Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two Holdens in One Day

It doesn't do you any good to become typecast, and so just in case newcomers to this new blog think "French car fanatic" I think it's time to throw a spanner in the works. When I arrived home from work, there were two more packages sitting on my desk. (My wife is getting worried about the almost daily flow of parcels, and I wonder if the drug squad have taken note of my details? No worries either way, they're just beautiful little diecast model cars.)

And so when I opened the parcels, two Holdens in one day! I can't say I'm a Holden fan at all. Yes, like most Australian families in the 50s, 60s and 70s, we had Holdens as our family car (in our case it wasn't all Holdens, but that's another posting for later on). And the various Holdens were OK, if unexciting. However, it seemed a bit disloyal of me not to at least have a token presence of a few Holdens in the old historic diecast cabinet.

On the right, an FJ Holden of the early 50s, and on the left, an FE Holden
taxi from 1956 in the livery of Sydney's De Luxe Cabs company.

Strangely enough, I found this cheapie made by Atlas on a Dutch website.
Must have got lost at some stage in its career. As I am building up a small
gaggle of cabs from New York, Paris and London, a Sydney cab would
have been a shameful oversight. Been in a lot of Sydney cabs, I have,
including quite a few FE Holdens in De Luxe Cabs colours, long ago.
The big surprise for me was how incredibly lovely the FJ Holden model is.
It's made by Biante/AutoArt, and it's a beautifully made thing. Heavy
in the hand, fine in the detail, excellent in the finish. It has instantly become
one of my favourite models in my small but growing collection.
The detailing of the engine and front end is much better than average.
So too is the detailing of the FJ's dodgy old leaf-sprung rear end. Even though
it's a nice model, I'm never going to convince myself the FJ had good
suspension, good brakes or went round corners well. But it was a tough car.
They even got the running writing 'Holden Special' badge right.
So I count the 'Two Holdens in One Day' a very pleasant surprise, courtesy of the quality of that nice old FJ. It doesn't mean I'll be adding any more Holdens to the collection, most probably, but one old Holden has suddenly and surprisingly become a favourite model, and I'll definitely be on the lookout for more Biante/AutoArt models in future.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Vive la France!

At school it was compulsory to study a language, and so I chose French. Mind you I only did four years of French but I did get an "A" for French in the School Certificate exam for 16-year-olds here in Australia. So, on my first day in Paris a mere 20 years later on, I was looking forward to finally roadtesting my excellent Aussie schoolboy French on my first unsuspecting Parisian. A few words into my first French sentence and a Gallic hand went up, like a stop sign, and in English he said "Spare me your French" and walked away.

Undeterred by that rude Parisian curmudgeon, I went on to have a lovely trip through France that year, driving my Citroen GS through the countryside to all quarters, including Mulhouse, where I visited the Schlumpf Museum (but that's another post sometime down the track). And so I have also never lost my fascination for French food, French movies and, yes, French cars, amongst various other acquired tastes of the French kind.

Here's part of one cabinet where French cars rule. While this is by no means
all of my French cars, this is headquarters, I guess. In later posts I'll deal
with the Peugeots on the bottom shelf, the Renaults and other oddities on
the middle shelf, such as Simcas and Panhards, but for starters I thought
I'd take a tour along the top shelf, to visit sporting French sedans with very
big numbers written on their sides.

Far left, a Renault Dauphine, winner of the Monte Carlo Rally in 1958. It's
an IXO 1:43 model (in fact all of the model cars here in this post are 1:43)

Very much a genuine one-off, this is a modified Altaya model of a Peugeot
403, painted up very nicely in the real livery of the Class C winner at the
Armstrong 500 at Philip Island in 1960 and 61. This Pug was one of the first
cars painted with distinctive stripes to make it easy for pit crews to follow
its progress. The Armstrong 500 race soon relocated to Bathurst and then
evolved into the world famous endurance race most people know about.
But back in 1960, a little 1400cc Pug managed to win its class, which
was for cars 1300-2000cc. A good effort, and obviously a great drive.
I bought this from the modeller who modified it, in an eBay auction.

Citroen DS19 from the Rallye de Corse (ie, Corsican Rally). It's another IXO
model, and a not especially nicely made one, I might add. I have my eye
on replacing it with a model of the Citroen which almost won the inaugural
London to Sydney Marathon, but the poor old Corsican will do for the meantime.
Citroens were very active in rallying at that time. This is something snatched
from a search on Google images, from the Rallye du Maroc.

And now, for a change of pace, some lovely footage courtesy of You Tube from the Rallye du Maroc, complete with casual Citroen drivers, helmetless in their T-shirts, casually changing gears with the column shift while they throw up clouds of dust for les autres to manger

Meanwhile on the other, eastern, side of Africa the Peugeot 404s were
showing the others how to eat dust. This is the 1967 East African Safari winner,
a very nicely made model by Norev.
And here is some footage of this car being driven around a test course, presumably several years later. I like the in-car 404 driving glimpses the most, but the rest is interesting enough to warrant a run.

Fast forward to 1976 and this is the Peugeot 504 which came home in 9th place
in the East African Safari Rally, in the year when Mitsubishi came in 1-2-3.
This is an Altaya model, not quite as nice close up as the photo might suggest.
That's the spirit! A 504 being driven to Sunday School, no doubt.
This Peugeot 404 Pickup was in the inaugural 1979 Paris-Dakar Rally.
It was a private entry, the extended cab built by the driver, Marc Andre.

While their competitive spirit was spot-on, the more the years advanced the
more stickers cars seemed to wear. Personally, I just prefer one dirty big
number on the driver's door. That spelled 'competition' loud and clear to me.

