COMING ATTRACTIONS: Carriage House Models Pop-Up Sale at the Central Coast British Car Show

20150426_110747Nowhere do we feel more at home than at a car show, surrounded by beautiful automobiles and like-minded enthusiasts. That’s why we’re so excited to be a part of the 25th-annual Central Coast British Car Club Show, which will take place on Sunday, July 19th at Channel Islands Park in Oxnard, California. This beautiful harborside location is the perfect backdrop for viewing hundreds of the West Coast’s best British cars; Jaguar is the featured marque this year, so expect a feast of XKs and E-Types!

Spark E-TypeAnd of course, we’ll be there with our customary selection of premium diecast and resincast model cars, with a special focus on English makes (like Spark’s 1:43-scale E-Type Series 1 FHC, pictured above.) We’ll also have a few vintage treasures from the vault, including a few classic Corgi Junior film/tv cars. And as always, we’ll offer special event discounts on select items!

The address: 3600 Harbor Blvd., Oxnard, CA 93035. Show hours are 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. We hope to see you there on July 19th!



RDCDE 427 CobraQuick: name the largest annual public event in the glitzy city of Beverly Hills, California. Is it an art show? Some sort of fashion extravaganza? Nope. It’s the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance, held every Father’s Day since 1993. The brainchild of Beverly Hills native son and major-league petrolhead Bruce Meyer, this free-to-the-public show is billed as a gathering of some of Southern California’s finest cars to arguably its most famous street for a one-day celebration of all things automotive. The idea of pristine vintage cars parked alongside the toniest of boutiques with no admission charge attached makes for a very attractive proposition. But does it work in practice?

RDCDE JaramaThe major problem with the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance is one of space. We go to a LOT of car shows every year, from weekly “cruise-ins” and regional special interest events like the Best of France and Italy gathering, to the upper stratum of concours like Pebble Beach, and the one thing that the best of them have in common is that there is ample room to appreciate the cars on hand. The world’s most beautiful automobiles are nuanced, with lots of elegant curves and angles that sometimes require a bit of distance to appreciate. That’s not possible on Rodeo Drive, where cars must be parked curbside and share space with pedestrian walkways. Then, there’s the matter of the ropes: though it’s necessary to establish some sort of barrier between spectators and the priceless cars on display, the thin white strands used on Rodeo Drive look terrible, and make it all but impossible to get clean photographs of the cars. This situation is only exacerbated by the sheer size of the crowd, which as one would expect of a free event, is massive…perhaps too massive for the tight confines of the show’s location. Quite frequently, it was impossible to get even a glimpse of certain cars, as the crush of humanity was just too dense. (The above photo was the best we could manage of Perry Mansfield’s icy-cool Lamborghini Jarama…pity.)

So, does the collision of high expectations and unpleasant realities make the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance one of L.A.’s worst car shows? Well, not exactly, and the reason is obvious: the quality of cars on display (when one can see them) is absolutely top-shelf.

RDCDE Scherr AlfaAlfa Romeo was the Concours’ featured marque this year, and immediately upon arrival on Rodeo Drive we were greeted by Ray Scherr’s 1938 8C2900B Corto Spyder by Touring. To wit: it is the opinion of your humble scribe that this is the single finest motorcar in the world. Scherr’s 2.9 has it all: its coachwork is exquisite, its restoration flawless, and the underlying engineering is a masterpiece…it was a supercar before the word had been invented. If the presence of this Alfa was an indication of the Concours Committee’s ability to curate a worthwhile selection of cars, it was going to be a good day on Rodeo.

RDCDE TZ1Alfa Romeo brought a pair of new 4Cs (one coupe, one spider) to adorn their corporate display, but both were comprehensively upstaged by this 1963 Giulia TZ1. Regrettably, we were unable to obtain information on this specific example of what may be the most desirable post-war Alfa, or to learn the owner’s name. However, we’re confident we saw this same car parked hood-up alongside the 405 Freeway following an appearance at Cars & Coffee in Irvine…say what you will about the perceived reliability of old Italian cars, at least the steward of this rare beast had the stones to take it out of the garage and drive it as it should be driven.

