Category Archives: Vehicle Manufacturers

The original car makers

Pego Lancia Beta

By Maz Woolley

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

The Lancia Beta was a luxury car produced by Lancia shortly after they had been taken over by Fiat using much technology from Fiat stock rooms to bring the model to the market quickly. It was produced from 1972 to 1984. It was made in several styles but this article looks at a model of the fastback saloon which was sold as the Berline.

The car was well received by the motoring press for its quality fittings, comfort, space handling, and performance. Sadly, the first series of cars was exceptionally quick to rust so they depreciated badly and were the main factor in the decline of the Lancia brand in the UK. It is said that the cars used Soviet steel sent to Fiat in exchange for royalties to build the Lada, but as far as I know this has not been proven. Poor preparation and rust protection may also have played their part as this was the era of frequent strikes and poor build quality for many makers. Indeed so bad was the rust on relatively new cars that the UK Distributors were said to have bought back and crushed a significant number of the cars in an attempt to maintain brand loyalty.

The model is by Pego a brand that I had never heard of before and which does not seem to have a wide distribution outside Italy. The firms addresses are in Italy but I cannot find any web presence at all. They seem to have made only a few models, all of Italian cars, and all appear in multiple colours and some in rally, or rally assistance liveries too:

  • Alfa Romeo 90
  • Alfa Romeo 146
  • Alfa Romeo 33
  • Lancia Beta Berlina

Here we look at the Lancia Beta Berlina which is available in several colours and in rally assistance liveries. The model that we are looking at is in red. And as far as I can determine is the only version of the first generation Beta Berlina currently available in this scale. It is modelled to 1:43 scale and made in China with a diecast body and plastic base.

The model box and its fittings as well as the standard of the model suggests that it may have been made by Universal Hobbies for Pego. Perhaps in that case it has already appeared in a part work or may do so in the future. Though, unusually, the model has Pego moulded into the base rather than printed, and also printed on its plinth. This may mean that Pego has exclusive use of the moulding – we will see.

The Beta was an attractive car for a family saloon and the transverse front mounted engine made for a spacious interior and a large boot space. The model catches the overall shape of the body very well, though I think that the side windows are a little shallow. However this is difficult to determine as the car has the body printed silver window surrounds often also seen on Oxford Diecast models. Whilst this detracts less from the model in 1:43 scale it is still a shame as flush fitting widows would have been a much better solution.

The wheels are neat mouldings of the alloys fitted to the original car though they could have done with a darkened centre from the pictures of 1972 cars on the web.

The front grille is an excellent unit with separate light lenses inserted and though my photographs do not shown it clearly the Lancia Badge in the centre of the grille is nicely done. The front indicators in the bumper have not been mounted straight which is easily remedied with a careful push back into place. The windscreen wipers are plastic plated items produced quite finely and seem rather more realistic than some etched ones are.

At the rear we have nice separate lights, albeit that the fixing lug shows through too obviously. Curiously the rear number plate was not fitted to the car but attached by clear tape under the base. It would have been nice to have period authentic number plates printed front and rear but they are absent from this model. The Lancia badging which shows that this is a Beta 1800 LX is neatly printed on the boot lid.

Inside the model is a moulded tub in black with no details picked out. The dashboard and central console have been moulded in some detail and the door cards have the door furniture modelled in. A steering wheel is fitted with some moulding to it to match the real car. It is all is very difficult to see as the glazing unit is pretty thick.

Although model has some shortcomings it is a welcome addition to my collection. The original car sadly never lived up to its promise but hopefully my model will not rust as quickly!


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Greenlight Lincoln Continental 1965

By Maz Woolley

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

This article looks at another 1:43 scale LIncoln from Greenlight. Here we have the 1965 Lincoln Continental in standard wheelbase form. The model has been produced by Greenlight in two colours Madison Grey Metallic, as featured in this article, and Wimbledon White.

