Model Auto Review 1988 Part One

By Maz Woolley and Karl Schnelle

This is the seventh in a series of articles looking at each year’s output of the original Model Auto Review magazine.   In August we reviewed the year 1987 so this month we have reached 1988, a year when 6 issues were produced. We show you the Cover and Contents pages of the magazines and some colour pages to give a flavour of what the magazine looked like. (Click on the images to get a larger copy.)

Now that each issue is so large, and there are six a year, future articles will cover half a year at a time. 

What was happening at MAR in 1988?

1988 saw an increase in the number of pages in MAR including the inclusion of colour centre pages which would be an ongoing feature. Expert contributors were now contributing regularly and the magazine was now established and developing a worldwide circulation.

What a year 1988 was!

1986 was a year to remember. A Soviet nuclear plant at Chernobyl  became critical and melted down spreading fallout across Europe. It was a huge loss of face for the USSR and a reminder of how risky nuclear power could be.

On the brighter side, MIR, the Soviet Space Station, was successfully put into space and years of visits and experiments started.

Here in the UK,  France and Britain agreed to the building of the Channel Tunnel.  With the Conservatives still strongly dominating the political scene under Margaret Thatcher public assets continued to be sold and the National Bus Group (NBC) was “privatised”.   This was also the year that the M25 “London Orbital” motorway was opened.

In the car industry in the UK, Nissan opened their Sunderland plant which went on to be one of the most efficient in the world.

Here in the England and Wales, the secondary school examination system people sat at 15 to 16 and which had been in place since the 1950s was radically overhauled. The General Certificate in Education (GCE) and Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) exams were combined to become the single combined GCSE . Even today looking at a CV, the types of examinations they sat gives away when people were educated.

The UK economy was at a high point and the Lawson “boom” of the late 1980s was fuelling increases in wages and spending. For established wage earners this meant a little more disposable income for hobbies and was a fertile environment for the continued growth of the market for “collectors models”.

#30 Winter 88

The front cover again shows Rod Ward’s playful use of graphics, who could miss the fact that the magazine contained news of new models for 1988!

The cover had quite a range of models with resin kits from Starter  (Porsche CART racer) and Automany (ACE Ace), as well as a Marsh model (Porsche 917L Gulf) that could be a kit or hand built – all to 1:43 scale. An A Smith model in striking yellow livery to 1:48 scale (Nubian fire tender) represented bigger vehicles.

Finally industrial collectors products were shown from Matchbox Yesteryear (Mack – new Kiwi livery) and Corgi (Bedford Pantechnicon in Fender removals livery).

The front inside cover showed a nice array of emergency services vehicles and a few Herpa Coaches to fill in the space! The Nine Double Nine Austin Wadhams Ambulance based upon the obsolete Spot-on is an impressive model (Ed: this caught my eye as I bought it as a kit, built it, and still have it). Other emergency vehicles include a set of Auto USSR models of the UAF, GAZ and Lada 2105. Other interesting models are the MVI transkits to allow many vehicles based upon the Solido Citroen C4. There are also a number of 1:87 scale models from Roko and Herpa. MAR was the only UK magazine with a good coverage of 1:87 models.

Three wheelers start off one of the centre pages with Tober Models Messerschmidt and BSA. Track cars from Starter in colourful liveries keep the page lively. The large, already old, Wills Finecast kit to  1:24 scale of the 1930 Bentley is shown beautifully built by DGF models. Some Precision Miniatures Hudson Convertibles are noted as not being to their usual standards. The Praliné 1:87 Cadillacs that still turn up in the Busch range today put in their first appearance.

1:76 scale gets a look in with a set of the latest Piccolino releases: Bluebird, Thinwall special, Jaguar XK120, and Auto Union. A whole set of Solido special models for Denmark are shown, not much changed from the standard release other than the prints on the side. Further down the page is van territory with the Dandy H Van in Christmas logo, JRD Citroen vans in various liveries and at the bottom of the page is a set of Lion Car Commer Step-thru vans.

Looking at the back inside cover we see a range of commercial vehicles from a scattering of 1:87 from Albedo, Roskopf, Brekina and Roko to a large scale ERTL bulldozer.

Amongst the others we see Kim’s Classics which for many years had models made by Alan Smith in the UK to 1:48 scale of Continental subjects. We also see more Lion Cars in the form of 1:50 scale DAF trucks.

