Category Archives: Trax

Farewell to Australia, In More Ways Than One?

by Graeme Ogg

I bought the latest copy of Autocar magazine and read that Australian car manufacturing will come to an end when the iconic Holden brand closes its last domestic plant later this year. Ford stopped building cars locally a year ago. Toyota will close its assembly plant (building Camrys for export) a couple of weeks before Holden. And of course Chrysler, another big name in Australian automotive history, sold out to Mitsubishi around 1980, and Mitsubishi eventually gave up in Oz in 2008.

1/43 Trax Ford Falcon GT

The problem for local manufacturers is that Australians have become spoiled for choice with foreign brands, and demand for home-grown Fords and Holdens fell off to the point where local component manufacturers couldn’t make a living from the low production numbers so, ironically, components were being imported to build cars in a country which is surrounded by developing nations like Thailand and Indonesia where labour costs are much lower. Not really a viable long-term option (subsidised by the taxpayer to the tune of AU$5 billion over the last 10 years).

And now the problem for Aussie car buyers (or at least for those who want fast, powerful cars) is that they are starting to wonder what can replace the hot Falcons and Commodores which gave them spectacular turbocharged V8 performance at a fraction of the price you pay for such cars elsewhere. Unfortunately, Ford and Holden could only afford to develop these low-volume specialist hot rods when the profits from healthy high sales of their bread-and-butter models were pouring in. No longer.

For 1:43 collectors who have taken an interest in the Australian motoring scene over the years, I guess it’s the end of an era, and we should be grateful to the likes of Trax (and maybe Biante and Classic Carlectables and one or two oddballs like Dinkum Classics) for filling our shelves with a decent representative range of models from what I suppose will come to be called the Golden Age of Australian car production.

Alas, for me, I think there’s another kind of Australian farewell on the cards. I recently ordered a model from the Trax “Wrecking Yard” (remaindered stock). A Ford Falcon GT in the Opal series.

1/43 Trax Ford Falcon GT

Just AU$35. But shipping was AU$20, and it seems that UK Customs are so desperate to increase revenues they are picking on every little package, so they added £8 (AU$13) import duty, and Royal Mail added another £8 processing charge for collecting the duty. So my AU$35 model cost me $80. The new Trax Ford Galaxie looks pretty good, but at AU$ 160 it’s more than some Matrix models and nearly 50% more than some of the best Neos, Trax shipping for this series is double their usual, and I can just imagine the import duty scaled up accordingly. So I fear it’s “Goodbye, Trax, nice knowing you”.

[Editor’s Note: GM also said goodbye to Vauxhall and Opel this week.  Big changes are happening globally in the auto world.]


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Making Trax for 2017

By Maz Woolley

 

The latest announcement by Trax of Australia shows two models in their Select Series which are bound to be of considerable interest and which have already got US collectors asking if Trax can produce them in LHD. These are 1:43 scale resin models made in China for Australia.

1951 Ford Custom twin spinner.

 

This classic Fordor looks to be very nicely modelled. Most models of Fords of the early 1950s are of the ground breaking 1949/50 car with its single spinner in the radiator as modelled by Dinky, Precision Miniatures  amongst others. Brooklin have modelled a 1951 but as the up-market Victoria Coupe

1965 Ford Galaxie 500

 

A real classic from Ford this has been modelled many times but the new model from Trax looks very crisp with the chromework round the windows looking very good indeed.

Trax Club Members Model

 

This years Club Members Model is a Holden FC Panel Van from 1958 in Ansett ANA livery. I think that the model is slightly spoiled by the Trax Club 2017 Member printing on the door which removes its authenticity – what do readers think about that?


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Interesting Comparisons, Or Then Again, Maybe Not

By Graeme Ogg

A package arrived this week containing the BoS Chevrolet Caprice wagon. Not always keen on BoS models, some of them have quite drab or insipid colours and weak-looking trim detail, and look built down to a price (which of course they are). But I’d say this wagon looks pretty good.

Caprice_wagon_BoS

I did my own version some years ago, based on the fairly crude Road Champs sedan, so couldn’t resist comparing them side by side. The main thing that strikes you is the apparently huge difference in length, although that impression is partly due to the Road Champs being too tall in the body and sitting high on oversize wheels, making it look dumpier. Still quite a striking difference in the look of the two models, though.