The model represents the fourth generation of Lincoln Continental and its styling was a radical change from the third generation with its fussy styling and attempt to provide every body style you could ever want, though several sold in very low numbers indeed. The third generation was significantly cheaper than its predecessor but that contributed to Mercury making a substantial loss from 1958 to 1960. The fourth generation was subtle in form and detail and returned US premium car brands to styling based upon a restrained dignity. It was only available in saloon and convertible forms, though specialist coach builders did provide lengthened versions. By focusing on quality and driving down faults the car quickly gained a reputation for being well made as well as good looking.

During the model life, it ran from 1961 to 1969, there were constant changes to details and the 1964/65 cars are recognisable by having a revised front grille which is flat apart from a small bulging centre section and the secondary lights which are relocated from the bumper to the edges of the front wings.

Now to the model. The Greenlight appears to be accurately detailed for a 1965 car and the body shape seems to be excellent. I wonder whether the model is made for them by Universal Hobbies as it shares many details in common with the James Bond Collection Lincoln from Goldfinger, though that was based on the previous version of the car with a different grille and was modelled with the boot open. The roof section appears to be made out of plastic so a convertible should also be possible from the same casting.

The model has been beautifully painted with the metal and plastic parts matched in colour. The chrome features on the real car are all well replicated too with excellent bumpers, grilles and the like.

The lights are all separate plastic parts with neat chrome surrounds and even the headlights look convincing, without the visible peg that mars some budget models. Front, back and side windows are all flush fitting inserts with chrome printed on where needed. The door handles are printed over raised mouldings but they actually look finer than separate ones would have done.

The wipers are moulded and plated in silver, not etched, but that gives them three dimensions and they are quite finely moulded which makes them very acceptable. The printed badging is excellent as is the Continental emblem on the bonnet.

Inside is finished in tan leather effect seats and door cards with a darker brown rear parcel shelf. The dashboard is excellent with the black padded top moulded and the chrome strip with printed instruments in place beneath it. It also has a neat deep dished steering wheel.

Finally the wheels seem to match some 1965 cars on the Internet well. The thinner whitewalls used are appropriate as these shrank in width throughout the 1960s. The wheel centres and trim match several 1965 cars on the web.

If I have a criticism it is of the generic ’65 LNCN’ plates the car carries. Some real period US plates would have been nice. But that is a minor flaw on a good model.

All in all an excellent budget model of a very attractive car. I hope that these sell so well that Greenlight are encouraged to make more models of American classics in 1:43 scale.


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Porsche’s Pink Pigs

By Matt Beaumont

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

The story behind the ‘Truffelhunter from Zuffenhausen’ begins in 1970 when Porsche’s best boffins were playing with two versions of their LMP: the 917K, as in Kurzheck, which is German for short-tail, and the 917L Langheck (long tail). The K car had its rear end lopped off to generate more down force, but that also caused more drag, while the long-tail was a more slippy version designed specifically for Le Mans and in particular the 6km long Mulsanne Straight. In 1970 to everyone’s surprise the K car still beat the L, and all the Ferraris

So in 1971 Porsche engineers together with the French company SERA attempted to combine the advantages of the K and L 917s. However, the results were not pretty. This Frankenstein car was wider with a snouty front end and a short (but not curly) tail. Rumour has it that when the car got back to Stuttgart both Porsche’s race team and the Italian sponsors at Martini & Rossi were so unimpressed that they didn’t want their iconic blue and red livery on the new racer. And so the porcine nickname was born, but in a brilliant piece of PR, Porsche designer Anatole Lapine decided in favour of the pink body colour and labelled each of the body parts according to the butcher-style cuts. Porsche caused a sensation at Le Mans 1971 with the first Pink Pig

It may not have been the best looking version of the 917 but the aerodynamics worked … sort of. It was the fastest car during the pre-race qualification session despite it being an untested experimental design. However, during the main event the Pink Pig, running well in fifth position, eventually retired with mechanical maladies. Only later in the strip down postmortem did they realise that the new piggy body was playing havoc with the brakes and other oily bits.

So a livery that started as a bit of a joke is now one of the most iconic liveries ever to grace a Porsche, There have been numerous vehicles to sport this livery an on line search shows that it found its way on to many different vehicles.