Browsing through the magazine there is lots to catch the eye. John Quilter, who is still a regular contributor today, writes suggesting that more Jaguar models should be made, but then he would have done as he worked for Jaguar Cars inc in North America.

John Shelford’s hand crafted models in wood often featured over the years and an assortment of his Rolls-Royce models is shown in this issue.

As ever the columns of MAR featured experts calling model makers to task for inaccuracies. In this issue Chris Batten, an expert on Ambulances, took Lledo to task fro their errors. Tony Greeves, another long time contributor, called out Corgi for just printing on windows and calling a model a minibus.

Amazingly Adrian Swain’s ABS is being called a “Bermuda Triangle ” of kits even then. A description that is more than ever true today. Although many of the old multi-part models have had their day their are other castings collectors would still wish to buy were they available.

Articles of interest include Don Elliot on old US models as well as Garfield the Cat ones, Rod Ward on Morris models and Stuart Schaller on the Brumm Bugatti T57 SC. Fun Ho buses pop up written about by Roger Bailey and Tony Steenmeyer, whose beautifully made models of Dutch Lorries entertained readers for many years, provided an article on restoration looking at restoring Dinky Guy and Bedford vans.

Regular contributors like Andre Blaize on Rolls-Royces were joined by Geoff Moorhouse who would write a regular Truckstop column for some years.

In the new for 1988 announcements was hidden one of considerable significance as Matchbox announced the Matchbox Dinky range. A range that persuaded many collectors of obsolete models to buy collectors models for the first time.

Another model announced was the white metal Ford Consul from Model Road and Rail as well as pages of Days Gone, Matchbox Yesteryear, and long lists from Starter Provence Moulage and other kit makers.

The magazine ended with adverts from MAR and model shops which took up nine pages and there was a half page of small ads.

#31 Spring 1988

Spring brought an appropriately green look to the cover as well as handwritten titles for each of the models. The models themselves covered a wide range of the collectors market. A detailed and very expensive FYP Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith heads the page which continues with a Brooklin Dodge van, Formula One Chapparal, Ashton Mack Fire appliance, Mini Racing Alpine and Vitesse Chrysler Windsor.  All were to 1:43 scale except for the Mini Racing which was a substantial 1:20 scale.

The upper part of the inner cover was dominated by emergency vehicles including the highly detailed Ashton models Ahren Fox fire pumper, Zaugg‘s Chevrolet fire, ambulance and hearse, Solido Mack rescue trucks, and a batch of Sun Humber Imperial Ambulances .

Lower we have buses including one from the Thomas the Tank Engine range  as well as more serious 1:76 scale white metal kits from Garrick Leisure Consultants of a 1950 AEC and a 1975 Fleetline. An Oldcars Fiat coach was included too as well as a small cluster of earthmoving equipment from Oldcars and Conrad.

The rear cover featured American cars. A Starter Thunderbird NASCAR started the page colourfully. Zaugg‘s contribution was a Cadillac with working suspension, but at over £100 in 1988 there must have been few buyers. Portugal was still a major model producer and Vitesse and Rextoys models made there dominated the centre of the page.

Lower down we see budget priced ERTL Mustang, Corvette and Checker cab alongside expensive white metal Mini Auto Emporium Cadillac V16s.  The page ends with a Minimarque white metal Auburn and a Provence Moulage Studebaker Commander Starlight coupe in resin.

Inside the magazine we get letters from Harvey Goranson on Brooklin models and a long letter from Robin Godwin on how MAR approached reviewing models. Both still very active in the modelling world, Robin’s latest article was posted quite recently here on MAR Online as well an article by Harvey.

Many other letters add detail or provide corrections to articles in the recent issues. Such corrections and additions often added significantly to the body of knowledge about obsolete models in particular.

Another topic in the letters pages was which Land Speed Record holders had not been modelled. LSR models were a major topic covered by MAR for many years though as time went on and more were modelled it appeared less often. In fact inside the magazine another definitive tabulation of LSR models from Fred Kaesmann helped identify many holders unmodelled.

Finally on the letters pages we have the topic of model copying raised. This was a regular feature of MAR over the years as makers “let of steam” where they felt others had copied their models. Unlike the commercial magazines MAR provide an airing for this topic.

