All text and photographs by, and copyright of, the Author unless otherwise stated.
Merit 1:24 Scale Model Car Superkits, Plastic Model Car book, and Merit printed-on wheels spoke replacement.
In MAR article “Merit 1:24 scale model car kits“, re-printed from Veloce Today on-line magazine, Aldo Zana writes about a British company which, in 1957 under the trading name Merit, produced precise 1:24 scale models of fourteen Formula One racing cars spanning the years from 1948 to 1956. The article also shows the colourful Merit box-lid which was the same for the featured Formula One model cars.
The next two cars were marketed individually, in separate boxes (shown below), as “Merit Lago-Talbot Superkit” (1949 Talbot-Lago T-26) and as “Merit Alfa-Romeo Superkit” (1950 Alfa-Romeo 158).
Both kits were marketed as “Superkits” and include the engine as well as a removable engine bay cover. Only one car (Lago-Talbot) is shown in Aldo Zana’s article.
The “Plastic Model Cars” book, written by model car collector Cecil Gibson, who authored numerous books on model cars, was published in 1962 and is a good companion to the Merit model car kits. Even though the book thoroughly and completely describes how to detail the Merit model car kits, it is not considered an official publication of Merit models.
The book includes well-written chapters covering Modelling, General Modelling Techniques, Choosing the Model, Painting, Storage & Display, Detail Work, and more. Although the book is long out of print it is still available from time to time on eBay and other Internet websites. The Plastic Model Cars book should be a part of any Merit Model Car collector’s Collection.
All of the Merit 1:24 scale model car kits were injection moulded in one colour (bodies, tires, wheels and all other parts), and in the colour of manufacturer or race team. (Pictured below, is the Simca-Gordini that was moulded in French blue).
The quality of the moulding and the fit of all parts is impressive considering these kits were made in the 1950s and 1960s. The Merit 1:24 scale model car kits are excellent models, and incredibly accurate representation of the actual cars. The only parts which have visibly aged are the decals and the glue capsule that was included with each kit.
Due to their age, the water slide decals are likely brittle and not usable; however, some of them can be salvaged. The Micro Scale product “Decal Film” can be used to recover the era type racing numbers, emblems, and dashboard gauge decals. Brush the film two or three times across the decals, let the coat dry, cut out the desired image and then it can be applied like a new decal. The years old glue, however, cannot be used and should be discarded.
The Merit model car kits, accurately reproduced with shiny moulded-in finish, are excellent base kits for detailing. With after-market products, photo-etched parts, and model kit manufacturers’ add-on parts, you can create a model car masterpiece.
One of the kits’ original parts, the transparent celluloid disk with printed-on wheel spokes, must be replaced with a moulded plastic spoke wheels. These are shown in the above picture of the Simca-Gordini. The moulded wheels which fit the Merit 1:24 scale model cars are produced by Fujimi as Wire Mesh Silver Narrow 17 inch wheels.
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All text by, and copyright of the Author. All photographs provided by the Manufacturer.
This article looks at the last two releases of models by Autocult. These are cast in resin to 1:43 scale with photoetched details, and are made in China for Germany. As ever they represent rare of unusual vehicles from across a wide time frame.
This release features:
Steyr 100 “Asien Stey – from the category ‘past brands‘
Benz 35/40 Prinz-Heinrich-Wagen – from the category ‘the early beginnings‘
Thompson House Car – from the category ‘camping vehicles’
Ferrari 330 GTC Zagato – from the category ‘prototypes‘
#02018 Steyr 100 ‘Asien-Steyr’ (Austria, 1934)
Max Reisch was born in Kufstein in the Austrian Tyrol in 1912 and made a name for his long distance motorcycle journeys. Using the reputation he had earned he approached Steyr-Daimler-Puch AG in 1934 for material and financial support for his next trip.
Instead of a motorbike they offered him the recently launched Steyr 100 so that the trip would be combined with a major promotional tour for the new car. Max Reisch accepted and the first step was to get the expedition car changed to his suggestion of a pick-up version.