Caprice_wagons_3.rdJPGCaprice_wagons_1rd

I wondered if the RC body was too short in 1:43, or the BoS version was a little too flattened and stretched, so I got the calipers out. I have the BoS sedan (the New York taxi version – also one of their better models) and surprisingly the RC and the BoS sedans are identical in length at 128 millimetres.

Caprice_taxis

The real sedan was 17’10” (5435 mm) long, which in 1:43 should be 126 mm so both models are pretty close, although the excessive height of the RC makes its proportions less convincing.

Caprices_BoS_2

The wagon was 18’4″ (5740 mm) in length and in 1:43 that is 133 mm. The BoS wagon is spot-on, whereas my version lacks the rear-end stretch so comes up short. Mind you, 6 inches in 1:43 is only 3.5 mm, and the BoS wagon has a stretch of just under 5 mm, so it’s surprising just how much longer it looks compared with the taxi.

But the real moral of the story is – give a nerd a cheap pocket calculator and he’ll bore the socks off you.


Valiant_wagons_1rd

Also in my package were the BoS Valiant sedan and wagon. They are OK, but not exciting. They will go on a shelf to fill a gap in the 1960s Yank section, but will never be much of a turn-on.

Valiant_wagons_2rd

And of course I also did my own Valiant wagon some time ago, so once again a comparison was in order. I think I come out of it pretty well, all things considered, but obviously my views are not entirely unbiased. By the way, mine does actually have the “valley” down the middle of the roof, it just didn’t show very well in the photos.

Valiant_wagons_3rd

Since my wagon is based on the Trax model of the Australian Valiant, there are small detail differences which nerdy nitpickers might criticise as “unauthentic and un-American”. But we don’t have people like that around here (loud cries of “Damn right we don’t”) so I may just get away with it.

Thank you for listening.


This post was originally published in Diecast Forum 43.  We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page.

Trax Wolseley 15/60

By John Quilter

 

Trax, an Australian based model producer and vendor concentrates on Australian  vehicles, many of which are completely home grown and many of which are adaptations of US built cars from the Big Three, or English cars from BMC, British Leyland or Ford UK.    This example is the late 1950s early 1960s Farina styled Wolseley 15/60 which was for all intents and purposes exactly the same as the version sold in the UK.   It was essentially a upmarket version of the Morris Oxford and Austin Cambridge.  The first version used the evergreen BMC B series engine of 1489cc using one SU carburettor.  The UK also had twin SU carburettor Riley and MG Magnette versions taking the badge engineering under BMC to new heights. Later versions featured the somewhat larger 1622cc engine and sometimes with an automatic gearbox the Borg Warner 35.   It was felt necessary to cater to all the loyal MG, Wolseley,  Morris, etc. buyers and the diverse and separate dealer network in the UK at the time.  Everybody had to have a piece of the action in this medium saloon market.  This basic body and estate car version of the Austin and Morris  lasted until 1971 and some were even fitted with BMC diesel engines.

The Wolseley by Trax and sold by Top Gear (TRR18) is resin and comes in the usual clear Perspex display box  with a small introduction card.   This is the early version the Farina styled cars having the taller and more pointed fins and different tail lamps.   For comparison I have pictured it with the Vanguards Morris Oxford showing the slight restyle and muting of the fins in the second generation of these cars.    In Australia there was also an Austin Freeway which was essentially an Austin Cambridge but with minor differences including a different grille treatment.

Going by the Vanguards Morris Oxford,  Trax got the scale correct and the only obvious flaw is that the A pillars are a bit too fat.   The distinctive Wolseley grill is nicely replicated as is some detail on the undercarriage.  Separate chrome door handles, photo etched wipers,  and badging are provided.

Trax models are produced in relatively limited quantities and often sell out.   Shipping from Australia to the USA is $19.50 Australian dollars ($14.00 USD) and in my case took over a month to arrive.


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Austin Kimberley

By John Quilter

Leyland Australia built many cars that were based on UK BMC or British Leyland designs but they often modified them for specific market conditions in the Australian market which was quite different than the UK where they were competing with locally built versions of “compact” American cars such as the Ford Falcon,  Chrysler Valiant or scaled down GM cars in the form of Holdens.     One of these Leyland Australia cars was the Austin Kimberley and Tasman made from about 1970 to 1973.   This car was a redesign of the British market Austin 1800 and later 2200 six cylinder car.   The Australians used the E series single overhead cam engine as did the BL 2200 made in Morris, Austin and Wolseley marques.