This brings me to the review of Spark’s rendition of the car Porsche ran at LeMans in 2018.

Porsche fielded two special Porsche 911 RSR at the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans: The factory-run cars with the starting numbers 91 and 92 sported the traditional Le Mans liveries of the 1970s and 1980s.

The finish of the number 92 car, shared by race drivers Kévin Estre (France), Michael Christensen (Denmark) and Laurens Vanthoor (Belgium), harks back to the Porsche 917/20 that tackled Le Mans in 1971. This car reached the top step on the LMGTE Pro podium, claiming the German marque’s first trophy in the class since 2013! 

The Model

This review is based on my own opinion after looking closely at the model that I recently bought.  

Spark have released two versions of this model. It first appeared in an exclusive to Porsche dealer release in specific packaging and with a display case as do many of the Spark Porsche dealer models part number WAP0219250K. This limited release commanded over £300, an awful lot of money for a sealed resin model however good it may be.

Spark have just released their standard version with their own packaging part number 18S393 which I managed to pick up for less than half the cost of an official Porsche issue. It has no display case but I don’t find this an issue especially at the cost saving the Spark branded release offered.

The only discernible differences between the two issues is the box, the base the model is screwed to, and the perspex cover that the Porsche dealer issue has.

The Exterior

Finished in a fetching pink colour with the butchers cut markings and sponsorship decals Spark have upheld their reputation for a the high quality finish which I have come to expect from them ( this is the sixth Porsche from them in my collection).

The shape and appearance has been caught very well showing off the 991 RSRs brutish lines and its striking aerodynamic package.

The glazing is nicely done and the lights have very good details (though the front ones are better executed than the rears ) there is a plethora of tiny aerials and antenna’s on the roof.  

The carbon fibre is very well replicated where it appears at various points on the car and the wheels and tyres are really nicely done, with detailed “AP Racing” brakes showing behind the large diameter alloy wheels. Both wheel and tyre manufacture labelling is present.

The Underside

When mounted on its base, as many of these models will remain, there is very little of the underside that can be seen, other than the exhaust system and the rear diffuser.

The Interior

As with most resin models this can be only viewed through the window apertures, namely the windscreen and doors, as the rear ¼ windows and screen are blacked out as the RSR is a mid-engined car and not a rear engined one like its road going sibling.  But what can be seen looks well done and gives a very good view of a busy yet spartan race car’s interior

In Summary

Personally, I am very pleased to obtain this model to join my three other “Pink Pig Porsches” and I am very happy with the model. I think that the Spark edition is a reasonable price and much more affordable than the previous dealer edition which appears to give very little in return for the extra outlay of money!

These are your only options to buy this car in 1:18 scale but I would not be surprised to see other manufacturers produce their own versions of this car in the future as collectors are be drawn to the ‘porkiest of Porsches’.


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Atlas Dinky Collection – Estafette Camping

By Maz Woolley

Here we have another model from the Atlas France‘s Dinky ‘WIth Opening Parts’ collection. This did not appear in the UK Atlas Dinky Deluxe collection unlike many others from the French Collection.

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

This is French Dinky #565 Estafette Renault “Camping”. The model was launched by French Dinky in 1965 and is marked 1/43 scale on its base. It stayed in production until 1971. It only ever appeared in blue with a cream roof and it was one of many variants of the Estafette French DInky made. It was sold in a delightfully illustrated box, shown above, with two Estafette campers in a pleasant rural location next to a lake which Atlas has replicated well.

The Estafette was in many ways a forerunner of the vans of today with a front wheel drive configuration and a flat load area. It was launched in 1959 powered by the 850cc Dauphine engine re-engineered with a new gearbox for mounting at the front and it was an immensely popular and long lived van in France finally giving way to the Renault Trafic in 1980.

Here Dinky has modelled it as a camper van with the three way opening rear doors modelled as well as the sliding side door. Inside they have included a nice set of camping fittings including a gaily covered bench seat.

All in all a very nice toy which somehow manages to capture the real vehicle well and shows what would have been on continental camp sites apart from the ubiquitous Volkswagen Transporter based vans.