RDCDE Sebring SpiderWe had the pleasure of meeting hardcore Alfa enthusiast Brandon Adrian at last year’s Best of France and Italy show in Van Nuys, and once again he had his wonderful, ex-Nanni Galli 1600 GTA Corsa on display. However, he also had a second vintage Alfa available for our viewing pleasure: the one-and-only 1956 Giulietta “Sebring Spider.” An early production Spider Veloce 750F, this car claimed a class win in the 1957 12 Hours of Sebring…the model’s first victory in an international F.I.A. event. It would return to Sebring the following year to finish second-in-class, cementing its place as one of the most significant Giuliettas ever made. Inexplicably, the Sebring Spider was placed some distance north on Rodeo from the main Alfa Romeo display, a bit of a gaffe in planning as the car certainly deserved a place of honor alongside the other important Alfas in attendance.

RDCDE SWBThe Ferrari presence at the Rodeo Drive Concours was as strong as one would expect at such a venue, with a refreshing focus on older examples. Two in particular caught our attention: first came Bob and Michele Cohen’s breathtaking 1962 250GT Short Wheelbase Berlinetta, fresh from an appearance at the nearby Greystone Mansion Concours where it claimed Best in Show Concours de Sport. The SWB is probably our favorite vintage Ferrari, and the combination of a deep grey finish over perfect dark red hides made the Cohen car one of the prettiest we’ve ever seen.

RDCDE 212 VignaleBut perhaps an even rarer delight was Peter McCoy’s 1951 212 Export Vignale, S/N #0092. Besides being lovely to behold, McCoy’s Ferrari has a fascinating history: one of the earliest production Ferraris, it was delivered new to Franco Cornacchia’s Scuderia Guastalla in Italy where it enjoyed a brief racing career, before being shipped to Luigi Chinetti’s North American operation. After serving as Alberto Ascari’s personal conveyance from New York to Indiana for the 1952 Indianapolis 500, the car was then sent west to be raced by luminaries such as Phil Hill and Ernie McAfee. Following very long-term storage by a later owner, the 212 was acquired by Peter McCoy in 2008, and was sent to Wayne Obry’s Motion Products for a concours-level restoration. The result? Class wins at the Pebble Beach Concours D’Elegance and the Concorso d’Eleganza Villa d’Este, as well as a coveted Platinum award at the Cavallino Classic. Clearly, this is a Very Important Automobile, and frankly deserved somewhat more prominent placement along the boulevard than it received.

RDCDE CobraThough the Rodeo Drive Concours had a distinctly Italian flavor, there was a smattering of cars from the U.S. and northern Europe to keep things interesting, including a drop-dead-gorgeous Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster that was rendered unphotographable by the noon crowd. (Sadly, there were no Japanese classics to be found…get with the times, Concours Committee!) To our eye, the best of the non-Italians – and perhaps most interesting car in the show – was David Lerian’s 1962 Shelby Cobra, s/n CSX2005. This incredibly early production Cobra (the fifth completed) was at one time a rolling classroom at the Carroll Shelby High Performance Driving School, with a roster of students that included names such as Steve McQueen and James Garner. The recipient of a recent Mike McCluskey restoration to original, as-raced condition, CSX2005 is a delightful slice of Southern California motoring history.

So, yes, the cars at the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance were among the best to be found on the west coast. Still, the show itself is a hassle. It’s cramped and the cars are somewhat obnoxiously positioned, and anyway, most of the same machines can be seen at any number of other shows (just within the past 60 days, many were entered in the nearby  Greystone Mansion Concours and the San Marino Motor Classic.) The question is, then: is the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance worth it?