The Australians redesigned the C pillar, filled in the quarter window and extended and enlarged the boot.  Front styling differed as well accommodating rectangular headlamps and a horizontal thin barred grill.  The Kimberley was the more upscale version and the entry level Tasman used two round 7 inch headlamps and smaller hub caps versus the full wheel covers on the Kimberley.   Interiors were plusher on the Kimberley and there were some power differences since the Kimberley used twin SU HS6 carburettors while the Tasman made do with a single SU all on the same basic 2200cc engine.   Standard gearbox was a four speed manual with an optional automatic.   One interesting feature included in the model is a center high mount stop light, well ahead of its time in the early 1970s.  For design and tooling economy the BL empire made maximum use of the doors of this car, they first appearing on the 1800, then the Maxi, then the Austin 3 liter and even overseas on the Kimberley.

The model of this car is by Trax based in Australia but made in China and sold by their agents, Top Gear.  It is a resin casting with all the usual details such as photo etched wipers, window frames and chrome features.  There is some detail on the undercarriage as well although the engine sump seems to me more applicable to a rear wheel drive car.   The color, harvest gold, was a common color of this era and often seen on BL cars such as the MGB.   Trax offers a number of Australian cars in their range including he British redesigns but they are of relatively limited production and sell out rapidly in many cases.   Sometimes they are reintroduced in new colours to extend the production time.

The photo shows a comparison of the BMC 1800/2200 car as produced in the UK and clearly shows the enlarged boot and windowless rear pillars.


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Australian Jottings

by Graeme Ogg                                                     July 2014

A little while back I saw some photos of an interesting 1:43 1959 Australian Ford Fairlane which was being offered on eBay. Unfortunately the model was photographed in its box, making it hard to see some of the detail. I found the website of the maker, Ace Models (www.acemodelcars.com) and just for fun I contacted them to ask if they had any decent photos. It turned out that the owner, Tony Hanna, knew me from my scribbling days in MAR and was happy to provide some background info.

ACE Ford Fairlane

ACE Ford Fairlane

He spend 20 years working as a pattern-maker for Trax, but has also produced models on his own account, like the Holden Torana GTR-X Concept and a Broadspeed Mini, under the Modelcraft Miniatures and Revolution names. Ace Models is his latest independent venture. He supplied me with the Fairlane shown here in pale blue and white resin. The brightwork is a mix of photo-etching and adhesive chrome strip (like a kind of very heavy-duty Bare Metal Foil).

ACE Holden Torana

ACE Holden Torana

He was very honest about the fact that he would like to improve some small details. For example the rear amber indicator lamps (which were white reversing lamps on US cars) are a little too large. He also hoped to improve some of the trim pieces. But as you can see, it is a pretty attractive model as it stands, and there are plenty of resin models on the market with more serious detail faults – and not a word from their makers about correcting them!

Some of the first examples went to a well-known Australian model shop, Gateway Models, so to us foreign buyers it looked like they were the only game in town, as the Ace website doesn’t show them. But in the meantime Tony had been approached by Trax and offered a deal, with the result that they took the rest of the first production batch. Suddenly, the model is on the front page of the latest Trax mini-catalogue. They don’t actually claim it is a Trax model, it is meant as a stop-gap until the next real Trax models come along. Apparently it is part of the deal that the additional stocks now being produced will keep the model in its original form, without any changes, so if an enhanced version eventually appears, it will come out under the Ace Models name. In the meantime he is working on a 1959 Fairlane station wagon in both Australian and US versions, to be followed by a 1959 Dodge Custom Royal four-door and 1960 Dodge Phoenix four-door (both cars were imported CKD from the States, so they will effectively be the US versions). I don’t know at the moment if these will also be marketed by Trax, or independently under the Ace brand.

He also mentioned that other forthcoming items this year include a 1966 Chevy Nova, initially in sedan racing form for Australian race fans, then in a civilian version for world-wide sales, aNew Avengers Broadspeed Jaguar XJC (complete with John Steed figure!) and a Goggomobil Dart, which was a diminutive but surprisingly pretty Australian fibreglass-bodied sports car. It was based on the what is of course acknowledged to be one of the finest sports car chassis of its generation, the Glas Goggomobil microcar. Tony is currently looking for overseas distributors in the UK and elsewhere. In the current overcrowded market he will have to come up with models that fill a gap and catch the imagination, at an acceptable price. Brave man; I guess we should wish him well.

