By Maz Woolley
This is the first in what we intend to be series of articles looking at each year’s output of the original Model Auto Review magazine. We will cover one year in each posting and look at the collectors world through articles and adverts which are an interesting reflection of the growth in our hobby. To help illustrate this, we will include images of the covers and content lists of the magazines.
1982 saw the launch of a new magazine for the rapidly growing collectors market in model vehicles. In his introduction Rod Ward said “We will attempt to cover all scales, materials, and eras of model or toy cars, trucks, buses, etc.” An ambitious mission statement, but one that was true throughout the life of the magazine whose last printed edition went to press late in 2013. The magazine was all put together by Rod and Val Ward, and the team at the Model Auto shop. Copy was typed, photographs taken and developed, everything was pasted up and finally scanned to produce output ready to be taken to the printers. The only colour in the first year appeared on the cover. Magazine production before powerful personal computers, the Internet and digital cameras was a much more time consuming and manual process.
In the world at large Ronald Reagan was American President, Margaret Thatcher the UK’s Prime Minister, and Brezhnev and then Andropov leaders of the USSR. We had experienced a major period of economic recession in the UK with many traditional industries losing plants and jobs, or even vanishing, leaving many communities with high unemployment and few prospects. Others taking opportunities from the the wave of deregulation or working in the rapidly growing Information Technology industry made careers in this new world. The rise of offshoring manufacturing to China was yet to come.
A personal computer in the UK meant a Sinclair ZX80 or the exciting new Sinclair Spectrum. In the States the Commodore VIC-20 was about to be replaced by the 64. Many Christmas stockings now had a games machine or cartridge in them where once there would have been toy cars. Whilst the better off families would also be busy watching films played on their new Video Recorder/Player.
In the toy world major changes were taking place. Dinky Toys had already gone bankrupt in the UK in 1979. Lesney, makers of Matchbox toys, went bankrupt during 1982, and whilst Corgi Toys soldiered on it was only for another year before they too went bankrupt. On the Continent Solido, Gama, and others still were still making diecast toys as were Pilen and Metosul in southern Europe but the days when toy cars, trucks, trains. and planes were keenly collected by most schoolboys were passing and the only booming makers of “Toy Cars” were Mattel whose Hot Wheels still sold strongly.
At the same time that the toy industry was experiencing turmoil a new phenomena was growing quickly; the adult model collector. This was not entirely new as ranges such as Lesney’s Models of Yesteryear, Dugu, Rio, Solido Age D’Or and others had always had an adult following but now the children of the 1950s and 1960s who had played with model planes, trains and cars were becoming collectors again and in substantial numbers. The adult collector often collected obsolete models from Dinky, Corgi and Matchbox and collectors clubs and swapmeets started to develop across the UK allowing them to buy, sell and swap models. At the same time new firms had grown up, many of them “one man” operations to provide collectors with models of cars never modelled before or of current vehicles that were not being made as diecasts such as racing cars. These collectors models rapidly grew in quality and detail so that even models previously made as diecasts were produced again with greater detail for collectors. Many ranges were sold only as kits, or as kits and ready made models.
Model Auto Review was squarely aimed at the adult collector who was interested in models of all kinds from all over the globe, new and old. Up to this point they had been catered for by columns in Classic Cars and modelling magazines like Modellers World but not in a magazine dedicated to them.
A wide range of topics in this first magazine. From the start MAR featured excellent articles on obsolete toys written by people who really knew their subject. Often the subjects were lesser known ranges for UK readers like Danish Tekno models and even the Crescent racing car series. Another type of article which was to become a regular feature were those featuring models of a particular car or from a specific car maker: the Austin 7, Isettas, and Citroen for example. The roundups of new models of different types was supplemented by a detailed look at Somerville who were making a name for themselves for their high quality kits and built models.
The adverts are interesting. I believe that all the dealers advertising, with the exception of Charles Barnett, seem to have closed. Many of the dealers had shops as well as selling by mail order which is certainly not the case nowadays. The models on sale were a mixture of contemporary diecasts, kits and hand built models from the producers making 1:43 models for collectors like Brooklin and Somerville. The smaller scale 1:87 models that were sold primarily to railway modellers but were also collected in their own right like Wiking also found a place in the magazine.
One of the key differences between MAR and the normal UK modelling press of the time was it’s international outlook. The adverts and articles cover models from all over the world. This international coverage was to grow as the years went by.
The Autumn issue continued with more on the Austin 7 as well as features on Citroen H Vans, Peugeot Models and a VW review. Makers were covered with a look at the Politoys M Series and a feature on Brooklin Models which was already a well established firm having moved from Canada to the UK in 1979. Brooklin’s final assembly area is pictured on the front cover with the 1956 Ford Thunderbird model shown being built. The model itself is very plain and lacking in chrome compared to the latest generation of Brooklins.
For the first time a page of reader’s letters appears with contributions from readers around the world as well as best wishes from others in the publishing trade. Another feature which was to appear from time to time is an article on a reader’s model collection.
Adverts include special offers from Model Auto on Kado Models and Corgi’s too and include adverts from overseas dealers like Model Cars of Rotterdam too. An advert for John Ayrey who still advertises in the model collecting press today provides a link to the present though the advertised Schabak model aircraft at £1.70 each shows how long ago it was. The first models from Eligor based on earlier Norev moulds were advertised as were the Heller 1:43 scale plastic car kits. Model Auto even had some tin plate, and card cutout models of buses from Holland on sale in 1:25 scale.
Winter brought Christmas wishes on the cover with an obsolete diecast Santa set providing a seasonal mood. A Solido AEC RT featured a repainted model with a Bradford livery as used when Bradford brought some RTs from London Transport. There was also an article on how to convert a Yesteryear Crossley Lorry and a Solido Citroen C4 bus into a Crossley Country Bus and a Citroen Coal and Coke lorry. Modifications of existing models to make models not commercially available were to appear in MAR on a regular basis.
The editorial looked at the fact that Matchbox’s new owners were moving production of some models to the far east and considering the predictions that high-volume model production would be moved to Taiwan and Hong Kong before moving to even lower cost countries like India, South America, and Africa. In fact as we know Chinese industrial policies made China and Malaysia the hub of all high volume production over the eighties, and it is only now that production is moving out to lower pay economies like Bangladesh.
Readers Letters now covered two pages and was full of comment on previous articles as well as reader’s request lists. One model requested is a Royal Daimler which was not made until Oxford Diecast did so over 30 years later.
As ever keen on covering unusual subjects Rod Ward wrote an article on Midland Replica Models horse drawn and other models made with old Taylor and Barrett and F G Taylor moulds. The Austin 7 and Peugeot articles continued, and these articles opened the eyes of everyday collectors in the UK to the models made abroad, such as the Arcade slush moulded Austins from the US. The Yesteryear series also continued reminding us how important a part of collecting these models were.
Advertised items that catch the eye are the final Märklin models made by Mercury in Italy being remaindered alongside recently obsolete Schuco models. In 1:87 scale the Walldorf white metal mini models are listed precursors of the Praline plastic 1:87 models. Spare parts for restoring obsolete models are advertised but so too are expensive models from ENCO, Pocher, Record, and Western. You could even have bought a range of Nicky Toys which often sell for silly prices at auction today for about the same as a Wiking 1:87 scale bus.
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