The trip began in April 1935 and Max Reisch along with his partner Helmuth Hahmann left Vienna and travelled to Palestine, Syria and Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. From there they went via Pakistan, India, Burma, Thailand and Laos to Vietnam and China. After 14 months they arrived at their final destination Shanghai.
When they arrived in Shanghai instead of finishing they decided to continue their journey and took a passage on a ship to Japan and to the USA. After a brief pause the men and their Steyr headed to Mexico from where they sailed back to Bremerhaven.
Circumnavigating the world would be an amazing feat now but in 1935 with minimal engineering and spares back up it was an incredible achievement.
#01001 Benz 35/40 Prinz-Heinrich-Wagen (Germany, 1906)
The Benz 35/40 was the pinnacle of the Benz company output early in 1900. It was powered by a 3,380cc four cylinder engine producing 35 to 40 horsepower which could power the car up to 55 MPH via a leather lined clutch and chain or cardan drive. It was one of the fastest vehicles on the public roads at the time.
This was an expensive chassis and was generally fitted with a luxurious bodywork.
Albert Wilhem Heinrich of Prussia; the brother of the German Emperor Wilhelm II, was an early motoring enthusiast and Benz owner. His Benz 35/40 double phaeton modelled here participated in the 1,700 kilometers long-distance race “Herkomer-Konkurrenz” on 6-12 of June 1906.
#09010 Thompson House Car (USA, 1934)
Little is known of Arthur Thompson, who was said to have been a watchmaker from Ontario in California, the creator of this vehicle.
This 1930s vehicle took seven years to develop and build. It was based upon a Studebaker chassis fitted with a six-cylinder engine. Onto the chassis he formed a car body, passenger and camper compartment, all made out of aluminium. Over the conventional, solid structure he fixed another almost identical structure, which could be lifted like the popup campers of today. It was connected to the body by a combination of rods and fold-able fabric parts and was driven by an ingenious series of gears. Once in place it was possible for an grown person to stand upright.
It is not clear how many of these campers were built some references quote four, others no definite figure. One still existed in a museum in Sacramento in 2007 as photographs on the web show.
#06032 Ferrari 330 GTC Zagato (Italy, 1974)
In 1968, the last year of production of the Ferrari 330 GTC, chassis number 10659 was shipped to the USA. The buyer was the US-American Ferrari importer and former race driver Luigi Chinetti.
The car was first sold to Robert V. Kennedy of Cambridge, Massachusetts who sold it on to an unknown owner before it was accident damaged and ended back the hands of the US importer in the early 1970s. Instead of simply reconditioning the car he gave it to Zagato for a completely new design. Elio Zagato and his team created a new body for the Italian sportscar in the new style, without any curves and with several extravagant design features, which were new on a Ferrari. The most prominent feature were the front lights behind plexiglass covers, but the rear to had special features. Beside the eye-catching body there were new safety features built in underneath that could not be seen.And the whole car was topped off by a removable targa top.
This unique car was exhibited by Zagato at the Geneva Motor Show in 1974 and was shown at the Concour d’Elegance in Pebble Beach in 1996.
This release features:
Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe Figoni & Falaschi – from the category ‘past brands’
BMW 340/1 Roadster – from the category ‘prototypes’
Bedford SB3 Mobile Cinema – from the category ‘buses’
Mercedes-Benz 150H Sport-Limousine from the category ‘racing cars’.
#02019 Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupé (France, 1949)
In the years following the Second World War things were hard for most people and the pre-war days of outrageous spending and glamour were replaced by a more serious and less frivolous era. In such a market pre-war bodybuilders such as Figoni & Falaschi found a lot fewer takers for their extravagant designs.
The model made by Autocult is one of their last designs based on the chassis of a Talbot Lago T26 . The car was ordered by the ‘Zipper King’ Mister Fayolle and featured a zipper-like string of horizontal chrome strips on its front hood. The car then made its way to the United States, where Lindley Locke bought it in 1960. But Locke’s interest in the exclusive French car was passing and soon the car was garaged and forgotten.
