Monday, December 22, 2014

Panhard Dynavia

At last, I have finally finished building my own Panhard Dynavia 1/43 scale model (just in time for Christmas!) It's from a kit made by CCC Models in France, which comprises a resin body plus white metal seats and wheels and bling, plus rubber tyres and acetate windows.
For more on the kit, see my original posting, here.

The colours aren't exactly correct, as they have been mixed
by me, using humble Humbrol enamel modelling paints.
That bodywork is meant to be pale green metallic.

The kit went together well. The problem areas were the
one-piece acetate window moulding, which took hours of
whittling and filing to make it fit. And the metal rear
bench seat and rear window bench unit fouled the rear
wheels, so more filing was needed there.

As regular readers of this blog know, I collect diecast cars
mostly, but 1/43 scale models of the Panhard Dyna are so
rare that the only one I have seen sold on eBay in the last
three years went for almost 500 Australian dollars.

This Dynavia kit cost 60 Euros, which was still very
expensive for me, as I am semi-retired and don't have
a full-time job anymore.

I love Panhard cars. They are real engineer's cars, with
lots of great engineering in them. It was a shame they cost
so much to build, and the company didn't make enough
profits to continue in business, but they left a great legacy
behind. One of my favourite car companies, Panhard!
Yes, it is extremely unusual, and no, it never went into
production. But at least one survives, in the French National
Car Museum in Mulhouse, France.
I have never bought myself a Christmas present before, and
I have never made myself a Christmas present, either, so
I will let this Panhard be the only Christmas gift I have ever
given to myself, and it's a great one!
And so, to my little band of readers, here's wishing you all a very happy Christmas, a joyful and excellent New Year, and I will keep talking diecast and model cars and bikes with you all through 2015! Best wishes!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The other Lambos

Say the word 'Lambo' and most motoring enthusiasts think 'Lamborghini', but there's a scooter-loving sub-culture out there to whom a Lambo is a Lambretta. While I don't currently own a scooter, I am planning to buy one, so in the meantime I have been amusing myself by building a 1/43 white metal kit of a Lambretta with a sidecar. Here it is.

It's tiny, just 4.5cm or 1.75 inches long.

The kit itself is very simple, just ten parts: three wheels, two
axles, sidecar body, sidecar seat unit, scooter body, the
handlebar unit, and the base.

I found the colour scheme in an online search for photos of
similar Lambos, but I couldn't find the colours I wanted
already mixed, so I mixed and blended my own cream and
the pale minty green (with assistance from my wife Pam, who
is an accomplished artist). Her big tip was that I didn't
just need white to tone down the medium green I was starting
with – I also needed a few drops of blue to change its hue.
Thank you, Pam! I then used an airbrush to apply the paint.
It needed a fair bit of touching up with a fine OO brush to
tidy up blemishes once I peeled away the masking tape.
One of my mistakes was to not wait long enough to let the
enamel paint dry. I thought 48 hours would be enough,
but not when you're applying masking tape...
Finally, I am toying with the idea of going back to riding scooters on the road. Right now I ride a very nice Moto Guzzi 750cc V7 Classic, but I rarely get the chance to take it out into the country. I tend to ride around the city and suburbs when I do go riding. And while selling the Guzzi will be hard to do, the temptation is to get a scooter to have fun with around town.

Back in the 1980s I worked as a road-tester for some local
Australian motorcycle magazines, riding anything and
everything, but the two-wheelers that none of the lads wanted
anything to do with were scooters. So I put my hand up and
loved testing them at the time. This is a photo of me at speed
on a Vespa PE200, back in the day.

Ideally, I'd love to get an old two-stroke scooter. I loved their pop-pop sound, and those little two-stroke engines had plenty of grunt. But getting a nice one will be difficult, and I don't want to spend all my time maintaining an old, worn-out one, so I might have to settle for a modern four-stroke. However, I am getting ahead of myself, I haven't sold the Guzzi yet, and that will be a difficult thing to do!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sharp little record-setter

It might be a fairly cheap little 1/43 scale model by Universal Hobbies, but there's just something about the shape, and the story, of this La Petite Rosalie Citroen record-setter that makes this one of my favourite cars in my diecast collection.