A shame that Atlas did not include this in the UK series as it is an excellent model. This model is sometimes seen at a reasonable price on eBay being sold by Chinese vendors.


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Matchbox Moving Parts

By Maz Woolley

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

Hot on the heels of the anniversary Superfast models Mattel has launched a Matchbox Moving Parts series. This article looks at the first three models in the series. Two are of vehicles that appeared in the original 1960s Matchbox range, and one is of a modern US SUV.

Volkswagen Type 3 Fastback 1965.

Known in the UK as the 1600TL this vehicle appeared in the original Matchbox 1-75 range in regular and superfast wheels. The red paint used is reminiscent of one of the finishes on the original car, though I think it is rather darker. The reproduction is generally similar to the original model but there are some disappointing differences. Firstly the glazing is very thick and the window openings are compromised by the thicker plastic at the top and sides. The steering wheel is just moulded into the dashboard and is not a separate part like the original had.

Underneath we get a plastic base with some moulded in detail and wheels that are very wide like those fitted to Johnny Lightning models and bearing no resemblance to those of the original model.

The opening front doors are the same moving parts as were fitted to the original model.

We do get a VW badge printed on the bonnet, printed headlight markings, rear amber and red painted lenses, and number plates. Mind you the plates just have a German flag and unrealistic letters and numbers and they are too wide and too shallow. So those wanting to buy a bit of Matchbox history are frankly better off buying a battered original model and repainting it.


Pontiac Grand Prix 1964

Another vehicle originally seen in the Matchbox 1-75 range with both regular and speedwheels. This was always a lovely casting and though this is a replica it still looks good. The purple shade is again reminiscent of one used on the superfast version of the original 1-75 model., though again it is not quite the same with its metal flake finish.

The underneath is similar to the VW as it has the same over wide wheels and a plastic base with some moulded detail.

The opening front doors are the same moving parts as were fitted to the original model.

Sadly the model is again treated to a clumsy very over thick glazing unit which is so thick it protrudes behind the A pillar so it fills part of the door area. Inside the steering wheel is again crudely moulded into the dashboard whereas the original has a separate wheel on a column.

Here we get no printing on headlights and no coloured rear lights either, nor are any number plates fitted.


Nissan Xterra

Here we get what to me seems a strange choice. The version of the Xterra modelled was made between 1999 and 2004 so it neither formed part of the original 1-75 series nor is it an up to date choice for younger buyers. Presumably it will appeal to US model buyers?

European model collectors may not be familiar with the Xterra as it was never sold here. It was a basic ladder framed pick up truck chassis bodied with a utilitarian separate five door body and the obligatory large standard roof rack. It was sold as both two wheel and four wheel drive and It was made originally in the US and Brazil. Once replaced there by an updated model tooling passed on to Iran and to China where it was badged as a Dong Feng. Sold as a sports utility vehicle (SUV) it seems to me to fall lamentably short of the sports element of the name.

The only moving part is an opening tailgate which does not even fully open.

Again we get a plastic base, but one with little detail in this case. The wheels are again over wide even for a off road vehicle. Here the thickness of the window unit is not an issue and the interior is a simply moulded component though the steering wheel is moulded so it is separate from the dash board though it does then have a curious hole in the bottom of the tub underneath it.


I understand that this range is not being imported into the UK by Matchbox so it is not surprising that the next wave of releases features no more classic Matchbox models and includes US favourites like the Datsun 280ZX, Chevy C10 and Tesla X.

Oxford Diecast Maxi 1750

By Maz Woolley

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

Here I look at the long awaited British Leyland Maxi 1750 from Oxford Diecast. The firs issue is painted Tara Green and is badged as an HLS version.

