COMING SOON: 25TH-ANNIVERSARY LAMBORGHINI COUNTACH BY AUTOART

Autoart CountachEarlier this week, after hyping Autoart’s new line of ABS composite-bodied models, we teased an upcoming model certain to satisfy those who still prefer their miniature cars to be hewn from diecast metal. Well, here it is: presenting the 1988 Lamborghini Countach 25th Anniversary Edition in 1:18 scale.

Though the Countach is the unquestioned “poster car” of an entire generation, no one has attempted a premium-quality diecast replica of its final iteration, the 25th Anniversary, until now. Who better than Autoart, the standard bearer for model Lamborghinis, to tackle this important subject?

Autoart Countach rearWe anticipate our first shipment of the Autoart Countach 25th Anniversary Edition in black to arrive this Friday, with pricing expected to be around $215.

AUTOART ANNOUNCES LINE OF COMPOSITE-BODIED MODELS. WORLD DOES NOT COME TO AN END.

autoart composite huracanThe annual Nuremberg Toy Fair is where scale model car companies traditionally introduce new products amidst very little fanfare, but this year Autoart dropped a bombshell with the announcement that they would soon release a line of products rendered in ABS-composite plastic. Yes, Autoart, the company that revolutionized mass-market 1:18-scale diecast in the late ’90s with their exquisitely detailed yet (then) sensibly priced models made from good old-fashioned zinc metal, was following the lead of upstarts like TSM and Ignition by moving to plastic-bodied cars. The protests from devoted collectors were as loud as they were predictable. Hell, it seemed, had frozen over.

Then, we actually got a look at the product.

Autoart Alfa

Autoart has pulled off something of a minor miracle. Their ABS models have the same substantial hand feel as their classic metal-bodied cars (as the plastic body panels are hung on a metal skeleton…much the same as many real automobiles parked in the world’s garages) with perhaps even finer exterior detail. Panel gaps and wheel fitment have long been among the toughest challenges facing model car makers, and though Autoart was already among the very best at tackling these problems, the ABS modelling process promises even tighter quality control in these areas. Plus, unlike most other plastic-based miniature cars (typically crafted from resin) Autoart’s models will feature opening parts, as one would expect of the standard-bearer of high-quality scale model automobiles.

Autoart AstonThe first of Autoart’s new composite cars to grace the halls of Carriage House Models will be the 1:18-scale Aston Martin V12 Vantage GT3, which we expect to have in stock by mid-April. Though sadly lacking an opening engine compartment, the Aston’s doors open to reveal an interior that’s detailed to perfection. We anticipate pricing around $155, which demonstrates the additional value of composite casting: it’s a cost-effective way to offer premium-level precision. Please visit http://www.carriagehousemodels.com for availability updates.

(Of course, this does not mean that Autoart is planning to abandon zinc metal casting altogether…we’ll introduce an upcoming metal model later this week!)

COMING SOON: THE 2014 CANADIAN GRAND PRIX-WINNING RED BULL RB10

spark RB10 resizeThough the 2014 Formula One season will be remembered primarily for the dominance of the factory Mercedes team, the emergence of Daniel Ricciardo as one of the sport’s top drivers made for compelling viewing. The young Australian was the only driver on the circuit who could threaten the Mercedes pair of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg with any regularity, claiming three race wins for Red Bull Racing in a year that otherwise saw the Silver Arrows of Mercedes run the table.

Spark Models has just released their 1:43-scale version of the Red Bull RB10 that carried Daniel Ricciardo to his maiden Formula One victory at the 2014 Canadian Grand Prix. This highly detailed model is an essential addition to any collection of modern F1 cars, as it commemorates the rise of a driver who is almost certain to be a future champion. We anticipate arrival at Carriage House Models by the end of February, with pricing to be around $80.

Please visit http://www.carriagehousemodels.com for availability updates, and sign up for our e-newsletter to receive monthly notices on upcoming new 1:18- and 1:43-scale models.

PARKING ON GRASS: THE 2015 SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO-CARE CAR SHOW

20150131_143023The section of the calendar between November and March has tended to be a “dead zone” for big car shows in California, bracketed by the marque-oriented events of late fall like So Cal Vintage Bimmerfest and the Best of France and Italy, and the desert concours of early spring. With a good chunk of our business coming from pop-up sales at shows, this time of year can be quite slow at the Carriage House, so we went on the hunt for local events to warm up our winter. Luckily, we discovered a hidden gem only 55 miles from our home base: the San Juan Capistrano-CARE Car Show, which took place on January 31st. With a 6 a.m. vendor set-up call, we found ourselves on the road in the wee hours of the morning, arriving at the San Juan Capistrano Sports Park long before sunrise.