RDCDE Tony MGAPerhaps the best answer to this question came from Tony Ly, whose immaculate MGA we’ve encountered in the past, and who creates a festive atmosphere around his car wherever he goes (read: dude brings champagne.) Tony listened patiently to our beefs with the Rodeo Drive Concours, and then quickly put us in our place. Yes, he said, most of these cars could be seen at other events, but many of those extract a hefty admission fee. And yes, it was really crowded, but that’s the consequence of a free event…and free events are what spark people to take an interest in classic cars. Tony wasn’t born owning his MGA. He learned his appreciation for vintage cars by going to free shows as a youth, and he worked hard to get to a point in life where he could indulge in his passion. When viewed from this mature, completely reasonable perspective, the Rodeo Drive Concours D’Elegance is more than just a car show…it’s a dream factory. Average people (even the kind who sometimes stroll the streets of Beverly Hills) don’t often get to see Pebble Beach-winning cars like Ray Scherr’s Alfa or Peter McCoy’s Ferrari. Despite its high-rent location, the Rodeo Drive Concours is perhaps the most egalitarian car show of its type, and that is a very good thing.

Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on California’s vibrant car show scene.  Occasionally, cars will not actually be parked on grass.


05 HakosukaOver the last few years, we’ve been delighted to observe a gradual shift toward mainstream acceptance in America of older Japanese automobiles as collectible classics. The Carriage House fleet has in recent times included first-generation examples of the Mazda Miata and Toyota MR2, so we’re well acquainted with the sporting virtues of lightweight, solidly built “J-tin,” and we’re happy that more and more people are rejecting the antiquated viewpoint that Japanese cars are nothing but soulless appliances. So when our old friend Ben Hsu, founder and editor-in-chief of Japanese Nostalgic Car, expressed to us his desire to create an American touring rally for vintage Japanese cars (the sort of event to which owners of more widely recognized classics from Europe and the U.S. have had access for years) we jumped at the chance to help bring his vision to life.

20150516_120849Ben’s belief in the viability of such an event was bolstered by the recent success of Japanese classics at high-profile collector car auctions, such as several sales of the much sought-after Toyota 2000GT for over $1 million, or excellent examples of the Nissan Skyline “hakosuka” and Mazda Cosmo Sport (pictured at top and above, respectively) cracking the quarter-million dollar mark. Additionally, publications ranging from Hemmings Motor News to the New York Times have indentified Japanese cars as a future growth area in the collector car world, and suddenly everyone seems to want a piece of the action. Always having been ahead of this curve, Ben felt that the time was right to give Japanese classics the vintage rally treatment as a way to spotlight not only the beauty of these amazing machines, but also their usability as “event cars.”

370So, how does Carriage House Models fit into all of this? Well, it turns out that our relationship with Ben Hsu dates back to the late 1980s, when as car-crazy middle-schoolers, our founder bonded with Ben over a shared love of diecast models. Household moves, college and careers in different parts of the country separated us for a couple of decades, during which time the Carriage House team got heavily involved in the Southern California road rally scene, first competing in, and then organizing a number of TSD navigational rallies in the L.A. area. Several years ago we rekindled our friendship with Ben thanks to a Facebook-facilitated reunion, and when the time came for him to make his Japanese classic car rally dream a reality, we were delighted to offer our experience in road rally organization to the cause. (Pictured above: the dear departed Carriage House MR2, used extensively in early research for this event.)

PiumaSkylineTougeOver the course of eighteen months, we worked with Ben to create exactly the sort of event he envisioned: a fun-to-drive, non-competitive tour of scenic, challenging roads that would not only give owners of classic Japanese cars a chance to enjoy them in the manner for which they were intended, but also would allow these same cars to be photographed and promoted in the most beautiful scenery imaginable. Ben laid out a few specifications (start and finish locations, time and distance parameters, etc.) but otherwise gave us nearly carte blanche to write the route. We responded by crafting a 120-mile course through our beloved Santa Monica Mountains that would be both thrilling to drive and gorgeous to behold. As it drew upon the Japanese tradition of spirited mountain-pass driving known as touge for inspiration, it seemed only natural to call the new event “Touge California.” From the moment the words were first uttered, we knew we were onto something special.