47 years later the car saw the light of the day again. After its restoration it was presented for the first time at the Concours d’Elegance in Pebble Beach in 2018; exactly 70 years after its creation. The Talbot Lago T26 Grand Sport Coupe was one of the highlights of the show.
#06029 BMW 340/1 Roadster (Germany, 1949)
In August 1946 the BMW plant in Eisenach was taken into the state owned AWTOWELO AG. In the spring of 1948 the first prototypes of a new car were finished, and in October 1949 series production of the new BMW 340 sedan began. After international legal battles between West and East German companies over the right to use the BMW name the East Germans changed the name of their cars to EMW, after their place of manufacture Eisenacht Motoren Werke.
Whilst the saloon version was being developed designer Hans Fleischer designed a sporty two-seater. The BMW 340/1 was a prototype based on the 340. It was a convertible with a sleeker body and lower bonnet line and greatly modified grille. The sports car was fitted with the 55 hp six-cylinder engine from the 340.
The project was taken seriously by the Soviet dominated German industry and it was publicly exhibited on the AWTOWELO stand at a trade fair in Leipzig in 1949. Long distance testing and some road racing were all undertaken to prove the car but it never went into series production. This is thought to be because there was little place for a sports car in the planned economy of a war ravaged country struggling to rebuild itself and which needed utilitarian vehicles much more.
#10004 Bedford SB3 Mobile Cinema (Great Britain, 1967)
In the early 1960s the then Prime Ministerof the UK, Harold Wilson, made a speech about the “White heat of Technology”, and the challenges that faced the UKs industries to adapt and exploit the new developments in science and engineering. A Ministry of Technology was created and its role was to inform manufacturing industry about new production techniques and opportunities.
Nowadays this outreach would be done by a team of consultants creating web sites, emails, and tweets and hoping that people round the country would interact with them. But in the 1960s the officials realised that they had to get out and visit Industry face to face round the country to spread the message. One way to do this was to take films and lecturing staff to visit key staff at industrial companies.
To allow this to take place the Ministry of Technology ordered seven trucks and trailers in 1967. The equipment was produced by Coventry Steel Caravans (CSC) a company based in Warwick which was famous for the trailers they had produced in the war, for the MInistry of Agriculture, and for industrial customers, as well as for making Caravans. CSC also built the bodywork for a cinema on wheels on a Bedford SB 3 coach chassis. With a capacity of up to 24 seats managers could watch the films on a cinema screen that was located at the rear end of the interior. The cinematic equipment was controlled from a Plexiglas dome above the driver’s cab. Inside the trailer displays were fitted to complement the films.
Seven Bedford trailer combinations were on the roads across the United Kingdom between 1967 and 1974 managed by the state and Industry sponsored Production Engineering Research Association (PERA).
The 1934 Mercedes-Benz Type 150 was unusual with its mid-engine. After the W30 the Type 150 was the second Mercedes-Benz which had its engine positioned as far as possible toward the centre of the vehicle. Never suited to mass production it was however very suitable for racing. The influences of Tatra and others are clear in the styling of this car.
Six such sports cars were built by Mercedes-Benz all built to compete in the class “V” in the second ‘2000 km durch Deutschland’ (2000 km of Germany). On July 21, 1934, at 5:35 am, all six were positioned on the starting line. All models were fitted with a 1.5 litre, water-cooled ohv four-stroke engine with a power rating of 55 hp. The engine closely related to that fitted to the Type 130. Four drivers finished their race with a gold medal. After the 2000 km of Germany the cars competed in another race in August 1934; the rally Liège-Rome-Liège. The driver Hans-Joachim Bernet led the field between Rome and Pisa and completed the section perfectly with the score of “zero penalty points”.
Despite this racing history Mercedes-Benz had no use for the six cars and in the end all the vehicles were destroyed. Several parts of the bodies and the chassis were reused for the development of a conventional front engined roadster which was launched in 1935.
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All text, photographs and models by, and copyright of, Aldo Zana. Reprinted with permission of VeloceToday.com on-line magazine.