The fact that the banner at the top of the Trax catalogue says Getting Trax back on track … is quite revealing. Without getting into personalities, it seems that the management changes at the top were a bit turbulent, and model planning and commissioning got somewhat sidetracked in the process. That was compounded by production delays and erratic deliveries from China, which cannot have helped the cashflow situation either. And just like MAR before it went digital, there are ongoing concerns about the impact of increased postal charges.

Trax Fairlaine Advertising Page

Tony reckons this whole upheaval cost them about a year of normal operations. There haven’t been many really new models, the only new item showing on their website for the past few months has been a re-hash of the old 1:24 Chrysler Charger. And they seemed to be pushing their luck with too many versions of the very nice Holden Statesman in the Opal series (basically just grille and colour variations) and may be struggling to unload them all. Then they pulled a real stunt with the Holden Trax LTZ mini-MPV, requiring Trax fans to cough up AU$100 dollars advance payment, with the balance of another 30 dollars or so payable when (or if) it eventually emerged. After some production problems it is now on release, which must be a relief, although unlike their usual limited specials not all were sold out in advance, so they are now on offer to all comers for a mere AU$99. Those who paid up front for the exclusive must be really happy. Available in eight colour choices each model comes with a cheap digital watch with a plastic strap matching your colour choice. (If that doesn’t break your resistance, nothing will). By the way, this SUV was apparently designed by Opel in Germany, mainly styled by Ford in the US but, oddly enough, with the nose and grille style contributed by Holden, and it is built in South Korea. There will also be Chevy Trax, Opel Mokka and Suzuki Kruze versions.

Trax LTZ Orange Rock

The mini-catalogue shows a couple of other forthcoming models, a Surfer Roo, which was a one-off built by Ford in 1969 based on an XW ute, and a Holden Commodore Walkinshaw Group A racer built by Holden Special Vehicles in 1988. Both models are resin, and look a little rough in the photos but Tony confirms they are mock-ups he produced some time ago and should be much better in production form. Whether they are of much interest to many people outside Australia is another matter.

Trax Surfer Roo

Trax Holden Walkinshaw

It seems that much of Trax future production will be resin, and apparently at twice the price of their old-style diecast models. I don’t know how well that will go down with their traditional buyers, or maybe they have decided that casual demand for models of Oz family favourites is dwindling, and they are now catering to a hard core of serious buyers.

Another new string to their bow is that they seem to have joined forces with Century Dragon and are offering a 1:43 resin Land Rover (made from 166 parts) for AU$149 and a Toyota Land Cruiser (made from 266 parts) for AU$165. Again, not your usual pocket money model from Trax, but a lot of parts for your money.

Century Dragon Toyota Land Cruiser

Speaking personally, I thought they struck the best balance between the simple diecasts and the expensive Select models with their Opal series, which had nice quality and a distinctive style. But there you are.

Let’s hope they manage to get their act back together. There are still things to be done. A note at the back of the catalogue says COMING SOON … Things We Missed from the Past and Aussi Icons (Gee, I thought they’d done all those). We shall see what emerges.


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Oz Cars

BY JOHN QUILTER                                         June 2015

1949_Austin_Dorset_tourer_1.JPG

Trax, the Australian based marketer of diecast and resin models has recently expanded their range of 1:43 scale items and now included are two Australian versions of cars that were UK based. First is the 1947 to 1952 Austin A40 Tourer, a car based on the Austin A40 Dorset which was in turn the two door version of the longer running Devon of the early 1950s. The Australians modified the car and built a tourer for the sunny climate down under. The model (Trax #TRR07) is in bright red which is a bit on the pink side with a brown interior, and cream wheels. It even includes black wing welting front and rear, a nice detail touch rarely seen. Also featured are correct chrome bumpers, grill, door handles, boot handle, and even a very delicate flying “A” bonnet ornament. Unlike some other models the grill has been black washed to bring out its detail. Photoetched wipers are provided as well as some fascia detail and a three spoke “banjo” steering wheel. The chassis show a considerable amount of detail including the frame, front and rear suspension, engine sump and final drive.