01 SiennaWe soon found that we were not alone. Ben reached out to his vast network of contacts in the Japanese car world to find partners in making Touge California more than just a cruise in the countryside. The response was overwhelming: heavyweights including Toyota, Yokohama Tire, Koyorad Radiator, Mattel, and Mother’s Car Care jumped at the chance to sponsor this groundbreaking event. Toyota was especially game, granting us use of facilities and vehicles before and during the rally (including an incredibly well-appointed Sienna SE minivan, which would serve as a shuttle for members of the press who came along to report on the event.)

02 MalamutAfter a flurry of last-minute preparations were completed, Touge California was finally ready to roll on May 16, 2015. After lunch and a tour of Mike Malamut’s private auto collection in Thousand Oaks, California, sixteen brave teams set off for a day of adventure in the Santa Monica Mountains. The route would include five “Touge” stages which would feature especially challenging roadways. As several of the cars on hand were equipped with somewhat primitive braking and cooling systems, workaround routes were devised for drivers who were uncertain of their vehicles’ ability to handle these demanding parts of the course. However, only drivers who could prove that they successfully completed the entire route (including all five Touge stages) by returning still-sealed envelopes to us at the finish would receive a coveted “I SURVIVED TOUGE CALIFORNIA” sticker at the end of the rally. Would any accept the challenge?

04 CP1The first leg of Touge California 2015 headed west along the famed Mulholland Highway, followed by the first Touge stage of the event: a quick, downhill blast toward Westlake Village. The first checkpoint followed soon after in a lovely, pastoral setting. At that point, the consensus among the drivers was that if the remainder of the day was to be as exciting as the first part, Touge California was going to be a winner. (Pictured above: Sebastian Hill’s sensational Datsun 510 leads a small group of rallyists into Checkpoint 1.)

06 Pt MuguThe rally’s second leg took the drivers further west into the green farmlands south of Camarillo (after a brief second Touge stage full of second-gear switchbacks), ending at Point Mugu on Pacific Coast Highway. Here, all sixteen cars were brought together for a group photo, much to the surprise of unsuspecting onlookers (including a family of Japanese tourists who, quite serendipitously, happened to be at Point Mugu as part of their American vacation!) Taken as a collection, it was hard not to be impressed both with the diversity of cars assembled for the event, but also how comfortable they looked in these spectacular surroundings…they were, after all, BORN for just this sort of drive. Somehow, for far too long, America looked upon them as simple transportation devices, but Touge California seemed to unlock the soul within these cars, and the excitement among their owners was palpable. (Pictured above: the nearly identical Toyota Celica GTs of Mike Foertsch and Mike Malnick, complete with their original, highly sought-after California “blue plates.”)

08 CP4The second half of the day started with an easy drive south on PCH, before heading north on the most challenging Touge stage of the rally: a ten-mile hillclimb that snaked from Malibu to Agoura Hills and featured more than a few blind, decreasing-radius turns to keep the drivers on their toes. A workaround was offered, but all sixteen drivers courageously faced down the Touge…as they did with the fourth and fifth Touge stages. That’s right: EVERYONE completed the entire route, Touge stages and all, proving that Japanese reliability and driving exhilaration are far from mutually exclusive concepts. (Pictured above: Francis Jones’ Toyota TE27 Sprinter Trueno leads Jacob Brown’s first-generation Mazda Miata into Checkpoint 4, halfway through the final Touge stage.)

13 DockweilerThe final portion of Touge California 2015 included a final drive south along PCH, followed by a surprisingly quick trip through Venice and Playa del Rey, before reaching the ultimate checkpoint at Dockweiler State Beach in El Segundo. Plans for sunset photography were scuppered by a long running time for the rally, so we departed as quickly as we had arrived for the post-rally festivities. Our friends at Toyota had arranged a Hawaiian buffet for our dinner at their American museum in Torrance, where Ben Hsu presented the coveted “I SURVIVED TOUGE CALIFORNIA” stickers to every driver.