Articles again covered a diverse range with Jim McLachlan writing about models from Communist countries a change from his usual VW related contributions. Don Elliot continued his coverage of the less well known US obsolete models as well as Pac Man models. Roger Bailey looked at some model coaches and the vehicles they may have been based upon whilst Dave Turner covered the 1957/8 Mercury. Wyn Edwards coverage of Indy Cars continued as did Greg Keane’s coverage of construction equipment.

Model listings are full of references to all sorts of models and photographs of prototypes of new 1:43 scale Corgi Classics models appeared. It is interesting to see the prototype Jaguar Mark II casting there in 1988, a casting last seen used by Atlas in their Police Partwork only a few years ago.  Vitesse were “on a roll” and announced a lot of models for 1988. All of a sudden UK collectors of more modest budgets had three ranges of reasonable accurate vehicles from the 1950s and 60s available to them and many collectors started at this time.


#32 Summer 88

Summer 1988 brought a cover full of models with a new Corgi Club Morris 1000 van being joined by a Lion Cars Commer step-thru in Coca Cola livery. The rest of the cover has some beautiful racing models including a Bosica Ferrari with removable panels revealing a super detailed engine and a Remember Ferrari P314. The foot of the page featured  a nice Minicars Ford Galaxie and an A Smith Tractor unit. Bus lovers were not forgotten with a LBS Renault coach  being featured.

Inside colour pages featured a wide range of models: cars on the inside front cover, buses and trucks on the middle four pages, and fire and military on the inside back cover.

The back cover shows a nice Pandora Land Speed record car and the latest Chryslers from Solido which were contrasted with old American cars in the Dinky 39 series.  At the base of the page the ubiquitous Lion Cars Step-thru appears again this time in KLM livery.  Also, five Coca Cola vans are shown from Trax, CB Modelli, and Autohobby.

Inside this issue some classic articles appear including Chris Sweetman on Dugu which is an excellent view of that obsolete range.  MAR Online recently covered Dugu again with Chris’ help.

Gerald Watkins had an interesting theme which started in MAR 32: 1/43 Norevs made by Norev in plastic and no one else (at least as of 1988)!  Many French, Italian, and German  are are pictured in black and white.

McGregor was written about and pictured by Don Elliott.  This very rare and undocumented brand was from Mexico and produced ex-Politoys in 1:41 plastic.  Most of them have the McGregor script on the baseplate so they should be easy to identify, if you happen to ever find one.  In this same issue, Don also wrote Part 2 of his Made in USA series, on lesser known American toy cars from the 1950s. On a personal note before Don sadly passed away, the McGregor Alfa Romeos shown in his article found their way to KS’s collection in 2007.  It’s a small (collector’s) world, as they say.

The other 2-page articles this time were East German HO by two Czech collectors and Ford MkII GTs by Dave Turner.

Peter Pain wrote about he Dinky 39 series, shown in color on the back cover.  Graeme Watt’s long running series of military re-creations kicks off. Graeme wrote many articles over the years with Graeme’s final model conversion appearing just as MAR Online started.

John Hanson’s Trojan vans must have been interesting to many who had wondered about the Dinky and Matchbox models and who Trojan were. Morris also got an update with Patrick Trench, now a well known author, adding to Rod Ward’s initial article on the subject.

Then after the Truckstop column by Geoff Moorhouse and the colour center pages on trucks and buses, twelve pages of News and Views and ten pages of ads made up the remaining part of MAR 32.  As usual, News and Views covered smaller producers from Spain, Holland, Canada, USA, USSR, Australia, Switzerland, as well as the big guys from Italy, France, and UK.

Actually Rod Ward covered small producers as well:

  • UK: Colin Fraser with Formula One, Steve Archibald with Sapphire Modelcraft, Indycars by Wyn Edwards, MPH Model by Tim Dyke, Little Smashers by David Wade;
  • France: IDEM by Serge Leuba, Automany transkits, FYP by Yves Pebernet, Tenariv by J.P. Viranet, JPS by J.P.  Schwartz, ESDO by Dominique Esparcieux, C.C.C. by Georges Pont, HECO by Herve Colombet, and Hostaro;
  • Italy: C.B. Modelli, Bosica, Meri, and HE14 by Paolo Tron.

As expected, Modelauto had the last four pages of ads at the end of this issue.


We welcome your comments and questions.   Please go to our Model Auto Review Facebook page or email us at