As one friend said, "it'd make a good axe". That's sharp!
Now here's the story, lifted word-for-word from a posting by
my friend RT, posting as "Featherless Biped" at where I hang out online. Over to you, RT...
"With this car, Citroën intended to demonstrate the reliability of their cars. This was done in 1933 with this car and a team of drivers. With officials watching, the car was driven on a track for 133 days and nights and only stopped when it had covered 300,000 km (186,000 miles)! It averaged 93 kph (58 mph). This brought Citroën great publicity. Petite Rosalie broke or established 300 other records. The record was made using Yacco motor oil."

Couldn't have said it better myself, thank you RT. 

This is the great thing about collecting diecast cars: you discover cars you didn't know existed and you read stories you've never read before. And for me, you also stop and think how utterly intrepid the pioneers of motoring were: 133 days of slogging it out around a track, without the benefit of a windshield or roof or any kind of creature comfort. This is one car which proved its worth, piloted by an unheralded group of drivers (and backup mechanics) who must have been as tough as Dad's axe.

Monday, September 29, 2014

And now for something completely different...

Ships. Boats. Water craft. Call them what you will, I like the idea of a few model ships to give my study some visual variety. While rows of shiny little 1/43 scale cars in perspex cabinets look great, I've cleared a few bookshelves on the opposite side of the room, and slowly but surely it is filling with ships and aeroplanes. I have a tragic love of all things mechanical, and teaching myself not only to build model kits, but also to fashion fake water, fake buildings etc has become a very satisfying sideline. So here's the ships I have built so far.

This started out in life as a kit for a Russian
speedboat which operated during World War 2
on Russian lakes and rivers. It had a machine
gun and searchlights, but I had other plans for
it, and so it's a lairy speedboat on the Italian
lakes. I'm pleased with my fake wood finish to
the grey plastic of the boat, and the fake
water and wake turned out OK, too.

This is a Revell kit of the "Hawaiian Pilot", a Matson line
freighter of the 1950s.

And this is another Revell kit, of a Russian Spy fishing trawler.
Don't worry, this isn't morphing into a ship enthusiasts' site, although I do plan to post something about my planes a bit later on. Next time I get around to posting here, it'll be on the topic of the little 1/cars that I love to collect.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Building my holy grail car, a Panhard Dynavia

Most model collectors have a 'holy grail' car that they long to own. When I started collecting, the car I call my 'holy grail', the Panhard Dynavia, was no such thing. It was just another Panhard that I eventually wanted to get. But then it turned out that 1/43 scale models of Panhard Dynavias didn't seem to exist, and so that's when getting one became my 'holy grail' ambition. Here's the (very odd looking) holy grail in question...

It certainly is unusual! The Dynavia was a concept car produced for the 1948 London Car Show. Two were made. One survives, in the French National Car Museum in Mulhouse. The other was driven by its owner, a Swiss gentleman, until it was written off in a crash many years ago. If the Dynavia had been a readily available model it would probably have never become my 'holy grail' but it is an interesting car.

For its time it was advanced. Thanks to its super-slippery Cd of 0.26, its little 605cc flat twin engine got it up to 130km/h and delivered 4.2l/100km fuel consumption. With an ultra-light Duralium body it weighed just 810kg. And it looked very strange indeed, and never went into production.

Recently, I went through the highs and lows and highs of diecast collecting, all in one day. First up, I finally found a 1/43 Dynavia model, made by IDEM, for sale on eBay. Woo hoo! I put in my bid, knowing it might get pricey later on, and then watched the early bidding – even on Day One! – get out of my price range. That was the low...

Then I discovered that my saved eBay search for "1/43 Panhard Dynavia" actually had another listing, but this time for a Panhard Dynavia kit. It was expensive (60 Euros) but I decided I had to get it. Here's a link to another kit for sale at the moment from the company who makes them, CCC Models.

This turned out to be my wise buy of the year, and the Dynavia model being auctioned eventually sold for 360 Euros, which is way out of my price bracket.