20150516_211500The day concluded with a tour of the Toyota museum led by Lexus executive Paul Williamsen, whose intimate knowledge of the cars on display made for an incredibly educational evening. For an event whose purpose was to celebrate the history of Japanese cars on American shores, a more fitting conclusion could not have been found.

09 OverlookBased on the response of the participants in the first-ever Touge California, both the drivers and our many sponsor partners, it’s almost certain that there will be more rallies to follow…the idea is to make Touge California an annual event, and we’re already in discussions with the Japanese Nostalgic Car team regarding potential routes and venues for next year! From the Carriage House Models perspective, our only regret was that we were so busy handling the logistics of the event (including driving the preview car) that we didn’t have much time to take a breath and enjoy sight of these beautiful classic cars tackling the roads we had selected for them. Thankfully, in addition to coverage from JNC itself, several other media outlets were on hand to record the proceedings. To read more (and to see some truly great photography from the route) visit Japanese Nostalgic Car, Petrolicious, or Revved.

Carriage House Models is beyond proud to have been part of the historic first running of Touge California, and we can’t wait to do it again next year!


20150426_105417Pity for a moment the poor British sports car that is doomed to live out its days in its mother country. Rain and rust…that’s your destiny. Far better to find one’s way to sunny Southern California, where gentle sunshine and the adoration of cheerful enthusiasts abound.

Until the wind starts blowing. Then you’re still kinda screwed.

20150426_130658So it was at the 2015 edition of the long-running Queen’s English All-British Car Show, held as it is every year at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California. Normally, this springtime show is a reminder of how spoiled we car folk are in this part of the country by glorious blue skies and warm days. This year, however, blustery winds meant that car owners and show patrons were blasted by blowing dust all morning and most of the afternoon, while parts and automobilia vendors (like us) struggled to keep our pop-up canopies from becoming airborne. Car detailing products will no doubt be in high demand among the region’s Jaguar and MG clubs this week.

Nonetheless, the collection of cars that amassed on the Woodley Park lawn was utterly excellent. Though the Carriage House crew had its hands full with brisk business for most of the event, we still found time to sneak away from the booth to check out the hundreds of gorgeous automobiles on hand.

20150426_105458Among the few Aston Martins on hand, Lawrence Fromm’s 1991 Virage was a rare treat…very rare, as only about 50 examples of the total 365-unit production run found their way to North America. Fromm’s car is in fact a Canadian import with an interesting history: its original owner received it as a medical-school graduation gift from a pair of obviously doting parents. With a proper manual gearbox and a KM/H-reading speedometer, the Fromm Virage is low-key, but still a fascinating supercar.

20150426_110735Is the Jaguar E-Type the most iconic British car of all time? It’s certain that supporters of the Mini would argue the point, but the Jag’s appeal is so pervasive there’s not much we can say that hasn’t been said more eloquently before. Instead, we’ll just point to Mitch Clements’ ’63 fixed-head coupe as an example of what makes the E-Type so universally beloved. Simply put, it’s stunning. Clements restored the car over a leisurely ten-year period, doing almost all of the work (save the paint) himself, and he is far too humble about the sensational results. “I want to drive it,” Clements said, “but quite frankly, where?” (Might we suggest Carriage House HQ for a closer inspection?)

20150426_130202Another magnificently restored classic that caught our eye was Ron Fine’s beautiful 1961 Austin-Healey 3000 BN7. The subject of a two-year, frame-off restoration (as with the Clements Jag, performed mostly by the owner himself) this Big Healey is a multiple national award-winning car. However, Fine drives the car to shows rather than trailering it, and he notes that the restoration has mellowed enough that he’ll drive it anywhere…as long as there is a safe place to park waiting at the end of the journey!

