC who knew Robin well and his tribute will also appear in the SHMAC club newsletter.

 Robin Allen, 1949-2018.

I first met Robin over 30 years ago, back in the mid-1980s, thanks in fact to the SHMAC, when he was displaying some of his models alongside other club members.  I would regularly see him at shows such as Modelex and The Classic Car Show at the NEC. I’ve found one old photo from a bit after then, when a group of SHMAC members and I had a stall at a swapmeet at the old Coventry Transport Museum (long before they built their shiny new one).

We instantly bonded due to our shared interest in the ‘grey porridge’ British and European saloon cars of the fifties and sixties, both as real cars and in model form. He was very interested in my conversions of old Dinky & Corgi toys into more accurate representations of the real vehicles, as this was something that he too liked to do. At that time he was editor of the model page for Classic Cars magazine, and in the December 1990 issue he actually wrote an article about me and my model conversions.

I loved going down to his house and seeing what real cars he had each time, as quite often there would be some new classic car acquisition replacing one that he had decided to sell. I could also spend hours looking at the model collection.

One real car that was always there from fairly early on was of course his beloved 1952 Standard German-market VW Split Window Beetle. He had bought this rare car in 1970, saving it from being cut up into a Baja Bug, and had run it as a daily driver, but in 1976 he reluctantly sold it to fund a house purchase. He asked the new owner to give him first refusal if he ever wished to sell the car. It went up to Scotland and the owner began to dismantle it to start a restoration, but that was as far as he got, and the car stayed in his garage. In 1990, true to his word, he phoned Robin and offered to sell the car back to him, with almost the same mileage on the clock as 14 years earlier. Robin had the car restored and vowed never to sell it again. I’ve included a photo of him next to the car just after that 90s restoration had been finished, before he had got the proper German-style number plates made up.

He would go out of his way to help people too. I remember once when my partner and I had met up with him at Amberley Classic Car Picnic and we needed to get back to London to see a show at the theatre that evening. We had gone down by train that day but when we tried to come back our return train had been cancelled (I should have known not to rely on Southern Rail) and the next one was an hour away, too late to get to the theatre. Robin insisted on driving us all the way up to Gatwick airport to catch a train so that we could make it in time. Actually, at first he had suggested driving us all the way back to London, but I couldn’t let him do that. That was just the sort of person he was.

Another 90s photo shows Robin watering his NSU Prinz, presumably trying to grow it into a Chevrolet Corvair.

Over the years I must have attended dozens of classic car shows and model swapmeets with Robin. One of the most memorable trips was to Techno Classica in Essen, Germany, a show that completely blew me away. Robin was in his element amongst all of the German cars in particular, as he had spent a few years in Germany during his childhood, as his father was posted there with British Forces Germany. On the way back we diverted to take a look at the old army barracks where his dad had been based.

A car show that we both liked and visited many times over the years was the Amberley Classic Car Summer picnic. That is where we are both seen standing next to (someone else’s) Jaguar XK150.

 

On Drive-It Day this April, I drove down to Romsey in my Morris Minor to meet up with Robin, who was out in his Mercedes-Benz 220S Ponton saloon, which he is pictured next to.  I have tried to recreate the scene in model form, alas without a miniature Robin.

Robin had been suffering from cancer for several years and had been through a lot of unpleasant treatment, which had at least for a while seemed to be effective. However more recently it had spread almost everywhere. His descent from that April Drive-It day was sadly quite rapid.

Having had a fall at home, no doubt caused by the strong painkillers that he was on, he was admitted to hospital. For a while it seemed like he was making a bit of a recovery and might make it back home. Sadly this was not to be and he finally passed away on Saturday 23rd June in Portsmouth Queen Alexandra hospital, aged just 69. I was at his side along with his closest family and friends.

The funeral date has yet to be arranged. I do know that he left instructions for the funeral car to be a vintage Rolls Royce – that’s very Robin!

It is the end of an era. I will certainly miss him a lot.