The Maxi fitted in the Austin and then British Leyland range between the 1300 and the 1800 saloon cars and was one of the first volume production hatchbacks made in the UK. It was the last car designed when Alex Issigonis was in charge of the design studio, and like other Issigonis cars little attempt was made to give it fashionable styling. Indeed the design had to be compromised to use the doors from the 1800 to save on tooling costs which dictated the side profile of the car. Early production of the 1500 gave the car a name for a poor gear change and some reliability issues so it never sold in the volumes it deserved as it was a comfortable and practical car. In twelve years of production, 1969 to 1981, only just under half a million were made. My wife’s first car was a 1750 HL and experience showed that it was a much better car then many said, though the wiring was of poor quality and we always carried a crimping kit to re-join failed connections, and needed it on at least two occasions. The five speed gearbox was a rarity at the time and made for very economical cruising on A Roads and Motorways.

There have been few models of the Maxi. When it was being produced Airfix made a nice 1:32 scale kit of the earlier version of the car which is now rare and expensive. A white metal model was made a number of years ago but that is virtually never seen now, and I did not buy one as it was costly and I did not think that it was a very good model. More recently Silas made excellent 1500 and 1750 models to 1:43 scale which was a model that did the car justice.

Photograph from Oxford Diecast’s website. Note the different treatment of the front grille here to the model as issued shown below.

So now to Oxford‘s new 1750 model to 1:76 scale which will undoubtedly be popular with railway modellers with layouts featuring the last decades of British Railways operation, as well as with general 1:76 scale model collectors.

I will get my criticisms out of the way first. The paint has metallic flakes which are much too large, though fortunately this is only very obvious when the model is lit for photography. The tyres/wheels are too big and hub caps do not quite match the 1750 HLS ones. The side windows are not deep enough, these are doors from the Austin 1800 after all! The number plates are too shallow for their width, and the light units under the front bumper should be spilt into amber and clear units not all amber. Whilst we are at the front the black printing on the grille just looks like two square blobs as they do not reach properly round the light fittings, in fact the model differs from the sample used to sell the model on the Oxford Diecast website shown above. Inside, the black tub unit includes a dashboard which resembles the earlier 1500‘s black plastic padded dash not the later 1750 wood trimmed full width flat dashboard, and it has a three spoke steering wheel which was again typical of the earlier 1500 whereas the later 1750 had a bar across the middle instead. Editor’s note: I have since discovered that a three spoke steering wheel is correct for a 1750 HLS which is how Oxford have badged this model, though not for lower trim levels in the 1750 range. So Oxford are correct and I am not on this point.

So in summary, about the level of inaccuracy and compromise that we have come to expect from Oxford Diecast 1:76 scale models in recent years, except for their Rolls-Royces and coaches.

Whilst I feel that Oxford could do better the model does capture the shape of the real car pretty well and looked at from a distance I guess that it is reasonably acceptable. For all my criticisms as it has never been made to this scale before, as far as I know, it is a welcome addition to the collection.


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1:18 Scale BMW Hommage Collection Part Four

The 1:18 scale BMW Hommage Collection is produced for BMW by Norev. In “part three” we met the racing version of the CSL 3.0 Hommage, the R, presented at the Pebble Beach Elegance Contest in August 2015, the fourth item produced in the BMW “Hommage Collection” by Norev. And in a recent article (“More 1:18 Promotional Models from Santa’s Sack”) we saw the collection’s fifth model, the 2002 Hommage, presented at the 2016 Concorso d’eleganza at Villa d’Este.

The “Hommage Collection” is steadily growing, and here is the sixth item, the BMW 2002 Hommage Turbomeister #2 concept. BMW chose California’s 2016 Pebble Beach Elegance Contest to show it, with an orange and matt black livery cloned from the iconic “Jagermeister” one, to celebrate the company’s turbocharged history. This version shared mechanical components with the blue concept and apart from the new livery little changed,except that the 20-inch alloy wheels were painted in gold and silver. The concept was very likely based on the M2, but BMW didn’t release any details.

So just a livery change for this scale model (BMW code no. 80.43.2.454.781). It has a metal diecast closed body with no opening parts, and the same negative features of the blue one: the safety belts are missing ! What a pity !


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De Agostini Dinky UK – Ford Vedette

By Maz Woolley

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

De Agostini French Dinky Toys #24 X

Ford Vedette 54

Although we are not following the DeAgostini Dinky collection in detail as we recorded the very similar collection from Atlas there have been a couple of models released by DeAgostini in the UK that were not part of the UK Atlas Dinky Collection and these are worth looking out for. All originally appeared in the Atlas French Dinky Collection series but were not issued in the UK series.