20150426_131009Don Thompson’s 1988 Lotus Esprit Turbo captured our attention with its absolutely flawless presentation, but a brief conversation with the owner may have revealed the true nature of the British-car enthusiast. Thompson cheerfully informed us that the car, a sure winner in any judged event for which its eligible, is for sale. Why unload such a perfect specimen? “It’s 100% done,” replied Thompson. There’s nothing left to fix, so he feels it’s time to move on to a new project. Hey, whatever works for you, sir.

20150426_144630In a show filled with iconic, often exotic machinery, it may come as a surprise that our favorite car of the day was something a bit more humble, but our choice was Larry Bisordi’s 1965 Ford Cortina Estate (shown by his brother Ray.) Honest, lovely and almost 100% original, the little Cortina wagon is completely stock apart from being lowered and mounted on Lotus Cortina rims. A U.S.-export model hailing from the southwest, Bisordi’s Cortina is exactly the kind of offbeat, affordable classic that we ourselves would like to own, and the fact that it’s a station wagon was just the icing on the cake.

The wind stopped just in time for us to pack up our gear and head home. It’s a virtual certainty that we’ll be back next year with an even bigger selection of British scale model cars (we got the message, MG fans) along with a very serious set of tent stakes.

Parking On Grass is the Desktop Concours’ irregular series on Southern California’s vibrant car show scene. Occassionally, cars may not actually be parked on grass.


033Car show season is heating up, with one of our favorite events taking place this Sunday: the annual Queen’s English All-British Car Show in Van Nuys, California. An incredible variety of English iron from across Southern California will congregate on Woodley Park’s expansive lawn for this free admission, family-friendly show which will feature almost every British car one can imagine, from the most humble MGs to the most outrageous McLarens, plus Austin-Healeys, Morgans, Bentleys, and of course, Jaaaaags as far as the eye can see.

Sparks for QEOf course, for Carriage House Models, it’s all about scale, and we’ll have plenty of it at the Queen’s English. We’re bringing our full range of 1:18 and 1:43-scale model cars for your shopping pleasure, with special show pricing on many popular favorites. In response to overwhelming demand, we’ll also have a great selection of classic and current 1:64 cars from Matchbox and Hot Wheels.

Jags ResizeThe Queen’s English takes place on April 26th from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Woodley Park, 6350 Woodley Avenue, Van Nuys, CA 91436. Abundant free parking is available, but get there early to get the best selection of models from the Carriage House booth. Hope to see you there!


Ignition Fairlady

Japanese classics are perhaps the hottest segment of the collector car hobby at the moment, with several rare and desirable models having sold for over a quarter of a million dollars at auction recently (and with the Toyota 2000GT routinely trading hands around $1 million over the past few years.) It’s no surprise, then, that this surge in popularity would be reflected in the model car world, with model makers from Autoart to Kyosho giving a wide range of vintage Japanese iron its moment in the sun.

Perhaps no company is producing finer scale model Japanese classics than Ignition Models, who make limited runs of resin-cast “Nostalgics” in 1:18 and 1:43 scale. Ignition scores on three counts: 1) their level of detail, especially in fashioning delicate trim pieces, is excellent, 2) they offer a deep selection of subjects, from popular favorites like the Nissan Skyline to more unusual choices such as the Toyota Soarer and Mitsubishi Pajero, and 3) rather than sticking to factory-stock cars, Ignition dresses their models in tasteful “JDM” modifications like riveted fender flares and aftermarket rims, the latter being so accurate that they require separate licenses from the wheel manufacturers to replicate!

ignition hako 118

For 2015, Ignition will produce several variations of the Nissan Fairlady Z and Skyline “hakosuka” in 1:18 scale. The Z pictured at the top of the post is scheduled for release in July, while the Skyline GT-R above will follow in August. We anticipate even more Ignition models in the months to follow, including a 1:18-scale Toyota Soarer, and a 1:43-scale Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo (Z32.) Pricing for 1:18-scale cars is expected to be $210, and $160 for 1:43. Carriage House Models is proud to be one of very few U.S. retailers to carry these rare and beautifully crafted models, and based on past releases we expect each new release to sell out almost immediately.

Please visit for availability updates.