Monday, June 24, 2013

Scooters & microcars: little gems

Today is my 24th wedding anniversary, and not only am I a very lucky man to be married happily to a wonderful woman, but I am also a lucky boy to be married to a girl who loves to buy and give gifts. My girl Pam is a legend in our family for her gift-buying, gift-wrapping and card-choosing skils, and she always seems to buy gifts that people really like and treasure. She knows me too well, and so when she saw this book on scooters and microcars she knew I had a love for both of them – and have several examples in my collection – and so I thought this is a perfect topic for another blog posting. First, the book, then the models and a few dioramas.

Michael Dan has done a superb job with this book,
producing a social history, a celebration of style,
an authoritative mini-encyclopedia on his topic,
and best of all an enjoyable book that you can pick
up, open it at any page, and be entertained.

This scan of the back cover includes the web address
of the publisher, and also shows very well the
wonderful array of images, advertisements and
information within the book's 256 pages.
My own association with scooters goes back to the 1980s,
when I worked on a motorcycle magazine. I loved scooters
and got to do all the roadtests on scooters, as none of the
other guys were very interested in them at all. As a joke,
they even changed my job title to 'Scooter Editor'. With the
huge popularity of scooters now, I can with satisfaction
look upon this photo of me, above, as an action shot of
a man who was simply ahead of his time!
I loved that Vespa 200 a lot, and I had
thought of a heading for my roadtest of
'Mighty Tough' and then was inspired to
take a photo of the Vespa beating me up!
All I had to do was put it into first gear
so it wouldn't roll back, then the photographer
Greg McBean helped me hoist the scooter
into position, and he took the shot. It's
still one of my favourite bike photos.

I don't have that many scooters and microcars in my collection
but I do have some, so here they are. A pair of Vespas in
1:32 scale, by New Ray, a 60s model on the left and an earlier
50s model on the right.

Scooters with sidecars have always appealed to me, and I
have three examples. Right front is a play-worn Matchbox
model of a Lambretta outfit (which cost about $10, the mint
condition ones in boxes go for more than $100). On the
left is a Zundapp 'Gino's Ice-Cream
) outfit made by Premium
Classixxs, and at the back is a white-metal model of a
Vespa with a Swallow Sidecar assembled by me.

And here's a little British seaside diorama I did quite a while
ago, featuring Gino's Gelato outfit.
Maybe it's just good luck, but there's a guy who lives near
me who owns and regularly drives his Messerschmitt bubble
car around town. It goes great, too. And so when I saw this
model of a Tempo Matador 'Messerschmitt Service' van,
complete with Messerschmitt needing attention, I snapped
it up very rapidly. The model is lovely, in 1:43, made by
Schuco, one of my favourite pieces in my collection.

Maybe it's the idea of a small van with an even smaller car
that gets me, but when I saw this BMW Isetta Service combo
I was hooked. This is tiny, in 1:87 scale, made by Bubmobil.

Bubmobil isn't obsessed with accuracy; rather they attempt
to create an homage to the spirit of the model. There's no
glass in the windows, and the shapes remind me of the
children's books about Noddy and his cars. Still love it!
Sure, rough around the edges, cute as a button, though.

On holidays recently in an Australian country town I spotted
some models for sale in a shop, and no-one there seemed to
be interested in the dust-covered box with this 1:43 scale
model of a BMW Isetta, so that became my holiday souvenir.
This is made by the Chinese outfit, Cararama.
One night I was watching an Italian movie in which the old
priest slowly motored down to the village market in this, his
Piaggio Ape, and so I went looking for a model of one.
 All I know about this is that it's 1:35 scale, don't know who
makes it, but it did lead me to do a farmyard diorama.

The old priest in the movie had a pig in the back
of his Piaggio Ape, so I added one to my dio.
If you go to Bangkok on holidays, you'll probably do what I
did and ride in a Tuk Tuk sometime. This model is by Altaya,
and this rather primitive diorama is one of my earliest efforts.