The Ford Vedette was a large family saloon car made by Ford SAF in Poissy in France from 1948 to 1954 when the French operations of Ford were bought up by Simca. It was powered by a side valve Ford V8 of 2.2 Litres derived from the unit used in pre-war Matford cars. The car was designed in Detroit and resembled early post-war Mercury models, a style that quickly dated when the three box style pioneered by Ford from about 1950 took hold.

After SImca took over the company a new version of the Vedette was launched which had been developed under Ford’s ownership and which gave the car an up to date American style similar to that used for the Taunus in Germany and Mark II Fords in the UK. Thsi was mostly sold as a Simca Vedette, but was badge as a Ford fro a few years in some overseas markets like Sweden, Netherlands, and Germany.

DeAgostini have replicated this model in blue as is shown on one side of the box. This model replaced the earlier Dinky Vedette 24 Q with the rear end well updated to the 1954 model but other parts of the model still showing 1953 features.

The 1954 update was issued in the blue shown and in grey and they were sold from 1954, the last year that the real vehicle was produced, until 1956. From 1956 to 1959 the casting was re-issued as a taxi.

The DeAgostini replica is made for them by Norev in China and the finish of the paint is so good that no original Dinky ever shone like that, and the silver work was never so neatly applied on the original either. However the model does capture the original car and model well.

The nice white tyres as fitted by Dinky France at the time of the original being made look model look very jaunty.

Although it has not been highlighted in silver the Ford V8 badge on the bonnet has been moulded neatly into the mould.

The original model captured the Vedette well and the replica does not disappoint. It is unglazed as the originals would have been and is a nice contrast to the contemporary UK Dinky models like the Standard Vanguard or Triumph Renown. Like the UK models this model has no scale marked on its base though it looks to be around 1:43 scale.


Greenlight Elvis Collection – 1971 De Tomaso Pantera

By Maz Woolley

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

Greenlight has a strong presence in the world of TV and Film tie-in products. These allow them to reach a wider collector base and lead to many sales to people who would not otherwise collect model cars. This has been a strong contributor to their success in recent years. The Hollywood series of models are made in several scales in their product range: 1:18, 1:24,  1:43. and 1:64.

Their Elvis licensed products have been popular and there are several currently available. In 1:18 scale there is an MGA 1600 roadster as featured in the film Blue Hawaii. In 1:43 there are two models currently available both from 1971: a Stutz Blackhawk; and a De Tomaso Pantera. This article looks at the De Tomaso Pantera. 

Elvis is said to have spent 2,400 US Dollars to buy this car as a gift to his then girlfriend Linda Thompson. Many stories are told about him shooting the car on several occasions which may or may not be entirely true, but which helped the rebel image he was struggling to retain in the early 1970s. The real car is now in the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles.

The 1971 Pantera was powered by a Ford V8 in an Italian body and was built in Italy and sold for a while by Lincoln Mercury dealers in the US. Sadly the car was not well built and was not reliable despite its strong Ford Mechanical parts.

Photographs of the car being driven by Elvis and at the museum show that the Greenlight has been finished to match the original well. I suspect that the casting is one produced by PCT Industries (Ixo parent company) as it has been produced in Bangladesh where Ixo has a factory. There is also a part work model of the De Tomaso in red which looks very similar and is also probably made by Ixo.

Items like the heavy plastic wipers, printed door handles, crooked indicator lenses, and hugely over bright chrome exhaust system all mark it out as a budget model. However, the yellow paint is well applied, and even the areas where it is thin seem to be the appropriate ones like air intakes. Inside the dashboard is printed as is the central console.

All in all a decent budget model of a vehicle with an interesting history which I am sure will be popular well beyond the normal market place for model car collectors.


Hachette Italy World Buses Part 26

By Fabrizio Panico

All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.