When the editor of Veloce Today was collecting Merit kits in the late 1950s, he could not have known that another writer-to-be was doing exactly the same thing, at the same time, but in faraway Italy. His Italian counterpart, Aldo Zana tells us all about these British models.
The whole range of the Merit 1:24-scale plastic kits assembled and painted in period liveries: mid-Fifties. Front line: British F1 and the Jaguar D-Type. Mid row: Italian F1 and Grand Prix racers and the Lotus 11. Rear row: French racers, Mercedes W196, Cooper 500 MkIX and Aston Martin DB3S.
It was hard times in the second half of the Fifties for European kids in love with Formula One and longing to become part of its world by collecting and playing with model racers. We Italians faced especially limited choices: the hard-to-find die-cast Nigam, the elusive Zax, or the old Mercury racers of the Forties: oddly scaled, with questionable faithfulness and tires fit for an all-terrain army truck. The rise of globalisation brought from the UK to the best Italian toy shops the die-cast Dinky Toys and the first Corgi Toys. The former listed obsolete F1/F2 single seaters of the early Fifties in its catalogue. Corgi featured more updated models of British production: however, merely two, already non-competitive in real life against our all-conquering Ferraris and Maseratis after Mercedes-Benz’ withdrawal in 1955. And they looked too small alongside the Dinkies and Mercuries. And then, out of the blue, cameMerit, although quite difficult to locate among the contemporary fast-growing and highly visible offerings of plastic (polystyrene) kits dominated by the leading US brands of Monogram, Revell, and Aurora.
Italian racers of the Forties and Fifties. From the left: Maserati 250F, Maserati 4CLT/48, Lancia Ferrari, Alfa Romeo 158.
In 1957 Merit produced precise 1:24 scale models of current Formula One protagonists: Lancia-Ferrari V8, Maserati 250F, Gordini T-16, as well as milestones of the pre-1952 F1 seasons: Alfa Romeo 158, Talbot-Lago T26, Maserati 4CLT/48 “San Remo”. And thanks to a flurry of new offers in a few months’ span, we could also buy and build the emerging British single-seaters striving for the limelight after a decade of playing second fiddle to the Italians in the form of the Connaught B-Type “Syracuse” 1956, BRM P25 1956, and the Vanwall VW4 1956.
It became easier for Italian kids to become loyal to Merit’s growing offer of racing cars. The company enlarged its range with three sports car icons, all made in the UK: the well-known multiple winner Jaguar D-Type, the lesser known Aston Martin DB3S and the as yet unknown Lotus Mk XI, a name on the verge of becoming a leader.
All British: the three sports cars in the series. From the left: Aston Martin DB3S, Lotus 11, and Jaguar D in Ecurie Ecosse livery.
The Merit kits came from a company called J & L Randall Ltd., based in the town of Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, north of London. They were all sold in a standard, nondescript box, the same for every model: small and unappealing at a time when competing US brands already showcased their products on box-lids with colourful and attractive art to win the prime spots in shop windows . The only way to select the right Merit kit was a small label glued on one of the narrower sides.
The Alfa Romeo 158 with the standard box in the background. The box was the same for every kit.
They were quite expensive for the period, too: 1,100 Liras, when the average monthly salary of a worker was about 45,000 Liras. By comparison, a Mercury die-cast model racer cost 180 Liras and a Dinky 230-250 Liras.
The kits were moulded in flawless plastic; the surface was so clean and regular that it was possible to skip painting the body. It wasn’t a simple task for a kid to smoothly hand brush the Humbrol enamels; airbrushes for modellers were still a long way into the future. The solvent used at that time by Humbrol allowed, nevertheless, a clean and uniform finish even when working with the brush.
The instruction sheet of the 4CLT/48 Maserati. The front side tells in short the history and the races of the real car, the back side presents a clear illustration of the easy assembly procedure.
Assembly was quite straightforward too: the body was split in two halves, top and bottom. Axles and driver seat had to be glued to the bottom half, other details (exhaust pipes, windscreen, dashboard, steering wheel) to the top section, before joining these two sub-assemblies. Each wheel/tire was moulded in two halves and the tire had to be carefully painted matte black. The spokes were a decal (transfer, in British parlance) to be applied on a little transparent celluloid disc, subsequently set onto the outside of the wheel prior to gluing the hub cap. The quality of the decals was only fair and I preferred to avoid them.