20150131_081210Information on the SJC-Care show was hard to come by prior to the event; we try to position ourselves at shows with a field of cars that align with the models we tend to favor (mainly classic sports cars, vintage racers, and exotics.) The few photos we could find online of past SJC shows indicated that this event might tend to draw cars more typical of the standard “community car show,” meaning lots of Tri-Five Chevys, ’60s Mustangs, and other various musclecars and hot rods…not that there’s a thing in the world wrong with that, it’s just not our focus. So, there was some hesitation in committing to working a show that might not be a good fit with our product. Thankfully, such fears would be completely baseless: the SJC-Care Car Show had an almost unbelievable variety and quality of cars, and we were welcomed quite warmly by the assembled crowd.

20150131_074028As we set up our booth in the first rays of daylight, cars began to assemble along Camino del Avion for entrance to the show grounds, our early suspicions seemed to be confirmed by an endless procession of billet-wheeled Chevelles, Chargers, and other American iron…until we heard the unmistakeable buzz of SU carbs coming up the block. The Southern California Triumph Owners Association was out in force, with an assembly of TR3s, TR4s, TR6s, and even a lone Stag as a counterpoint to all of the heavy hitters from Detroit. Alone, this would have been sufficient to satisfy our Eurocentric tendencies, but the best was yet to come!

20150131_103929Even in Southern California, for a “local” car show to attract a single Mercedes Gullwing would be cause for celebration. At the SJC-Care show, there were three (plus a 300SL Roadster for good measure.) Each was in breathtakingly wonderful condition so picking a favorite was difficult, but if pressed we’d go with the blue example pictured above (regrettably, we didn’t catch the owner’s name…well done, whoever you are.)

20150131_073918Another brilliantly presented Benz was Fred Hill’s pagoda-roof 280SL, which was displayed by Star Motors of San Juan Capistrano, the garage responsible for its upkeep. If this car is indicative of the quality of work done by this garage, a stronger endorsement would be unnecessary.

20150131_080934It would be negligent to ignore the quality of the many great American cars on hand, which ranged from a fantastically original 1919 Ford Model T racer to a factory-fresh Hemi Challenger. Of special note were a gorgeous gold ’67 Shelby GT500 and an incredibly clean 427 Corvette coupe, but best of all was this 1939 Ford Woody, which featured some of the most beautiful woodwork we have encountered on such a vehicle.

20150131_123125For us, though, the undisputed star of the show was Brian Mertz’s 1959 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint Veloce. A bit of a hot rod, its spectacular sheetmetal hides a newer 2-liter engine and 5-speed transmission, as well as various other racy bits. Mertz acquired the car last April from a long-term owner, who used the car in long-distance touring events such as the Colorado Grand and the Copperstate 1000, both of which made good use of the car’s upgraded cooling system. Mertz also campaigns a ’65 Spider Veloce and a ’67 Giulia Sprint GT stepnose in vintage racing events, and to chat about cars with him is to understand the serene assurance that marks the true Alfisti.

20150131_143331All too soon, our time at the SJC-Care Car Show was over; we were sufficiently busy at our booth to preclude getting a better look at the hundreds of amazing cars on display. We came away with the sense that the organizers of this event (the San Juan Capistrano Rotary Club) might not know exactly how special their show really is. It is, first and foremost, a community event with a strong family atmosphere, made even stronger by a partnership with the Capistrano Animal Rescue Effort…dogs were welcome at the show, and every imaginable breed was represented by their proud human companions. But from the perspective of an auto enthusiast, the SJC-Care Show has all of the necessary ingredients to make the leap from being a really great “local” show (one of the best we’ve ever attended) to a true regional Concours. The cars attracted by this event were of tremendous quality, and the surrounding emerald scenery was truly incredible. Entry and exit from the show were smooth and painless (early set-up time notwithstanding) so it’s clear that the event staff are quite competent. With a location halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego and a calendar date pretty much all to itself, the San Juan Capistrano Car Show could easily attract even more top-level cars with the right sort of promotion. But whether the event makes the jump to Concours status, or whether it remains simply a terrific local event, we hope that Carriage House Models will be a part of it in the future!