Parts 76 – 78

Here three more buses from the Italian Hachette partwork “Autobus dal mondo”, a collection of eighty 1:43 scale bus models, very similar to the French series “Autobus et autocars du monde”, produced in Bangladesh for Ixo. Two French “police” buses, Interesting to some, but a disappointing choice for Italian collectors, and a bus with a long lifespan from the Netherlands.

No. 76 (no. 99 in the French collection) Lohr L96 Laboratoire IRCGN 1996 Lohr Industrie is a French group, based in Duppigheim (Strasbourg) specialising in the design, manufacture and marketing of goods transport systems, both on iron and rubber, and in military supplies. In 1993 the acquisition of Colmar’s famous coachbuilder Gangloff gave access to the bus market. In the mid-nineties the French Gendarmerie decided to renew part of its fleet of vehicles : the choice fell on the L96, a model of which Lohr manufactured body and fittings, whilst the German MAN supplied the chassis, the wheels and all the mechanical parts. It had a frame of metal beams with welded elements, and a body made of steel, aluminium and polyester. It was powered by a six cylinder inline diesel engine made by MAN with 220 hp, and was fitted with a Voit automatic gearbox and pneumatic suspension. The vehicle was designed to transport 25 men and their equipment, but its career was rather short. It proved to be unsuited to its intended use as it was too large to move nimbly in urban spaces, so the Gendarmerie preferred to go back to small mobile units, like the Irisbus Daily.

One of the few remaining L96 units was transformed in the “Lab’Unic”, allocated to the IRCGN (Institut de Recherche Criminelle de la Gendarmerie Nationale) : a mobile analysis laboratory, which could be driven directly to the site of an accident or crime. Inside the bus there was a control centre for radio and satellite transmissions, a scientific laboratory with microscopes and spectrometers and a photographic laboratory. The “Lab’Unic” carried enough power sources to power all the equipment on site without the need for a power hook up. It is perhaps interesting to note that the Gendarmerie Nationale is one of two national police forces of France, along with the Police Nationale. While the Gendarmerie is a branch of the French Armed Forces with responsibility in smaller towns, rural and suburban areas, the Police Nationale is a civilian force, in charge of large towns, cities and their suburbs.

The scale model faithfully reproduces this one-off vehicle, very likely based on one preserved by the French Gendarmerie. It has a plastic body and metal baseplate, with only limited details on the baseplate. It also has the usual array of small plastic parts, like rear-mirrors (a nice triple set in this case), lights and so on. It wears a blue livery with white roof, with all the emblems of the Gendarmerie and of the IRCGN. A well modelled driver’s area, but a poor interior with no attempt made to reproduce the scientific apparatus. The long white box on the right side of the vehicle is probably to house an awning to be deployed when needed.

The registration plate is correct and is specific to the French Armed Forces: It starts with a number to identify the army unit (2 for Gendarmerie, 6 for the Army, 7 for the Air Force, 8 for the Navy and 9 for the General Services) this is followed by two digits to identify the year of car registration (97 for 1997) then follows a number to identify the type of vehicle (1 for cars and coaches, 3 for lorries, etc.) and finally four numbers from 0001 to 9999. The registration plates also bear the symbol of the army unit the vehicle belonged to, for instance a black anchor on a French flag for the Navy, or the eight-pointed deer horns, like our model, for the Gendarmerie.

There are no apparent differences to the French edition. More a curiosity, than a bus to remember.


No. 77 (no. 100 in the French collection) Irisbus Agora TPI Police Nationale 2002 Irisbus was founded in 1999 by the merger of the bus division of Renault with the Iveco bus division (and the later acquisition of Ikarus-bus), it was jointly controlled by Iveco and Renault Véhicules Industriels (RVI) until 2001, when it came under the full control of Iveco (Fiat Group). In 2006, the Ikarus-bus was ceded to the Hungarian Muszertechnika, while Irisbus got the entire property of the French Heuliez and the Czech Karosa. Since 2013, Irisbus was renamed Iveco Bus, a business division of Iveco, owned by CNH Industrial Group. All new buses from then on were sold under the Iveco brand.

