Model Auto Review Magazine 1985

By Maz Woolley and Karl Schnelle

This is the fourth in a series of articles looking at each year’s output of the original Model Auto Review magazine.   Last month, we reviewed the year 1984 so this month we have reached 1985, a year when 5 editions were produced. We show you the Cover and Contents pages of the 5 magazines. (Click on the images to get a larger copy.)

Reading about the events of 1985 makes it seem a long time ago. Here in the UK the first mobile phone call was made; who could have imagined the smartphones of today then?

In world politics President Reagan started his second term in the US, whilst Margaret Thatcher was still PM in the UK. Things were changing in the Soviet Union as the recently appointed President Chernenko died and President Gorbachev was appointed. Things were about to start changing in East-West relations as well. Other important events in 1985 were Live Aid concerts in London and Philadelphia and the “We are the World” single. The beginnings of public concern about the fragility of the Earth’s climate were triggered by the discovery of the hole in the ozone layer.

Here in the UK we had riots in many of the major urban centres in the UK as unemployment amongst the young, particularly in deprived areas of major cities, lead to discontent and rebellion. We also saw the end of the miners strike and the beginning of the end of coal production in the UK. There was better news in Ireland where the Anglo-Irish agreement was signed which was the first step in the peace process there. International terrorism was still a major worry and the  Achille Lauro hijacking and the murder of a disabled US citizen shocked the watchers of TV news all around the world.

In the world of entertainment, “A View to a Kill”, the last Roger Moore James Bond, was shown, and Whitney Houston’s debut album was issued.

In the US, Route 66 was declassified and no longer officially existed. Although no longer a key transport artery it started a wave of nostalgia for the simpler America of the 1950s. Here in the UK the roads saw a curious new sight – the Sinclair C5 – a personal electric vehicle designed by Clive Sinclair, the inventor of the Sinclair electronic watch and many early UK personal computers. The C5 was powered by a washing machine motor and regarded by most as a joke and did not stay in production for very long.

In computing, we saw the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment system and the Commodore Amiga. Steve Jobs left Apple to form NeXT, and Apple ploughed on with the Apple II and Macintosh systems but started to turn corporate and lose sight of their customers.  IBM were still working flat-out and shipping the PC XT, but competitors like Compaq and Dell were beginning to emerge. The big news was that Microsoft had launched Windows 1.0 to a world which was far from ready for mice and graphical interfaces.

So against that background, we look at MAR in 1985.

#13 Spring 1985

A nice green background starts off the cover of the first issue of 1985.   A good mix of buses, cars, and trucks is shown:  Pirate Models Bedford OB coach, a large scale Japanese tinplate Caddy, a Sun Motor fire truck  (from Modelauto themselves), Yesteryear, Corgi Classic, and a small 1/87 Herpa bendy-bus!

As the cover suggests, new Corgi, Lledo, German plastic HO, French, English, and Italian cars are discussed.    The Jaguar XK had the centre spread, and the next two pages were taken up with Rolls-Royce Silver Shadows.   The Modelauto ad on the final pages lists seven Sun Motor white metal handbuilts with the Mercedes fire appliance on the cover as being diecast, resin, and white metal.    It was based on the diecast Arpra/Supermini from Brazil.

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#14 Summer 1985

The background colour switches to orange for the next cover, with nine trucks, cars and buses pictured.  The editorial this time addresses concerns based on letters to the editor.  The Editor, Rod Ward, states that MAR does not have personal opinions and tries to reflect the majority of readers, MAR publishes as many readers’ letters as possible, and MAR is not biased in favour of the advertisers.  Reviews are based on the quality of the models only, no widespread deals with advertisers like in other magazines of the time.

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#15 Autumn 1985

The Autumn cover is a bit wilder with a blue star burst or marbled background.  Seven cars and trucks are shown, with one being a De Soto fire department ambulance by Sun Motors (Modelauto). The range of models shown on the cover shows how the range of models for collectors is rapidly expanding just two years on from the first issues of Model Auto Review.