Here's the kit, a mixture of resin (the body), plastic (windows),
metal (seats, wheels, fenders etc) and rubber (tyres).
My job is to apply the glue and paint very carefully.

Very helpfully, all the instructions are in French,
but thanks to Google Translate I think I know
what to do.
My first challenge is to find the right murky metallic green colour for the body, and that's proving difficult at the moment. I'll track something down. Somehow!

In the meantime I have been trawling the net looking for reference photos to help me with the building of the model. I found some fab pix at, and here they are (pinched without permission of course, but it's a great website!).

During my long lay-off from diecast blogging and creating my photoshopped dioramas, I have been teaching myself the very enjoyable pastime of building models. I've mostly been building plastic kits of planes and ships, but as this is the first time this 60-year-old child has done any model-building, I have been learning a lot.

Now I know why I took up model-building last year. Even though I didn't know it then, I was preparing myself for the important challenge of building my holy grail this year.

Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Smoke gets in your eyes

Shame about the environmental damage their smoky engines cause, but I've always had a soft spot for two-strokes. It was during my motorcycling youth, which I spent much of on Suzuki 250s and Yamaha 350s, that I fell in love with the way two-stroke engines worked and performed. I didn't care that they didn't sound great. I just loved the way a little guy like a Yamaha RD350 could blow away slow old British twins like Triumph 650s, and bigger, bad-handling Japanese fours. That RD350 was a rocketship for a 19-year-old in 1973.

Later on, as two-stroke bikes became more sophisticated, with water-cooling and even better frames, suspension and brakes, I still preferred the thrill of tackling a winding, racer's road on a Yamaha TZR 250 to scaring myself silly on the same road on an evil handling, but much more powerful, big Japanese four-cylinder four-stroke. I was a small bike fan, and still am to some degree.

And so while slowly compiling my diecast car collection, mostly in 1:43 scale, I have been determined to add a few two-stroke-engined cars to the mix.

Saab 96, model by Trofeu. Very nicely made model, and the
only one of my two-stroke cars which I have seen on the road.
Trabant 601, a legendary car for mostly the wrong reasons.
I was very happy to see this Atlas model when it arrived, as
it was much, much nicer than I expected. I kind of thought
a Trabant model would be as crappy as the famous car itself,
but not so. Well done Atlas on a nice little 1/43 guy.

As soon as I saw the colour scheme on this Wartburg 311
Coupe I just had to get one, and it's a nice bit of work from
the budget collector's friend, IXO. If you're not familiar
with Wartburg, it's another East German marque. Perhaps
because it was a pretty nice car it didn't fit into the Western
propaganda line about hopelessly inefficient communist
East Germany (a reputation for which the Trabant was
the proverbial sitting duck). Wartburgs were good enough
to be exported to the West. The company itself lasted until
German unification in the early 1990s, but it's these very
good cars from the late 50s which earned Wartburg's
relatively good name in the automotive world.
Finally, an odd little pairing (and I do mean little, these two
are 1:87 scale), of a Wartburg 311 Coupe towing a Trabant P50.
This set is made by Bubmobil, a German company, and they aren't
really meant to be perfect models, as you can see from the overly
large wheels. I see them as affectionate attempts to capture
the spirit of these cars, rather than their strict form.
I guess I should finish off this little homage to the two-strokes by adding in the 1:24 scale models of the few two-stroke bikes I could find.

It's only fitting that East Germany comes first: the MZ250ETS.
I owned the later model, the MZ250ETZ, but they were very
similar bikes. Engine and exhaust pipes the same especially,
but the ETZ had more modern styling and a disc brake.
Kawasaki Mach IV 750, the ultra-fast triple. Never owned
one, never rode one, but I had to have a model of one.
Yamaha RZ250. I owned an RZ350, as well as the earlier
air-cooled RD350. Great bikes, fantastic engines.
Phil Read's V4 250cc GP Yamaha of the late 1960s.