For more photos from this event, please visit Carriage House Models’ Facebook page.

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

COMING SOON: TSM’S 1:18-SCALE LE MANS WINNING BENTLEY SPEED 8 EXP

TSM Bentley croppedThroughout the the late 1920s, one name was synonymous with dominance at the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance classic: Bentley. Beginning in 1924 and continuing from 1927 through 1930, the dashing British team piled up victories with their fast, rugged roadsters and their crew of rakish young drivers who would become known internationally as “The Bentley Boys.” These archetypical playboy sportsmen burnished the image of Bentley as the sophisticated choice for well-heeled bon vivant drivers for decades to come.

With corporate partner Audi taking a year off from factory-backed competition in the 2003 24 Hours of Le Mans, the time was right to resurrect the legend of the Bentley Boys. A pair of closed-cockpit prototypes would be entered in the LMGTP class, powered by a turbocharged, 4-liter Audi V8 and crewed by superstar team Joest Racing. The result: modern-day Bentley Boy Tom Kristensen would claim his fourth consecutive win at Le Mans in car #7, partnering with co-drivers Rinaldo Capello and Guy Smith to finish two laps ahead of the second place car…also a Bentley.

After a lengthy wait, TSM has finally released their 1:18-scale resin model of the 2003 Bentley Speed 8 EXP Le Mans-winner. Featuring TSM’s customarily excellent level of detail, the Speed 8 will be an essential addition to any collection of 1:18-scale Le Mans prototypes, and with a production run of only 750 units, we expect to sell out quickly! Our allotment is scheduled to arrive around January 23rd; please visit http://www.carriagehousemodels.com for availability updates.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Carriage House Models at the 12th-Annual San Juan Capistrano Car Show

SJC FieldOne of the best aspects of Southern California car culture is that there really isn’t such a thing as an “off season.” Whether your preference is organized motorsport, a spirited Sunday drive in the canyons, or just a relaxing stroll through a car show, worship of the automobile is a year-round activity here. So, while much of the rest of the country shivers under a blanket of snow, the Carriage House Models crew will be soaking up the warm winter sun at the 12th-annual San Juan Capistrano Car Show on Saturday, January 31st at the San Juan Capistrano Community Center & Sports Park. We’ll be there with our full range of 1:18- and 1:43-scale cars, with special show pricing on selected models.

Benefiting the SJC Rotary Club, the show offers a wide variety of vehicles, from hot rods and musclecars to European exotica, as well as a selection of new cars from local dealers. The event is pet-friendly, and will feature a “disc dog” demonstration.

For more information, visit the show’s website: http://sjcrotary.org/Page/carshow. We hope to see you there!

THE FINE DETAILS: How Autoart Sets The Standard In 1:18-Scale

GBartlett Aventador 2K EditOver the holidays, I had a few of my old Bburago 1:18-scale models out of storage for photography at my wife’s family’s house. My mother-in-law, who up to that point had never seen one of these cars up close, marveled at the level of detail that went into them. I explained that as charming as these 30-year-old pieces are, they appear rather quaint when compared to the modern precision replicas we sell today at Carriage House Models (such as the 50th-Anniversary Lamborghini Aventador pictured above.) She wondered what set the newer models apart, to which I could only answer “modern manufacturing processes, more precise tolerances, laser-cut parts, etc.” That’s when her eyes started to glaze over, and we both reached for our mimosas.

autoartfitmentI could have offered a better explanation by referring her to Autoart Models’ Facebook post of January 6th, in which they laid out the method by which they obtain a flush wheel fit on their racing models. Using what can only be described as an exhaustive process, Autoart manually grinds the zinc metal of their models’ fenders to achieve a thinner “sheet metal” effect that allows wide racing tires to fit under the body, giving a properly scaled clearance. This is the sort of detail that a casual observer might not consider when examining a model car, but I guarantee that they would absolutely notice something “off” about the model if Autoart did not go to all this trouble.

AgeraSideOpenWhen Autoart first appeared on the diecast scene in the late 1990s, it was apparent that the rest of the model car industry would have to raise its game substantially to compete with this new level of detail. Fifteen years later, Autoart continues to set the standard by which other 1:18-scale model cars are judged, and while other companies can now match the accuracy of their products, Autoart remains at the cutting edge of miniature car craftsmanship.