The racing number decals were usually quite hard and dry, prone to cracking. Yet, it was possible to soften them using highly diluted vinyl glue, given the lack of softening liquids on the market. The instruction sheet had a pedantic list of building steps on the front, ending with the painting scheme, but a clear assembly drawing on the back. More interesting was, at the top of the first page, a short presentation of the real car, a summary of its main successes as well as a basic description of its technical characteristics and performance.
Talbot-Lago T26, 1949, one of the two “super” kits featuring engine detail. The body was left unpainted. Note the smoothness of the plastic injection.
Two kits were super-detailed to include the engine and a removable engine bay cover: the 1950 Alfa Romeo 158 and the 1949 Talbot-Lago T-26 4.5 litre. Both were probably made so detailed because the moulds were already available when pressure to launch new models forced the company to simplify and shorten the production cycle.
The whole range of 1956 F1 and Sports cars went on sale in 1957, a remarkably short time to market: Lancia-Ferrari, Maserati 250F, BRM P25, Connaught B-Type “Syracuse”,Gordini T16, Vanwall VW4. A very British choice was the addition of the Cooper 500 Mk IX, 1956.
A tribute to the former German dominance was the kit of the Mercedes-Benz W196, the 1954 road-racing version mistakenly presented as the 1955 model. The Maserati 4CLT/48 was another obsolete racer in the series. The kit didn’t have the inner details of the Alfa Romeo and the Talbot-Lago. It was an unusual selection of a car that wasn’t a winner, yet it was well-known being driven by Thailand’s Prince Bira and Brit Reg Parnell.
A real piece of history outside F1 and sports cars, the Cooper 500 Mk IX, 1956, recalls a glorious period of British racing. Body unpainted.
A final touch of class was the colour of the ink used for the instruction sheets: dark red for the Italians, British Racing Green for the British, blue for the French. The Mercedes sheet fell outside the paradigm, printed in dark blue as the historically correct white or silver would have been impossible to read.
The boxes of the later kits contained a small multi-page educational leaflet on Motor Racing, a more detailed description of the prototype, and a promotional bottom line advertising the brand of motor oil used in races by the car. The leaflet on the Vanwall doubled to eight pages and ended with a tribute to Tony Vanderwell who “raised the prestige of British Automobile Engineering throughout the world”.
The four-page leaflet in the Jaguar D-Type box. A good recap of the car’s history. Britain still ruled. And the following year it also became true in F1.
Below, all fourteen of the Merit models in individual photos. You won’t see this often!
Vanwall VW4, 1956, when the Brits knocked at the forefront of F1. Decals are original.
1956 Lancia Ferrari. The Merit kits was on sale early 1957, a remarkably short time-to-market.
Gordini six-cylinder F2, 1952. Humbrol paint (“Enamel” on the original British tin) to cover the body.
Alfa Romeo 158 with engine cover removed to show the inner details. The other “super” kit together with the Talbot-Lago
Alfa Romeo 158, 1950, hood in place.
Talbot-Lago T26, 1949. A good representation of the engine.
Mercedes W 196, 1954, open wheel version. Decals are original including the chequered cover of the driver’s seat
The diminutive Cooper Mk IX, 1956. The silver exhaust was easier to paint.
Maserati 4CLT/48 in Argentinian livery, as raced by Fangio in Europe.
Aston Martin DB3S, 1956. The yellow trim is an addition of the kit builder.
Connaught B-Type “Syracuse”, 1956. Quite a rare bird in real and scale model worlds.
Lotus 11, 1956. Airbrush repainted after 60 years when the plastic suffered signs of shrinking.
Jaguar D-Type, 1954. The gap at the rear end of the front section of the body is due to having modified the part to make it tilting forward like the real thing.
Maserati 250F, 1956 version.
BRM P25, 1956. To use the brush for the semi-metallic finish was quite a brave endeavour over- sixty years ago.