And so that's my little introduction to some of my French cars. While Peugeots, Citroens and Renaults seem to be relatively innocuous conveyances for the bourgeosie of France, we French car fans know that beneath those sedate, refined and always interesting facades there lurked cars which loved to be driven. Tough cars which could take a pounding. Cars with suspensions which could cope with third world bumps and hollows. Cars which could in fact win long distance rallies when the fields consisted almost entirely of real production cars rather than purpose built specials. Vive la France!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I blame you, Carlo Guzzi!

Poor Carlo Guzzi has been resting in his grave since 1964, but he's the one who is responsible for me taking up diecast collecting. The story is a simple one. In May this year, after quite a long break, I returned to motorcycling, buying a Moto Guzzi V7 Classic 2009 model. Then I thought it would be nice to have a diecast model of the V7's grandfather Guzzi, also named V7. I liked the model so much I bought two more, and then some cars, and now look where I am. Blogging about diecast cars and bikes. Rest in peace Carlo, but you started it!

Here's the Starline 1:24 model of the V7 Special
sitting on the rocker cover of my V7 Classic.

And here's the V7 Classic. 750cc, retro-styled and
a very nice bike to ride. Lovely exhaust note, too.
I've ridden several Guzzis over the years, but
never owned one, so it was top of my list of bikes
to buy if and when I started riding again.

This is the Starline model of Grandpappy. This original bike, the V7 Special,
first appeared as a 750cc tourer in 1969. I wanted one even back then, but
as a poor, snotty schoolboy it was way out of my league.
These Starline models are nicely done. The company has been good to deal
with. You can find them online at They specialise
in just a few bike and car makers. Very much the small specialist outfit. 
If I won the lottery and could get my hands on any bike I wanted, I'd get
a real one of these – the Moto Guzzi Falcone, a 500 single. In the
meantime, I'm happy to just have a 1:24 Starline model of one.
I've always like fishtail exhaust pipes, so that's a bonus, and it is a Carlo
Guzzi bike. But the other great thing about Falcones is the cool videos
they have inspired. And so it's video time folks, courtesy of You Tube.

And the simple pleasures of a Guzzi Falcone idling.

But wait, there's one more (bike, not a video), a great bike that is forced to live in the shadow of a famous failure of a big, noisy brother.

This is the 350cc Moto Guzzi GP bike which won the World Championship
in 1953, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957 (in that last year with Aussie Keith
Campbell in the saddle). A simple little single cylinder bike, the genius
of Carlo Guzzi is very much inside every nut and bolt.
This is of course another 1:24 Starline model, and they call it the Bialbero,
a name I hadn't heard of previously. While these little bikes' top speed
was varied to suit the gearing of each circuit, at the fastest circuit in Spa
Francorchamps in Belgium, they reached 140mph (225km/h), an amazing
speed for a humble little 350cc horizontal single-cylinder four-stroke.
Here's the 350 in action at the time. And this gives me the perfect segue
to introduce its famous big brother. I found this photo above of the
350 on Google Images, and at several other blogs and websites the same
mistake is repeated: they all say this is the Moto Guzzi 500 V8 in action.
No it's not, it's the 350. Check the exhaust pipe on this bike, and the model above.
The same. Check the V8 below, in the Moto Guzzi museum.

The 500V8's exhaust plumbing is reminscent of spaghetti, but there's no
way a single long pipe is poking out the bottom of this machine!
So it's the fate of the very successful little Moto Guzzi 350 single to live in the shadow of the 500V8, which captured hearts and imaginations but very few prizes. Starline Models of course has a 500V8 in its 1:24 model lineup, but I didn't order one. I'm sticking with my little mate the 350. It'll do me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For starters

As this is the first ever posting on this new blog, I might as well introduce myself. I'm new to diecast model car and bike collecting, but I've been riding bikes and driving cars since 1970. I have several distinct preferences when it comes to this hobby. I prefer older cars, mostly those prior to 1970, but I'm interested in bikes from any era. I also love French cars, but by no means exclusively. When it really comes down to it, my tastes are all over the shop, and the collection includes flashy convertibles from the US, pioneering rally cars, taxis, etc.

And so without any further ado, I'll start with the car that arrived in the mail today, which does neatly lead me on to explain my choice of photo in the title box for this blog.

Auto Union Type D. 1938 British GP Winner: Driver, Tazio Nuvolari.
The model is a 1:43 by Minichamps, and it's beautiful.

3 litre V12; 485bhp @ 7000; Top speed 320-340km/h. No slouch.
Fabulous shape, radical design; Nuvolari was the kind of driver it needed.
Tazio at Donington winning the British GP. Little guy, big handful of a car.
As a kid, I read the biographies of two racing car legends, and they're still my heroes these days, partly because a lot of people don't even know they ever existed. Tazio Nuvolari is one hero, and the other, almost 'of course', is Fangio. I have some of Fangio's cars, too.

Fangio, drifting at speed at Silverstone in 1956.

Let's have one more! Fangio drifting in the 1957 French GP.
This is my Spark 1:43 model of the W-196, with Fangio at the wheel.
2.5 litre, desmodromic straight eight, 290bhp @8200. Top speed 300km/h.
And here's the 1957 Maserati 250F with which Fangio won his last World
Championship. It's a 3.5 litre V-12, 310hp @7200, top speed about 305km/h.
The model is a 1:43 by Brumm, very solidly built, too.
And so that will do for introductions. I've been a very busy boy collecting cars these last five months. I have plenty more to show you, and so when I get the chance I'll add to this blog. I think next time it'll be time for some French road cars, and soon after that, some bikes.