Two pages on several subjects each are included in this issue; the Rolls-Royce Phantom II, the inexpensive Road Stars series of 1/64 toy cars, Matchbox buses, Mebetoys, Cunningham race cars, Napier land speed record cars, and Tekno Dodge trucks.

The back cover shows several nice 1/43 handbuilts and five Sun Motor cars from Modelauto, all in colour!

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Back Cover


#16 Extra 1985

The front cover shows the Editor experimenting even more with eye-catching graphics, and as ever a selection of models relating to news items or articles within. The Mayes Models Rolls-Royce Armoured car was featured in André Blaize’s Rolls-Royce article within.  Two Record models, 1952 Chevrolets, were also shown in the basic trim with the body shell painted and nothing else; even in 1985 resin producers were trying to find ways to keep costs down. A Land Rover occupied the centre of the cover and featured in an article on Mebetoys inside.  Finally we have a trio of “old timers” with the Corgi Thorneycroft Van in Jacobs livery, Rod Ward’s own Sun Motor Company transkit which allowed you to turn the Corgi rolling chassis into a Thorneycroft Fire Appliance, and finally a Schuco old timer clockwork model of an Opel Doctors Coupe from 1909.

Inside expert contributions came from all over the world. Don Elliot’s contributions of offbeat car models provided light relief amongst the very serious articles on Rolls-Royces, South African Dinky Toys, Mebetoys, and School Buses. There were also articles about “chops” based on the latest Matchbox and Lledo toys as well as old and battered Dinky models.

An index to Issues nine to fourteen was included a feature many readers liked but one that became much too hard to maintain in the days when it would need to be compiled by eye – no quick computer searches across magazine text in those days.

Spotted amongst the adverts is one for McLaren Models of Falkirk who were founded in 1983 and are still advertising in the UK modelling press today.

The back cover is shown with a variety of models relating to the contents including a fine display of South African Dinky Toys as well as two Sun Fire conversions, another view of the Thorneycroft and a De Soto Fire Ambulance.  A new series called Phoenix of 1:50 UK Fire Engines was pictured as well as Ashton US profile engines. Some Picollino 1:76 scale models which were available as kits, handbuilts,  and some cheap Corgi  buses in travel-related liveries were also shown.

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#17 Christmas 1985

The Christmas edition has some interesting graphics perhaps representing tyre tracks. The Corgi Thorneycroft van is again pictured on the cover. This time in yet another livery and with revised wheels.  Rod Ward commented that after issuing many other liveries Corgi finally fitted it with correct disk wheels. The lovely Russobalt is pictured with the information that it was unlikely to become available from the USSR at that point even though many Soviet made models were being sold in the West. The Cobra is a Box model from Italy, a range which still features in our News for the Continent postings.

In the centre of the cover is a range of 1:76 white metal buses from Model Road and Rail who made a small range of white metal models in 1:76 and 1:43. Their Routemaster variations were very popular as EFE’s was not founded until 1989 and the Corgi Routemasters were clearly toys.

At the base of the cover was an Ertl Ford Model T van in a toy fair finish a rare model at the time. Ertl were making a big play for the UK market at this time and their models were beginning to appear in specialist model shops. The final vehicle is a Brepsomn 1:8 scale tin plate model from France which you could buy for 500 UK Pounds, that would make an expensive Christmas present! (Current online sources show a few Brepsomn  models and state that they were made in Switzerland.)

Inside the magazine we see examples of readers’ work in creating Hearses from standard models, as well as cars crafted in wood by John Shelford which were to feature in MAR on a regular basis. We also see an article on detailing the Norev Paris bus to make it into a very accurate model. Corgi, Matchbox, and Lledo models featured in the news alongside Somerville and other specialist model makers.

A two page article, written by Rod Ward focused on the firms making models in Britain, has some fascinating illustrations to show the relative levels of production of different firms.  How different it is now with so few models made in Britain. Other features are the part two of Who’s Who as well as whole sections on USSR vehicles, Ambulances and a feature article by Charles Barnett on the Sunbeam Silver Bullet and the model by Pandora Models.

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Back Cover


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