In 1987 RVI presented the R312, the successor to the robust but dated SC10 (see part thirteen, no. 39). The squared shape offered a superior level of comfort and brightness, even though it still lacked a low floor. The R312 announced the arrival in 1996 of the Agora, the first French bus with a lowered floor. Starting from 2002 the production of the Agora range was entrusted to Irisbus : the lozenge, the Renault trademark sign, was replaced by the dolphin, logo of Irisbus, and the Renault engine by an Iveco Cursor 8. The Agora was a very reliable model, and a technical and commercial success : over 11,000 units made up to 2005, when it was replaced by the Citelis.

The scale model reproduces a special version of the Agora S, a TPI (Transport de Personnes Interpellées), a vehicle used by police forces for the transportation of “prisoners” who were carried inside a specially adapted set of cells inside the vehicle itself (a sort of “Black Maria”). The conversion of the vehicle was performed by Vehixel Carrossier Constructeur, a French manufacturer of buses, armoured vans and military vehicles. In the French collection the model is classed as a 1987 bus, but the presence of the Irisbus logo seems to disprove it. It has a plastic body and metal baseplate as usual, and the white livery sports the red and blue side bands which are characteristic of the Police Nationale. Near the front doors the DOSTL logo is featured (Direction Opérationnelle des Services Techniques et Logistiques), a branch of the Paris Police Prefecture.

This is probably based on a preserved vehicle. It has nice wheels and windows, but again a poor interior. The many printed emblems like Vehixel, Agora and the Irisbus “dolphin” have been very well reproduced. There is a correct registration plate. Here it shows the département code (75 for Paris), a letter to indicate in which area the vehicle was authorised to operate (D for the départment, R for the region, N for the national territory, E for the European Union), a dash, then four numbers from 1001 to 9999, and a final letter.

There are again no apparent differences to the French edition. Another curiosity.


No. 78 (no. 101 in the French collection) Bova Futura FHD 1987 – The Bova company can trace its origins to a timber business founded in 1878 by Jacob Bots in Valkenswaard, near Eindhoven, in the Netherlands. In 1910, when the first car bodies were made, its name was changed to Bova, from BOts and VAlkenswaard. In 1931 the company began building bus bodywork on a variety of chassis and in 1954 started making whole coaches, with engines by Mercedes-Benz, Scania or DAF.

Its first self-supporting integral coach, the Benelux, was introduced in 1969, to be replaced by the Europa and then by the Futura in 1982. The Futura featured a very distinctive convex aerodynamic front which inspired the model’s name, in contrast to the angular lines of the Europa, the prominent “bulge” below the windscreen remaining a distinctive feature through successive facelifts until the introduction of the Futura 2 model in 2010. The streamlined Futura was an almost unexpected success, and the use of DAF engines promoted in 1989 a joint venture between Bova and DAF (United Bus), which was unfortunately short-lived. The strong competition in the market pushed Bova in 2003 to merge into the VDL Groep, an international industrial and manufacturing company established in 1953 by Pieter van der Leegte, hence the name VDL, a group which already owned the coachbuilder Jonckheere and the DAF Bus International operations. The vehicles were branded VDL Bova until 2010, then simply VDL. Like many other manufacturers Bova used a type code naming, eg FHD means a Futura bus (F), with high floor (H, while L was for the low one) and DAF engine (D, while M was for Mercedes-Benz), usually followed by some numbers indicating the bus length and the engine power. Total Futura production was more than 11,000 units and over the years it was subject to several facelifts, with the style of headlights providing the most immediately recognisable visual difference.

A plastic body and metal baseplate form the basis of this model sporting the white and blue livery of the Bakker Travel B.V., a North Holland company providing passenger transport for more than 35 years. With a fleet of about 40 buses and coaches it is headquartered in Wormerveer, a town part of the Zaanstad municipality, about 13 km northwest of Amsterdam. A well detailed baseplate is fitted, and it has the usual small added parts. Yet again the interior is poor with seats lacking any space for the passengers legs. Although the rear-mirror supports, the wipers and the lights are all good the rear indicators seem a bit fragile.

Yet again no apparent differences to the French edition. Another wise choice by Hachette.