Christian Sarron's TZ250 Yamaha of the early 1980s.
This modern version of the Spanish Bultaco 250 Metralla was
as close as I could get to the 1960s bike which I was really after.
And while searching in vain for the 60s Bultaco Metralla, I
spotted this 1960s Spanish Montesa Impala, so I snapped it up.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

American beauty

I might seem like a "French car fan" but the truth is that description is far too narrrow. I love cars from every country, but I also love machinery in any form: motorbikes, planes, ships, trains, engines... there's really no limit at all, in fact.

And in the case of cars, I do like the look of some American cars, particularly those built prior to the 70s, which is the point at which I feel American car stylists seriously lost the plot for many years.

For me there are two examples of American muscle in particular that I have always loved, ever since I saw the first photos of them in car magazines in the 1960s. It's these two, and I am so glad I have a beautiful model of each, made in 1:43 scale by Spark.

'67 Oldsmobile Toronado on the left, '65 Buick Riviera on the right.
They just look so good together. If I was a zillionaire car collector
I would definitely need one of each. Couldn't buy just one without
the other. Both look predatory and powerful, yet sleek at the same
time. I'm thinking large cats like jaguars and leopards.

The colour is called Rose Metallic, and it glows.
This is called Metallic Green, and it sparkles.
I often wonder what it'd be like to wrestle this big front-wheel-
drive baby around at speed, but it sure looks fast standing still.
These are both high quality resin models, not cheap to buy (on eBay the traders ask around $80-$100 on a "Buy it Now" basis) but to me they are well worth it.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Citroen H Vans

*Wakes from 9-month slumber*

Wow, my last posting here at "The Die is Cast" was back in September last year. There's no particular reason for the big "sleep", blog-wise, other than I tired of doing my Photoshopped dioramas (hardly anyone was interested in them, anyway) and so that led to me taking a break from posting here.

However, I've still been collecting diecast cars and also getting into model-building for the first time, so I thought it's well overdue that I start posting about my hobby of collecting models once more, as I have quite a bit of activity to share with my tiny readership, and in later postings I'll focus on some planes and ships, in addition to the cars, vans and bikes.

I thought I'd start off with some fun I've been having in recent months, and that's collecting a few Citroen Type H vans, most of them with a "foodie" theme. Most of them are made by Eligor, in 1:43 scale.

Probably my favourite, this beachy snack van is beautifully
detailed, and that awning on the windscreen is a real winner.
Coming in a close second, this ice-cream van is also superb.
One thing I love about these vans is how cheap they are; many
are less than $20US, to my mind a bargain.
This "L'Epicier" (grocer) van has great looking roll-down
canvas sides (no, they don't work) but I love the set of scales
that you can see in this rear-angle shot.
The detailing in this Eligor series is so good. This is the
Pizza Toni van, one that is not so common and sometimes
goes for higher prices in the 30-40 dollar range.

The last of my Eligors is this charming "Orchestra Bus"
complete with musical instrument shaped luggage on top.
The orchestra is the scintillating "Fred & Son".
Not so beautifully done is this Charcuterie van made by Atlas.
At least it maintains the foodie theme perfectly well.
Not certain who makes this one, as it came in a Matchbox
box, but it doesn't have the same livery at the Matchbox item.
Instead, it has (for Australians) the very well known livery of
Sao Biscuits, one of our national icons. It was truly as cheap
as a packet of Saos, and it's welcome here at my place.
Altaya's superb "Route Bleue" series of dioramas includes
this Citroen Type H ice-cream van, complete with little boy
really hanging out for his ice-cream on a summer's day.
And some model-makers chop and modify their Type Hs.
I bought this from a modller called Daniel Lardon, of France.
It wasn't cheap (75 Euro) but I simply had to have this very
nicely made fruit and vegie seller's van, complete with a set
of scales and extremely well made 1:43 scale fruit and veg.
Finally, though I love these old hard-working Citroen vans, I had never seen one "in the flesh" until recently. Then, walking back to my car after an evening out at a restaurant in Sydney, there it was, parked in the street and lit up like a Christmas tree. 

It belongs to a florist called 'Madame Limpani' (that's her
neon name in the windshield that my iPhone failed to cope
with). And so now I know, they're every bit as charming in
the flesh as they are in 1:43 scale.