1949_Austin_Dorset_tourer_2.JPG

For scale verifiers the wheelbase measures 2.2 inches which equates to 95.5 inches while the real car has a wheelbase of 92.2, a very minor difference. Length is 3.63 equating to 156 while the real car is 153 inches long which would be deemed as pretty accurate. Dorsets were exported to the USA in the late 1940s but sadly their ¾ scale American car looks from the late 1930s resulted in many of them being converted into dragsters in the 1950s, housing huge V8 engines suitable only for setting records in a quarter mile race.

A recent review of the Trax website shows the red A40 tourer as sold out but if prior history is correct Trax often relaunches the model in a different colour later.

The next Trax item of British origin is the BMC Mini Moke. Again suitably modified for Australian use. The model is offered in two colours, a bright metallic blue (Trax number TRR04) and a white one (Trax number TRR04A). Both with blue seats and a folded down hood in blue. White “spoker” wheels are fitted and the model, comes with a pair of surf boards and a beach cooler these cars being popular with the open air beach going set in Australia.

1980_Moke_Australian_1.JPG

The Moke has a storied and varied past, it being first launched in the mid 1960s in the UK as a variation of the Mini 850. It was thought that such a minimal utilitarian vehicle might be of interest to the military and in fact some were tried out by the US Army but were found to have too limited ground clearance for arduous military service. The intention was they could be parachuted out of an aircraft and met on the ground by paratroopers for transport. This was the inspiration for perhaps the first 1:43 scale model of this vehicle by Dinky Toys which was even offered in a para-Moke version with a parachute for small children to drop from a height.

1980_Moke_Australian_w_people_1.JPG

The Australian Moke differed from the original English version in having a larger 1098cc engine and 12 inch wheels in the 1971 locally produced version. The 12 inch wheels gave it a slightly greater ground clearance than the original 10 inchers, but a full length sump protector was still fitted to protect the aluminum gearbox case. In 1977 the Australian built Moke acquired the larger 1275cc engine and much larger, more robust bumpers front and rear known as “roo bars” which are replicated on the Trax model. Moke production ended in Australia in 1981 but that was not the end of the story as production moved to Portugal where over 8,500 of them were produced by the local British Leyland subsidiary there between the years 1980 and 1990. Like the last of the Australian Mokes these were known as Californian Mokes.

And the final chapter of the Moke story was in a still born project to produce Mokes in Italy by Cagiva who were a motorcycle maker in Bologna. This never actually happened but production did continue in Portugal until 1993 at which point over 50,000 had been produced worldwide. For a period Leyland Australia produced a version of the Californian Moke that was acceptable in the USA and some were used as rental vehicles on Santa Catalina Island, appropriately off the coast of Southern California. Over the years the Moke made use of a number of BMC derived A series engines from 850cc to 998cc to 1098cc to 1275cc and BMC experimented with a twin engine Moke to achieve four wheel drive but this still did not satisfy the US Army who were more concerned with ground clearance. It is reported, however, that four strong soldiers could, with use of the tubular bumpers simply boost the tiny vehicle over any terrain obstacles it got impaled on! That however, did not meet the military’s requirements.

1980_Moke_Australian_X3_2.JPG

The photographs above show the Moke with the beach accessories, a pair of surfboards and a cooler and some likely beachgoers (Omen miniatures). The ones with three Mokes show the Dinky Para Moke, the Vitesse in green, and the Trax.

Over the decades the Moke has become a sort of cult vehicle highly cherished by collectors and enthusiasts in many parts of the world.

Back to the Trax model. This has the white spoker 12 inch wheels, the roo bar bumpers, and a tall triangular side window presumably to somewhat reduce drafts while underway. This model has a fair undercarriage detail which includes an engine sump and aluminum tail pipe and silencer. In correct Moke fashion a spare tire resides on the rear off center. Rear mud flaps are fitted with white lettering “MOKE”. There is a folded top and even a touch of luxury, twin windscreen mounted sunvisors. The model’s wheelbase measures 1.82 which equates to 78.3 inches while the actual vehicle has a wheelbase dimension of 79.5, or just about dead on accurate.

Both of the above models come mounted on a black base under the usual clear plastic display case. Trax models are marketed by Top Gear at http://www.topgear.com.au/index.php.


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